Ugh… Crawling Under Covers

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February 8, 2008 at 9:32 pm

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I’m a chronic headache sufferer (have been since puberty), and I have never had a physician able to control them for me, and in fact they all call them something different — migraine, tension headache, sinus headache, cluster headache, rebound headache (actually, that’s a self diagnosis, and I know the cause of some of my day-to-day headaches.) Add in the fact I’d begun weaning myself off Dr Pepper earlier in the week, and you add the likelihood of a caffeine withdrawal headache into that mix. *sigh*

I have learned to live with most of these headaches, except for the one I am having right now. I haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly what triggers them (and am sadly starting to suspect my preferred birth control pill might be a major player, since I haven’t had one of these headaches since I was pregnant and a hormonal mess,) but I go through bouts where I have a debilitating headache for, at minimum, 36 hours and sometimes more than 56 hours. That’s almost two and a half solid days of the worst type of head, neck, sinus and behind-the-eye pain I can describe. The predictable feature of the headache, and the cue to me that an “attack” is in the works, is the focal point of the headache moves over the course of the timeframe, mimicking all the other types of headaches I am used to having often. When the pain is at its worst, it is always focused behind one of my eyes, and direct pressure to my eye (such as with a pillow, a rolled up shirt or towel, or my hands/fingers) somewhat alleviates it, while removing said pressure brings the waves of pain back.

I call it a cluster headache, but my online research yields conflicting information on whether it could be classified as such. Apart from the fact that the headache morphs during its “life cycle,” it’s got all the trademark sensitivities a migraine does — I can’t really handle bright light (esp. sunlight); my stomach and G.I. tract go completely wonky, so on top of everything else I alternately lose my appetite or have digestive issues; I need as quiet an environment as possible (yeah, that one works really well with a toddler); even prescription painkillers just take the edge off the pain during an “attack” once its started, and I’ve never successfully been able to stop one from continuing once I realize its underway.

Apart from medications, I’ve tried hot and/or steamy baths and showers, herbal and aromatherapy, relaxation, vitamins (nothing fancy; just a simple one-a-day), sleep, and finally, just suffering through it and hoping it’s a fluke and ends within 12 hours. I know I’m screwed when it extends to 24 hours… then I know I’m in it for the long haul.

While my diet isn’t the best these days, it’s far from the worst. I eat more fruit than I used to, am having fewer and less Dr Pepper, more water, more juice, etc. I still need to improve on the exercise front (but I did break down and buy that indoor bicycle trainer and front wheel stand so I can ride my road bike indoors, stationary, when I am home alone with Sara,) but I’ve had these headaches even when I was in the best shape of my life (those 6 months post-op from my ACL reconstruction, when I was truly committed to a regular, solid exercise lifestyle.)

This is my first month back on my original birth control pill, one I’ve been on since I was in my early 20’s, and I’m starting to wonder if there’s a correlation. I didn’t have more than a couple cluster headaches while I was pregnant (and, again, a hormonal mess,) and I definitely haven’t had one post-pregnancy while I was on the mini-pill. If these horrific headaches are pill-related (which really would mean hormone-related), that would well and truly suck, because I prefer this pill (more regular menstrual periods, slightly higher success rate at preventing pregnancy, and not nearly as finicky about taking the pill within the same 3 hour window every day) over the mini-pill or other contraceptive methods.

Anyway, right now the pain’s increasing behind my left eye after spending the past couple hours focused on my neck and scalp, so it’s time for me to close up shop for a bit. The pain is always worst when it’s behind one of my eyes. Once it moves, I am slightly less useless.

Sara was a saintly child today, and nursed and hung out with her boring, sick momma in bed most of the day, content to play with her toys or play in her Pack-and-Play with her toys at my bedside. Daddy’s been home since 7ish and trying to make up for my lack of stimulation for her today. I keep waking up hoping the headache’s gone, but no dice, yet.

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