The Unintentional Detox

I’ve often wondered if any of my meds were actually working. The cocktail often gets reworked about every 3 months as I see my Headache Specialist. When I return, I don’t really know what to say when asked if the current mix is better or worse than before. It’s so hard to tell which one does what after a while. Would I be better off weaning off everything and starting over again? Whether I liked it or not, a perfect storm recently pushed me into doing just that.

About seven weeks ago, my Migraines became more intense and frequent as my last Botox treatment was wearing off. Hoping that the next dose would give me relief, I just focused on getting through the until the next injections. So I threw everything in the book at these headaches just to cope. Shots of DHE and Toradol at home, painkillers, an occasional muscle relaxer, I continued the 3 preventatives I was on, yoga and meditation as much as I could handle and massage to deal with the unruly muscles twisted up in my neck and shoulders.

Two weeks of this and I couldn’t take it anymore, so off to the ER I go. They drugged me up enough to be more comfortable, but the Migraine cycle I was in would not give up. Still desperate for help, I requested a refill of pain medication. My Headache Specialist at the Jefferson Headache Clinic asked that I come in for an office visit to discuss. That’s a 3 hour car ride, but I needed a better plan. During the appointment, the resident and attending doctor were concerned about medication overuse headache (MOH).

Wait, me? I counsel people all the time about not taking too many abortives and keeping pain meds in check. I follow every direction on the meds I use, there’s no way MOH is my problem.

I was denied refills on certain meds that typically help me manage my dad to day. I voiced my displeasure, but also realized that if I fight too much I’m going to seem like a druggie. The real solution the doctor suggested was to come back next week for an inpatient stay. That sounds great…but I explained that I’m having some serious insurance issues and that is not possible until I can change plans during open enrollment in November. So I leave with an increased dose of one preventative (that I don’t really like), and a pat on the back.

My insurance woes continue as I try to get my prescription filled. This med is no longer approved and I would have to pay about $600 out of pocket for it. And by the way, two other meds I take are no longer allowed under my plan. (Before you get outraged for me, my insurance woes are semi self-inflicted as I blundered through the paperwork when I formally left my job a few months ago, but that’s a story for another day.) So at the end of the day, I was left with one preventative and DHE that I can only take once a week. This was dramatic change. How was I going to get through this?

Maybe I should embrace the situation? I can use this opportunity to clear out my body of all the drugs I’ve been cramming in for over three years. I can deepen my yoga and meditation practice to help manage the pain. Then in a few months I can begin to add other meds and have a much better understanding of whether they are helping or not.

Putting this zen way of thinking into practice was not as easy as it sounded. I’m not going to lie, every day for the last month I try to think of new ways to deal with this pain. Some days are more successful than others. I’ve now been to the ER a total of three times during this bad cycle. My average pain level is now 7-8 instead of 3-4. I’m sleeping between 12-16 hours a day, some days 18. I’ve been walking and getting massages and today got up the strength to go to a yoga class. I just added Magnesium to my daily regimen, hoping that will make a difference soon. I’m also reading about the elimination diet and hope to put that into practice by next week, something I never thought I would consider.

Tired of the pain and about to go stir crazy, I saw my Headache Specialist at Georgetown (yes, I have 2 specialists but they work well together to help me, plus I can’t always make it to Philly for check-ups). My doctor here started me back on Elavil and gave me DHE and Toradol to use multiple times a day for the next 4 days. I’m happy to say that it worked and I’m beginning to feel more normal. Well, normal as anyone who has chronic Migraines can be.

I’ve always felt that the way to tackle my Migraines was through a mix of medication and alternative methods. Relying more on the alternative has been eye-opening, but very frustrating. It forced me to think outside the box. This unintentional detox could help me in better managing my Migraines in the long run, but it’s been painful. I’ve also realized that for me, having preventative medication needs to be part of my strategy.

Have you ever detoxed from your meds? How did it go? Was it doctor recommended? I never encourage detoxing on your own. If you’ve thought about it, make a strong plan with your doctor first or you’ll end up miserable like I was!!

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