Having just had a little knee surgery on Friday, pain has been on my mind a bit. This piece is part 1.
I have had migraines since I was about 7 or 8 years old. There is pain. It is sometimes pounding, sometimes throbbing, sometimes a dull ache, sometimes a sharp continual pain. Sometimes the sinus cavities across my forehead are involved, sometimes my neck and shoulder. Sometimes I throw up, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes my eyes see funny things, sometimes light bothers me, sometimes noise is the worst thing in the world. My triggers range from hormones to barometric pressure to lack of sleep to too much sleep. I used to be allergic to any kind shellfish and red wine, which would bring on a migraine within a couple of hours. (I am happy to report that neither shellfish nor red wine are a problem any longer!) I now have issues with certain scents or perfumes, which never bothered me before, say, 10 years ago. Now, some can trigger a headache that will knock me flat within 5 minutes. It’s crazy. It’s even crazier when I wake up in the middle of the night with such an intense pain that has already progressed to the “I’m going to throw up right now” stage without me even being aware of it.
When I was younger, so much younger than today … well, I often wished for someone to just punch me in the head and knock me out when I was in the throes of a migraine. I
thought about went about gently banging my head against the wall because it was somewhat soothing in between the beats of the pain pulses. I may once or twice have thought about going to sleep and not waking up. Ever. More often, I thought about taking just enough of something so I could sleep for 2 or 3 days and the pain would be gone when I awoke. There was a point in high school when I saw an internist and he put me on a couple of different courses of medications. One was a cafergot inhaler which didn’t really seem to help me (ergot fungus may have been to blame for the whole Salem witch trial fiasco — truth, look it up) and the other was propranolol, a beta-blocker, which in my case really didn’t work — my attacks became more frequent.
I got older. I became more skilled at treating my own migraines, at “managing” my pain. I resigned myself to the fact that they were going to happen, they did, and I dealt with them when they showed up. Sometimes more effectively than others. Sometimes salt & vinegar chips and Coke seem to short circuit an oncoming attack. Sometimes Gravol and ibuprofen work well. I have German drugs, British drugs, old school pain pills, anti-nauseants, antihistamines, ice packs, heating pads and all sorts of things in my current bag of tricks. I do what I have to do. Sometimes nothing works. Best pain relief I ever had was 9 months of pregnancy. Not a single migraine. Hormones actually rock. (Why isn’t there research into this??)
So anyway, I have a nodding acquaintance with pain. Sort of chronic. But intermittent. That’s the key. That’s what gets me through. I know that my pain will go away. Somedays, and there are those days, I do doubt it. But mostly I know that my tomorrow, or the next day, will be pain free. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have that out. I don’t know how people who suffer with real chronic pain, the kind that doesn’t have a pain free tomorrow, do it. I wish there was something I could do for them, to help take away their pain. The best I can do for them is let them know that I see them, I hear them, and I care. I respect their struggle, no matter what its cause.