Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Once Upon a Time

I remember well my first migraine. It was the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college. My best friend from high school was at my house and we were watching tv when a piercing pain shot through my head. After watching my mom suffer migraines for many years, I kind of figured that's what I had. I sent my friend home and went straight to bed.

I'm very fortunate that my migraines were very mild and infrequent during my time in college. Even for several years after college, my migraines were very manageable. It wasn't until this last couple years that they have become more severe and frequent. Before this last year, I went to the ER with a migraine maybe two or three times per year. Now I go about once a week.

I've learned a lot during these last couple of years. When I've been inpatient at the hospital in Chicago where my neurologists have a wing, I've been required to attend classes about migraines. I've learned what my food triggers are (aged cheese and caffeine) and I've learned how to be assertive without being aggressive about my pain. I've learned the most common food triggers and even if they don't trigger a migraine in me every time, I've started avoiding them. The most helpful "class" was a support group meeting. It was so nice to know there are other people that feel exactly like I do. Diamond Headache Clinic makes you really take advantage of every opportunity when they hospitalize you. As I've worked my way through different neurologists it's been frustrating, but I'm grateful for where I've landed.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

On the Rebound

I just typed a whole post and it disappeared. I'll try again.

There's a condition Migraineurs can suffer called rebound headaches. They're also referred to as medication overuse headaches. They happen when someone takes too much pain medication, although they feel just like a regular migraine. The only way to get rid of a rebound headache is to stop taking all pain meds. It's brutal for a while, but eventually the pain goes away.

I'm currently rebounding. Sunday I decided to go off all my pain meds. Tuesday night I ended up in so much pain I couldn't take it anymore. I gave in. I took pain meds. The same thing happened last night. Now, instead of being five days post-medication, I'm only 11 hours. I don't regret taking the meds. I was in incredible pain. But it's frustrating that I keep giving in. I know I will eventually beat this rebound headache and go back to having regular migraines, but I sure wish that would happen soon.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Intruder That Did My Laundry

Right now I'm on a med called DHE. It's used to break up a migraine cycle. I give myself a shot of DHE every 8 hours for 3 days with shots of pain meds in between. I always forget the side effects of DHE until I'm on it again. For one, the shots bruise me terribly, worse than any of my pain meds that are shots. Also, the DHE causes me to have super weird dreams. I just woke up from a short nap, and as I was trying to wake up, I became convinced someone had broken in. See, I knew my load in the dryer had already buzzed, but I was sure I heard the dryer running. Clearly someone had started it up again. And every creak was someone walking through the house. So I wondered if I should pretend to be sleeping (which I still sort of was) and hope the intruder left without hurting me, or should I force myself to wake up, grab my phone and keys and make a run for it? I forced myself awake enough to reach for my phone and became aware that the sound I thought was the dryer was the fans running downstairs (we had a minor flood and we're trying to dry out). Wow. What a dream. While the DHE is necessary for pain management, those side effects are something else.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sound Sensitivities

Most migraineurs I know have a sensitivity to sound when they're suffering a migraine. Common sounds that bother me are a ticking clock or a tv in the next room. Not so common sounds that bother me come from the farm next door. Nothing can irritate a migraine like the sound of two roosters trying to out-crow each other, the donkey hee-hawing for all he's worth or the cows looking for mates. At least when God allowed me to suffer sound sensitivities he had a sense of humor about it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Heroes

I've read more than once that caregivers of those with chronic pain are the silent victims. I'm sure my family would never call themselves victims, but they sure are great caregivers. In the last couple of years I had to move back in with my parents, mostly for financial reasons. Since then my migraines have grown unbearable in frequency and intensity. At this point I don't know that I could live on my own. When I'm in bed or on the couch with a bad migraine, my mom is more than willing to fix me something to eat or reheat my rice filled heating pad or switch my ice packs (heat and cold both occasionally help the pain). My brother and dad chip in too. And all 3 have taken me on more ER runs than I can count. My brother gives up a day every six weeks to take me to Chicago for visits to my neurologist. My friends have also offered their help on many occasions. When I was headed to Chicago last October to be placed in the hospital there to break a migraine cycle, my best friend Jill put together a cute fall decorative basket and picture frame so I'd have something to decorate my hospital room. She's also driven to Chicago countless times, whether it was to visit me in the hospital or go with me to a doctor's appointment.

I am so blessed to have such a great family and friends!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Off to Chicago We Go

I saw my neurologist today for my regular checkup. I told her the preventative medication they put me on in July wasn't working, and that it was making my heart beat hard and fast all the time. She agreed I should come off that medicine, then said I had pretty much tried them all, with no luck, so they were running out of options for me. She said the next thing to try is Botox (Botox was approved last year by the FDA as a treatment for chronic Migraine). Now we get the process started by seeing if my insurance company will cover it. I should know in about 3-4 weeks. The same doctor that will be doing my Botox will also be consulting with me to see if a nerve block is a good option. I've had that done once before with medium results. That's where they knock me out and then inject something with a really long needle into the nerve in the back of my neck to block the pain receptors. I'm glad my doctor suggested these alternate therapies, because they were both on my list of questions to ask her anyway, and drug-wise, I'm pretty much out of options. Now I'm just praying my insurance company will cover these treatments and that I can have them soon.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I am Not Defined By My Migraines, But my Blog Is

I suffer from chronic Migraines. That means I have Migraine pain at least 15 days out of the month. It's actually closer to 30 days out of the month. The term for a Migraine sufferer is Migraineur. However, I won't let that become my identity. I am many other things:

I am a daughter, sister and friend.
I am a child of God.
I am someone who has recently started shaving a couple years off my age.
I am a singer and dancer.
I am a Bethel College alum.
I am a huge sports fan (football, racing and baseball, in that order).
I am a fan of the Cubs, Notre Dame and the Colts.
I am blessed in my family and friends.
I am so happy when I find The Big Bang Theory on tv.
I am a devoted fan of Josh Groban and have been to a concert on each of his tours.
I am two degrees removed from Loretta Lynn (my grandma grew up with her).
I am a cat person.
I am not a dog person.
I prefer rainy days to sunny days.
I will fiercely defend my friends and family.
I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.
I am a champion napper.
I am not a champion nighttime sleeper. Maybe I should lay off the naps.
I am happiest when I'm at Prairie Camp.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Blessings From All Sides

I'm discovering lately that Migraine affects every part of my life. Through that, I'm seeing God bless me in multiple ways. Having chronic Migraines (I'm capitalizing that because every health website does, FYI) means I can't work. Not working means trying to get on short-term disability so I can have some form of income. I've been off work for about a month, and I just found out the reason I haven't received any disability checks is because my doctor hasn't returned the paperwork to my hr manager so she can submit it to the insurance company. That affects my bills, as I currently have no income. I spent the afternoon on the phone with credit card companies, people trying to collect medical bills, my cell phone company and my bank. I prayed they would be merciful, and God answered my prayer. The lady from AT&T explained her mother is going through the same thing I am and she extended me much grace re: my phone bill. I received the same grace from everyone I talked to.

I'm currently trying to get on Social Security Disability, which I've heard is very difficult. I'm praying they are merciful and approve my request.

It's easy to get discouraged when I don't see God answering the prayers for healing that many people are lifting up on my behalf. Now I'm wondering if that's so because God wants to bless me in different ways. I hope I can continue to see and recognize the blessings, as that can give me the same encouragement as an answer to a healing prayer would.