Denial

AKA the Crouching Woman from The Gates of Hell

Apparently I’m in denial.

Big huge, hiding under the sheets, denial, about of all things… my migraines.

At lunch on Saturday my best friend Jo, and I were discussed our migraines. A very common topic since we both suffer chronic migraines. Jo said (as we sat down at Laughing Planet with our gluten free, corn free, dairy free, sugar free, but very tasty meal) that I was really good at forgetting how often I have migraines. She said it with such authority that I was a little stunned. I’d always thought of myself as a very scientific person – being an unreliable narrator to my own life seemed very un-me. Then she pulled out several specifics and I had to admit my self-reporting sucks.

Always nice to have friends good enough to call you on your BS.

I probably would have filled this under interesting but not actionable if I hadn’t just come in late for work that Thursday after a migraine hit so hard at 8am (the office opens at 9) I ended up shooting myself with imitrex and vomiting until I dry heaved (sorry graphic I know) thanks to modern meds I made it to work by 10:45 am unsteady but on my feet.

It just days after my conversation with Jo when my Boss mentioned she was convinced she never saw me out of migraine space the year I’ve been working for her. That one hit hard, since I’d just missed work and I hate missing work and overall I thought I felt better. But two Level 10 migraines in a month is even a lot for me.

I thought about this for awhile.

As animals we really aren’t good at remembering pain – the obvious painful memory comes to mind childbirth – and our brains are wired to keep us going and keep us reproducing, protecting our families, and so of course distinct memories of pain would be an evolutionary liability. I also know that my daily optimism is rather insane – that fact that I can work at all, that my co-workers not to mention my Boss put up with the days when I say blue for green or say Wednesday and mean Friday is a constant joy to me. Even writing this, coming off a migraine by the grace of drugs – I have trouble word finding.

Not to mention that a Canadian study showed that chronic pain may hamper memory creation so there are probably huge pieces of the last three and a half years I don’t remember anyway. So in addition to not remembering to survive the pain I also don’t remember because I can’t form memories because of the pain. This study also showed a problem with spatial relationships which is the beginning of understanding how I could have gotten lost in a part of Portland where the streets are numbered up from the river and in alphabetical order from B for Burnside on. I’ve lived here all my life.

Thought about it for a bit longer and realized I need to remove my memory from the self reporting process…

I remembered a few studies I read where researchers were using apps to ping people at various times of the day to report on everything from health to happiness. Apparently having an app that asks you a series of questions a few times a day is less arduous than putting pen to paper. Not having a smart phone (I know, I know, sometimes I am so ahead of the curve i.e. beta user of Hulu – and sometimes so behind it is laughable i.e. smart phones and NCIS) I decided that maybe Google docs would be good enough – available from just about anywhere, permissions based on email user names, and I can sort data, build graphs et al.

I’m a week into my trial and it’s working pretty well.

I report to myself 4 times a day: Morning, Noon-ish, 5-ish, and Night. If I don’t have the computer handy I walk myself through the questions and seem to be able to hold that information until I can log it in. There are a lot of variables, and I’m in the process of changing several key behaviors, so I’m not sure if the data will really provide anything more than my non-scientific self-remembered reporting but I’m sure my Neurologist will be excited to see the data mid year.

 

There are two interesting things that have come about since this epiphany 1) I’m giving myself a break – If I’m really in migraine space all the time (prodrome to hangover) then I’ve decided I am a kick ass woman just for surviving and holding down a job. 2) I made a deeper commitment to the anti-inflammatory diet that I started two weeks ago. I’ve tried just about everything else so it looks like it is time to really commit to trying something new.

~ Tess

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Denial

  1. It’s really hard not to self-report all the time when people keep saying “you look terrible, are you OKAY?”. I would prefer to suffer my headaches in silence, but I have to explain my lethargy when I have a headache at work… and at home.

    I’m sure that there are people at work that have never seen me without a headache. But at the same time I don’t see THEM for weeks at a time… Hmm… I might be able to draw a correlation here…

    In jr. high my school principal say he was sick and tired of my headaches, and that he was convinced that I “got” them just so I could go home early.
    Since he only told me that once, and I never heard about it again, I suspect that my mom gave him a piece of her mind.

    In the end it’s a blessing to forget, even for a week, that I get migraines, even if they take a few days of memories with them. Who knows, perhaps that principal DID tell me more than once?

    • I concur.

      It is lovely to forget you have these horrible things that others can’t see and most don’t understand. About six months after the migraines became constant I told my doctors that I had to stop – the daily journal, the supplements, all the self care was driving me insane. Stopping didn’t help – and I didn’t stop everything – but telling them I was tired of it all made me feel better.

      Your principal sounds like one of my ex-bosses who always thought I was using the migraines to have “sick” days. I never could convince him that work was preferable to being in bed, in the dark, flinching at every noise.

      I hope you are well and the migraines less.

  2. DJ

    The only people I would ever wish chronic migraines on are those lame-brains who think it’s not a “real” disease.

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