Last month I was standing in line at Kroger, just like I’ve spent days of my life standing in line at Kroger. I was tired, I didn’t want to be there, and the lady in front of me was paying with a check.
As I shifted my weight from foot to foot, I was surprised, not by Jessica Simpson’s weight gain flashed on the tabloid covers, but by how I felt. My headache isn’t that bad right now. Weird. The same constant pressure was in my skull as it has been 24 hours a day since February 2008. Normally a long line at the grocery store and a bad mood would make it scream, but it was just holding steady at its normal background hum.
The headache clinic I have been going to since January (and not blogging about for my sanity and yours) makes me keep a headache diary. I record the level of my headache in the morning, noon, evening and night. They use a 1-5 scale where the numbers mean:
1 – Low level headache which enters awareness only at times when attention is devoted to it
2 – Headache pain level that can be ignored at times
3 – Painful headache, but can continue to function
4 – Very severe headache, concentration difficult by can perform tasks of an undemanding nature
5 – Intense, incapacitating headache.
When I started keeping the diary my days ranged from 2 to 4, most days being 3, the really bad days being 4, and the occasional “good” day where I had a 2. My neurologist adjusted my meds in January and there were no results. He adjusted it again in February and slowly I started to have mostly 2’s. Just as I was gaining hope of having a, you know, LIFE, again, my brain ratcheted back up to a 4 for a whole day, making me want to flush my seemingly worthless pills down the toilet. Then I went back to 2’s most of the time, except for a rainy day, which knocked me back up to a 3.
So the point of me spewing out more numbers than a bingo caller is this – my headache is currently dampened. It’s not gone. I still have pain. But I can do stuff now. I can come home and work on my blog without wanting to stab my eyes out with a ballpoint pen. I can go shopping on the weekends and not collapse on the couch in amazement that I’ve completed my tasks. When I drive to work, I do not spend 80% of my drive thinking about my headache and why did this happen and will anyone be able to fix me and oh my god when will this pain end? I think about what podcasts I should download and should I renew my lease and how much should I spend on my spring wardrobe and hey, I haven’t been thinking about my headache, how weird!
Out it goes, not with a bang, but a whimper. It slowly retreats, but does not completely give up ground. And gradually I have begun to get my life back, piece by piece, gluing it back together like that shattered oatmeal bowl that got broken in the mail.
I have been very hesitant to mention any of this for three reasons. First, I didn’t want to jinx myself. I’d hate to tell y’all I felt better and then get a level 4 headache the next day. Second, the pills could stop working at any time. For six years prior to the start of all this I took a pill everyday and it kept the headache away. Then it stopped working. Kapoot! And that could happen again. I am not cured. They still cannot tell me why I have this ridiculous, meaningless pain in my brain. Third, I made a vow to NEVER mention the headache on the blog again. I didn’t even mention the fact that I’d decided not to mention it because that would require me to mention it. Occasionally I have gotten emails that said, “Hey, you haven’t mentioned the headache lately. Are you better?” No, I was not better, I simply learned life was better if we didn’t bring it up anymore. But, I’ve been mostly all right for about a month now, so I’m going to take the risk and announce it publicly. I’ll cross my fingers that posting this won’t make the headache worse.
And since I know you will ask, the answer is 75mg of Nortriptyline and 40mg of Nadolol taken once at bedtime. My abortive of choice is 550mg of Anaprox, which is essentially industrial strength Aleve. If anyone has a time machine, please write down that information, travel back in time to February 17th, 2008 and slip it into my PO Box, will you? It will save me from having the WORST YEAR OF MY LIFE.
Yeah, sure, I’ve grown and learned a lot from this experience. I understand depression in a way I never did before. I have greater empathy for the old and disabled and the suicidal. I appreciate little things like a bright cloudless day without pain in a way I never did before. But seriously, screw that. It’s been fucking awful and no one should have to suffer like I’ve suffered. I’ll just hope the worst is over and savor ever second until that hope is proved wrong.