Attack of the Never-ending Migraines

I was not very far past toddler-hood the first time I recall being bombarded with a migraine, though at the time I didn’t have any inkling as to what it was called.  It was a warm summer evening and we were in Kentucky’s Appalachian Mountains at the farm my mother grew up on.  Every fourth of July Weekend the “Kentucky Jones” descend upon their homeland, like migrating birds, for a weekend of games, KFC & catching up.

This particular year I was extra excited because instead of staying at the old Holiday Inn with Mom & Dad, I was going to get the spend the night on the farm with my two cousins: Lisa and LeAnna.  We were already into Day Two, Saturday, of the reunion and us girl cousins had been playing hard.  Games like kick the can, water sliding down the hill and lock-up in the barn (thank u LeAnna for being skinny enough to shimmy through the beams and win us the game!) had wore everyone out so out-of-towner’s  was began to round up their kids and head back to town and the hotels.

My headache began sometime after lunch but I refused to say anything to mom on the grounds that I KNEW she would make me miss my very first (that I could remember) cousin sleep-over!  By evening the throbbing echoed from my down to my tiny, barefoot toes.  I ended up hiding on the far side of my uncle’s house, in tears, still stubbornly holding onto my pj party plans.  I sat on the grass, knees tightly pulled up to my chest, attempting to hide myself and my tears when I heard voices.

Seeing my intense pain Lisa sought out my mother, knowing that only a mother’s touch could fix this.  Gosh darnit, though, if I wasn’t right!  One look at the concern on mamma’s face and I knew we headed to the hotel with her trying to convince an obstinate 6(ish) year old that I wouldn’t be able to have fun if I was hurting.  Tears waterfalled down my cheeks, the clean saltwater riverbeds standing in stark contrast to the dirt that had already laid claim to the rest of my face.  I noticed my dad’s eyes shift towards me in the rear view mirror when the hiccups began, so powerful in my angst that with every other hiccup my bum would nearly clear the seat.  I tried to calm down and curb my spectacle, but I found it impossible; besides, at that moment I really couldn’t figure out if the tears were for my lost opportunity or the agonizing invasion that had taken over my brain.

Quite a few years would pass before I would experience that kind of pain again, in fact it wasn’t until my early pre-teen years that I remember migraine monster returning.  My head had been hurting all evening so before bed my mother gave me a couple of Tylenol and shooed me off to go count sheep. I remember lying there in bed, the pain becoming increasingly unbearable until I finally tip-toed through the slumbering house into my parents room.

I slipped up on my mother’s side, tears already spilling over, as I roused her.  I reckon her “mother’s instinct” kicked in for she immediately knew something was wrong, ushering me quietly back to my room so as not to wake anyone else on a school/work night.  Since it had only been about an hour ago that I had taken some pain medicine, there was not a whole lot she could do but to comfort me with her soft touch and whispered words.I don’t know how long she sat beside my bed, gently adjusting the cool cloth she had placed on my forehead, but it seemed like most of the night.  At some point I finally managed to fall asleep, waking up with nothing more than the memory of pain and terry cloth imprints on my cheek from where I had rolled over and slept on the wash cloth.

From that point on the “headaches” returned one or two times a year.  The pain would be so intense that I often sought unconventional means to alleviate my suffering.  For some odd reason one of the best ways was to stand next to a wall, pushing against it with my forehead.  I reckon the mixture of the cool wall and the pressure on my head was some sort of magic combination; it did have the singular effect of freaking my mother out whenever she’d come into my room and see me standing like this.

About seven years ago I began experiencing “cluster headaches”; headaches that come everyday about the same time.  Finally, after literally a month straight of headaches I went to see my doctor.  Since he, Dr. Cathey (the BEST doctor, ever), experiences migraines as well he’s extremely empathetic.  He recognized the symptoms immediately and for the first time I had a name for my sufferings: migraine.

After a trip to a neurologist, to confirm Dr. Cathey’s diagnosis (arranged by him, I never doubt diagnosis) we began the tricky phase of finding a medication that works for me.  One of the most popular medications for migraines causes the heart to speed up in a very small percentage of patients…guess whose in the percentage?  Finally, after attempting several more medications (including preventative meds that actually INCREASED my headaches) we found one, Maxalt, that works well for me….well, as long as I’m on insurance because without it costs over $300 for nine pills!

Sometime last winter I had the WORST migraine of my enterite life.  It came early one week, sent me crying to the ER/clinic a total of five times and finally went away seven days later.  A week or two later I started experiencing vertigo, keep in mind that as far as I remember I have never been dizzy or faint a day in my life.  Something about either the weeklong migraine, or the vertigo (or perhaps a weird 2% combination of both), changed my migraines.

Suddenly they would come and last days at a time, ignoring my self medication and sometimes even the shots from the doctors.  In addition the pain was more intense and the “pattern” of migraines changed.  Instead of them taking root in the side or front of my head, they floated all around; often causing a burning sensation (not unlike when a person gets water up their nose) the envelop my entire head and would drift like fog on a lake down into my neck and shoulders (if Mom didn’t like the wall thing, she’d really spas if she saw me grabbing my hair and pulling it tightly away from my skull: this method works best if one’s hair is in a ponytail).

The new “ice pick” migraines are especially fun.  They feel exactly as the name describes, like a person is literally stabbing your head with an ice pick.  Thankfully when they come they usually only last from between thirty-seconds to a minute. However, I think that they must have felt left out because last week I started getting sudden, full-blown migraines in just a couple of minutes (typically I can feel them coming on at least a couple of hours ahead of time)!

Even though the pain is torturous, and nausea aggravating (to say the least); I think the worst part is the loss of control you feel over your life.  I never know when they are going to hit, and the inconsiderate little twit doesn’t care if I need to go work, have a date plan made or if its the first day of hunting season.  While I do occasionally get reprieves for a month or two, I live in dread because I never know when they will return or how long they plan to stay.

In a few weeks plans have been made re-to visit the neurologist.  In the meantime, I sit in the clinic waiting room, ready for my second shot today and prayerfully some relief!  Hunting season opens in the morning and I have yet to bag me a deer (it doesn’t matter if its a doe or a buck; if it’s brown, its down!).  But, of course four days ago the migraines decided they were lonely; and like those pesky in-laws seen in movies that come un-invited and show no plans of leaving, the migraine monster has unpacked his bags. 

Perhaps my faithful doc will have a cure for me so that tomorrow at this time instead of sitting in this chair, I’ll be climbing down from my stand tagging my first deer! 

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