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Head Case

January 14, 2008

Today was probably the second busiest day of the year for me at the university: the first day of Spring term. I couldn’t believe my bad luck when I felt a headache coming on at around 9am. By 10:30 I was staggering into the CIOs office to explain why I needed to leave: I could no longer think clearly and I absolutely could not work. All I was doing was pacing around cursing.

I’d say it was about a 7 or 8 on the pain-o-meter, with a 1 being “my head feels funny,” a 9 being “please kill me,” and a 10 being I can’t see, hear or recall my own name.

So I drove home in a blur. Then I spent the day writhing in agony. I’d have taken some drugs, but previous experience has taught me that nothing helps. (Once, after a dental surgery left me with a half a bottle of extra strength Vicodin, I got a headache. I marched over to my medicine cabinet and said “this time I got you!” I took a pill, washed it down with a large glass of wine…and got absolutely zero relief.)

After a drink or two and some naps, I’m at about a 5. I can think, write, and generally function. But I’m miserable and irritable and just stay the fuck away from me, okay? Shit.

Anyway, now I have the unenviable task of going to work tomorrow and apologizing for my untimely disappearing act. And I guess I should see a doctor–a specialist. If I’m going to miss the most important days at work without any notice, I think they have a right to expect that I’m going to seek medical attention for it.

I don’t even know what the word migraine means. Nor, it seems, do any doctors. Theories. That’s all they have. And treatments that work for a few, but not for others. But I’ll push to see a specialist anyway. I’m still holding on to the theory that I need sinus surgery, that rapid changes in barometric pressure are causing this agony, not some kind of neurological mystery process.

History indicates that tomorrow I’ll be just fine. But wish me luck anyway. Maybe some surgeon can run a power auger up my nose and end this merry-go-round of misery once and for all.

PS. If you’re going to leave a comment telling me that relief could be mine if only I refrained from alcohol, chocolate, nuts, full moons and Leos, please spare me. I’ve tried it all, and believe me, if standing on my head and praying to the great god Nana Buluku provided even a small amound of relief, I’d do it. Twice. I’d do it until I couldn’t do it anymore and then I’d have someone else carry on doing it for me. But the fact is, nothing–nothing— has proven to be a reliable predictor of when these headaches come and when they go. The only idea that still seems to have some merit after years of observation is the air pressure/sinus thing.

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  1. I won’t go into a long list of symptoms/precursors/triggers, etc., but I’ll only say that I’ve suffered from cluster headaches for about 15 years now now. They’re like migraines’ bigger, meaner older brother. They come and go with pretty much no rhyme nor reason, although a change in the weather often seems to sometimes accompany an onset, so your air/barometric pressure idea could be right on. The invention of Imitrex 10 years or so ago was an absolute godsend. The nasal version is best for me, as it works quicker, but regrettably, it’s expensive as hell, if you have to use more than your co-pay will cover. F***ing insurance companies. I’ve also had luck with taking seizure medicines as a prophylaxis. Topamax has been the best. Also, Sansert (methysergide) is effective, but you’ll have to find a pahrmacy that will compound it, because it’s not manufactured anymore. Not profitable enough. F***ing big pharma. Sorry. If I sound bitter about the health care industry, it’s only because I am.


  2. I have a bud who has similar headaches, and Imitrex is one of those that seems to have consistently helped him.

    I do know video games are not the answer for him (or my own headaches). Most likely the lights rather than the noise.


  3. I don’t get migraines very often. In fact, I probably have had 10 or less in my 32 years.

    A friend of mine at work was around me when I had my last migraine, and he suggested I move to a dark room as minimizing visual stimulation helps minimize the severity and/or duration.

    I think there could be something to to this. I felt very early signs of a migraine coming on not too long ago, and I shut the blinds in the room I was in, and it seemed to help.



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