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Wednesday What: Headaches

What do your headaches feel like?

Sometimes, mine feel like this.  Other times they feel like my brain is throbbing and will surely burst my skull.  Kinda like this bit I found via Pinterest:

Bastien Aubry - WoodcutsI have no idea if this can be purchased anywhere online, but you can visit this site to learn a bit more about this award-winning work.  If you find a place selling prints of this woodcut, please let me know.

My Hellish Headaches

HeadacheI lose my stomach after almost every meal, and manage to hide it from nearly everyone.  I can make it through a full day’s work, even though the first few hours are equivalent to a push start by sheer will power (with assistance from family and friends).  I can handle aches, pain, stiffness, dizziness, and fatigue.  Heck, I can even stay happy and upbeat when I feel dreadful.  I cannot, however, stand these cyst-induced headaches.At least with migraines, I can get sick a few times, go to bed in a pitch black room, eventually fall asleep, and wake up the next morning to what I refer to as a headache hangover.  You know, the feeling that you survived having your head beat about with a baseball bat?  The feeling that your brain is bruised and you are thinking through cheesecloth soaked in glycerine?

Migraines feel like a slow death, but my cyst-aches feel like a murder… where I am a witness and the victim.

My cyst-ache comes and goes in an instant.  Often it begins as a stabbing pain from the middle of my brain toward just above my left ear.  Other times it begins as a dull and dizzying pain that fills my skull.  However it begins, I shake.  I get sick to my stomach.  I grow agitated.  I cease to make sense.  My thoughts turn to the absurd.  Time seems endless and flat.  My tongue turns to Silly Putty.  I literally lose my mind.

And then, as quickly as it began, the pain is gone.  I return to whatever I was doing and try to forget the nightmare… until, a minute, day, or week later, when it begins again.

As of now, I have yet to determine if the pain is more frustrating than the uncertainty.

When a cyst-ache begins, nothing feels possible.  Life feels as if it is on pause, and I cannot put things in their proper perspective.  It is impossible to remember what “normal” feels like.  I feel misunderstood… torn between admitting my struggle and faking it.

But I can’t fake it.

Kate with a Headache

I feel like curling up in a ball and crying, or giving up on everything and becoming a recluse.  Expectations feel like the weight of the world and serve as ceaseless reminders of my reduced capacity and postponed dreams.

But, that is not today.  After weeks of almost constant headaches, the last week has been a tremendous blessing… two headaches in ten days?  I’ll take that.  And love it, in fact.

(All pictures by Kate Blaylock for My Life with Fibro.)

Fibromyalgia and Migraines, Part 3

Since migraines don’t have a brain of their own they try to use mine.  I don’t really blame them… it’s sure served me well.  But it’s mine!  And it’s done being used as an external hard drive for some freeloading, vomit-inducing, day-ending ailment.  So, when it comes time to fight a migraine I’ve got a… you guessed it… routine.  It’s a bit simple and a bit silly but I figured I’d share it anyway.

When I finally realize I’m getting a migraine, those of you who get them know what I mean, I feel a bit panicked and I get overwhelmed.  Then I remind myself to be calm and I keep doing whatever I’m doing.  The second time I feel panicked, it’s kinda like baking and the magic second smell, I tell Daniel I’ve got a killer headache on its way and he usually encourages me to take some meds.  If my vision is already blurry, I heed his advice and take 2 Aleve and 2 Tylenol.  (Or, since I don’t typically drink caffeine, sip a Coke or Pepsi.)

I know, I know.  Trust me, I know.  We monitor my liver closely, so please don’t lecture me.  Please.

If the headache is still in the preliminary stages I skip the meds and go straight for my stretches.  Sounds nerdy, eh? Delilah, my wonderful chiropractor, taught me some stretches to relax the muscles that most-often cause my migraines… and they work.  I’ve decided to spare you a silly-looking picture, so stick with me through my description.

I lay on my back and pike my legs into the air (or against a wall with my butt where the wall meets the floor).  After a few minutes I bring my legs closer to my body and hold that stretch.  I continue increasing the stretch until the refreshing stretching feeling turns to pain that doesn’t subside after a few seconds holding the stretch.  Then, with the help of Danny, I prop my hips up off the floor onto my hands and slowly roll my lower back down onto the ground.  This eases the tension in my lower back and gets my blood flowing again.  It kinda feels like the end of a yoga routine or something.  (If this all sounds a bit ridiculous to you, that’s fine.  You can always try just sitting in a pike and leaning forward.  I just find that doesn’t work as well for me.)

After this simple routine (it really is, even if my description is not) I get up slowly, to avoid getting dizzy, and sit on the couch for a few minutes.  Within five minutes my headache is almost always reduced from an “I can’t see, and I’m hearing double.” to the headache hangover I get the day after a migraine.  You know?  It feels like you’re recovering from a baseball bat beating to your skull and your brain is bruised.

Having said all this… I still swear by sleep.  If I’m not to bed within a half hour of my stretches my migraine will creep back into my brain and I’ll have to start the process over.  And for those times when the pain is so severe I can’t fall asleep (usually my stress-induced migraines), I take a muscle relaxer (also recommended by my chiropractor) that takes the edge off and helps me sleep.

And, speaking of sleep.  This strep stuff left me with two hours last night, so I’m off to get some.

What works for you?  I’d love to hear new ideas.

Fibromyalgia and Migraines, Part 2

Apparently, migraines are no different than people… they don’t know how to read mixed signals.  But what was I expecting?

Come back tomorrow for what I promised to write today.  I’m heading to bed to fight off a swollen throat and apply my dad’s theory that you can sleep off being sick.  It sure works for him.

Fibromyalgia and Migraines, Part 1

So, part of new weekly routine has got to go.  It’s a once a week thing.  It was never planned.  And I certainly never invited it.  Each week I renew my resolve to ditch the routine.  And each week I forget to remember to ditch the routine for the days in between.  But that’s over because I’m writing about it.  Isn’t that supposed to help you remember?

I get a killer headache (dare I say, migraine) every Thursday.  What’s the deal?  Is it end of the week stress?  Is it a coincidence?  Is there really any other explanation?

It’s all a bit strange.  Thursdays are my favorite work day.  It’s almost Friday, but it’s more productive.  I suppose that after a long week I’ve accumulated enough stress to cause such a headache, but it’s incredible how quickly it arrives and how quickly it has me seeing double and heading to bed before I’m head-over-toilet, woofing my cookies.  I’m not talking a headache… the kind that hurts and makes loud noises annoying.  I’m talking…

Oh my gosh!  My vision is freaked out.  My head is being crushed by an invisible anvil.  My last four meals are on deck.  I can’t hold up my head.  My hearing is blurry (is that possible?!).  Daniel, get me to bed before I die.  And do so in complete silence.  And don’t turn on the lights…

Thusfar, I’ve survived this dreadful routine, as I will continue to.  But surviving is reactionary, and I’m looking to be preventative.  Something must change.

I didn’t start having migraines until I was at college.  I still remember the first one like I remember my name.  I remember what movie I was watching as I had a conversation with myself that went something like:

This might be the worst headache I’ve ever had.  This must be what Mom and Grandma get.  If this is just a headache, I’ve never had a headache before.  Those concussions have nothing on this… they’re hangnails.  Oh my goodness, I’m going to vomit.  I hate this movie.  I hate light.  Just make a move already! (I was watching the aforementioned movie with my roommate and a boy she liked.) I hate noise.  I want to go home.  I want to cut my head off.  I hate these pants.  Just put your arm around her!  I hate this chair.

Since then, migraines waltz in and out of my life like warm weather does an Arkansas winter.  And I’ve had enough.  My Valentine’s gift to myself was to finally kiss migraines goodbye…  But, as we learn from people, kissing things goodbye (when you intend to distance yourself from said things) is a stupid idea.  It sends mixed signals and confuses the situation…

Come back Tuesday for the rest of the story, as well as my migraine survival tips.