Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Strange Migraines

I've been making note of some of the weirder symptoms I've been experiencing, and woah, am I getting odder.

Depression is the least weird, so I'll start there. It's a pretty common symptom of migraine, I've read, but it still surprises me every time. I'm just living my life, normal and chipper and fine, when -- WHAM -- I'm so sad I can't see straight. Grief, sorrow, despair, it's all the saddest words for sad, and maybe a little irritable in there, too, and I have no idea why, but it feels like forever. Then, within the hour -- WHAM -- my head is migraine soup and now I'm sad because I can't move and it all makes sense. I recognized it yesterday, though. I got super sad, just wanted all the hugs and to curl up and cry for how hard it is to go to the bathroom to pee and I suddenly realized, oh hey, I bet my head's going to start hurting real bad, real soon. And then, it did, and I felt like the smartest person EVAR. It only took me seven years!

When I was a kid, when I was very tired or very sick, I would unconsciously rock myself. Since migraines, I've started doing it again. When laying down, I'll catch myself rocking very gently and slightly, and when it happens while sitting up, it looks like I'm fidgeting in my seat, or moving my feet and legs rhythmically. Often, I don't realize I'm rocking until it makes me motion sick.

I think that the rhythmic movements are soothing to me, it feels like it's releasing some sort of energy or tension, or easing it. I couldn't tell you if it was neurological or psychological or what, Dr. Internets is vague: it could be tourette's, or adhd, or autism, or asperger's, or OCD (and then I'm like, I can't focus, I'm not big on prolonged eye-contact, and I like to count things. I have all the illnesses!). So, I'm not going to do anymore research until I talk to a doctor, because all that is just alarming and annoying.

I also rub my feet together when I'm migraining or tired, and I didn't realize how often I did this until I hurt my left foot a few weeks ago. Any pressure on the top is still really uncomfortable, so every time my feet go to do their weird little cuddle, the pain would alert me within seconds. There were a few times when I'd stop myself over and over within the span of a few minutes, and had to tuck one foot under me to get my feet to knock it off. This is another thing I seem to remember doing as a child, and I don't know why all these little-kid quirks are popping back up, but as long as the night terrors don't come back, I won't complain.

I've mentioned before that I developed a twitch early on in my migraining career. It comes on with little warning, and is so brief and rare that very few people have ever noticed it, but it still bothers me. It's usually my right shoulder that jumps, perhaps with a neck spasm to make my head tilt a bit.

In the past year or so, I've started having involuntary verbalizations, too. Again, when my head is flaring high, or I'm in a migraine hangover, what I am thinking will start coming out of my mouth, usually in half-formed sentences and mumbled words. This isn't the same as talking to myself, I do that all the time, it's more like the thought/speech barrier breaks down, totally involuntarily. For example, I was thinking of something embarrassing I did a long time, and as I recalled the memory, a low "Noooooooo" came out of my mouth, without my permission. Or another time, I was considering between two options, thought of a clearly deciding factor and blurted out, "I don't want it." Those words weren't in my head, literally, but the feeling was, and it's such a strange sensation to not have complete control over my speech like this. I've experienced loss of speech before, garbled language, and slurred words, but my mouth speaking on its own is pretty new and weird for me. It's not happening often enough to scare me, but these new symptoms are definitely odd and I look forward to sharing them with a doctor so I can witness their WTF face.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Mountain Witch

My friends have a new nickname for me. It's said with love.

So, I used to be a fairly normal woman in her twenties. I lived in the city, I went out with friends, I drank a few beers, went to family barbecues, and worked overtime when I could get it. Now, I am a strange woman in her thirties. I hide up in the mountains, and would outright refuse to come down if I could help it. I don't have many visitors, I spend a lot of time by myself on the computer, or with the dogs, roaming the forest as much as I can, which can mean I don't speak a full sentence or see another person for hours at a time. I once went two days. I love the solitude more than I thought it was possible to love solitude. The peace is literal and soul-easing, it's indescribable. So, this total change in life circumstances and living situation--besides my abundance of quirk--has earned me the title of The Mountain Witch, among some very clever friends of mine, and I think that may be the most accurate nickname I've ever been given.

In addition to the forest-recluse act I've got going on, I've also embraced feminism fiercely over the past few years, so the witch part is particularly gratifying. I don't wear makeup, I don't shave my legs as often as I'm supposed to, and I shop at thrift stores. I wave at my infrequently seen neighbors in sometimes strange, but always comfortable, clothes and most assuredly disheveled hair. The dogs follow me like familiars, sometimes even the neighbor's dogs. I step gently on the forest floor of dried fronds, crunchy leaves, and small sticks, barely making a sound. Maybe I am a witch. If so, I still have a few more powers to accumulate. I'd love to be able to walk into the forest and come out with a handful of herbs for tea. Flying would also be great.

In my class, which is wrapping up soon, we read Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison and I think I might be Pilate. At least, I hope I am.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

My Body, My Choices

People who share unsolicited and uninformed opinions about my medical treatment options and choices can suck it.

Years ago, I was grateful for suggestions. And, I got them. Eat this, drink that, avoid this, take this, rub this on, wear this, and/or go to this professional for some migraine miracle magic. Or, supplements and exercise, or rest, or "powering through it", or maybe prayer and positive thinking? Tsk, have I considered getting therapy? And always, always, always the pills. I've been on the crazy pills, seizure pills, sleepy pills, never-poop pills, fat pills, jittery pills, and pills of utter desperation. But, have I tried this pill or that pill or the other pill? If it didn't work, or was too torturous with side effects for me to continue it, I should probably just try it again, but at a different dosage, or in combination with this other pill!

And then I say no. No, I'm not actively seeking treatment, no I'm not taking those pills anymore. Or those. Or those. No, I can't afford that treatment, no I don't see the value in wasting my every cent on my head when most of the money I've thrown at it so far hasn't done me a lick of good.

Some things we just have to accept.

Butbutbut! I'm giving up! Living off the government! Mooching! Not trying to get better! Hiding from the world! Being lazy! Taking advantage of the system!

No, I say, this is acceptance. If I discover a treatment that seems promising to me, I'll try it. If I can somehow afford certain treatments, through a miraculous monetary windfall or an equally miraculous change in coverage by medicare, I will eagerly pursue them. Until then, I accept and make due and live my life with very, very quiet enthusiasm and try my darnedest to ignore the criticisms, because those people do not live with my illness, my body, or my life.


Sunday, June 9, 2013


My dog is a source of distraction, of amusement, of love, and of frustration. She helps me enjoy the good times and get through the bad, but she's always had a few issues.

When we found her, she showed clear signs of neglect and mistreatment. She was never shy with the affection, but occasionally she'd show her fear, and her teeth. We overcame most of her anxiety and behavioral issues with time, save for one big problem.

We noticed early on that she was shy about food. It's progressed, however, into food aggression. She growls, shows her teeth, and snaps at any feet or dogs that come near her bowl. She doesn't go for hands, so we must be doing something right, but we've been doing a whole lot wrong for it to have gotten this bad otherwise. She's been an only dog thus far, and we haven't had a lot of opportunity to expose her to other dogs, so I've been working on her issues with feet at every meal for the past month. I've taken my cues from Cesar Milan, I was obsessive about watching his show when we first adopted our dog, and we've been making slow but steady progress.

Enter: the new dog. A friend is unable to care for her 2-year old terrier mix. He's submissive, and sweet, and is somewhat of a scaredy-shadow. So, we're fostering him until a better situation comes up, or we can afford to keep him on our own dime.

Their first meal together, I was nervous. I didn't think anyone would get hurt, but he's such a shy little guy, and she can be scary when she gets into snarly mode, so I was afraid she'd traumatize him and he'd be afraid to eat around her. My boyfriend took charge for the first meal, I knew that my anxiety would only hurt the situation, but I've handled all the food since then and so far, everyone is doing great. With only mild and infrequent correction, our dog is eating calmly, and everyone's got their eyes on their own plate. I don't think this venture is over, we'll still be monitoring them very carefully, but her improvement is remarkable, and I'm so relieved.

My terrible migraine streak finally eased a bit last week, and I've been able to hike our hill with the two dogs. (But, these guys are such fantastic motivation to keep moving, on all but my worst days, I'll force myself into at least a short stroll around the property.) We walk her with an often dropped leash, to give her a little freedom but keep it easy for us to catch her if she takes off after a critter. He has the most incredible recall I've ever seen, and I trust him completely without a leash. Twice now, he's started after something in the forest, and twice, he's skidded to a halt and came straight back to me at my first word. Recall is something else our girl isn't awesome at -- she comes at first command only about half the time, and much, much less if she's got something to chase -- but walking with him, she's much calmer and less interested in taking off after the first squirrel she can spot. We've been working on walking off-leash with her for months, and we'd made strides, but again, she's made her biggest leaps now that another dog has joined the household. And it's only been a week!

We've still got a lot of work to do, he's so submissive and fearful that she likes bossing him around when we're not watching, so they haven't been left alone together for more than a few minutes since he's come to stay with us, but I have faith that we'll get there.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Captioning Success

We are just a few weeks from the end of the quarter, and I just got the last of the video assignments from week 3.

Which, happily, ended up being the last videos of the lot! I had to do a bunch of work out of order, but now I'm all caught up and free to obsess over my last essay and my final project. And summer quarter, for which I've already registered. Ever onward.

My teacher used a few copyrighted materials as examples in our lectures, and the captioners were unable to transcribe them for me because of "copyright issues". It didn't end up being a big deal, we worked around the first instance, and the second was clips of The Matrix, which I've seen no less than thirty times and I could probably perform it for extra credit instead of getting those clips captioned, so luckily, it wasn't a problem in this class, but I thought the issue an odd one. I don't understand why they can show the movies in the class, but not caption the content, especially in an educational setting. I'm sure I'll run into the problem again, too, so that's something to look forward to.

My teacher is way behind in grading, but as of a month ago, I'm getting an A. I have a lot more work ahead of me; I'm researching the effects and potential solutions to plastic pollution for my final project, and I'm going to write my last essay on the experiences and roles of women in Song of Solomon. So, lots of work, but work I'll enjoy as it's kicking my ass.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Migraineur and The Smoker

My boyfriend is normally a wonderful, supportive source of migraine-friendliness. He's been willing and eager to change his hygiene products, his eating habits, and so many aspects of his daily life that I can't possibly record them all. Unfortunately, he has one habit that he's been alternately unwilling and unable to quit: cigarettes.

I don't like talking about my relationship with my boyfriend publicly. I don't even really talk to my friends about our issues. I prefer to deal with any trouble directly, so if I have a problem with him, I take it straight to him, with only rare detours via my mom or best friend. But, I can't take the smoking anymore, and I don't know what to do.

He only smokes outside, and he's stopped smoking around me at all, but if you know a smoker, you know how the smell lingers. If I go outside while he's smoking, or even within a several minutes of him putting it out, it smacks me hard, right upside my migraine. My heads rears up, and I have to hide inside and recuperate until the smell and the symptoms pass. We moved to the middle of nowhere to give me more freedom, and I still can't walk outside without fear of one of my worst triggers, because I brought it with me.

Maybe the reduction in overall triggers has spoiled me. I've gotten used to being able to take deep breaths, there's no noise out here, no pollution. So, what remains stands out to me more obviously.

I can't even hug him anymore without being afraid of the cigarette smell on him. It's emotionally devastating, on a bad day, to go in for a sorely needed hug, or even bring his hand to my face for affection or comfort, only to have it hurt me. Not being able to share affection takes a toll. He's been the one person who's been safe for me in all other respects, so feeling unsafe around him just aches.

This is damaging our relationship. He's tried to quit a few times, but he inevitably "cheats" and lets himself start back up again. I used to smoke, I know how hard it is to quit, the physical and emotional struggle of nicotine addiction can be almost painful to endure, and it seems like it goes on forever. I can empathize with the struggle, but it's been years now, and I can tell you all from personal experience, if a person really wants to stop doing something, they will. This is a choice he's making, and he's repeatedly making the choice that hurts me.

So, he smokes, we fight about it, he promises to quit every now and again, but nothing is resolved.

If he won't stop exposing me, the only way I can escape is to leave him.

But, that's also leaving my relationship of 13 years, and the only person who really knows what living with chronic migraines is all about.

My heart aches. I want to preserve my health, I want to be as well as I can possibly be. But, how much will I give up to avoid migraine? I've already lost work, family, friends, money, time... Will migraines take away my love, too?