Saturday, December 24, 2011

Hello, Migraine; My Old Friend

Illustration of visual migraine aura from a participant in the National Migraine Art competition. © 2007 Migraine Action Association and Boehringer Ingelheim
I've really enjoyed giving my blog-ees a little behind the scenes look at my business (and by extension, my life), and migraines have been such a part of it all; I wanted to share.

First of all; I've always had migraines; but until last summer; they were occasional to rare and never really affected my life. I just took to my bed, and tried to get through them as best I could. When I was pregnant with baby Elvis; I started having an upsurge in the visual disturbances that accompany migraines for most people; but I thought it was just a weird pregnancy symptom. So I went along, blissfully unaware of the storm that was about to rage out of control in my nervous system. When I look back at that time, I wish I had enjoyed all the pain free days I had!

Very suddenly last summer; right in the middle of a busy summer; and an unexpected upsurge in my business, I had what I think of as the "life changer". A migraine that was so bad it caused me to have an emergency CT scan; and Labor Day morning found me sitting in a wheelchair in front of the hospital, attempting to vomit gracefully in front of the nurse and all present. Not the best day I've ever had! After that migraine; it became clear that the "migraine gods" were not smiling upon me; and this was going to be an affliction I'd have to bear, probably for life. I was thrust into a whole different world. I felt like I went overnight from a healthy, vibrant, go-getter to a shell of myself. The pain was often overwhelming; and my entire family was affected. For a short time; I really felt without hope. i imagined myself not being able to care for my children; not being able to attend to my business; and my entire life being over. Chronic pain is a whole different animal from the pain I was used to; and believe me; as a mother of five naturally born children; I thought I "got it". Nothing could have prepared me for the emotional impact of living in fear of pain.

I had so much support from my husband and family; but still I floundered all through the autumn, trying to come to grips with not being "myself". I often joked with James that if I could just remove a quarter-sized section of my brain; all my problems would be over! (and so would higher reasoning). But, we adjusted. James took over 100% of the shipping duties for my business; and even Andrew stepped up by making simple dinners when I needed it; or watching a few of his brothers while I took quick trips to the store or the PO. Finally, just as the holiday "busy season" kicked off on etsy; I started seeing a doctor that has had great success helping migraine sufferers using a combination of traditional chiropractic treatment; along with physical therapy of the jaw, electrode treatment, and neck traction. One problem? Our insurance only covered a small portion of this treatment, which is considered experimental. Thankfully; my etsy business was now healthy enough that my soapmaking paid the bill for the treatments; which were three times a week for four weeks; by now I feel I practically live at the doctors office! But it has helped tremendously; bringing my migraine frequency down from a torturous every other day; to a much more manageable once a week or less. And my migraines are much less severe and I'm thankful to say that after my Labor Day debacle; I have never experienced a migraine that severe again.

Now I feel lucky that I can function so well "considering", and I appreciate the lessons I've learned from my migraines; mostly not to take good health for granted. I've also become much better at tolerating pain in general; and much more responsive to the signals of "I'm tired!" that my body gives me. I'm hoping that in the fullness of time; I'll look back at this time of my life as a "trial by fire", and that someday; there will be a cure!

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