I have “suffered” from migraine disease since I was five years old (at least that’s my earliest recollection). My childhood headaches were reasonably predictable. If I didn’t get enough sleep, or I got overly excited (read: stressed), I would get a raging headache, throw up, then sleep a couple of hours, and the pain would be gone. I probably had a headache once every week or so. Sometimes I’d go longer.
As I got older, they became more problematic. When I student taught, I had a few, one of which had me on the couch in the teacher’s lounge trying to sleep it off. A snarky P.E. teacher told me I’d never be able to teach if I couldn’t handle a headache. He was wrong, but sometimes it does affect my ability to teach effectively, and I use all my sick days (which are generous) every year because of them.
When I began the phase of my life in which I was often pregnant or nursing a baby, I did not get any headaches. It was such a blessed relief to go a year at a time without the debilitating pain. For several years, my headaches were limited to two or three a year, although I noticed they were lasting seven or eight hours. But a few times a year – doable.
Then I had a hysterectomy about ten years ago. All hell broke loose! Since that time, I have had headaches more often than not. Over the past couple years, my migraine has become daily, so I get to say I have “chronic daily migraine” now. Lucky me.
Migraine is hereditary in my family, so I can’t fix that. I wear sunglasses almost always when I’m outside, and avoid being in the heat whenever possible. I no longer go to loud, crowded places or anywhere there might be cigarette smoke. I have tried diet changes, which help significantly, but are very difficult to maintain. I do better some weeks than others. I have tried every over-the-counter pain reliever. Advil works sometimes. That’s about it. I got myself a neurologist, who I pretty much fired after months of “Try this. Try that. Huh, those should have worked.” He never once spoke to me about lifestyle changes, research, diet, or anything else besides medications. He had me on so much Topamax I got forgetful and was having trouble speaking and acting intelligently. My own doctor dialed it back, but after several years on this med, I decided it wasn’t really helping since I was in pain daily anyway. I have tried vitamins and herbs. I still use Imitrex, which works most of the time. The problem is, within 12 to 24 hours, my pain is back, and the mental fogginess and the snaps, crackles, and pops in my neck, along with the tightness in my neck and shoulders never goes away, even when the pain subsides.
I was raised in a family in which it was not okay to whine and complain, which is good, but I never feel comfortable talking about being in constant pain. Even as a blogger, I have resisted more than mentioning that my head hurts. That barely begins to cover it.
This weekend I was perusing one of my favorite blogs, PastaQueen.com. I started reading it because its writer, Jeanette Fulda, lost half her body weight over the course of a couple of years. I have been so impressed with her! Three years ago, however, she got a headache and it never went away. When I read her archived posts, I was struck by how similar our lives have been over the past several years, although she lost the weight… ahem.
Anyway, she wrote an eloquent post on what it’s like to live with chronic pain. She put into words what I have wished to express to those in my life. If you are in constant pain, or care about someone who is, please read her post. I’d also like to add that her new book, Chocolate and Vicodin, hit the bookstores this week! I can’t wait to read it, and I’ll let you know what I think. I’m expecting it to be funny, insightful, and just plain good.