One Little Thing

Posted: 5 December 2008 in bitter old woman, observations

In the morning, I wake up and debate how many minutes I have.  How many minutes I have to lay there, enjoying the warm blankets, until my head starts to ache.  Once I’m up, I worry the water will be too hot or the room too cold.  The sudden change from warm steamy shower to icy room could mean a piercing headache.  If I’m lucky, I’m still in the clear.  If I’m lucky, the hot water has steamed away the headache.  If I’m unlucky, I don’t look too closely in the mirror or at the lights.  I never, ever tip my head upside down for extra volume, in fact, I’ll spend all day making sure that, if I bend down, I don’t put my head below my shoulders.  I make a point to make breakfast.  To drink a glass of water.  A cup of coffee could be too much, or just enough to cure whatever I’ve done to provoke the headache so far.

At work, I wonder how long it will take.  Will it be the fluorescent lights?  The computer screen?  Not wearing my glasses?  Wearing them for too long?  Turning my head too quickly?  Holding my shoulders too stiffly?  Is it cloudy out?  Headache.  Getting clear?  Headache.  Windy, blindingly bright, raining, bitterly cold, humid?  Headache.  I eat mints instead of chewing gum – maybe it’s my teeth that set it off or maybe it’s the chemicals in the gum.  I don’t drink soda unless I need the caffeine (to get rid of a headache) but even then I risk setting it off with too much sugar (normal soda) or too many chemicals (diet).  Do I go to the gym?  Not if it’s hurting but yes if it’s going to hurt.  But then I don’t bounce, don’t step too hard and don’t listen to music too loud. 

If it’s evening and I still don’t have a headache, I try extra hard.  I don’t like to drive at night.  Not because I don’t love to drive (I do) or because I’m an old cat lady (debatable) but because the headlights, streetlights and blinking turn signals will surely start to form halos and then become glaring angels of pain.  When I lay down to sleep, I hold my breath.  Will it be a peaceful night or one hosted by splintered temples and throbbing tight bands around my head? 

If you’ve seen me smiling, it’s because there’s a moment where my head doesn’t hurt.  Or maybe it’s because I’m at that point where the pain is so bad, I can’t do anything but move through on auto-pilot and a smile is what’s called for.  If you’ve heard me speak in front of a group, I’ve had a headache.  A spitting, dizzying headache.  When I’m standing, the lights are closer to my eyes and it’s just enough for an iron clad guarantee: headache.  If I’ve checked a book out to you, it was through a blurred gaze.  Sometime I can’t see you it hurts so badly.  I consider myself lucky that I’m not always puking, but sometimes I am.  The days that I’ve asked to go home from work?  I’m never sure I’ll be able to drive or if I’ll feel better by evening.  I start thinking about family events months in advance, wondering what I can do, how I can trick it, if there’s a chance that I won’t look at pictures and see only a hot haze of pain.

It isn’t just a headache, it’s a practically perpetual migraine.  No matter what I do, my head hurts.   The pain is impervious to intervention.  I have pills.  If I take advil, it’s to make sure an aching muscle doesn’t trigger something, not to help the pain.  I’ve had MRIs, I’ve been to emergency rooms.  I’ve had brain surgery.  I still have constant headaches.  I feel like I would do anything to fix it and I do everything I can to keep it away.  I don’t like to drink or dance because rapid movement and dehydration leave me flat for days.  I don’t smoke but only because I never had the chance to form a habit.  The smell is a recipe for a throbbing ache.  I stay hydrated and don’t tilt my head any way quickly, or too long.  I think about everything I’m not doing right.  Maybe I’m not exercising enough.  Maybe I’m stressed.  Maybe I’ve eaten the wrong thing.  I obsess over what could be causing it.  I go to my doctors in rounds.  Dentist.  Optometrist.  Physician.  I’ve tried massage, meditation, a nutritionist.

This one little thing is a family member.  A baby.  Such a huge part of my life, I can’t imagine life without it.  It takes constant care and consideration.  It’s nasty to my wife, my job, my social life.  It doesn’t make exceptions.  It doesn’t know how to share.  It’s too much.

Points for getting here.

  1. rk says:

    Thank you for this post! I don’t think my migraines are as severe as yours, but I do feel like my life is sometimes controlled by headaches – everything I do is carefully calculated to ward them off. No drinking, no late nights, no sleeping in, no crying (!), bright lights, bad smells … anything can do it! What really kills me are the days when I’ve done everything “right” and I get a whopper headache anyways … and my coworker asks if I want a tylenol. As if. Hang in there! Enjoying your blog, thanks for writing.

    • backlist says:

      Oh the crying – it’s so true! Yesterday I was so frustrated at being trapped in a darkened office with one, bright, fluorescent light. Later I was nearly in tears and then I remembered how much worse it would get if I cried… One of my coworkers take one (!) advil to get past a headache. Unbelievable…

  2. I’ve never had one full time– I can’t imagine. I thank goodness for the depakote I’m on– it’s been a miracle. Thinking of you.

  3. rk's mum says:

    rk sent me the link to your site. Sadly, she seems to have inherited her headaches from me, her mom. I have walked in your shoes – including the brain surgery. Having tried many different drugs over a span of many years I have finally found a regimen that is working remarkably well – for now. I actually had pain killers left over at the end of last month – a miracle. The ice is thin however and your post is a achingly sad reminder of that. I continue to make every mundane decision based on the likelihood of initiating another week long bruiser.

  4. backlist says:

    yay! I’m always excited to hear when someone finds something that works. congratulations!

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