Monday, February 25, 2013

Recent Remedies

I love reading about other people's treatment plans. We all do things our own way, and the differences and similarities are endlessly fascinating to me. I've been keeping my treatment pretty simple, and prefer to avoid doctors and pills when I can. Lately, my migraine-medicating options include marijuana, sleep, hot showers, yoga, caffeine, and rarely, pills.

The pot I've talked about extensively, but to sum up: it changed my life. I was stuck inside, zonked out most of the time from pills and/or the constant need to disassociate from the relentless migraine storm going on in my body. When I found pot, it was like a revelation. Marijuana has been the only thing that's lifted the cloud cover, even a little bit. It doesn't stop a migraine, or cure anything, but it does give me peeks of blue sky on a stormy day, makes it so I can smile and maybe even do a load of laundry on a day I would otherwise be fetal with earplugs.

So, I owe my quality of life to pot, you could say, and I've actually turned quite a few members of family and friends onto the option of medical marijuana for their various health ailments, with some amazing results. I hope it's legalized everywhere soon.

While marijuana is my go-to preventative and treatment, sleep is the only thing that can reset my migraines. When I've slept well, I can handle almost anything, for a little while, but when I've slept badly, I can't handle anything, my pain and my emotions are magnified times a bajillion. But oh, a good night's sleep is like a long drink of clean, cool water on a hot afternoon, or a slow, hot, soak in a tub or basking in the sun on the beach on a breezy day, it's good for the body and soul.

Hot showers are actually what prompted me to write this post. I was sick last week, I woke up with the poops a few mornings in a row and had the whole nine: chills, sweats, nausea and even one actual vomit! Not that I'm excited about it, just that I never puke from my migraine-nausea, so it was notable that I did this time. It was also notable because I did not throw up the anti-diarrheal pills I'd just taken, which I do not understand but was extremely grateful for. ANYWAY, I was miserable and the pills take forever to kick in, so I took hot showers to soothe myself until they did.

I can't explain the effect hot water has on my body. I was shaking and cramping and nauseated, but as soon as I got myself under that spray, it melted away. I couldn't feel the gut-twisting cramps anymore, my teeth stopped chattering, and I savored every precious moment of hot water our water heater had to offer, because when I got out, I had only a few minutes before the symptoms would start creeping back. It's a similar experience with migraines, I feel the pain and symptoms so much less in a hot shower, my muscle tension eases a bit and I can just let my mind wander as my body relaxes. If it wasn't a huge waste of water and money for me to take extremely long, hot showers, I'd be in there three times a day.

Yoga's become part of my daily routine and I love the flexibility and stability it's given me. I've never in my life been able to touch my toes with my knees straight, until yoga. I used to have frequent lower back pain I had no way to address, but while doing yoga I realized it was actually the muscles around my hips that were causing a lot of pain, so I've adjusted my stretches and haven't had a bad back day since. I'm expecting I'll eventually still have bad-back days, since I think this particular muscle issue is just a symptom I'm alleviating, not the source of the problem, but if I can cut my pain down by half through thoughtful stretching, I'll take it!

I use caffeine to treat migraines every now and again, but it does trigger rebound headaches if I use it too frequently. When used sparingly, however, caffeine is often a wonder drug for me, at least temporarily. It clears the brain fog, and my headache dies back just enough, for a little while. But, that's part of why caffeine is really not a good regular treatment, the beneficial effects don't last very long and more than a single cup of coffee can have nasty side effects if I'm not very careful with dosing, which can be challenging when I'm fighting a migraine.

Finally, there's the pills. I don't take any for my head directly, but I do have muscles relaxants and mild sedatives that are invaluable when I start losing my marbles from the pain. Happily, because I don't usually need them unless I go over a 7 in pain, and moving to the quiet of the woods has decreased my migraine intensity and frequency, I've had the same dusty bottles for months.

And that's it. My bad days are still pretty bad, and my good days are still a struggle, but I've got the worst of the migraines under control, and I feel good about my treatment choices. As far as the future, there are still so many treatments I want to try, like acupuncture or magnetic brain stimulation, but it's all a matter of time, energy and especially, money.


Thursday, February 21, 2013


In my current class, I've been evaluating my skills, values and possibilities for my future. In my last assignment, I noted flexibility as something that's become essential for my survival. I keep going back and rereading what I wrote, because it feels important, and so very, very true.

"Flexibility in body, mind, and spirit is a recently acquired skill for me, but it's become defining. If a chronic, disabling disease is going to hold me down, I'm going to make an awesome life for myself on the floor." More...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

On Sharing

Only a few people in my real life know I'm blogging. I try really hard to keep the pain separate, compartmentalize it, act normal for a few hours a couple times a year and pretend I'm ok.

But we all know the truth, don't we? I vent it all here, which makes me feel less isolated, and more in control, but I'm still alone with my pain, no matter how many blogs I subscribe to, or how many abstracts I read.

I am not in control.

That can be frightening, but the strides I've made since we moved away from the city have given me hope for the future, which I may not control, but I can see the possibility of my life chaotically careening to a place that could be okay for me, so that's reassuring.

My friends and family ask me how I spend my days. New acquaintances almost always start the conversation off with, "What do you do?" Before I started back at school, I had no idea how to respond. Honesty didn't seem like a good idea; "I writhe around in pain and watch Doctor Who to check out of my horrific reality" isn't really party talk. This conundrum was actually a small part of my motivation for going back to school; I mean, I needed to do something with myself during my lucid-but-too-fragile-to-move days, but it couldn't be anything too demanding and there weren't any part-time, remarkably flexible telecommuting gigs popping up on craigslist, so not wanting to talk about my head at family parties was only a teeny, tiny factor, but I do remember thinking about it, and the feeling of relief I had that finally, I'd have something to say to that damned question.

But, before there was school, there was blogging. While I have told a few people that I write, that statement tends to lead to more questions, so I don't even say that anymore. As far as almost anyone in my real life knows, I haven't written anything publicly in years.

I think I haven't shared this blog with many people because I don't want to be judged, and I don't want to have to censor myself. I'm probably afraid of rejection, too, or pity. If I tell them how bad it is they might feel sorry for me, they might make light of it, or they may not believe me, and I don't have the energy to help the stubbornly ignorant through accepting my current reality. It's also pride, and probably guilt, that make me avoid sharing freely with those around me. Besides, I have a million more interesting things to talk about than how bad my head hurts today.

To be clear, everyone who knows me knows I experience chronic migraines. I do talk about it to those who are close to me, or seem interested, but I refuse to allow my pain to take center stage. I do like having my so very public private place to share all my migraine-addled thoughts, but irl, I just want to enjoy the moments.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Stinky Stuff

My boyfriend's mom had a lot of stuff.

Most of it, we couldn't use, so we're donating and selling it. But we could use some of it, and some things have a sentimental value, so we're having to totally reorganize our little home to accommodate the things we're bringing in. I'm also having to clean everything several times, which is taking a lot more time and energy than I expected it to.

The thing is, a lot of her stuff has a smell to it.

The woman was into her air fresheners and perfumes and fabric softener, everything strongly scented. She also had two dogs that occasionally peed on things. I'm sure the two are related, though whether she used all that scent to mask the pee-smell or the dogs peed on stuff to show their dislike of all the damn fragrance in the air, we'll never know.

I've baking soda soaked, vinegar sprayed and left things outside for a week now, and I've beat the scent back, for the most part.

If we had more sun out here, I'd really be cooking, but the towering redwoods block most of it out, and unless I'm willing to chase patches of sunlight around the property, I'm not going to get a lot of UV rays. Leaving clothes outside has been only slightly helpful, as a consequence, and there's a clay pot that's been out there all week and still has an alarming funk.

For clothes, the most reliable method I've tried during this special scented adventure has been to put the clothes in the washer with normal (scent-free) detergent and a cup of baking soda, fill it up with the warmest water safe for the fabrics and let it soak as long as possible, swishing things around every few hours. Then, I run the washer like normal and sniff the end result. If it's still stinky, I do it again, but with detergent and vinegar. And repeat as needed. Some items are going through for the fifth time right now, so it's not a miracle, but I've made most of the clothes we brought home totally scent-free this way, after only a few run-throughs.

For home and kitchen items, the routine was similar: cover with a baking soda paste, or soak in baking soda or scrub it down with baking soda, then do the same with vinegar. There were quite a few plastic kitchen items that had a smell that was more than fragrances, and I just couldn't cope with it, so I donated them. I'm willing to bet someone else will be more than happy to tackle that funk with some commercial cleansers of dubious toxicity.

My kitchen hasn't been totally clean since we got home. I put in cleaning time when I can, but with all the stuff we've brought in, my focus keeps going to the grosser of the things I have to clean. We're getting closer to normal around here, but it's still quite a long road ahead before we'll really have everything settled and done.

So, instead of thinking about the huge tasks that are still before me, I'm focusing on what I can do right now, what is manageable, what is important, and all that I've already accomplished.


Monday, February 4, 2013

The Trip

Arizona. I would rather not travel there ever again.

First of all, I'm just not a desert person. I hate being hot, and so do my migraines, and while I can objectively see the beauty in the desert landscape, I spent much of my time looking out over the barren view wishing for plants and trees and flowers and GREEN.

That said, the sunrises and sunsets were stunning, gas was cheaper, and it was cloudy or rainy almost the entire trip, saving me from some perilous 80 degree temps.

We made the trip because my partner's mother died, and he felt a strong need to clean out her house himself. His siblings wanted to hire people to come in, clean up, and sell it all off, which I understand completely, but my boyfriend needed closure, so he offered to have us come out, clean up, and haul back what was worth keeping, selling or donating.

To get down there, we rented a full-size car through Fox, then got a free upgrade to a luxury when we got the insurance. They gave us a Chrysler 300, which was pretty fancy, and a dream to drive, though it had some electrical issues with charging our accessories.

We drove down California, uneventfully, save for a disappointing hotel stay at Hotel Zoso in Palm Springs. The staff was polite, but the front desk was disorganized, the room was shabby (scuffed up furniture and OLD carpet with sloppy patch jobs does not make a good impression), they had the slowest internet since 1995, parking was a choice between paying for their valet or leaving the car on the street, the common areas were dirty, the elevator buttons didn't all work, the walls were thin enough so we could hear every movement in the rooms around us, and they charged a resort fee that left us wondering where the resort was. But the bathtub was big enough to float in and I took full advantage (even though the faucet handle was broken). When I needed to medicate, I had to smoke out on the street, which isn't my favorite. It's perfectly legal, but it can attract attention, which is the last thing I want to deal with when my head hurts.

We drove the rest of the way to Phoenix the next day, and settled in at the astoundingly perfect Marriott Residence Inn in Peoria by evening. We got a fantastic little suite with a kitchenette, and after the disappointment that was Zoso, my boyfriend took uncharacteristic pleasure in settling us in. We brought food in a cooler, so we had the fridge and pantry stocked with some basics, and they offered free breakfast, which we gladly accepted every morning. The hotel was undergoing renovations to their usual breakfast room (which did get noisy during the day), so they even offered free delivery of breakfast at our chosen half-hour window.

As far as medicating, the Residence Inn is a non-smoking hotel, so we talked to management ahead of time about my marijuana prescription and they assured me that they had a small smoking area and that it would be no problem. In fact, the smoking area was the same as the pet area, so when it was necessary, I got to heal myself and give the dog a stretch and a pee at the same time. We really loved this place and were sad to leave. The staff was fantastic, the room was gorgeous and comfortable, and even their scented toiletries were semi-usable! (Not so at Zoso, I had to hide them all in the room safe they were so rank.)

The cleaning and sorting and packing was all pretty miserable. Emotions were running high, one family member couldn't seem to stop screaming about everything, and the house was not in good shape. I'll write about what happened with his mom and how she died at another time, but it was a difficult situation, emotionally and physically.

We had originally aimed to take our time getting home, we thought we might take in some sights if we were up to it. Unfortunately, there were some financial surprises and after four days of manual labor, we just wanted to get home anyway. So, we packed up a big old Budget truck and drove through the night, only stopping to sleep for a few hours at a rest stop. It was the second most uncomfortable night of my life.

When we got back to our local city, we rented a storage unit for the biggest items and stuff we wouldn't be dealing with right away and unpacked most of the truck. Then, we drove home and slept. We're still unpacking what we did bring home, putting away what we'll use, and the donate pile continues to grow ever-larger. It feels like it will never end, but I know that if we just keep chipping away at it, our home will look normal again.

Going through his mother's things was cathartic and awful, but my boyfriend is so grateful he was able to do it. Being able to take home pieces of her life, and put to rest or recycle what we won't keep, it's a good metaphor for healing after death. She was a complicated woman, and she will be missed.