Sunday, June 29, 2014

Getting Out Of My Own Way

So, things are hard.

And they are harder than they should be which tells me that I'm in a funk. If I ever really climbed out of the last one.

I had Big Plans to look forward this last week, which really shook off some of those lingering cobwebs of depression, but even in the midst of excited preparations, there was a campaign being waged in my head to keep me down. "I can't do it," "I'll mess it up," "I'm terrible at it," I shouldn't even bother." I listen to these voices far too much, but in the excitement of these Big Plans, I threw out my negative self-talk and tried the things I knew I would fail at. Annoyingly and happily, I did not fail, and in fact did a much better job than I ever imagined I could.

I read an article over at Captain Awkward this morning, which is what inspired me to even crack open this blog and put some words down, on Breaking the Low Mood Cycle, and it really hit my nail on the head.

So many things are already standing in my way, I certainly don't want to be one of them.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

So, Optimism

Let's the start off with the bad: My head hurts and I'm nauseated and my neck and shoulders are sore and creaky and my eyeballs ache and there are other things, but hey, that's plenty enough isn't it?

I haven't been writing here much lately. I've been feeling like I have to scrimp and save every scrap of energy I have, but it's my own fault because I spend more of it than I should hiking with the dogs almost every day. They say exercise can be addictive, and I can see how that could happen. Dedicating ten to sixty minutes a day to doing some kind of aerobic activity or strength exercises has improved my overall mood, made me stronger, increased my stamina, and improved my self-confidence.

And usually it's hiking, but I've also broken out the Wii fit (which I still kind of hate for it's body-shaming, but I find talking back to the screen with profanities and rude gestures helps) for a little indoor jogging or yoga. I dance to music, especially when I clean the kitchen. I do pushups and situps sometimes.

I'm holding onto a dread that makes my heart heavy, because I'm going to have to stop exercising so frequently eventually, and I'm afraid I'll lose the improvements I've seen in my head. The heat has already been keeping me more inert, and I often feel the urge to do something more with my life than exercise.

I miss school, but I'm still really undecided about the direction I want to go, and frustrated with my limited options as an online student. I've been "working" a few hours a month at the dog sitters up the street, which is pretty much a dream gig for me. It's even on my usual hiking route so I can get myself there most of the time, it's run by really low-key people and populated by awesome dogs and I've grown to consider them and their dogs like an extended pack.

I've struggled to find motivation otherwise. Sewing, gardening, I want the results of both but they both seem impossible right now. The latter for the drought, so I can hardly be blamed for that, however I do take ridiculous hot showers when my body hurts. Forgive me, unless someone rips me out of that blessed heat, when I ache I can not leave until I am blanched. Sewing on the other hand has no barriers besides my own frustration. I just need to make something new.

There was a wedding a few weeks ago, a cousin married his long-time partner. I made it through the ceremony with earplugs, but as soon as we all started filing out of the space they'd reserved for the ceremony and towards the the building in which the reception was to take place, I found myself surrounded by the perfume of a thousand old ladies, which compounded the effects I was already feeling from the sun and wind, the drive there, talking, the loud pre-ceremony music, and the stress of wearing uncomfortable clothes, makeup and heels. I was suddenly feeling quite ill and volatile and because I very much do not want to insult people unnecessarily, especially on a special day, I shut my mouth firmly in a pleasant smile and steered myself towards the parking lot for an early escape. I did try to medicate before ordering my boyfriend/chauffeur to whisk me back to the forest, but there wasn't enough pot in the world to counteract the overstimulation of that wedding.

My favorite part of dressing up always has been the taking it all off because the feeling of ease is so delicious after all that pinching of shoes and scratching of fancy fabrics; I could not wait to get back into my comfortable clothes, so I did that before we were even on the road home. It felt silly to have gone to all that trouble (makeup, hair gel, properly fitting undergarments, lint rolling my nice coat), but of course I intended to at least try to go to the reception, at which sweatpants would have been unacceptable.

The motion sickness seems to be coming back with the warm weather. It eased some for a few months, only getting bad in the car, but now it's a 24/7 struggle not to guzzle ginger ale all day again. I've got to find an alternate, something with a little less hfcs.

I'm dealing with the heat pretty well so far, though we've only really had a few hot days. One day we hit the mid-90s, and I soaked my head no less than four times, drank water and ate fruit like it was my job, and stayed out of the sun totally, only taking the dogs for a short walk under the trees, and I survived pretty well! So, optimism.

And as a final note in this wandering post, I'd like to share that asking for help is something I don't do easily, but it's something I've had to do recently. I'm very afraid of being rejected or laughed at for my feelings and my failings, or of appearing foolish or weak, and I worry that my relationships can't take the strain of my problems and my needs. These fears aren't the worst things that could happen to a person, though, so I'm realizing that maybe it's worth the risk to share my vulnerabilities, especially if it helps me get to a better place. I've got choices to make and I certainly can't do things alone, so I have to hope that those I turn to for help are open. These are murky, uncharted waters and without a map or compass I can only rely on those around me to help me keep moving forward. Wish me luck.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Oxygen is Imperative

I have been relearning how to breathe.

I've been taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide like a good little human should, but not quite as reliably as we're meant to. I could blame the issue on being born with only one working nostril, but while that's an odd story, it's not at all the issue. What the hell, I'll tell it to you anyway.

Nostril is a hilarious word, and a totally embarrassing one to have to say to your friends when you are twelve years old, so when I had to have the surgery I told my friends that I was born with a bone blocking one side of my nose and I still use that terminology to this day, if I don't catch myself. Anyway, I was born prematurely, and a piece of cartilage that blocks a fetus' sinuses didn't get a chance to dissolve like it was supposed to, and I lived with it for twelve years. I couldn't breathe out of my right nostril (hehe omg ew nostril) and it led to years and years of sinus infections, colds, and chronic bronchitis, and intensified even the mildest allergy and asthma symptoms. I remember being at my daycare in maybe first grade and having a cold, like I usually did, and trying to eat a snack with a completely blocked nose and realizing that no one around me was holding their breath while they ate, and rushing to chew and swallow before they turned blue. I sure was, was swallowing whole chunks of bread in my desperation to breathe with a full mouth of food, and had been almost as long as I could remember. It occurred to me in that moment that something was wrong with my nose. It just never cleared up. I tried to tell my mom a few times, but either she wasn't listening or I wasn't articulating well enough until I was eleven. I decided enough was enough, stalked up to where she was sitting with a friend in the backyard and told her I'd never been able to breathe out of "this side of my nose". Ever. This other side, sure, it clears up on occasion, but I could never, ever, EVER remember breathing out the right side of my nose. She paid attention that time and booked me an appointment with an ear, nose and throat guy and that was the beginning of the end of my life as a child snot-machine. I still seemed to get sick more often than other people, but at least I didn't have to hold my breath while I ate anymore.

So, nostril stories aside, breathing isn't the perfect autonomic response that biology classes would have me believe. As a weirdo only child, I used to pay attention to my breath and lose the rhythm of breathing entirely. I would be struck (every time) with a mildly amusing panic that I might not be able to breathe easily ever again. I'd try to think of something else, let the automatic processes take over again, but my mind was noticing every little hitch of my chest, how the air flowed into my lungs, how it filled my body and how my torso rose and fell, and breathing was certainly not a normal action that I'd been performing without thought since birth, but it was a phenomenal, complicated, probably supernatural, bizarre sequence of events that were completely impossible to keep straight. It was almost like when you say or write a word so many times over and over that it loses all meaning; I could no longer let the autonomic functions of my body just go, the analysis had ruined breathing, and possibly forever. So, resigned to a life of concentrating on inhaling and exhaling, I'd breathe as best I could, trying not to show my worry, even miming the in-and-out inhale-exhale motions that the people around me were making with their bodies, and hoping no one around me could hear how I was totally failing at even breathing. After several agonizing eons that were likely only seconds, I would inevitably be distracted and my body would continue breathing without my obsessing, miraculously. Muscles expanding and contracting when they should, with no prompting from me whatsoever. I grew out of this quirk, and hooray for that, because while it was never scary or really stressful, it was seriously annoying and made me feel like a total weirdo.

And a third breathing anecdote: As a child, I loved to run. I was the fastest in my class for a year or two, but I was always more of a sprinter, and found distance running to be rather horrible. I never questioned my preference until recently when I realized while hiking that I'd never learned to breathe properly. My body can take care of the basics (as long as I don't think about it too hard, haha sigh), but when I really push myself or if I'm focusing very intently, I often hold my breath. I never noticed this before migraines, but now holding my breath often bites back immediately with major head-pounding, truly it's one of my worst triggers. Relearning how to breathe through focus, pain, intent, tension, anger, fear, and excitement has been a constant challenge, but it's probably good for me to be breathing through these things anyway.

When I was first trying to push my stamina and strength while hiking, I was so easily tired out, I'd have to stop every ten feet or so. At first, I continued to rest when I needed to, but at some point I noticed that that my muscles weren't at all tired, I was just breathing too desperately to keep going, which eventually led to be the revelation that I wasn't just exercising inefficiently, I was HOLDING MY DAMN BREATH. So, I started practicing breathing. I typically start out my hikes with an inhale every two steps, even if it feels fast. As I continue up the hill, my body uses the oxygen quickly, and about halfway up my brain starts sending out Exhausted signals, but instead of resting, I speed up my breath to an inhale on every step. It feels unnatural at first, but I was shocked by how easy exercise was when I was getting all the oxygen I needed, I really couldn't believe it. I could exercise until I was tired, and then keep going! My exercise-induced migraines are MUCH less frequent when I'm breathing properly, and increasing my time and distance has increased my stamina by about a billion-fold.

So, this breathing practice is starting to bleed into my regular world, too. I notice when I'm holding my breathe from stress or concentration, and forcing myself to breathe through these things that normally make me clench up has been eye-opening. Instead of my body clenching up and powering through whatever stress, I'm learning how to work with it, let my body feel the stress and also feel how we can keep breathing if we want to.

We can keep breathing if we want to.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Being Offline and Poor

We lost internet for a few weeks, and it was a painful reminder of how fragile my sense of connection really is.

We live way the hell up in the mountains. Our closest neighbors are within distant earshot, but not eyesight, due to the trees. I depend on the internet to keep me connected to the happenings in the world, and to my family and friends. Without it, I was totally alone. Just me and the dogs in the middle of the forest. My boyfriend would come home at the end of his day to find me wild-eyed, so eager to talk to another human that I couldn't even wait for him to get in the door.

Besides being desperate for contact, I was unable to answer surveys or look for housing, I couldn't apply for services, or look up recipes, or search for diy fixes to minor home repairs.

My neighbors are kind and allowed us to vampire off their wifi during visits, but we tried to be sparing with our usage as to not abuse our relationships. They probably wouldn't have minded, but I'd rather go without than interrupt their peace. If I was in school, however, I likely would have unapologetically set up camp.

Also during this time, we got a 48-hour notice from the water company, and had to pay a massive electric bill. The money was coming in, it was just a lot of unfortunate timing, and we're back online and mostly in the black on our utility accounts, but now we're already nearly broke for the month and are low on food. We renewed the food stamps this morning (and in an ideal world we wouldn't have ever stopped with them, but the renewal process is a pain and it seems like even when we get it right, there's a problem and we have to start all over again. It's a whole 'nother post.) and I'm not sure how long it'll take to process, but we plan to check out the free food pantry tomorrow, as long as we have enough gas to get there.

It's stressful being poor, and exhausting. I need to see a dentist, but we can't afford it. HOW is dental care not a mandatory part of health care? I'm on Medicare, WHY do I not have an affordable dental option?

And with all my woes, I'm one of the luckier ones. I'm white, I have an advocate, I have the education and access to information to protect myself, or at least to try. We have the means in this country to provide ALL of our citizens with a standard of living that should be a shining example of what civilized behavior and compassion look like. But instead, we ignore, relocate, imprison, mock, blame and fail our poor, while the rich get richer every day.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I Am A Tuning Fork

Another thing that really sets my teeth on edge is haptic feedback in electronic devices.

I can't use a smartphone that has this enabled, it's like every fatal keypress has a jackhammer going off in my brain. I can't explain why a little vibration in my hands will cause me to swear and feel sick and cry and throw the phone down in frustration, but learning to turn this option off is the first thing I figure out with every smartphone I handle.

I experienced this before migraines, too, but not as dramatically. Back when I used to play console games, some of the controllers had "rumble packs" in them, which would vibrate when a player took a hit, or crashed, or won the game, etc. Every time a rumble pack-enabled controller would vibrate in my hands, I would yelp and drop it, or force myself to hold it and curse the whole game from near-rage, though more often I would just stop gameplay and insist on changing the settings, another trick you learn quickly when you're a human tuning fork. It's just like that feeling of Chinese water torture, but in every cell of my body. I feel like screaming, or blowing apart into wee steph chunks, but instead, my neck, shoulders, back and jaw involuntarily clench, the nausea starts back in, and I have to force myself to breathe through the vibratory echoes that will continue to haunt me until they are durn ready to fade on their own terms, which is usually minutes, but if it hits me at the wrong time, could definitely last hours.

And I call myself the human turning fork because in elementary school my science teacher brought a few in and demonstrated how an inert tuning fork held near a vibrating one will take on that vibration. I hated these experiments because again, the sound of the tuning fork made me want to rip own head off and chuck it at the teacher, but this one stuck with me because I AM that second tuning fork, and I think I always knew it.

Other sounds that make me feel like I could start fires with the chaos in my mind, in the same tuning-fork way, include but are not limited to: bagpipes, jazz with excitable horns, and scraping.

Let me tell you about how much I hate bagpipes. (I'm sorry bagpipers, I understand yours is a craft steeped in ancient tradition and history, and I'm sure that people who aren't human tuning forks enjoy it, but I so do not.) When I was a kid, a second cousin from back east came to visit, and this cousin happened to be a bagpiping kind of guy. So, we all gathered in my grandmother's backyard, one hot, late afternoon, and he, dressed in full tartan and kneesocks with the cutest little glengarry perched on his head, played us a little concert. I'm sure it was a lovely performance, but all I could hear and feel was the undercurrent drone of the bag as it breathed, like a massive, living, paisley lung that was hell-bent on destroying my brain with its all-consuming resonance. Under the assault of both the afternoon sun and the unrelenting sound, I wilted like a flower in a microwave, and it's one of the few times in my childhood I remember thinking I just might pass out, I felt so frighteningly ill.

So, haptic feedback. I lost my phone, and had to set up a new one, which was probably for the best anyway since my new (but still used) phone is way better than the old one, but this phone keeps switching into an audio profile that allows vibration on keypress and I haven't figured out how to avoid this error because by the time I turn it back off I'm already vibrating and it's too late for me. Too late.

I don't know what this is all about. I'm apparently a sympathetic resonator, and I strongly suspect it's a migraine thing. Anyone else?


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Health and Tools

When I first switched over to a low-oil, vegan diet, I was concerned about making sure I would be getting the right amounts of nutrients.

(Content Note: This post discusses disordered eating and dieting.) I've been warning people of my impending veganism for a few years. I'm not a person who makes life changes on a whim, and I make it a point to go into any and every situation with as much information as my brain can hold. I've been working up to it because it's not an easy thing to be vegan in this world, especially being a chronic migraineur and so incapacitated some days that I can't cook at all. I knew my best chance of success lie with educating myself, because if I allowed myself to become nutritionally deficient, I could get sicker. And I also worried about my mental health.

My history of disordered eating has made this change an interesting one for me. Because I have this history, dieting in any way is a minefield. I have to ride this fine line of paying close attention to what I eat, but not obsessing. Exercising frequently, but not too much. I have not been entirely successful in my past attempts to healthfully diet, mental slips have happened, bad habits have reignited, and I've slid down that slippery slope too many times to enter into any exercise or dietary changes without a certain amount of trepidation. I hesitated to embrace these changes I've been wanting to make for years because I wanted to do it right, and I wanted to make sure I stayed ok.

So, education: There are a myriad number of ways to learn about food and nutrition. Some of the sources I've delved into include: documentaries (Super Size Me; Food Inc; Forks Over Knives; Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead), tv series (Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution), books (The Food Revolution, The China Study), cookbooks (Veganomicon), and blogs (Happy Herbivore).

I also took nutrition and health courses at my local community college, which gave me a lot of information about biology and how our bodies use food. Learning the objective facts of nutrition has been excellent for beating back those always-wrong demons that continue to live in my head. They'll always be there, I think, but facts sure do keep them quieter.

I decided pretty early on that I would need some kind of monitoring system in place, and while hand-tallying my calories would surely have led to obsessive thoughts and behavior, I was excited to realize that using an app for the same purpose hasn't had (too) much of that effect at all. The first and only app I tried is My Fitness Pal for Android, and it has been really helpful for keeping me accountable.

Upon sign-up, I entered my weight, my activity level and my goals into the app, and it formulated a basic caloric-intake plan for me. Every day since, I've entered 99% of my food and exercise, the app tallies up all the micro and macro nutrients, adds and subtracts calories consumed and burned, tells me how I'm meeting my immediate needs, and, even better, allows me to see my patterns and progress over time. Check it out, you guys: CHARTS!!!!

Look at that progress! It's so much easier to keep going when I can see the evidence of all the hard work I've put in so far. (Also, this is my excuse for the sparse blogging happening around here. I've been busy hiking! SEE!)

This app is good for dieters because it's easy to see how each meal, each food, each ingredient can influence your overall nutritional intake, and it makes it easier to make good choices, when we can immediately experience our consequences. This app can also be a good tool for people with eating or exercise disorders, because it holds us accountable for eating enough calories, and gives a red-tinged alert if the daily tally isn't sustainable.

However, I haven't made it through this without a single unhealthy thought or behavior, just less of them than I've experienced in the past. I'm not recommending this app as any kind of a panacea for ED because: of course not. But this works well for me, helps me stay accountable to myself, and I've maintained a consistently healthy diet and exercise routine for over 100 days, thanks in part to My Fitness Pal.

I was not compensated for this review, just love the product. The app and online tools offered by My Fitness Pal are free.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Mud and Feasts

I love the rain, and a week-long soaking had me out with the puppies for hikes every day.

The first few minutes they hated it, they'd drag behind me and look back wistfully at the house wondering why I would so cruelly rip them away from their respective warm spots, but once we got moving they'd succumb to the inescapable allure of sniffing and adventure with enthusiasm; they love a good soggy hike as much as I do, if not more.

Our walks have been longer lately, in part because I was loving going to the very tippy top of our hill to check out the little creeks that the rain made. Since our part of the mountain is all clay and sandstone, in areas where the water regularly makes it way down the slope, it's eroded a small, ancient-looking river that's created small pools and waterfalls as it flows over and around roots and rocks.

But, the mud can be precarious, so our walks during the rain and since have been not only longer, but slower. I've slipped a few times, and only suffered momentary injuries in both falls because I was able to catch myself, and control my fall to an extent. I would have been hurt far worse only a year ago, because my arm wouldn't have had the strength to stop my fall without injuring my wrist, my legs wouldn't have been sturdy enough to slow my slip, and my core muscles were virtually jelly and would have contributed nothing to my rescue. So again, hooray for fitness.

My head has been consistently reacting to this increased exercise, unfortunately. I was hoping I'd see the pain and symptoms decreasing over time as I built my stamina, and they did -- to a point. I'm dedicating this academic quarter to my physical fitness, and like school, this endeavor is taking up most of my energy. I've been hiking my heart out every morning I can, then spending most of the rest of the day curled up in my comfy chair, nursing my head and trying to be productive on the internet (or giving up and watching a star trek marathon). My next priorities are cooking and dishes and laundry, but also, more working out. If I have more energy, I often put it to crunches, squats, pushups, yoga, and maybe even another walk. I am serious about getting my body back into shape, and believe that the harder I work now the easier it will be to maintain when I return to school.

I'm continuing to see improvements in my stamina, so much so that I accompanied a friend who is also a dogwalker on four 30-minute hike/walks in one day, with lots of dog handling and conversation, and I barely felt the pain at all. Well, later I did, but the repercussions weren't any more than usual.

Another side effect of all this exercise is that every few weeks I get to pull out the box I've had for at least 7 years, labeled PANTS! that don't fit, and see where I am with the stash I've collected over the years. I'm slowly creeping down the sizes now, which is kind of fun; it's like my birthday once a month, except I have to give my old pants up to get the new ones. There are a few pairs of jeans I've become unreasonably attached to, and I find myself hesitating in disposing of truly unremarkable and often damaged items. I mean, just because they are several sizes too big, ripped and really obviously repaired, and at least five years outdated in style, doesn't mean I have to get rid of them, does it?? (Yes, it does. Stop hoarding pants, weirdo.) Ok, then.

And on the food front: craving healthy foods is one benefit of eating well that I never really believed when anyone else said it. When I get that night-time sweet tooth, I definitely still indulge when I really want to, but usually I can satisfy those cravings for sugar with fruit. An orange or a banana might just hit the spot, and if not, GRAPES. I have never had a sweets craving that couldn't be cured by eating a cup or so of grapes.

And celery is a new and surprising love. I have historically never liked celery, but suddenly I am literally jonesing for it, I love the flavor and the crunch, and it's a perfect carrier for this white bean/peanut butter spread I'm also fascinated by.

I made a superbowl vegan feast, though I had to cook it slowly over two days to manage it all. I made buffalo cauliflower with a tofu-based ranch dip, and a flatbread with homemade pizza sauce, pineapple and teriyaki tofu; these were my vegan versions of my childhood football favorites, buffalo wings and hawaiian pizza. It was completely satisfying and the success gives me more confidence in cooking big meals in the future.

I'm so inspired by plant foods and refocusing my diet from dairy and flour to plants has made me want to learn more about food, nutrition and agriculture. I want to cook more, I want to grow my own food, and I want to know how it all works, from the growing to the digesting. I have to eat several times a day, every day. I want to make the most of it.


Friday, January 31, 2014

If and Maybe

If my life was a fairytale, the wicked witch that cast this curse upon me is jus' jelly and as soon as my true love shows up and plants one on me, I'll be fine! Happy, in fact! Ever after, even. My boyfriend will be glad to hear it.

If my life was a movie, my migraines would be indicative of poor life choices or self-loathing or that I need to forgive my father. Once I overcome my obstacles (in montage, accompanied by a kicky pop song) and tearfully reunite with all of the people who have wronged me, the pain will lift or at least I'll have some kind of epiphany wherein I realize that the pain was never about my head, but about my heart.

If my life was a song, it would be bluesy and melancholy, or country and woeful, or rock and angry, or pop and hopeful.

If my life was someone else's it would likely look different. They might use triptans, or reside in an assisted living apartment. He might have a kid that also suffers when daddy suffers, or she might have kept working long after I did, having found strength that I simply could not summon.

I'm not sure what I'm getting at here, honestly. It's all stories, different versions and perspectives, different morals and attitudes, different reasons for sharing the things we do. My story is winding; sometimes wild and strange and sometimes so boring we could all cry from the dull. But when I tell my story, what's important? Surviving the pain, or when it beats me? My good days or bad? Is it possible to live the story while telling it, and do both effectively?

I'm not sure. Maybe not with migraine, maybe not for me. But that won't stop me from trying, because MAYBE I CAN.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Reclaiming and Prioritizing

I apologize if no one wants to hear about my diet and exercise, because that's what I'm really focused on right now and I'm feeling good and I'm happy about it, so blather blather blather here I go.

Every day, it seems, I'm bouncing back faster and can go longer. When I'm medicated well and having a good day, I can do almost anything. I can run. Well, I mostly jog, and it's still pretty brief and rare, but I can do it and it's been so long since I felt my heart beating hard and my breath coming fast without my head also immediately screaming out in protest, it's pure euphoria. Like reclaiming music, and dancing for the first time in years, being able to run and move easily again feels like an enormous freedom, a gift I never expected and would never have even hoped for.

I took this quarter off school, and I'm feeling a strong pull to use this time to focus on my physical fitness and experiment more with this vegan, whole-foods diet I'm rocking. It's difficult to really push myself physically if I have anything else going on in my life, because migraines only allow me a finite number of spoons in a day, and I don't have any idea what that number might be, so it's a huge gamble to spend more than a handful on exercise because I could easily not be able to do anything else for the day after even a gentle workout. So, if I know I want to have dinner with my parents tomorrow, or have to go grocery shopping later, or just want to finally get all the kitchen clean at the same time, I sacrifice my fitness goals for the sake of having a (relatively hygienic) life. And then we add school to the equation, and exercise is even further backburned for the sake of my coveted, beloved, necessary-as-oxygen As. Oh, I will not get a B, I will not.

Like today, I did a half-jog, half-hike up the hill with the puppies, I cleaned the fridge, and that might be it for me for the day. Possibly longer, depending on luck and triggers and whatever gods you all believe in. But, I still have a chance of getting back up and getting something else done, or taking the puppies out, or getting more writing in, because belting out this post is leaving me kind of optimistic for the rest of the day.

Which is something else I'm going to be needing to reclaim soon enough, my optimism abandoned me a while back, and I've felt its loss more dearly lately. It's time to find the bright side again, even if I have to wear shades to endure it.

My current migraine treatment plan is exercise, vegetables, and marijuana, and I feel the best I've felt in nearly seven years. Expect further rambling updates.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Treatments and Needles

Doctors. They don't know everything.

I just came across this little article, and it was quite interesting, but not at all surprising to me: Headache Docs List Top 5 Tests and Treatments to Avoid. The list goes:

1- Don't perform neuroimaging studies in patients with stable headaches that meet criteria for migraine;

2- Don't perform computed tomography imaging for headache when magnetic resonance imaging is available, except in emergency settings;

3- Don't recommend surgical deactivation of migraine trigger points outside of a clinical trial;

4- Don't prescribe opioids like oxycodone and drugs containing butalbita like Fioricet – for patients who get headaches often;

5- Don't recommend prolonged or frequent use of over-the-counter pain medications for headache.

Those last two are what made me think I was going crazy for the first two years of this adventure. The first place I went for treatment, Kaiser, pushed Motrin on me like they were candy, told me it was a stress headache and I needed to relax. The Motrin didn't do a thing, unsurprisingly to anyone who has ever had a migraine, but when I went back and asked for another solution, they'd just refilled the prescription and sent me on my way. Then, my insurance changed and I saw a doctor who prescribed all the drugs, including every painkiller ever, but while I was drugged into a semi-compliant stupor, I saw no positive effects in my head. When I remembered I even had a head, that is.

Western medicine has failed me thus far, I've seen some truly terrible doctors and have been recommended some truly terrible treatments.

HOWEVER, I recently had an appointment with a new PCP, and she's fantastic. She seems kind and sensitive and supportive and inquisitive. She's made some suggestions that I'm trying to follow through on, and she even got me to get a flu shot.

Which I'm going to talk about now, so needle-phobes, you might want to skip the next five paragraphs.

I've been slowly developing a needle problem; every time I've gotten a shot or had blood drawn in the past several years, it's ended up being a bit of an ordeal, and I think it's getting worse.

The first instance was years and years ago, pre-migraines even. I went in for dental work and they came at me with the needle and I jumped out of the chair and yelled profanities that my mind has graciously allowed me to forget. They did their drilling sans novocaine that day, and I was fine, but for the future, I noted that I really need to not look at the needle that will be going into my mouth.

I've told that story several times over the years and I always laugh, it was so long ago that the visceral terror I felt when I saw the needle coming at my face has faded to a strong unease in my memory. I've had blood drawn over the years and a few shots; I was never comfortable but I'd take deep breaths and be largely ok. The last time I got bloodwork done was kind of traumatic, but I wouldn't expect to have such a bad experience again any time soon.

So, when I agreed to get the flu shot, I thought it would be no big deal. The nurse approached me, I was fine. I pulled down the neck of my shirt so she could get at my shoulder, I was fine. She started fiddling with her equipment, swiped me with the alcohol and I suddenly got so nervous, I was quite unprepared for it, and I asked my boyfriend to hold my hand. He came to my side and the nurse asked him to hold my shirt down over my shoulder, since my own hand would be occupied. So, he's on my right, holding my right hand, and then he puts his arm around me expose my left shoulder and I FUH-REAK. I start thrashing and wriggling away from the nurse, and I tell my boyfriend not to hold me down. He sounds surprised when he says that he wasn't, and I know in my brain that he wasn't, but my body went into total fight-or-flight mode, and his arms around me plus needle approaching were a terrifying combination in the moment.

I took a moment to recompose myself and my boyfriend intentionally held me very loosely to help me relax. The nurse was a pro and as soon as she had consent, the shot was done and she was cheerfully out of there. The tears never quite flowed, but my eyes were wet and I could hear the quaver in my voice, I was relieved that the scary thing was over, and super unnerved that a simple vaccination should be such a scary thing. I really don't need a needle phobia.

I'll be getting more bloodwork done soon, hopefully, and I'm really interested to see how it comes out. Last time, I had high cholesterol, low Vitamin D, and a high ESR. I'm willing to bet that my cholesterol is better now, since I was eating eggs and dairy daily back then and wasn't exercising much at all, and I'm really hoping it's some amazingly perfect number that I can brag to everyone about, because that's always fun.

I'm also interested in seeing the cholesterol results because I discovered another effect of changing my diet, and it was unexpected. Since at least my early twenties, I've had a sort of yellowish stripe in my eyes. It wasn't really obvious, but I first noticed it when I used to wear eye-makeup, and I never knew what it was attributed to. I originally thought it was from smoking, but it didn't go away when I quit smoking. I mentioned it to a doctor once, but he pretty much shrugged and said it was nothing to worry about. Okay, then. I realized the yellow stripe was inexplicably gone about a month after I changed my diet, so I googled it again -- previous googling of yellow-eyed symptoms returned lots of jaundice hits, which is not what it was, surely I would have noticed the liver failure by now -- and when I combined low-oil into the terms, suddenly I had my answer: dirty sclera. The internet tells me that it can be caused by (among other things) high cholesterol, and because my sclera cleared up so suddenly after changing my diet, it felt like the first real evidence that going vegan and low-oil was the right choice for me. You know, besides the higher stamina, more regular poops, and near-immediate weight-loss. It's been a win-win-win-win!

A few days ago, my boyfriend and I were talking about my experiences with medical professionals and he noted that I haven't really made any progress on that front in years. I agreed, but then pointed out that while I've been a rather non-compliant patient, I've made HUGE strides in my physical fitness, in learning how to better medicate with marijuana and extracts, and I've made so many positive changes for my health that no doctor had ever suggested to me, I could hardly be considered stagnating. I would like to try again with western medicine, but the past few years have proved to me that my intuition is to be trusted just as much, if not more, than any doctors' I see.