Wish I Knew Why

An older man sits, head bent down, holding the top of his head with both hands. Rays of light shoot out from his hands surrounding him in a halo of white-orange spears.
Pain, radiating from the head. This is what it feels like.

Woke up with a headache this morning. It was mostly in the back of my head, near the base and down into my neck, although it also felt like my sinuses were throbbing a little. Could have been a sinus headache or a tension headache. It’s a frequent sort of headache for me to wake up from sleep with.

I googled it.

I should not have googled it.

The results came back as you would imagine. Brain tumor. Extreme high blood pressure. Sleep apnea. Terrible, terrible things that require extensive medical intervention—diagnoses that triggered my anxiety and hypochondria. Statuses that made me worry for my life, and then have to play the game of “do I dare try to find out if any of this is what’s really happening, find out it’s true, and then have to deal with the life-long consequences of requiring medical care in the only country in the world where ‘medical bankruptcy’ is a thing?”

I took some aspirin and went about my morning.

Other things I fear that might be causing it: too much sugar, or untreated diabetes. Stress and tension. Poor posture. Changes in the weather (it’s been unusually cold lately, or something something pressure changes.) Again, this is just my active imagination working, and not any real sense of what my body might be going through. Just my brain, casting a wide net to snare as many adverse outcomes as possible and parading them before my horrified id.

About an hour or two, after I started working, I walked across the street to the Thriftway and bought a pint of half-and-half for my coffee, and gave in to buy a delicious but very sugary raspberry scone. I regretted buying it and regretted eating it even more. Why do I do these things to myself? The momentary pleasure of the taste is never as rewarding as the angst I put myself through before, during, and afterward, and the very real physical aches and pains eating a bunch of sugar cause me.

The headache lingered the rest of the morning until close to my lunch break at work. Slowly the back-of-the-neck throbbing was joined by overall body aches. Were they caused psycho-somatically, or biochemically? Or is there a difference?

Saying something is “all in your mind” is a phrase that people use a lot, even non-religious people, to try to indicate that there exists something other than your physical body, which includes the organ inside your skull, the brain. The “mind” is made up of your thoughts, your consciousness. The mind is acceptably science-y enough to use in casual secular conversation; where saying “soul” is, even now, more religious in nature.

I don’t think “mind” is a useful concept. My mind is just the result of electrochemical processes that happen in my brain and my nervous system; it is shaped by the hormonal and chemical soup of my various other bodily systems. Telling me something is all in my mind does not describe anything real. I don’t buy into any mind-body duality. There is only body. My thoughts are shaped by my body and are centered in my brain, which is a mound of mostly fat with some protein and salts in a fluid sack and wired to various sensors in a meat robot.

Still, headaches hurt like crazy. Wish I knew why I woke up with them so often.