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, and Pacific Standard. She is the founding editor of Hyphen magazine. A native of Texas, she lives in California. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @melissahungtx and at