Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Hey Medicare! Thanks for the coverage!

Apparently, the poorer and more desperate you are, the easier it is to get medical care. I walked into the emergency room without a dollar in my pocket and was given a card and a promise of 6 months of free medical treatment. WHAT? I've gone through months of paperwork and hold music and confusing, half-assed pamphlets to try and figure out how to get covered so I can see a doctor again, because, and no offense marijuana, but my self-treatment isn't getting me anywhere but broke. I finally reached my breaking point and went in. I knew my local hospital would see me if I went into the ER, but I had no idea that they would refer me to the "urgent care", which had far fewer screaming children and actual empty chairs that I could sit on. And no wait. I walked in, I checked in, I sat down and BAM! they called my name. WHY DIDN'T ANYBODY TELL ME ABOUT THIS??? They didn't help me much at the time, with a shot of toradol and a scrip for beta blockers, midrin and nortriptyline, none of which have done a thing for me, but this is still good news. I have an appointment for another head scan, a referral to a new neuro, and a renewed sense of future.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Is it all my own fault? Did I bring it on myself? I ask myself these questions often enough to make them nagging.

It's not rational. It's not logical. It's emotion, primarily fear and anger based; the instinct to hunt down the reason for the pain, to assign it a name and place blame where it belongs, assign responsibility and correct and/or punish accordingly to be able to move on. Here's where I may have gone wrong:

1. Too much work? My job was in a call center environment, but my coworkers and the nature of my job kept it from becoming mind numbing. I flourished there, got a substantial raise after my probationary period, and more responsibility. I had also taken a second job, doing data entry at home a few hours a week. It was easy to do in my spare time. I enjoyed working so much. I felt productive and in charge of my life again. But maybe I was doing too much. Even though I was enjoying every second of it, even positive stress is stress.

2. Too much caffeine. They had a fancy coffee machine in the breakroom of that job I had, which I took full advantage of, especially when I worked swing or grave shift. Eight cups a day is my guess as to how much I was consuming on average, with a high of twelve. I had no adverse effects to the caffeine, other than occasional shakiness if drank too much or the standard irritability or mild headache if I didn't have any. But, I could go without it, and always stopped drinking it if I noticed any ill effects, so I never considered my consumption to be unhealthy, just a little indulgent.

3. Maybe it's a delayed stress headache. Six months prior, we had a rough patch of christmas, moving, being penniless, and a family member being 5150'd and going into rehab all happen within one week. That time period always occurs to me when the docs ask me, "Were you particularly stressed when the headaches started?" "Well, no... but six months before..." When I tell this story, their eyes glaze over a little bit, they take notes and I can see my file going into the "stress-case" drawer. But all that drama was six months before the headache started. Delayed? Does that happen?

4. Maybe I've exposed myself to some toxin that has somehow triggered my head. I've lived in asbestos and mold-filled apartments, briefly. I partied quite a bit in my youth. I've worked downwind of a dump and used the same plastic water bottle for longer than I care to admit. I smoked cigarettes for ten years. I've worn new clothes without washing them first. I've been violently ill from bleach fumes. How have I lived this long?

5. I could be a nutter and my crazy started before my pain and I'm just in denial about it. The disability shrink didn't seem to think I was nuts, but I'm going to need a second opinion. 95% of the time, I know I'm not crazy. That last 5% is going to get checked out, just in case.

I don't know if I brought this on myself. It doesn't matter. Even if I knew for certain what triggered my head to start, that knowledge would likely give me no useful information, or change anything. Except maybe it would chase away the guilt. Or make it worse. Maybe I don't want to know.

This is a post that leaves me feeling unsettled and vulnerable. But, I know that someone else has felt this way, or will. So, I've got to put it out there, for the honesty of my experience, however lame that sounds.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Head is Like Drowning

I find myself wondering how others do this. How do people remain sane with chronic pain in the brain? (Ok, not in the brain, exactly, but there was all this rhyming. I couldn't stop.)

Some days I feel like all I do is complain. Someone asks me how I am, and I hate to tell the truth, but sometimes I do. I come here and write and write and write about my pain and what it's done to me and how I cope, or don't. I cook sometimes, clean as often as I can and mostly try to just make it through. I'm not, really. Making it through. I'm failing miserably and flailing helplessly. You know, I once swam to the deep end of the wave pool, just to see if I would drown. The feeling I had as the waves pushed me under the normally benign, heavily chlorinated water, was the same kind of futile struggle I'm going through now. I know I can swim. But I keep getting pushed under. I can't get a breath. And everyone around me is swimming happily, riding the waves and even splashing at me in play. I'm not sure if they are mistaking my thrashing in panic for jest, or if they don't care. Maybe I swam out too far, and get what I deserve. Maybe, I've taken the metaphor too far and it doesn't make sense anymore. It happens.

I read the blogs and search the forums and google the buzzwords searching for my answers. I'm not looking for a cure, just a hint on how to survive this without losing myself.


Friday, October 9, 2009

My Latest Treatments

Lately, I've been medicating primarily with marijuana. I've also used soma, feverfew, valium, and two different homeopathic pills. As general prevention and body maintenance: meditation, light exercise, getting my greens, and dietary supplements.

I'm finding that marijuana can give me a rebound headache. This discovery has not really lessened my intake. The rebound headache is no worse than my normal headache, and I find it easily avoidable by watching my consumption carefully; amount, quality, time of day, and frequency call play a role in effective pain management.

Soma is an old standby. Not to lessen a headache, but to relax my muscles and keep myself from exacerbating the pain. I don't take them often, maybe four times a month. They are particularly helpful if combined with massage.

I grew some feverfew. So, I've been chomping on a leaf or two every now and again, with nary a result. Then, I googled pictures of feverfew to estimate what size pot I should replant it in and I realized, I have not been chomping on feverfew. I mixed up some seedlings that had been planted at the same time and had actually been trying to remedy my headaches with soapwort leaves. It was not effective. In the past few days, I have tried eating a few fresh actual feverfew leaves, and have yet to notice a difference. However, I'll reserve final judgment until I've experimented a bit more.

Valium was prescribed to me after my occipital shot. I thought it was an odd choice, but realized the benefits when I tried it during a brutal migraine. It took a larger dose than I was was prepared for, but once I got the right dosage, I felt very... controlled. When my head gets bad, I stress. My emotions go wacky, I cry for no real reason, and my anger is difficult to reign. I end up feeling very out-of-control, with my pain unchecked and my reactions not my own. The valium calmed me right the hell down. I still had the headache, but I was able to endure it without feeling suicidal. BONUS!

The two homeopathic headache/migraine remedies I've been trying over the past two months haven't done anything. I won't be buying more. I haven't shut the door, but the screen is locked and I'll be scrutinizing any future potential homeopathic remedies with an even more critical eye.

I've been drinking my green smoothies, and notice a definite difference in my stamina. I take fish oil when I can't have my smoothies because any exertion can trigger my head, and that includes bowel movements. Cheerful!

My treadmill is not getting as much use as I would like, and I have two very good excuses: 1. We can't run the treadmill and the air conditioner at the same time. It's late summer. 2. We live in a small house and my boyfriend is kind of a slob, so access to the treadmill isn't always as easy as it needs to be. But when it's cool in the house and I can reach the thing, walking on that treadmill really makes me feel like I am taking positive steps (hee) for my health. If I get nothing else done in the day, at least I walked.

Self-treating effectively is hard. No one is double-checking my efforts. I often feel like I am making it up as I go along. Am I doing it all wrong? Would I feel better under the care of a doctor? Maybe. But, I'm doing my best with the options I have right now.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Fear and New Challenges

I'm scared.

I've had a headache for over two years. In the time, my life has changed so dramatically, I often wonder if I am still the same person. I used to define myself by certain quailities, hobbies, habits and interactions that are no longer any part of who I am. I can't imagine the future. My past torments me, like a buffet of treats being denied to a starving person. It's a flagrant taunt, a tease, the things I used to be able to do. Enjoying sunshine. Staying up late talking and laughing with a friend. Sitting in a theater, unaware of a thing but what is happening on stage, or on screen. Running. Laughing with abandon.

I don't like my life. It's boring and painful.

I can't plan more than a week ahead. We talk about vacationing, going to beautiful places and doing things we've never done before. Then, reality comes back into focus and the conversation ends. Where could we go that I wouldn't bring my headache with me? It's ruined the past two years, it'll ruin every vacation.

There are plenty of treatments I have yet to try, and there will be new discoveries and one day, maybe no one will ever have headaches.

I am simply terrified that it won't happen in my lifetime and I am doomed to a life of sedentary pain.

BUT, I am working on accepting what I can't change and, more importantly, changing what I can. I'm taking steps towards school. One class at a time is the plan, online or telecourses. Slow, yes, but better than nothing. It seems that my disability and income level will allow me to be educated for free, with "reasonable, yet generous accomodations" for my personal challenges. I don't know if I will succeed, only that I will try.

The whole process is not very migraine friendly, frankly. Just like working with the government agencies; fluorescent lighting, hold music, long lines, and pages of paperwork dominate the experience of applying for financial aid and admittance into college. I am looking at it like my first class. It's going slowly, I do a little every day, some days more than others, and I figure that if I can make it through the application process, I should be alright. Apparently, if I have a doctor sign off on my limitations (ie: extra time for assignments, no/less penalty for missing classes, or even a tutor), and the school agrees that I can be accommodated, I'm in.

This is a silver lining that I desperately need. I've got to keep moving, even if it's so little that it looks like I'm sitting still. It's all relative.