Archive for November, 2010

What would normal look like?

November 13, 2010

It’s scary for me to write this blog, but I’m going to take a leap of faith and pray I don’t get punished for being optimistic — because, believe me, it’s happened before.

It would seem — after roughly 16 years of battling hormone-related migraine headaches — that I’ve finally assembled the combination of factors required to vanquish them. If you’ve ever had one migraine and felt the despair of watching your day’s agenda slip away into dull pain, you know how joyful I feel to be within reach of reclaiming my life.

In my worst periods, I have treated headaches up to 18 and 19 days each month, but things settled down some after menopause, and I was down to 5 or 6 a month, and they were treatable with a single pill.

However, this spring, those monthly headaches began recurring for 2 and 3 days, and finally my number of sick days was simply too much. You know how it is; you make up excuses about why the status quo is acceptable until suddenly it’s not OK anymore. I was tired of feeling ambushed mid-morning by the dull throbbing pain behind my left eye, and the defeat I felt every time I took my relief meds was torture.

So I told my neurologist I was ready to try another preventive drug (besides the Botox which I’ve been doing for 9 months). It’s been 4 or 5 years since I took a preventive (Depacote) and it was pretty much a flop. I gained 20 pounds, lost about a third of my hair and had the same number of migraines as always.

This time we tried Lyrica, the drug you see on TV commercials to treat fibromyalgia. I think they mention 784 possible side effects in the ad, and another 1472 are listed on the information sheet you are issued with the purchase of this drug. Depressing and intimidating, to say the least.

BUT … BUT … BUT! It is working for me! I started taking it at the end of March, which is also the time I got the braces. I figured the hammering in my mouth would bring on migraines, which helped me take the leap and start the Lyrica. But in fact, I believe the dental work is actually contributing to the decrease in headaches. I don’t clench as much and, most importantly, my front teeth have been shoved forward, so they’re no longer forcing my back teeth and jaw into my neck.

In the past dozen years, I’ve never gone a month without multiple migraines. But in October, I had only 2, neither of which recurred. This month, I’ve had just 1 headache (and I brought it on myself; ugh; say no more; say no more).

I’m even losing the feeling of aura that so often haunted my days, making me wonder if a headache was lurking. Instead, I’m clear and focused day after day. (I have lost some hair and I’m struggling to maintain my weight, but the scary side effects like seizures, heart problems and suicidal depression have stayed far away.)

The Lyrica and my braces are two pieces of the three-pronged approach that is finally working. I also began cranial sacral work in mid September. I investigated having it done at Palm Beach Gardens’ Upledger Institute years ago when I was writing a piece on migraines for the newspaper, but it became too complicated. A friend said she’d been trying to find a good practitioner for years and finally one had moved to town.

So I took the leap and made an appointment. My first experience with cranial sacral therapy was a shock: I expected someone to physically massage my head and instead experienced more of a vision quest. There’s very little touching, and the goal is balance — but it’s like you subconsciously do the work yourself.

If it sounds flaky, so be it. I’m willing to concede that my subconscious may be a lot more powerful than I gave it credit for. After just a couple of sessions, I feel calm and … well … balanced. I don’t know how that can be; I just know migraines are no longer throwing my life out of kilter day after day. They aren’t in control. It feels like sanity has been restored, like maybe I’m the captain of this ship and capable of charting a true course for wherever I want to go.

It is truly an horizon-expanding experience for me: to warily step up to the controls of my life and accept that I can be free of migraines and the toll they’ve taken. It’s a step I desperately want to take, but I’m also afraid. I’ve tried So. Many. Things. to beat back my headaches. How can I trust that this will be the one time it all comes together?

I can’t, of course. But I will anyway.

What else can I do? I’m an optimist, after all.

It’s what we do.

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