Sunday, February 15, 2009

My headaches; a biography

They are ever-changing, however subtly. Though sometimes it was hard to tell the difference between a symptom and a side effect from all of the medication I've tried.

When they first started, during the shingles, it was a tension-type headache that wouldn't go away. The OTC meds I tried really didn't do anything other than give me the illusion of control. My headache ranged from mild to moderate in the early days. Over the course of those first six months the headache got worse and worse, either a natural progression or a consequence of the OTCs, I don't know for sure. There is a small part of me that feels responsible for ending up a non-productive member of society. Maybe I gave myself rebound headaches and that was the catalyst for how bad it would get. Or maybe my head was already on a natural progression and nothing I have done or will do can change anything. Either way, not reassuring.

So, my head got worse. I was distracted and in pain at work. I pushed through, but talking on the phone all day and staring at a computer screen were probably the two worst things I could have done for my head. I started making mistakes, small ones, but eventually big enough that management noticed. Realizing that mistakes were being made as a result of my headaches, I started calling in sick more frequently. I was afraid of making more mistakes that could compromise the business and that they would let me go.

Calling in sick all the time was another issue, however. Even with a doctor's note to verify I had been out legitimately, I ended up getting written up. This straw broke my back and I decided to take some time off.

Two weeks was the plan. I would take two weeks off, sleep and see a neurologist. Hopefully this would reset my head somehow and I could go back to normal. I went off the OTCs and my head freaked out. The rebound headache. It was torture. I cried all the time. I was dizzy, disoriented, my head hurt more than I thought it could and I felt hopeless. Then I saw the neurologist, he gave me the advice to take care of myself and that clicked something in me.

I hadn't been taking care of myself at all. I'd been ignoring my head, making it worse. I'd go to work for 10-12 hours a day, pop the max dosages of ibuprofen and tylenol and naproxen, with a garnish of excedrin and a gallon of coffee, come home exhausted and strung out from trying so hard to act normal with chronic pain. I'd sleep, get up the next day and start it again.

So, when I finally started paying attention, it kicked me in the head. Kinda literally. I could hardly move for weeks, months, I'm not sure.

The rebound headache faded but my head is still angry and hardly lets me out of the house.

My headaches, from what I've read on the interweb (since my last doctor never committed to a diagnosis, I have self-diagnosed as revenge), are tension-type chronic headaches with a weekly-ish migraine, with or without aura! Exciting!

My most recent symptoms may have been overlooked previously because I was on so many medications for so long. I now have these stroke-like symptoms, which terrify me. My words are slurry, I'm confused and disoriented, my memory is spotty, and I can't remember words or understand what people are saying. It's only temporary and usually precedes a migraine, though sometimes it just pops up for no reason. Just for kicks.

I get dizzy really easily, and motion sick, which was NEVER an issue before the shingles. Phono-, osmo- and photo-sensitivity are daily problems. My head hurts pretty constantly, but infinitely and explosively more so with any exertion, outside triggers or emotional excitement (good or bad).

And that's where I'm at now. 24-7 head aching (and stabbing and throbbing), with 1-2 spikes (through my eyeball(s)/temple(s)) a week.

(I like parentheses.(Is it obvious?))