Chloe Benjamin is best known for her abilities as a novelist, including New York Times best-seller The Immortalists. But like millions of others, she’s also a migraineur who’s had to find ways to keep working with a migraine. In a career that demands long hours on the computer, Chloe has found relief by wearing Axon Optics lenses. And that relief helps her bring her work out of her imagination and into the minds and hearts of her readers. She recently took time out of her busy creative life to write to us about her experience.
“I was diagnosed with migraine around the age of thirteen, when they began. I don’t think I’ve ever been formally diagnosed with photophobia, but I’ve certainly shared with all of my providers that light is a central issue.”
“I’m mainly a novelist, which means that I really only start a new project once every three to five years. Because those moments of inspiration are few, when they happen, it’s an enormous initial undertaking, intellectually and emotionally. Ideas flood through me, and my job is to take as many notes as I can–tone, plot, characters, bits of scene. This can last for weeks or months…”
When we asked how her migraine condition has affected her life as a writer, Chloe had an interesting perspective that may resonate with other migraineurs looking for options when working with a migraine.
“Like most people with chronic pain, my migraines touch every part of my life, including my writing life. Many times, the impact is practical: screens are a trigger, and if I have a migraine, writing is pretty much out of the question. But the migraines are also a part of my psyche, the way I see the world, and I’ve realized over time how much they’ve shaped my interests and obsessions as a writer. Loss is one of them: the loss of people, certainly, but also of time, which is one of the hardest parts of having migraines. The Immortalists, my most recent novel, is very much about loss and mortality. I don’t think there’s a headache in the entire book, so it took me a long time to realize that I may not have written it if not for my migraines–which is not to glamorize them but to say that I think I would be an entirely different person if I didn’t have them.”
While very few of us could write a best-selling novel, most people who suffer from migraines have the common ability to recognize triggers — especially when kept in a migraine journal. For Chloe and almost all other migraine sufferers, light sensitivity or photophobia plays a role.
“Screens and indoor lighting are some of my biggest triggers, so figuring out how and how much I can work is an ongoing task. I’ve gone through better and worse periods with my migraines, and I have to adjust my screen time accordingly. When I was in a great place in my early twenties, I could work on the computer for multiple hours at a time. Right now, that’s not possible; I’m lucky if I get over an hour, and I take frequent breaks.”
And like thousands of light-sensitive migraine sufferers, Chloe has found Axon Optics’ precision-tinted lenses extremely helpful for when she’s working with a migraine. Wearing our lenses, she’s been able to reduce her migraine pain and continue delighting her readers.
“Axon glasses can make all the difference when it comes to whether and how long I can work on the computer. But they also help a great deal in my non-writing life, reducing my pain overall, which is a feedback loop, giving me more time and energy to write. I have two pairs of Axon glasses, the sunglasses and the regular tinted lenses, and I wear both daily. My Axon sunglasses are the only sunglasses I use! Because natural light is good for me, I tend to start using the indoor lenses as soon as the sun sets and we start using artificial light in the house. Before I found Axon, I had headaches almost nightly from artificial light. Your glasses have made a huge difference in not only my ability to tolerate artificial light, but also in my anxiety about light sensitivity. Knowing that I have a tool to help me handle light—probably my biggest trigger besides stress—greatly reduces my anxiety… and therefore my stress… and therefore my pain!
As for her work as a writer, Chloe provided us with an eye-opening perspective on her creative process that we think relates to migraineurs who are willing to try just about anything to get some relief.
“It’s fascinating to look back once the novel is finished and see what remains, if anything, from the early notes, which are a kind of primordial brainstorm stew. Some things I throw out completely, but other things I write or work out during this period can be among the most important to the final book. I try to let myself be open, exploratory, and non-judgmental during this initial brainstorming period–to trust what comes up, but to also be okay with going down a rabbit hole that doesn’t wind up working.”
Chloe, of all the things you’ve tried as a writer that might not have wound up working with a migraine, we’re glad Axon Optics have worked for you — to help you keep doing what you love. We hope to see much more from you in the future!
Check out Chloe’s NYT best-seller, The Immortalists.