My Brain Screams

manipulated detail photo of saguaro catus by wendy holcombe

For over a year now I’ve been hit with one thing after another. Last Fall my bipolar medication stopped working and I basically had a psychotic break with the mania/rage going way out of control and battling a lot of medication side effects before we finally got that under control. Then I had a severe UTI that caused hydronephrosis in both kidneys, I had a cyst removed from my scalp that got horribly infected and I had a reaction to the antibiotics. In April the severe intractable migraine started and has continually gotten worse; over the last couple of months I’ve been having an escalation of cluster headaches, at least one a week. and now my antidepressants have stopped working. All this while we have been looking for a house, in the worse housing market I have ever seen, and we have to move from our rental by the end of November.

It is any wonder my brain has decided to check out?

In 2016 I started having seizures during an extremely stressful time of my life. It was determined they were psychogenic non-epileptic seizures. You can read more about that in this post: Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures What Are They? Since that time I haven’t had many, only a few and only in times of great pain (like when I was in the ER for my migraine) or extreme stress (like after a vertigo attack that happened during the mania). Lately they have been coming regularly. It is increasing my pain levels dramatically. When I have a seizure it looks like a grand mal seizure. It starts with my right hand twitching, then the arm goes, and the whole right side twitches and curves back, my head draws back, my muscles are all tight and spasming. It is very painful, and my neck and shoulder on the right side still hurt so much. I feel tingly on that side, and I just feel so off. During the seizure I am mostly aware, but I can’t do anything. Sometimes I’m not as aware, sometimes I’m very confused when it’s over. I always cry when it’s over. I feel so exposed, vulnerable, scared, and unsafe.

Just a year ago I was doing so much better I bought a car. I was driving, cooking, shopping, painting, swimming…. I don’t understand what happened. I’m not asking “Why me?” or anything like that, I’m simply confused. I know we made a major move, but I was doing pretty good for the first few months we were here, so I really don’t think it was the stress of moving. But I guess one stress could possibly have snow balled into a bigger stress… into a bigger stress… into more illness…but who really knows. All this could have happened no matter what. It could have happened independently, but it just happened to happen one right after another I suppose.

Where does it leave me now?

Migraines – I’m still starting Aimovig on the 28th for my migraines, but I won’t know if it’s working for 3 months. I just finished a round of steroids hoping to get a break from the pain, it did lower the pain level, but they made me so sick I couldn’t enjoy it. (Oh boy was I sick, Meniere’s and steroids do not mesh well together, at least not with me). I may go to the pain clinic to get injections in my neck, I haven’t decided about that yet. Just a little scared about that one. Oh, the Migranal nasal spray is working as a rescue medication, thankfully. It doesn’t completely take it away, but it comes close, so I am having a little bit of relief twice a week. More than I was getting, but as I said, it doesn’t take it all away, it takes it from a 10 to a 7 or maybe, if I’m lucky a 6. Ah….a 6…but that is a rarity.

Mental Health – I started a new antidepressant, Trintellix, on Tuesday. I’m to try it for 2 weeks and if it doesn’t work we’re going to try Ketamine. I’ve tried everything else. This should be interesting. I’m working with both my psychiatrist and my psychologist about my seizures. I need to get my pain and stress under control. One step at a time. Just one moment at a time.

Home life – We’ll be moving into one of Stuart’s dad’s houses the beginning of November. The house Stuart grew up in. We aren’t sure if we’ll continue to look for a house to buy, or if we’ll stay there and renovate his house. The house is a bit further out than we planned to live, so we’re going to live there for a while to see how we like it. Kinda cool that we can do that. I’ve just been freaking out a little about not having a home, and needing to settle down. I’ve been feeling so lost and temporary ever since we moved from our house, six years ago, but it’s been so much worse since we moved here. When we moved here we basically got rid of everything. We have 2 chairs in our living room, and one is very uncomfortable. We have no dining room furniture. Our home is very sparse. We did not plan on renting for this long. It’s just so hard on me. This has just been so hard. I need stability. I NEED IT.

Right now I feel very alone, vulnerable, and scared. The only place I feel safe is in my husband’s arms. He literally saves my life every day. I told him that if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here any more. So much pain, both physically and mentally…it’s just so much. And my amazing husband told me that he loves me so much, he never wants to lose me, but it also makes him feel guilty because he knows how much I’m suffering. I don’t know how I ended up with such an amazing man. He’ll never know how much it helps me to know he hears me.

I have so much, a wonderful husband, a roof over my head, nice clothes, good food, access to quality health care, support…. and yet I’m so unhappy. I’m so very sad. It hurts so much. My thoughts are consumed with pain. I find no enjoyment in anything. A friend posted a question on her blog asking if you found out you were going to die what would you regret not doing more of….and I could not answer that question. First I thought, not helping others more, getting more involved…. But then I tried to think of something I enjoyed that I would wish I had done more of, and I had nothing. There are things I used to love to do, but now…..not so much. My art…nope. Cooking…too much work. Taking pictures…can’t see it. I can think of nothing. All I do is sit and color by number. And that’s not for enjoyment, it’s to take my mind off of the pain…the migraine, the chronic daily headache, the back pain, the neck pain, the hip pain, the bladder pain, the pelvic pain…so much pain every day.

life is suffering. life is pain. life is ever changing. life is impermanence.

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Catching Up After An Unintentional Time Out

A monsoon storm, the first significant one of the season, crashes a few bolts down just before the gates opened for the Annual Bloom Night at Tohono Chul Park, July 13, 2019, Tucson, AZ. Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star

After my last post about shame I didn’t mean to be away so long. That post caused a lot of reactions, some people seemed to understand my feelings of shame, others got very worried about me. First I want to apologize for not answering every comment, I have been going through an awful time with my migraines and simply haven’t been able to look at the computer much, and I will admit it has put me in a depressed funk, I’m so sorry if I worried anyone. The shame I feel is not overwhelming, I know I made it seem that way in the post, but I promise it’s not all consuming. It is not uncommon for people who have chronic pain or illness to have feelings of shame mixed in with feelings of guilt, I wanted people to know if they do, they aren’t alone. And I wanted people to know, I’d been feeling it and didn’t even realize that’s what it was. Now that I realize it, it’s easier to notice it, and to fight it. I understand that I have no reason to feel ashamed, I also understand that I have no reason to feel guilty, but those feelings still come. They are less now, but they still come.

Something happened this past week that I’d like to share. I’ve needed to cancel plans with our realtor a couple of times because of my migraines, and when we saw him he said, “Hi sickie! Feeling better?” At first I felt shame, then I was angry, very angry, and I stayed angry for days. I told Stuart if he wasn’t our landlord and a good friend of Stuart’s father he would no longer be our realtor. Then I decided he needed to be educated that this is not an acceptable thing to say to a person with chronic illness, or anyone for that matter. I was going to say something to him, but my advocate of a husband beat me to it. Stuart said that he was very apologetic and said that he doesn’t know why he said such a thing, it’s not something he would normally say. He doesn’t know that I know Stuart talked to him, and he hasn’t said anything to me. I’m simply proud that I didn’t just sit back and accept being shamed. This happens to us way too often and we mostly just shrug it off, I think we need to speak up more often and educate people as to how we should be treated. This is one way I will fight my feelings of shame.

Now, a really quick update. Since July 26th, my last visit to my migraine doctor, I’ve had 2 migraine free days, 2 days with moderate migraine pain (5-7), and every other day I had severe migraine pain (8-10), along with many other symptoms, such as nausea, light sensitivity, vertigo… None of my medications were working at all. My doctor prescribed Migranal, but it took until September 4th before I finally got it (stupid insurance hoops you have to jump through) and I can only use it 8 days a month. It’s been difficult. Our 15th wedding anniversary was September 3rd, we wanted to do something special, but instead I basically missed it. Good thing it’s the marriage that counts, and it’s a celebration every day. (HA…how hokey was that?!? It really is special though.)

I saw my migraine doctor yesterday. After my last appointment I had a CTA scan, that’s a CT scan that shows your arteries, it came back normal. I had just started Effexor to try to help my migraines, and I stayed on Emgality for prevention until we saw if Effexor worked. Well, Effexor didn’t work, so we are changing the Emgality to Amovig. You have probably seen the commercials for both of these drugs. They are similar, but a little different in how they work, so hopefully Amovig will be a better fit for me. It can take up to 3 months, to tell if it’s going to work at all. So I’ll know in December. She thinks this last 6 weeks could have been so much worse because of monsoon season. She said it has been worse than last year. I know I was affected last year, but I know I wasn’t this bad.

I feel shame (Shame and Chronic Illness)

I’ve been trying to write a post for weeks now, but I just haven’t been able to get the words to come out. I had a CTA scan of my head and neck on July 26th, that’s a CT scan that shows your arteries. I had planned to post about it, to show you the awful bruise the contrast caused, and tell you how I freaked out when the contrast hit me, but I was actually ashamed that I felt that way. They had a hard time finding my veins, as usual, and I, once again, felt ashamed that I’m difficult. I had a bit of a reaction to the contrast and had a very debilitating migraine and nausea for days. I couldn’t write, I couldn’t do anything. Lorraine was nice enough to do a Mindfulness Monday. I’m ashamed I haven’t written since then.

I feel that I have needed to write and tell you how I’m still struggling with the migraines, how the medication isn’t working, and how I can’t accomplish anything really. But I’m ashamed that I’m not better. I’m ashamed that I keep trying different medications and they don’t work on me. I feel like I’m failing. In our culture we are expected to take a drug when we get sick and get better, if we don’t get better then we aren’t trying hard enough. We should change our diet, exercise more…. You see the stories all the time, how someone beat this or that disease by doing these things. We are expected to fight our illnesses and get better, when we don’t we often feel shame. Or at least, I know I do.

With my migraines everyone has a solution. So many people have or know someone with migraine, it isn’t rare, but chances are it’s episodic migraine not chronic migraine. I’m asked so often, “Do you take medication?” and it’s followed by, “I take (or so and so takes)______ and it works!” I want to scream, “Of course I take medication! I take preventatives, and abortives, and supplements, and I use alternative treatments! Nothing is working but I’m afraid to stop any of them for fear it will get worse!” But instead I feel ashamed that I’m defective. Not only do I have migraines, I have migraines that won’t respond to treatment.

Weekend before last we went out for breakfast with Stuart’s father at our usual place. I ordered a gluten free pancake, when it came I suspected it was wrong, but they have never gotten my order wrong before, so I took a bite. I knew immediately it was wrong. I was poisoned. I called the waitress over and asked and sure enough, it wasn’t gluten free. She apologized and I smiled and just ordered a new one. I looked at Stuart with huge eyes and he just said, there was nothing that could be done now. His father said, “it was only one bite” Stuart explained that it only takes a crumb. I should have told the waitress that I didn’t want anything else and told Stuart and his dad we needed to go home, but instead I was too ashamed. I ate that new pancake knowing that I would be sick within an hour or two. I sat there listening to them talk, while my head pounded, my stomach started to ache and get tight and my bowels started to rumble. I ended up having to rush to the bathroom there and it was obvious my stomach was distended by the time we left. I felt even more shame that I could not hide it.

I’ve never been one who is ashamed of my cochlear implants, I know a lot of people like to hide them, but I like for people to understand that I have hearing loss, because I do get ashamed when I have trouble understanding people. I sit and “listen” to conversations, but I often don’t “hear” them, and I’m too ashamed to keep asking for people to repeat what they say. After you are told over and over that it’s not important, you start to believe it, so I don’t worry about it. Then I get more ashamed when I miss things that I needed to hear.

Yesterday I had a very bad day. I woke in so much pain, but more than that when I’d stand I would see stars and I’d start to black out. I asked Stuart if he could work from home, but before he could answer I told him no, I’d be okay, because I was way too ashamed that I needed him. I was not safe, but I was too ashamed to admit that. Last night was the first time I told him how I felt. Now he is afraid he has done something to make me feel ashamed, and I feel shame that I’ve made him feel this way. I’ve explained to him that it’s complicated.

I’m just coming to terms with these feelings. I’ve tried to put a label on this before and called it guilt, but that wasn’t right, it’s shame. Guilt is feeling that you’ve done something bad. Shame is feeling that you are something bad. So, yes I feel guilty about asking him to work from home because I don’t want to take him away from work (doing something bad), but I also feel shame about it because I am ill and have to ask in the first place (am something bad).

Do you have these feelings? This will be a major discussion coming up with my therapist. Shame is not a healthy emotion, this is something we need to battle sooner rather than later.

The Fight Continues

After a 76 day migraine it finally broke on July 6th, I then went 9 days with 2 migraines that were able to be treated with rescue medications. On Monday I posted about how I believed I was back to my baseline, but I mentioned that I had a migraine at the time and was excited I was able to take rescue meds and believed they would work, they didn’t.

can you see how the right side of my face is affected by my migraine?

On Monday I took Maxalt twice, and Toradol, it eased the pain some, but did not take it away.

On Tuesday I did not use my rescue meds, I used Ginger, my IceKap, and medical marijuana throughout the day, and this kept things to a tolerable level.

I woke Wednesday in excruciating pain, with severe light sensitivity and vertigo. I could not lift my head, or focus enough even read medicine bottles, but I could find the Maxalt in my night stand by feel, so I took that. I texted Stuart by talk to text and asked him to come home to help, because I couldn’t make it to the bathroom. He came home, got me more meds (Toradol, and another Maxalt) and worked from home for the rest of the day. I also used my alternative therapies throughout the day. Wednesday was a very challenging day, but by the end of the day my symptoms had improved dramatically and I was able to sleep.

Yesterday I woke feeling pretty good, the migraine was still there, but I thought it was on the way out. I decided to greet the day with joy and immerse myself in the pool. I had a nice swim, the water always makes me feel better, but I don’t get out there enough. When I came in, the pain started to increase. Then a little while later I stood up, walked across the room, and the pain hit like a hammer, I felt a whoosh, and the room went black. I slowly collapsed to the floor and spent the rest of the day in my chair fighting vertigo. I decided to break the rules and use a rescue medication a third day this week. My doctor had given me a sample of Migranal to try, it’s dihydroergotamine mesylate (DHE) in a nasal spray. I haven’t tried it yet because my insurance doesn’t cover it, but thought I should try it since I’ll be seeing her on the 26th and today would be a good trial. I don’t know if it’s just the sample that’s like this, or if it’s always like this, but this stuff is a pain to get started. You have to break a metal seal on the bottle, pull the plastic stopper out, take the plastic cover off of the sprayer, insert the sprayer in the bottle, prime the sprayer 4 times, THEN you are finally ready to use it. Then you spray it once in each nostril, and do not sniff or tilt your head back (that is oh so difficult) and repeat in 15 minutes. That’s a lot when you are in severe pain with light sensitivity, nausea, and vertigo. It did reduce the pain significantly, however it did not completely break the migraine.

That brings us to today. It’s still there. I’m getting a massage tomorrow from an amazing woman, the last time I saw her I left in the least amount of pain I can remember. It didn’t last long, but wow, amazing. I look forward to feeling her magic.

On the 26th I’m getting a CTA or my head, that’s a CT scan where they use a contrast to look at your arteries. I also see my migraine doc on that day. I don’t think the scan will show anything, but just to be sure. I’m a little wary of it, I’ve had a lot of scans over the last 10 years, that’s a LOT of radiation. How much it too much? Since I can’t have MRIs they use CT scans for everything, that has really been a lot of CT scans.

I am so very grateful for the days I had without a migraine, it is encouraging to know it is possible. I’m also encouraged that the rescue medications are doing something, even if they aren’t taking it all away this week. Living with chronic migraine is a challenge every day, I never know what to expect. I found myself leaving the moment, fearing the future, longing for the past, I am being gentler with myself now, and being here in the now. Today is all I have, I will be here in this moment and accept it as it is. I know I can handle this moment, it is all it is, a moment, and I will deal with the next moment as it comes, not before. There is so much more to my life than my symptoms, it is time to remember that and take notice, each and every day.

Relief. The Importance of Keeping a Medication Diary

Tucson night sky

If you’ve been following my blog you know that I’ve been battling a severe migraine flare since April 20th, I’m so happy to share that I’m finally back to my baseline for my migraines and my rescue medications are once again working so I’m having sweet, sweet relief!! How did this come about? Well let me tell you, this was an ordeal! And it could probably have been sorted sooner if I had noticed something earlier, in the end, I’m glad I wrote about when I started new medications here.

One of the first things I did when all of this started was try to figure out if I anything had changed, had I started a new medication, was I eating differently, sleeping differently….anything? Well I had started Emgality, a migraine preventative, but I started it a month before this started and I was insured that it would not cause migraines. I had also started Viibryd, an antidepressant, but I (thought) I started it in March. Finally after my hospital stay in June, I went through my blog posts and found this post on April 27th that said I started an antidepressant the week before. https://picnicwithants.com/2019/04/27/little-update-from-travels-to-depression/ That was the week the intractable migraine started. The post also talks about how much better my migraines were in March after I started Emgality on February 28th. Ding! Ding! Ding! Could it be that this drug was contributing to this migraine flare? I was going to find out! I looked up the side effects for Viibryd and sure enough, one of the common side effects is “headache” (15%) and one of the lesser side effects is “migraine”. I put a call in to my psychiatrist and a message in to my migraine doctor. Wouldn’t you know it, my psychiatrist was out of the country! Ha! Glad to know my doctors had a good time traveling this summer! So, everyone knows what I did with my migraine doctor, if you missed it, you can check out my post on SPG Blocks here, but keep in mind that I was still on the Viibryd at the time. I got a message from my psychiatrist PA and they said that migraine wasn’t a side effect of Viibryd (Can you see me rolling my eyes?? I read the prescribing information handout that comes from the manufacturer, where did she get her information?) In the call I’d also asked about a couple of other antidepressants that are used at migraine preventatives to see what they thought, I was told that they didn’t go with Viibryd. Umm, I’m not going to stay on Viibryd! But she couldn’t seem to understand that. I can’t say it is all her fault, the front office there is awful! I love my psychiatrist, but it is horrible to try to get messages through, so I decided to slowly taper off of it by myself, and just wait for my appointment which is next week to discuss the rest. And guess what?! After being totally off Viibryd for about a week my migraines dropped to about my baseline, or below.

Since my birthday, I’ve taken a rescue medication once! Don’t get me wrong, I have had more than one migraine, but they haven’t been severe and I haven’t felt the need to take medication for them. At the first sign of a migraine I’ve been taking 500mg of Ginger and it has been helping (this is a great article about the efficacy of ginger in helping migraines). As I’ve mentioned before, I can’t take rescue meds more than 2 days a week, so unless a migraine is bad I normally don’t take it since I often have migraines an average of 5 – 6 days a week. I save those 2 days for days I have something planned, or days when it is very severe.

I just noticed that today is the 15th and I haven’t taken migraine meds since the 5th! Wow! Perhaps the Emgality is doing something too? I’m really thinking that the Viibryd was messing me up big time. And so far I haven’t noticed my moods dropping since I’ve been off of it. You know, I’ve been fighting a migraine today, but I think I’m going to take something for it. This is great! Maybe I won’t have to save my medication for worse days? Do I dare hope?

To close I’d just like to say that this has taught me to always mark on my calendar when I start and stop medications, and pay close attention to how my body changes. I really thought I was on top of these things, but obviously it can slip by you, especially during busy times and times of high stress. If I had been able to put together that this had been a side effect earlier I might not have suffered for so long.

The Problem With Basing Self Worth On Productivity – Guest Post by Christina Wiebe

Today I’m thrilled to share with you a post from a dear friend of mine, Christina Wiebe. I met Christina a few years ago while we were both contributing to a Chronic Pain and Illness Photo Project on Facebook. She is an amazing woman who happens to have Central Sensitivity Syndrome, and was just recently crowned Mrs, Vancouver Island 2019 – 2020. A few days ago she posted something on Instagram I wanted to share with all of you, so without further ado, I had this over to her. You can find Christina on Instagram @phoenixrisingstories.

“How do you know that you have self worth?”

When a solid thirty seconds elapsed and still no coherent answer came to my mind, I knew that I had work to do. Whether or not this was going to be a potential interview question asked of me as a contestant in the 2019 Miss BC Pageant (hosted in British Columbia, Canada), it was clear to me that beyond being able to confidently answer an interview question, I needed to be able to answer this question for myself. Why? Because I knew that for the rest of my life, it would be impossible for me to feel confident, empowered, and like I have the right to use my voice to effect meaningful change if I did not believe that I was worthy of being there in the first place.

As I approached what would be the most challenging, terrifying, intense, and overwhelming weekend of my life as someone who has been very sick and debilitated by Central Sensitivity Syndrome for many years, it dawned on me that after years of isolation, being predominantly housebound, and not doing anything our society sees to be traditionally productive and valuable (like pursuing a successful career, traveling around the world and doing volunteer work, raising a family, achieving higher education and so on) I was suddenly going to be in a room with 50+ women who were all doing these amazing things while I was lying in bed contending with symptoms. (Yes, I know I should not compare but I am human and the thought naturally crossed my mind. The point is not that I compared, the point is the action I chose to take as a result of it).

It brought to the forefront this concept and question of Self Worth. How did I know that I still have self worth? How could I possibly stand beside these women and still feel like I was enough? What is self worth? Where does it come from? How does our society, environment, upbringing, and social conditioning all influence how we perceive our self worth and value as human beings?

I had to look back on my life and where it seemed like I was deriving my self worth from and what that moment of my 2014 Big Crash (becoming fully debilitated by the chronic disease and losing everything that I was working for in my life) taught me. I remembered the identity crises I went through when I lost my ability to work, take care of myself, take care of others, volunteer, and simply be a productive member of society. I felt WORTHLESS. In the eyes of what this world had taught me, I had no value. My life had no value. I could do nothing and so I was worth nothing. That feeling threatened my life many times over.

And that is when I realized – so many of us tie our SELF WORTH and VALUE to our level of PRODUCTIVITY. We internalize this message that to be deemed as worthy, we must DO THINGS in order to feel like we are worth something. We must achieve enough in order to feel like we are enough. And the fallacy of this is that if our self worth and value depends on being productive, we will NEVER feel enough and thus we will never feel fully worthy. 

Allow me to share with you the rapid, unedited stream of thoughts that flowed out of me one morning:

June 13, 2019

So the logic behind it is…by definition, productivity requires continuous action in order to achieve an even better and even better and even better result. To stop altogether would be considered zero productivity. I think as we grow up, the true meaning of self worth is obscured. We grow to associate self worth with productivity. Being better, doing better, having more. Which is the foundation for why there’s even the phenomenon of the rat race that we’re all trapped in. 

To break free from that rat race requires understanding that self worth doesn’t come from anything that we’re striving for or have set as goals. When we’re born, we’re born worthy. We’re already born with intrinsic self worth.

When a baby is born, we don’t see it as worthless. We innately feel like this newborn is precious and of immense, immeasurable value to us. Why? It’s literally not doing anything that we as older human beings consider to be necessary for feeling valued and worthy. The baby does nothing but exist and yet it’s of value. 

We all start out like that. We are all born worthy and valuable. The only difference is that this knowledge is obscured by social conditioning and thinking patterns that have been passed down but not questioned and therefore not dismantled as they need to be. 

The baby has infinite potential, that’s why we as adults value it so much. In that pure, untouched state, we can see that boundless potential. And then we forget and it gets obscured the older the baby (and thus ourselves) gets. But that infinite potential and value we’re born with doesn’t go anywhere as we get older; it doesn’t lessen, it doesn’t increase. It’s constant in its infinity. But like I said, it becomes obscured by all the distractions and false truths that this world inundates us with the more we’re exposed to it.

And going back to the question of “how do you know you’re enough?” – I said that when we’re born, we’re born already enough. But it’s profitable in a capitalist society to feed people the lie that they are not enough in some way. Creating this feeling of lack generates this need to then fill ourselves so we don’t feel like we’re lacking something. So we pursue things, we aim to be productive, we buy things, we pay for services that make us feel like we’re moving forward and getting closer to making ourselves feel like we’re enough. 

We’re in this world that’s telling us we’re not enough. We’re believing we’re not enough. We’re acting in ways to remedy this feeling of not being enough. And if we believe we’re not enough, then we believe we’re not fully self worthy. Because at the foundation of feeling like you lack self worth is the belief that in some way, you’re not enough.

All this to say, imagine what this world could be if we never forgot that from the moment we’re born, we’re born worthy, we’re born being enough, we’re born with endless potential? We then wouldn’t fall into the traps of doing things that keep us thinking and being smaller than we intrinsically are. We wouldn’t care so much or be motivated so much about the grades, the resume, the job, the salary. We would be free to really live out our higher purposes, to not act in order to obtain wealth and material things. We wouldn’t act because we feel the need to in order to prove ourselves (eg, feel the need to work so hard and appear so busy to gain respect in the community). We’d already know that we are enough just as we are, which then frees us to act simply because it creates joy. 

Any resistance we feel to fully accepting this truth is a result of our human nature. We don’t like change, accepting this requires us changing our whole belief system and how we view life, the purpose of life, and how our world has been constructed. 

It creates a subconscious fear: to fathom that we are infinite potential makes us fearful because we then have to let go of everything we know and every way we’ve been operating up to this point. And it’s kind of like what was said in the movie The Matrix: most people wouldn’t leave the Matrix if they had a choice. It’s comfortable being in the rat race because it’s what we know. 

But what we know is wrong. It’s time to change this mindset. It’s time to reclaim the truth that we are ENOUGH right now. We are WORTHY right now. Period. 

Christina Wiebe Mrs. Vancouver Island 2019

Me and My Migraine

TX360 nasal applicator for SPG blocks for headache disorders

I’m happy to say I was able to get into see my doctor on the 18th, I’m sorry to say I still have this migraine. I’m happy to say I have had some relief, I’m sorry to say it has been very short lived.

When I saw my doctor we started the SPG ( Sphenopalatine Ganglion) blocks. You can see the device in the photo above. When they first started doing these blocks the procedure was much more invasive, now I can do it by myself. I’ll show you:

First you get the anesthetic in the syringe
Then you put the device together and place it in your nose (note the long tube that is shown in the main photo is up in the device at this point, not up in my nose)
Fist you just let the plunger fall, that releases the little tubing, then you press the plunger end and that releases the medication, and that’s it. Then you repeat it on the other side.

For the sake of time and because I’m feeling mighty lazy and hurting, here’s a link to an article about how SPG blocks are supposed to work: Sphenopalatine Ganglion Blocks in Headache Disorders

To break this migraine flare that has been going on since April 20th, I am to do these blocks every day for 10 to 14 days. Today is day 9, I’ve had a few hours of relief, but that’s all. I feel that as soon as the anesthetic wears off the pain returns. Sometimes it is within a few minutes, sometimes I get an hour or two, but never longer than that. I had hoped that the time would build up and up as the treatment progressed, I’m losing that hope now. There have been times that the pain has been so severe that I have considered going back to the Emergency Department, but why? I know it would do no good.

This has become very hard to talk about. People ask me how I’m doing and I find myself lying. I don’t want to tell anyone that I’m still in so much pain. I don’t want to keep avoiding social activities. I’ve forced myself to do things, but I did have to excuse myself because I was getting too sick. I’m embarrassed. I know people do not understand. I know they are tired of hearing it. I’m tired of living it. I’m tired of saying it. I’m tired of hearing people say they are sorry. How long can they continue to feel bad for me. I don’t want pity. I know they can’t understand. If this is my new normal I will have to learn to live with it. I have to learn to push through it. To be able to say, “I’m fine” when people ask, and somehow mean it. I have to be able to put on the face and be okay with that. No one wants to be around someone who is consumed by pain all the time. How do I answer these questions? No I’m not better, but I’m okay…..some days, some days I’m not okay, but that’s okay too.

I can hear it….. It’s just a headache. Is she ever going to get better? Can’t she just take something? Why doesn’t she get a better doctor? She exaggerates. It can’t hurt THAT much. She’s ALWAYS sick. I’d do this or that if I were her….massage, integrative medicine, acupuncture, chiropractic, this or that supplement, this or that diet, this or that exercise, a certain pillow, essential oils, TMJ treatments….believe me I’ve tried so much my head spins from it all and I’m still considering more!!

Can you understand why I would lie about how I’m feeling? Why it’s getting so hard to talk about it? I am just so tired.

Week and a day in review

I didn’t do it. I intended to do it. After I missed one day, I still thought I would do it, but didn’t write a single journal entry this past week. I’m such a slacker! I still kept up with my migraines on the Migraine Buddy app, so at least I have that information. Now let me share some of what’s been going on this past week.

On Saturday I had a vestibular migraine so debilitating that I could not walk without assistance. I stayed in a dim room (I really want black out curtains), in silence, with ice on my head all day. (The symptoms I was experiencing included vertigo and dizziness, light sensitivity, noise sensitivity, scent sensitivity, nausea, cognitive impairment, blurred vision, and numbness and drooping of the right side of my face. It was a cloudy icky day.  Finally around 8:30 that night it started to rain.  When the barometric pressure eased so did my migraine, just in time for bed.

On Sunday we went to have brunch with Stuart’s Dad and his wife at her home in memory care. It had been too long since we had been there for a visit, it was nice, but we sat in the little restaurant for way too long for my physical comfort level. By the time we left my back was hurting pretty bad, and I was starting to get pretty grumpy.  I had been feeling so much better since starting the new anti depressant, but Sunday I was touchy, sad, and down on myself. I knew I missed a dose on Friday, but dang. Then that night I realized I missed another dose, I was so angry and ashamed I couldn’t even look at Stuart. (overreacted?)  When I saw my psychiatrist on Tuesday I found out that the prescription she called in was for the wrong dosage, so for the last week I have been taking half the dose I was taking the week before. Oops. So no wonder it really messed me up when I missed a couple of doses!  I’m trying new strategies to remind myself to take my meds with breakfast!  So far so good!

Back to migraine talk. I mentioned in a previous post that I messaged my doctor and asked about a new rescue medication because the Maxalt isn’t working any more. I finally heard back from her, there was a problem with their patient portal, after it was fixed I heard from her right away and we’ve talked a couple of times since then, so I feel better about that. Here’s what’s going on there: She suggested one of two things, trying Zomig nasal spray (it is another triptan, but could help more in this form) or try Migranal nasal spray (it is DHE in nasal spray form). I’m trying the Zomig because my insurance will cover it (still cost a lot), my insurance will not cover the Migranal, however, if the Zomig does not work we will appeal to the insurance company to see if they will cover the Migranal. She is also trying to get another treatment approved, a Sphenopalatine Ganglion (SPG) Block. The SPG is a group of nerves linked to the trigeminal nerve, the main nerve involved in headache, and is located behind the nose. They use a catheter through the nose to apply lidocaine to the SPG. I’ve been reading about it, and I’m not sure exactly how my doctor is planning on using it with me.  From what I’ve read it has been shown to reduce chronic migraine frequency and pain severity over a 6 month period after having the procedure done twice a week for 6 weeks. So yeah, I’d like to try that.

The above was written last night, May 16th, I thought I’d finish this up this morning and post it, but today did not go as planned, following is a recap of today.

Today started out pretty dang good.  I decided to try to start the day completely silent to see if my migraines would hold off for longer.  It was a nice way to start the day, the silence kind of forces me to be more mindful. I ate breakfast outside, sat out by the pool, did my breathing exercises, and started to do more of my yoga exercises, but the sun was too bright. I was still feeling good so I decided to sweep the front porch and patio. Gaah! That was the biggest mistake of the week! I got about half of it done when the pain in my back started to get too much, I slowed down and tried to get to a good stopping point. Then my vision got wavy, the pain started in my head, and my back seized. Oh boy. I dropped everything where it was and got inside as quick as I could so I wouldn’t fall down outside. Things calmed down and I thought things were going to be fine, I just had to rest. After about an hour things were going good. I was ready to get up and maybe do something, then the vertigo started, and I was not going anywhere. The rest of the day has been filled with these on and off sensations of vertigo and pain.  I wanted to try the Zomig, but I’ve already taken medication 7 of the 10 days I’m allowed in a month, I decided to save it for days when I have to be out somewhere, or really want to do something fun.

Speaking of something fun, we are planning on going to the botanical gardens this weekend, it is supposed to be a very nice weekend for it.  Cross fingers and toes we can make it there, I really want to go to the Butterfly House, and it closes for the season soon.

the photo above is by the pool, it was taken this morning.  It is my favorite spot in the yard, especially this time of year with the yellow, red and purple blooms.

Me, Me, and More Me

New Haircut Today! New Glasses last week.
You can see the back.
Before.
my before glasses and how my hair has been worn on a day to day basis for many years.

Today I got my haircut!

My appointment was a 9am. I normally wake up between 8:30 and 9am, to insure I was awake for my appointment I had to get up when Stuart left for work at 6:30am. He was very kind and went in 30 minutes later than normal so I could sleep in. hahaha 1st accomplishment – I got up early. I got ready, took silly pictures of me and drove to my appointment. 2nd accomplishment – I drove! The appointment took over an hour, during which a migraine started that hit an 8, I thought I was going to throw up and had a hard time staying up right, but I carried on and I’m fairly certain my stylist never knew how badly I was hurting. She did know I had a headache, but she didn’t know I felt like spewing chunks on her station.
3rd accomplishment – I made it through the appointment. When I left I sat in my car with the air on full blast, texted a friend and drank lots of water until I felt it safe to drive the 2 miles home. (It really would have sucked if I would have needed to call Stuart to come get me) 4th accomplishment – I made sure I was safe. I gave myself permission to spend the rest of the day resting and taking care of myself. I will be doing my breathing and strengthening exercises before sleeping tonight. That will be number 5 and closes out my accomplishments for the day.

I feel like I’m having a one sided conversation with you, my friends, I wish I could sit and have a cup of tea with each of you and learn more about you. This may be the last of my daily musings, I’ll be back in a week or two, or when something exciting happens, until then I’ll be around with a little this and a little of that, until then love yourself. xoxo

This, That, and The Other

In just 8 days since I started writing these journal posts I’ve made some observations. The antidepressant is working, and I’m very glad I took the chance and tried it. I’m in a much better place mentally. On the other hand, I do not see a great improvement from the Emgality, I hope I’m wrong, but as of right now my migraines aren’t better and I’m having an increase in vestibular migraines. Finally, I can see that I get a lot more done than I thought I did, and by paying attention to what I’m doing encourages me to do even more. I may not continue to write these journal entries publicly, (let’s face it, who really wants to read my day to day activites?) but I think I will continue to keep a private journal, I can really see how useful it can be.

More thoughts about my migraines I’ve noticed over the past month or so I wake up with relatively no pain, this has changed since starting Emgality, I used to wake up with a migraine almost every day; however, within a couple of hours a migraine will normally start. There were a few days last month that this didn’t happen, but for the most part, I could set my watch to it. This past week I’ve had 3 vestibular migraines, (a vestibular migraine causes dizziness and vertigo with or without pain) each one has been accompanied with severe pain and confusion. These are not new, but they do seem to be coming more often, and are more intense. Things to talk about with my doctor.

Cactus Flowering Tucson, AZ W. Holcombe

Yesterday I finally spent some time outside. I have 3 types of exercises from my new therapist, breathing, hip stability, and functional. While I was outside I laid down by the pool and focused on my breathing exercises. It was so nice, I finally felt things said I should feel! Exciting! I got all of my exercises done, not all at once, but I got them all done. So, I didn’t get a whole heck of a lot done yesterday, but I accomplished exactly what I wanted to, I went outside, and I did my exercises. The rest of the day I didn’t feel well and didn’t feel like doing much of anything, then right before I fell asleep I had a migraine hit that was excruciating. I thought a cluster was starting it was so intense, but it didn’t quite hit that magnitude. However, the pain was behind my eye and in my temple, my eye watered and right nostril ran, just like when I have a cluster. I had to move because the pain was so intense. So, I’m not positive it was not a cluster, but if it was, it wasn’t quite as painful as ones I’ve had in the past; not to say this was not severely painful. (for me a cluster is the greatest pain I can imagine, the pain I had last night would have sent me to the ER if it had lasted longer, but it was not the worst pain imaginable.)

Quick rundown of today. I ate breakfast outside. I took a bath and washed my hair. (this is a big task for me) I had a dentist appointment (check up, cleaning, fixed a small chip in a filling, and a fluoride treatment), went to Trader Joe’s, had dinner at the table with my husband, made “brownies” (hopefully I’ll sleep better tonight), and watched old Dr. Who’s for a bit. I did have a migraine that started shortly after breakfast but it didn’t get above a 6 all day so I was able to function. I used my functional exercises while making brownies and my back hurt less, but it did start to hurt more after I finished. I’m just thrilled I was able to get them all mixed up and in the pan without being in intense pain. Today was a FULL DAY! Tomorrow is an early day, so I’m going to bed.