(And no, it's not what you think...it isn't a beauty thing!).
If you've read this blog a while, you know that I suffer from chronic head pain. I don't always call it "headache" because it has gone beyond headache to become an invasive, debilitating head pain that occupies my mind and body on a daily basis.
My neurologist is the best headache expert in Canada. He has diagnosed me with "chronic daily tension-type headache with a pericranial component, and a migraine component". What that means is that I have headache 30 days out of thirty and I always have a stiff, sore, and aching neck to go along with it. In fact, my mid-back, my traps, and my neck are chronically sore and very painful. To top it off, I have a bad back which means that I frequently have back pain on top of the daily head pain.
Although I generally have all-over head pain, I also have the auras and intense one-sidedness of migraine, and particularly have headaches in and around my right eye. Most days my headaches sit squarely and heavily in my forehead, over my eyes, and up the back of my neck to the top of my head. It is exhausting to say the least. Besides trying to be a good wife, daughter, friend, and blogger(!), I work full-time as an engineer, which is not an easy job on a good day, so I am not exaggerating to say that in the evenings I am always soul-tired - emotionally, physically, spiritually, intellectually. D R A I N E D.
My head hurts and my heart hurts from coping with this. Maybe it would be easier if I gave in and gave up, but I try to live a full, active, normal life. I am a go-getter and a curious life-loving person who wants to do and see and learn everything. If I could, I would be taking courses, exercising, working on the house, and enjoying my various other hobbies a hundred times more than I am able to right now.
I've done just about everything conceivable to "heal my headaches", as though that were really within my control. You see, the fact is this:
Headache is a disease and it is no easier to heal than cancer for most headache sufferers. You just try to manage it and hope that some day it goes away or something magic happens.
I have had headaches for twelve years, so I've gone through a litany of possible cures including regular chiropractic, physio, massage, acupuncture, countless drugs and medications, psychotherapy, yoga, rolfing, exercise, no exercise, weight training, dry needling, facet joint cervical vertebrae injections (cortisone), meditation, self-help books, elimination diets, supplements, etc.
I have not seen a naturopath, a psychic, nor an intuitive healer. I have not tried Feldenkrais nor Pilates (yet!). Nor have I quit work or gone on disability. This is not a life option for those of us without trust funds. So I don't intend to go this route until or unless I reach the end of my rope (which often seems terribly close).
Instead, I just keep going...ONE DAY AT A TIME...like in AA.
Sleep helps...I do best with 9h (honestly, who gets that? I have to try...)
What does help is the following:
1. Regular sleep hygiene and LOTS of it (not a cure, but definitely a mitigator).
2. A caffeine-free diet (I adore coffee but have not had it in years).
3. Avoiding intellectually busy or overstimulating environments (parties, meetings, big gatherings).
4. Constant work on my head/neck posture.
5. Medications: Only one really works for me, namely Elavil (amitriptyline, an old-school antidepressant that helps these types of headaches). But it is so sedating for me that I cannot take it in adequate dosage to fully reduce my headaches and still get out of bed before 10am and get myself to work (a long drive). If I take enough to really improve my headaches, it is like taking a handful of sleeping pills...so my favorite drug must be rationed. I also get relief from Maxalt on migraine days (accompanied by a day of sleep).
6. OTC medications: I adore Robax Platinum to reduce my neck pain and sometimes headache but I take it maybe once a week as I don't want to over medicate. It is marketed as a muscle-relaxant but is actually a central-nervous system suppressant.
Exercise increases my pain dramatically, but I do it anyway for my mental health, and try to walk, garden, do yoga and be active at least 5 days a week.
Exercise hurts me. But I do as much as I can. If I exercise slightly too hard or even moderately one day, I can suffer terrible back and head pain the next day and can even flare up into a very bad headache cycle that lasts for days. So I have to be very gentle or suffer the consequences.
The only remaining therapy I haven't tried is Botox. Which is the reason for this post, as I have an appointment with my neurologist on Wednesday for injections!
I am NOT looking forward to injections, but I'm desperately seeking some respite from the pain. He will do injections in my back, various neck muscles, likely my jaw, scalp and forehead. I never wanted to have Botox cosmetically, so I am worried about injections in my face. I don't want to look like Frankenstein or lose facial expression, and I worry about side effects.
Let's hope I am healthy as a horse and make it through the injections. I expect to feel bruised and battered for a day or two and David is coming with me to drive me home. I must drive to work daily, so I hope there is no impairment in my ability to turn my head. If the neurologist says that may be a side effect, I will have to refuse the shots as I cannot drive 50km on the highway every day with a totally paralyzed neck!
The Botox will freeze certain muscles, but I hope I will still have mobility. The exact effect is not clear, as besides paralyzing muscles, it is also believed that the toxin blocks a neurotransmitter for pain. I just hope and pray I get relief, which to me will mean resuming a normal, high energy life. I love life! I want to accomplish so many more things. I have so many interests and I just want my tireless spirit back...
Wish me luck.
Top photo: www.fitsugar.com