Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hyper Migraines, What?

During a migraine, I tend to go rather dormant. I stay still and quiet, retreat into myself, try to detach from the pain, and I certainly don't push myself unless I have to.

But, not always. I've gotten a few of these migraines before, what I've started calling hyper migraines, but I didn't think to make note of them until I was having a conversation with another migraineur and we found we share these bizarre episodes in common.

With horrible head pain and other associated neurological symptoms, normally I just want to crawl under the blankets and wrap myself up in some lighthearted tv until the worst passes. I mean, if a family member needs to go to the hospital, there's to be an inspection of my home by the landlord in half a minute, or the dog has diarrhea, I can usually muster some adrenaline and get myself doing whatever needs to be done for a limited period of time. I'll medicate as needed to get through the moment, and deal with the consequences later. This rarely ends well, but such is life with chronic migraines. Sometimes I end up walking myself into the pain, totally aware, but unable to change what needs to be done. For example, I simply can't have dog poop everywhere, no matter how badly my head hurts.

But rarely, I have a different kind of migraine. The last time I had one of these different migraines, I wrote about it before the experience was forever lost to the migraine-suck that has become my short-term memory.

I woke with moderate head pain which increased during the day, despite my best efforts. I tried to rest, relax with my usual remedies and a quiet movie, but I couldn't sit still for more than a few minutes.

So, instead, I did all the dishes and laundry, thoroughly cleaned both the bathroom and kitchen, and didn't really realize anything was off until I found myself on my hands and knees, scrubbing the kitchen floor with a vehemence, and quietly crying. My head pain was wavering between about a 5 and 7 out of 10, and oddly, the cleaning was helping me cope. Just like playing a puzzle game, meditating, or watching tv, I was able to point my mind at something else and block the pain. Sounds like a handy trick, but it was rather unnerving at the time. Like on the kitchen floor, my shoulder started to ache and cramp as I scrubbed, which was shooting an arrow straight up into the side of my head, but I still felt like I shouldn't stop cleaning. If I stopped scrubbing that floor, everything (my head, the kitchen) would only get worse. I don't think it was mania (which I've never experienced, but have read about and witnessed), but I wouldn't be surprised if it was a first cousin. It's all neurology, after all.

As the migraine tapered and fizzled out, over several hours, my activity level, too, tapered, and then fizzled. I was exhausted at the end of it, slouched in my computer chair, trying to type all this out before my poor, migraine-cooked brain lost it all. I was grateful to have a clean kitchen floor, but I'd rather take my migraines laying down in the future, thanks.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Some School Struggles

Oh, school, you're lucky you're so learny.

I never took chemistry, mostly because I was terrible at biology. I find the facts interesting (did you know blood is a tissue? a liquid tissue!), but I have such trouble memorizing the details (what does vitamin k do? No idea, and I just read about it five minutes ago). So, I'm forcing my eyes to go over the words, I'm telling my brain to receive the concepts they explain, but not much is sticking. It's frustrating, but I'm plugging away at it like a honeybadger. I have faith in myself; I'll either figure it out and start grokking the hell out of this electron stuff or I'll pull out a miracle of information sourcing on test day. I mean, if not, I might fail the class and lose the financial aid I depend on, but it's no big, really. I'm not at all panicking inside.

So, I've decided not to take a summer course. It's not an earth-shaking decision, but I had to intentionally ignore my ambitious nature in favor of giving my head a break. I'll need it.

I've been having trouble with the disabilities department at my school; they ask me to come in several times during the quarter, and I'm not capable of it, health-wise and financially.

Let me tell you the saga of this quarter. I've been there three times and I still don't have have everything squared away. The first visit was an orientation to online registration. I didn't actually register, I just came in to the office, had my counselor explain how to use the system, then I signed a paper saying I'd heard her speech. I'd asked her if we could do the speech over the phone, or via email and she said no, you have to come in to the office. So, I came in and while I was there, I asked her about my testing accommodation form (which gives me time and a half on tests) and the book voucher (which pays for my books each quarter), and she said it would be no problem, when I came back to get my books it would be ready for me.

Well, when it was time to come back and get my books, she said I needed to request the voucher and I could fill out the request form when I came down, but it takes a few days for it to get approved by the voucher bosses. My counselor also tells me she doesn't like filling out the testing accommodation until school actually starts, so, there's another two trips, neither of which can possibly be done via phone or email. I had no choice, apparently, so I requested the voucher, then came back a week or so later to get it and my books. It was the first week of classes, the campus was chaotic, and I wound up having a meltdown in the middle of the bookstore, probably forever traumatizing the terrified teenage boy guarding the door from shoplifters. With all the migraining hubbub, I forgot all about the testing accommodation. The next time we came in to town, a few weeks later, we tried to stop by and take care of it, but no, I had to actually see my counselor, and her office hours weren't until late in the afternoon. By the time noon hit, I was exhausted and useless, and we went back home, accommodation-less.

My counselor had told me that I needed to pick up the form, sign it, then get my teacher to sign it, and bring it back. I emailed my teacher to ask her how I could get the form to her (does she have a box, office hours?) and she got a little pissy about me trying to get it taken care of seven weeks into the quarter. I decided not to write her back and explain in detail exactly how I felt about the situation. I just wanted to get it done, and placing blame wouldn't solve anything anyway. Well, I think my teacher contacted the disabilities office directly because the very next day I got an email from my counselor, concerned that I still hadn't gotten my form in with the office. Then, another email, a few hours later, saying that we could sign it digitally if I have a printer and a camera or a scanner.

I am furious. I've been fighting to be able to do ANYTHING with these people remotely, emphasizing how difficult it is for me to come in, that it causes me pain and I don't even retain any info imparted under those conditions, so after all this time and all the stress I've gone through trying to jump through their hoops, I can suddenly submit the information via email, as if I hadn't been begging with every little thing they make me come there for. MOTHERCRACKER CRAPBALLS ON TOAST that chaps my hide. But, if that really means that I never have to brave the campus again, I'll cope with the rage just fine. I really hope that's what it means.

I have a dream that one day I will work with a disabilities coordination department that actually coordinates with my disabilities.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Spine Post

So, I saw a spine guy.

I've had back pain for years, since childhood. I never had it addressed by a doctor because when it would flare up, I could give it a nice big dose of IGNORE (and maybe some ibuprofen) until it passed, which was only a few days at most. Over the years, it's gotten worse, more easily triggered and the flares last longer and longer every time. I kept thinking to myself that I should get it checked out, but then the migraines started and I had no further concern for my back. There are only so many doctor's appointments I can handle.

Recently, it's become more of an issue. When we moved, my hips took on a persistent ache in chorus with my back and I was having trouble sleeping as a result. Then, I bent over to pull out some laundry and my back gave a snap and I couldn't move. This has happened three times now, since we moved, and I end up laying in bed for days, barely able to take a step without crippling pain. It was obviously time to see a doctor, right? Actually, no. I still put off making an appointment, UNTIL the opportunity to participate in a spine-related clinical trial (involving implants of some sort) fell into my lap. I couldn't turn down the opportunity for a free exam, x-rays, and evaluation, so I applied and was accepted for screening.

A week or so later, we went to the spine clinic. They put me in a room with the a spine guy and he was very friendly and called me smart and said I seem to have a good grip on my crappy head situation, which are pretty much my favorite things to hear from doctors, so we were best friends. Then he had me walk and bend and didn't say much about what he saw, which I hate, so we were this close to being mortal enemies.

He ordered a thousand x-rays of my back, so we were again besties, until I arrived at the appointment to evaluate the films. The office had no power (windstorms took out most of county) so the doc took a quick look at all ten or so films in front of the window, pronounced "nothing wrong", and their office has been blowing me off since. We've called several times; my boyfriend tries to get some info out of the nurse, the nurse promises to have the doctor take a look and call us back, and then he doesn't.

It's been frustrating, and I'm not sure what to do. The last phone call led to them suggesting that we come in for another appointment, which I'm rather hesitant to do at this point. The last I heard about my x-rays, there was "nothing wrong", so why would I ruin up to a week of my life recuperating from an unnecessary visit to their office? I don't particularly need useless news in person. But I would like my x-rays back, if they aren't going to help me. I've had increasingly painful back problems as long as I can remember, and I think that warrants more than a glance.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I had such a fantastic weekend!

I got to visit a few local parks on Friday, it was really great. The first place we stopped was a privately owned park, with some trails, a huge meadow of wildflowers, some prehistoric-looking eucalyptus trees, and stables. I touched a horse. This is only impressive if you know that I've been irrationally afraid of them for most of my life. I stood near to two, and though we were separated by a wooden fence, it was more a suggestion for the horses than a actual barrier. They stuck their heads over the fence and gave us a good sniff, and one let me touch him briefly on the head. I was determined not to be afraid, and I mostly succeeded.

Then we visited another park that offered guided nature walks, which was SO NEAT. I climbed inside two redwoods, one I could stand up in. I learned to identify some local wildlife and plants, saw genetically mutated trees, and learned some awesome nature science. I want to do it again, I had a great time.

My head did pretty well. The weather was warm, but not hot, we were under the shade of trees most of the time, we stuck to very well maintained paths, and we encountered only a few smokers and perfumed people. The main trigger I did encounter was looking up. We looked up to marvel at bizarre tree malformations, to identify leaf shapes, and because the majesty of these towering trees just seems to demand it. At some point, I realized that looking up was starting to make me feel very sick. That was about the same time that standing still and listening to the volunteer explain this or that interesting nature factoid was getting really uncomfortable. And then I started yawning, not because I was tired or bored, but my head was giving me a clear warning. I stuck it out longer than I should have because I was with a new friend and I was really enjoying the nature walk, and by the time I got home, the crashing process was fully beginning.

First, my words started slurring, and my movement went sluggish. This scared me so much the first few times it happened, I thought it could be a stroke or that maybe I'd taken a muscle relaxant and forgotten about it. But, no, it's just a sign of impending doom. I'm used to it by now, so I spent the worst of it catching up on tv that I've been neglecting for schoolwork. (Mad Men, Fringe, Modern Family and Community, I love you SO MUCH.) The pain wasn't too bad when I sat still and avoided loud noises.

I managed to heat up some leftovers for us later in the evening, took a shower and fell asleep at a normal hour, which felt pretty amazing given how totally wiped I was. I woke the next morning achy and sensitive, and the day after that was mother's day, so I took the cue to lie low. I spent the day studying, resting, and slowly packing for upcoming trip to the city.

I woke the next morning feeling amazing. I started feeling twinges of pain just before we were leaving, but they weren't anything out of the ordinary, so kept moving. On the drive down the mountain, the motion sickness kicked in a little faster and harder than usual, but liberal applications of ginger ale helped keep it in check. We were driving along merrily for a solid fifteen minutes before the sun blinking at me through the trees started making my head feel strange, then painful, then just so overwhelmed I couldn't do a thing but cover my face and breathe. The blinking hurt even from behind my hands, it was intense. I was about to make my boyfriend pull over, then it starting ebbing back to a more tolerable place. I no longer felt like my head might pop off my shoulders or that every atom in my body was shorting out at once, but I was very concerned about the mother's day related activities that awaited me.

I needn't have worried. I spent a few hours with my mom, which were quiet, happy, and very well medicated, then we went to the bigger party and I lasted long enough to see 90% of the people I was hoping to. I got to hold a wee baby, my cousin's new son. We were there for about two hours and when I said my goodbyes, a few people asked why we were leaving so early. I explained vaguely that I was tired, and no one pressed for more info, so that was nice.

I feel like I need a week to get back to normal after all this activity. While regaining my strength, I'm also trying to catch up on household chores that were neglected during all the funtimes, which makes everything, catching up and recuperating both, much harder. I can't stand looking at a mess, though, so I guess I'd rather be going uphill, slowly, than stand still and wait for the path to level out again. How do we even know it will?


Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Evils of Side Scrolling

The dramas of school have begun again. But first, let's get really TMI about my health, shall we?

When my period started last week, my cramps were so bad I resorted to ibuprofen. I even took more than one! It was intense.

In a separate incident, I had an earache that led to a vicious migraine, so bad I ended up taking a benadryl, hoping it would knock down my allergies (which were possibly making my ear hurt? I was grasping at straws) and it knocked me out for about 14 hours. When I woke, the migraine was mostly gone, so that was good, but my ear is still acting funny. I've been using drying drops, and those seem to help, but I'm not sure how long it should continue before I have to go on antibiotics or something.

I'm still having pooper issues. Diarrhea continues to randomly attack in the early morning hours, despite negative poop cultures, cutting out almost all the dairy, and switching over to a brita water pitcher. I guess it's time to start a pooper diary, then make an appointment with the gastroenterologist. Also, maybe I should buy stock in imodium. I'm usually hesitant to take pills these days, but I rarely hesitate when it comes to those magic little blue caplets. MAGIC.

On to school, I took the first big test test and did not do as well as I'd hoped I would. I was hoping for a perfect score, honestly. I woke up that morning with barely noticeable pain and a bright, alert mind, ready for the scavenger hunt of a open-book, open-note test on chapters I'd studied thoroughly. It was a lot of content, but I figured I had a handle on it. That is, I thought I had a handle on it right on up until I hit submit and got my score back. My jaw dropped and my heart sank when I read the results. 83%. A pathetic, measly B. Oh, the disappointment, the confusion, the sheer disgruntlement of not getting the perfect score I strive for, it burns.

But only for a moment, because I may like getting As a whole lot, but it's about passing the class. If I'm passing the class, I'm making progress in my education, which is the goal. No, it's not total academic domination, simmer down hulk-brain.

I did feel sorry for myself a bit more, even after rationalizing myself off the ledge. The mistakes I made on the test, they were silly. I misread one question, somehow clicked the wrong circle on another one, I have no idea how I got the answer for two of them and then there were a few at the end that I totally skipped because I didn't scroll all the way to the right. There was just SO much ammunition with which to pummel myself, but still, a B isn't so bad with how much I actually screwed up. I wavered back and forth like this for most of the day; being fine with the B usually, but still having pangs of disappointment every now and again. It is just as annoying as it sounds and it's a miracle my boyfriend didn't run screaming from the house the thirty-seven thousandth time I groaned something about Accursed Bs and the Evils of Side Scrolling, UNTIL! My teacher emailed me!

She said I did well on the test and invited me (along with other students) to share my studying and test-taking strategies in a class discussion. I was completely baffled at first, I thought she meant a different test, a quiz really, that we took a few weeks ago, but then I wondered, why would she want me to share my tips, I totally BOMBED the last test- and it clicked right about there. I realized with immense, gut-unclenching relief that other people did worse than I did. I feel a little guilty, since I'm technically enjoying other people's failures, but I'm really happy for myself that I wasn't the only one who struggled.

Coming up, I made a date to go hiking with a neighbor tomorrow and there is to be some kind of mother's day shindig on Sunday, so we'll see how that goes.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Nutrition, Light and Dark

I think all that posting burnt me out a little.

I've had very little inclination to write, and every time I think to open up a new post, I get an overwhelming feeling of disdain, as if blogging has become a burden I no longer want. That's not true, of course, I hope I never stop writing publicly, but I pushed myself really hard last month and now I just don't wanna. I'm even having trouble answering emails in a timely manner.

I am, however, keeping up with my schoolwork like a champ. Nutrition is a mostly interesting subject; besides having a dire need for remedial biology lessons, I'm finding it easy to stay engaged. I aced the first quiz and am feeling okay with the test that's coming this week, though I definitely have more studying to do.

I'm thinking of taking a class over the summer. Maybe. I don't want to hurt myself with my ambition, but I really missed school last quarter. My counselor thinks that I could handle a poli 1 course over the shorter summer quarter, and I have to admit, it sounds so tempting, but heat-induced migraines are a special type of hell and I really don't know that I could handle it. I'm thinking about it. Political Science will still be there in the fall.

My newest love, with the warming of the weather, has been exercise. My stamina continues to grow, I'm building muscle again, and my clothes are even starting to fit a bit differently. I've been hiking, doing yoga, dancing along with music while I clean, and I've even busted out some plie drills (demi, but still). I was pleased that my body still remembered the positions, because my brain certainly didn't, and I was just going to wing it after second, but my hands and feet went automatically to exactly where they were supposed to be. Muscle memory is very cool.

This nutrition class is predictably making me hyper-aware of what we're eating. This has been good because my portion sizes were totally warped and now I can drown just a little bit of pasta in a crap-ton of tomato sauce and proclaim with full innocence that I'm just getting my veggies. This has been bad because I have a history of disordered eating. It's been under control for a long time, but when I'm reading certain sections, it's been coming back, and I have to consciously remind myself of who and where I am, and that I don't need to abuse my body like that anymore.

It's not a serious thing, just some darker thoughts and a few unhealthy impulses that I'm dealing with surprisingly easily, but it bears mentioning. I haven't talked about my eating disorder much on this blog because it doesn't affect my life much, anymore. When I first started thinking these old, destructive thoughts again, it scared me. I thought I might have to drop the class. But I've found that I'm in a really good place to be dealing with these feelings, and I'm almost welcoming the experience. I'm more comfortable with myself than I've been in my life, and I've learned a lot about women's body images and how we tend to form them from completely unrealistic and unfair standards. I've got the knowledge, now, to avoid the pitfalls of trying to be a socially acceptable woman. I realize now that I don't have to be socially acceptable to be happy.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012


So, this 30-day challenge was much more of a challenge than I expected it to be. I figured I'd cheat a little, I'd set up some posts ahead of time so I wouldn't have to worry about missing days, since I really don't write well when I don't feel well. Then, we lost our internet.

This presented a problem for keeping up with the post-a-day challenge, but also, I'm enrolled in ONLINE SCHOOL. I'm lucky on several counts; that I'd set up posts ahead of time, so there was little obvious misstep in the HAWMC; that my class is less interactive, I only have to log in once a week, if that, otherwise we work on our own with the text and study tools; and that I've had awkward but available wifi via a neighbor up the hill and the little library and quirky coffeshop in town. It's been difficult, but I seem to be making it work, with a little help from my friends.

I have no idea when we'll get our internet back, it's all about the money, which we aren't doing so great with since our car died and we had to spring for a new-to-us Blazer, courtesy of another neighbor up the hill. We got lucky with our neighbors, let me tell you.

Anyway, back to the HAWMC, and what I got out of it. It was fun, mostly. I enjoyed being creative and letting my mind run with the prompts. I write a lot more about the practical realities of my chronic migraines, and I doubt much will change after having completed these prompts, I enjoyed thinking of personalities for my migraines, for example, but I don't find that kind of self-exploration to be necessarily helpful. Fun: yes, productive: meh.

I did enjoy having my pageview stats jump into the quadrillions, I felt super popular for a while there! Now that my posting will drop back down to normal, I expect my stats will also, but that's ok, because I really don't need the pressure of a large audience. My little blog, with its small following, is plenty for me.

But, it made me want to write more, about other things besides my health.

Why have I spent so much of my life feeling uncreative? All I want to do is create! Writing and taking photos make me happy, and I've been thinking about trying to paint. It's hard for me not to add a parenthetical aside to this, I love writing and photography, but I'm not super-great at either. This disclaimer is part of my brain's non-creative propaganda campaign that it continues to wage, even though I'm now aware of it and it's just annoying, rather than actually defeating. Why you trying to keep me down, brain?

When I went to the library last week, I started thinking about being one of those books on the shelf, and for the first time in years, I didn't find it depressing. For the first time in years, I wasn't looking at all the other books as competition, or as a sea of voices for mine to be drowned out by, but as a chorus of stories, the human condition in print. I want to add my voice, I want to be a story that someone else gets lost in.