Cover Photo: An image of a young girl swimming in a pool. She wears a light blue swim cap and googles.
Photograph by Hammersmith & Fulham Council/Flickr

Longing for the Water

Swimming has saved me over and over again. But this time it cannot.

This is Pain in the Brain, a column by Melissa Hung on life with a chronic headache.

But swimming helps soften the headache for a bit

my headache diary

We are never really in control.

My fear of a life with more pain in the absence of swimming has materialized, but I find that I can cope as I have coped before with this mysterious headache. I learn what I can. I know my body better than when I was well. By paying attention to myself, I have found what exacerbates the headache. I do what I can to up my chances for a less painful day: get more sleep, stay hydrated, and avoid certain foods, to name a few.

Melissa Hung is a writer and journalist. Her essays and reported stories have appeared in NPR, Vogue, Longreads, Pacific Standard, and Body Language (Catapult 2022). She is the founding editor of Hyphen magazine. She grew up in Texas, the eldest child of immigrants. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @melissahungtx and at