Did I ever tell you about the time…
Okay, I’ll admit it. I can be a self-righteous, condescending, know-it-all. It can get even worse with my pet subjects. Migraine is almost at the top of that list. I don’t really feel self-righteous and I certainly don’t mean to hurt others. I just get excited, overly focused on the facts, and passionate about getting it right. My passion truly is for your benefit. I want each reader to get the facts and not more of the same myths that fuel the stigma that hurts us all.
So from time to time in 2015, I will be sharing tales from my less than glamorous history with migraine and other headache disorders. You will get a chance to see the real me – raw and unfiltered by facts and figures. Here’s the first edition.
Did I ever tell you about the time I almost ended it all?
It was July 2012. I had just received news that I would not be considered for Trigger Site Release Surgery. Despite cautious warnings from my migraine pals, I had hung all my irrational hopes and dreams on this “cure”. I was so desperate for permanent relief that I had convinced myself this was the only way. To make matters worse, I was having nasty, head-splitting cluster attacks running back-to-back nearly non-stop. It was a miserable day and I hated the sun for daring to shine.
The doctor who gave me the bad news was a kind, compassionate man. Not wanting to send me away in such pain, he offered to try a nerve block on the right orbital branch of the trigeminal nerve. Desperate and half-blind from the pain, I agreed. At first, it felt like a miracle. One minute the pain was blowing up my face and the next minute it was completely GONE. I couldn’t believe it. The relief was so complete that I nearly skipped out of his office that afternoon.
Less than 30 minutes later it all returned like someone flipped a light switch. I was laughing and joking one minute, screaming and cursing the next. Another cluster attack hit with a vengeance. I could barely hold on long enough for my husband to exit the highway and drive the short distance to our house. I ran for my oxygen tank anticipating its relief. It was nearly impossible to wait the full 20 minutes for a complete treatment. Usually after about 10 minutes, I start to get a little relief, but not this time. I tried heat. I tried ice. I went through everything I could find to get a little peace.
That nerve block numbed the outer layers of skin and tissue so thoroughly that even ice could not reach the pain deeper inside my head. It felt like lightning strikes behind my right eye. I couldn’t reach the pain, so I couldn’t do anything about it. I really thought I was headed to the Emergency Room that night. If I had been thinking clearer, I would have already been there.
But we all know how well our brains work in the middle of an attack. I’m bad enough with a migraine, but with a cluster I am completely out of my mind. The person you see is not me at all. These attacks change me in terrible ways. I become angry, violent, profane, and irrational. I was beating my head against the wall when a rouge thought popped in.
“You just had dental work done. Why not try that left over Hydrocodone?”
Um…not good. The Hydrocodone was left over because my body does not respond well to it. After about 2 doses, I itch all over. Even with food in my stomach and pretreatment with Phenergan, I still experience horrible non-stop vomiting. It’s not pretty. Why I ever thought it would work is a mystery to this day. But I took it anyway. That’s the thing about cluster headaches. They bring out the ugliest, most self-destructive parts of me. It really was a “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” moment.
That stupid pill did exactly what it’s done every single time. I threw up. And then I threw up some more, and then again and again until there was nothing left except the agony of dry heaves. The lightning kept striking my right eye, too. I’m not even sure I remember how it all ended. Maybe I did go to the ER, but I don’t think so.
In the coming days, I came to a desperate conclusion. I was done. I no longer cared to live. I just wanted this effing nightmare to end, so I withdrew. I started thinking about exactly which combination of medicines might actually result in death. I had just enough medicines to be really dangerous…and probably lethal.
My husband was terrified to leave each day for work. He didn’t know what he would find when he got home. Frankly I didn’t know either. Each day was gamble to see if I would live or die. If I had been honest with anyone, I would have been admitted to the hospital. I needed to be admitted. By some miracle or stroke of luck, I managed to not kill myself.
Three weeks later I emerged from my self-induced isolation. I was still depressed, but not dangerously so. Now I was fighting mad. Migraine and cluster headaches had taken quite enough from my life and I was not going down without a fight. I was reborn a warrior, ready to win this war for everyone who ever faced the darkness from which I had just emerged.
Somebody must have wanted me to stick around.
To this day I have no idea what changed.
I’m just grateful that it did.
If you are feeling anything like I did that summer, please get help. I got lucky. It could have just as easily gone the other way. Don't take chances with your life. If you need help, ask a friend or loved one, a doctor, or just call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can even call 911 and someone will help you.
There are great things happening in the world of headache medicine. If we can all just hold on a little longer, I know our lives are going to change for the better. There is hope!
When was your last migraine check-up?