Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Pain

I open my eyes in the morning and light seizes my optic nerves like a hot hand, twisting and burning. I close them again and swing my legs to the floor.

As I sit up, blood rushes and thumps in my head, drumbeats of sick pain against my temples. The muscles of my neck and shoulders settle into their familiar knotted array.

I stagger to the bathroom, I flip on the light and grab the lip of the sink as the first wave of nausea washes over me, crushing any hope that today might be better than yesterday.

Cold sweat prickles my forehead. I suck in a breath and force it out, slowly.

I won't throw up.

I find the resolve to look in the mirror -- the right side of my swollen face is pale, the eye oozes a tear that's stuck in my eyelashes.

Good morning, Sunshine.

I have a killer migraine.

To be more precise, I've entered the hellish world of "transformed" migraines, where the once-occasional misery of these debilitating headaches has become a near-daily mix of tension headache and migraine torture.

When a migraine starts, the roots of each hair on the right side of my head are fiery and electrified. Before the pain begins, sometimes a few hours or a full day ahead, I am antsy and uncomfortable in my skin.
I am always in pain. Saying those words aloud makes me cry.

No one likes to talk about pain. And chronic pain, the kind you just can't seem to fix -- who wants to talk about that?

I'd rather hide. But there's nowhere to go.

I've had migraines since I was diagnosed with Viral Meningitis 4 years ago this January 9, 2011.

For 4 years I've tried just about every drug, alternative and preventive treatment available. I exercise, eat well, try to fend off my migraine triggers (weather changes, cigarette smoke, stress, crying, caffeine), and even avoid those that probably aren't triggers (red wine, strong smells, MSG, seasonal allergens).

I have an arsenal of medications designed to squash a migraine before it squashes me. They often don't work. And sometimes, the treatment is worse than the disease: an injection, a pill to counteract the nausea from the injection, vomiting when the pill doesn't cut it, lethargy, and an inevitable migraine hangover that lasts two days and makes me feel like my head is stuffed with cotton batting.

I've done everything I'm supposed to do and nothing I'm not supposed to. I listen to what my neurologist tells me.

Yet many times I find myself huddled under the hot spray of the shower, lights out, weeping, silently praying for relief from a god I don't much believe in.

Please make it stop.

Please Mama, make it stop.

I'll do anything.

I figure if anyone would put my name in for a miracle, my mother would.

The truth is that my brain, like the brains of 36 million other Americans, behaves differently from those of people who have never had one of these headaches.

Our brains are hypersensitive, demanding little brats that throw earsplitting, room-rocking tantrums at the slightest provocation.

My primary trigger is stress and sleeplessness. If I am woken up at any time before 6:30 am, and have gone to bed after 11:00 pm, I am screwed. I battle the pain off like a new mother tip toes around her sleeping baby.

Any of a million triggers can bring on the hurt. And the hurt is exquisite.

The word migraine comes from the Greek hemicrania, meaning half the skull. Most migraines try to destroy only half your head at a time, perhaps the smallest of concessions in what often feels like a battle for your sanity.

When a migraine starts, the roots of each hair on the right side of my head are fiery and electrified. Before the pain begins, sometimes a few hours or a full day ahead, I am antsy and uncomfortable in my skin.

Then suddenly it's like I'm drunk and stupid -- slurring my speech, forgetting words, incessantly yawning and fighting a strong urge to sleep.

And then there's the pain -- pain that some people call "headache" but that any migraine sufferer knows belongs in its own infernal category. It's pain that wakes me up out of a deep sleep some nights and makes me cry like a frustrated child.

It's a pulsating, drilling, burrowing monster. You spend long enough with it, and it sprouts legs and arms and intentions. It attacks.

The pain starts around my right eye and coils around the right side of my head, embedding a spiky metal hand into my face, holding tight to my eyebrow, cheekbone and jaw line.

Its other hand locks onto my right shoulder and neck, digging in like a sadistic teacher dragging a ne'er-do-well student to the principal's office.

I shake, stab myself with syringes of medication to kill the pain and fight off nausea. I curse the sun, light bulbs, headlights, the flickering glow of the clock radio.

All this nastiness is screaming around in the malfunctioning, overreacting, treacherous black box of my brain. In the aftermath, I lie there, sick and spent, idly wishing I could somehow separate my head from the rest of my body just for a while. My whole body feels as if I have worked each and every muscle until it is spent completely.

There is no redemption in the pain of a migraine or its daily headache spawn. I am not a better person because I suffer. I am a person, hurting. And the joys I miss, the plans I cancel, the life I forfeit -- that is what matters.

I can suffer, or I can cope.

That misshapen mug that glares back at me too many mornings -- my migraine face in the bathroom mirror -- is the face of raw, familiar, deep-rooted agony, the face of my burrowing monster.

It's also my face, and my mom's face. I am so like her.

Help me, Mama.

My mom died 12 years ago, and oh, how I miss her when I feel so small and alone. I think she hears me. God, I hope she hears me.

I wipe away the tears and open the medicine cabinet.

Today might be different.

Excerpts taken from :

Brie Zeltner; as she has exposed my headache story perfectly.

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