Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Anatomy of a (my) Headache

It only became apparent to me that headaches were not a normal part of life in maybe late 2009. I had been working in the WEEI Promotions office for a few days in a row, and must have muttered something about having a headache. My boss, in a seemingly annoyed tone, hit me with this:

Boss: "Katie.... that's not normal......"
Me: (not realizing what she was talking about) "What's not normal?"
Boss: "This is like the third day this week you've mentioned having a headache."
Me: "Yeah." (still not really getting her point)
Boss: "It's not normal to have that many headaches. You need to be checked out."

Growing up, a close friend of mine had bad migraines, so to me it wasn't overly alarming. I also have an unusually high pain threshold. I have seen both my primary care physician as well as my ophthalmologist about the problem, and both have basically told me that they can't find any real reasons for the headaches, so they mustn't be anything serious or life-threatening.

To set it up a bit, I have a pain scale that I reference. Migraines are different than headaches, but they hurt worse and in a more debilitating way. Here we go:
(+) 1 ~ 10 is a headache, 11 ~ 20 is a migraine.
(+) Somewhere around a 4 is when I'll actually notice that I have a headache and start taking precautions (more water, less light, less sound, etc...).
(+) Around 8 or 9, I'll consider medicating, but only if I need to be a functioning member of society in the 6 or so hours that follow. Otherwise, its ice and loneliness as medication. At this point, I'm still able to be in the outside world, but will likely be a wee bit crabby)
(+) Somewhere around 13 is (when it has officially crossed into migraine territory), I lose the ability to think clearly. At this point, I'm unable to control my mood because of the pain. I'll medicate and find a dark hole, and will likely be functional within an hour or 2 of taking the meds.
(+) Anything after 16 may respond to meds, but will likely only be reduced down to headache status (in terms of head pain), but I'll still probably be aware of the headache. That last statement will only make sens to a small number of people.

So here's the deal: today, I have a migraine. It is cleverly hidden under some heavy-duty OTC pain relievers, but I'm pretty sure it's still there. It started yesterday around 11am. Sometimes they go away on their own, so I try to put off medicating until I absolutely need it. Here's the timeline:

11a - headache begins
2p- @ about a 6
4p- @ about a 10
5p- @ about an 13
6p- medicate with off-brand migraine pill (acetaminophen, aspirin, caffeine)
8p- wake up... I guess I was asleep for maybe an hour
12p- head is feeling ok, caffeine buzz not overwhelming, time for bed...@ a 7
4a- wake up with pounding head... @ a12
7a- wake up for good.... @ a 12
8a- forgot I had taken 1 pill last night, took 2 (max dose for 24 hrs is 2- whoops) @ a 13
9a- got in the car to drive to Boston for an interview... @ a 5 (significant improvement!)
10a- interview... @ a 2/3

Now its 4:30p, and the pain isn't there.... but the headache is still there. Let me explain that: though there is no pain in my head, I can feel in my body that the headache is still alive. Thankfully, it is being masked enough so that I can be in public (no exaggeration, some days I can't handle being outside in the light/noise/stimulation). Hopefully, since the pills are 24-hour time release, the headache/migraine will have subsided by the time the wear off. There is no guarantee and I won't know until I know.

This morning, before the medication kicked in, I said to my Dad I thought I should reschedule the interview. He did not like that idea. Unless you've had a migraine, you won't understand how dangerous it can be to be out and about with one. Even walking from place to place is a struggle. Let alone the lights and sounds, the ability to think and react is diminished and driving is basically out of the question.

Thankfully, the meds started working in time for me to get in the car and drive up to Boston. The interview went well. The headache/migraine is still there, but my head is still benefiting from the pain reliever.

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