Wednesday, August 1, 2012
There is no other way to say it. Migraines suck donkey balls.
They involve intense pain, light sensitivity, noise sensitivity and a strong desire to be allowed to curl up in a ball - and die.
I suffered my first migraine headache when I was 22-years-old. It hit while I was at a family reunion - in Las Vegas...yeah, I'm *that* lucky.
The pain and pressure in my head grew until I was paying homage to the porcelain god while my mother held my waist-length hair back for me. All I could think was “Thank GAWD my mommy is here right now.”
My head hurt so bad by the second day I remember asking for something sharp so I could poke a hole in it to let the pressure "drain out" - for real! Said it out loud to a room full of people.
After a not-so-wonderful experience at a Vegas medical facility I flew home early to seek treatment at “my hospital” with people I knew and trusted.
I was referred to a specialist who operated under the assumption that I had either suffered viral meningitis (since my neck had been uber painful during the peak of the headache) or I had just suffered my first migraine. Since the pain meds essentially knocked out the headache after a couple doses I was thinking migraine (they do run in my family afterall) but he kept me out of work for several weeks – looking back I realize he must have been thinking meningitis (however, the only symptom I had that matched that diagnosis was the neck pain).
From that point forward I suffered severe headaches – only a few have been “as bad as the first one” but all of them are awful.
But…it wasn't until last year that I finally received the official diagnosis of "migraine headache". After 20 years of dealing with headaches so intense that they often cause me to wish for death while curled up in the fetal position, crying, someone finally listened.
During those years I had one doctor call them "tension headaches" (he prescribed stress-reduction to ease them). Another labeled them "cluster headaches" (and blamed my allergies for the pain). One doc even told me I was missing the sinus cavities above my eyes and claimed that was the reason for the pain (but they are there and he offered no solutions – so I found a new doctor immediately). All of them suggested wimpy non-narcotic treatments for me at various times - but not one used the word migraine.
Because none of the doctors I saw would address the real issue at hand, I became a hoarder of pain meds. Whenever I had an illness or procedure that warranted a prescription for pain meds I ALWAYS kept the leftovers for my headaches. The BEST treatment, I had discovered, was to take 1/2 of a pain pill (more than that would cause increased nausea) and sleep - in a dark room, with an icepack on the back of my neck.
I also learned to recognize the difference between a "headache" and a "migraine" fairly quickly. Occasionally, if I caught it early enough, a fist-full of ibuprofen and a couple caffeine-laced headache pills would stop it - but not always.
Over the years I have missed a lot of work because of my headaches - but it wasn't until last October (right after I was finally diagnosed) that someone asked me why I didn't have an "Intermittent Medical Leave of Absence" on file because of them.
Turns out it's a medical certification that protects people who suffer from chronic illness (like migraine headaches) from loss of employment due to excessive absences.
Fabulous! Why didn't anyone think I needed to know about this sooner???
The sequence of events that precipitated the whole "why don't you have one" conversation went down like this: I woke up one morning with jackhammers going off in my brain and tears sliding down my cheeks. I suffered in silence for a bit - praying it would just stop…or I would die…whichever was quickest - when that didn't work, I woke my Hunny up and begged him to take me to Urgent Care - and he did.
The folks at the Urgent Care were wonderful! The guy that checked me in spoke softly, the nurse in triage did too. When I got into a room they turned the lights off for me. *sigh* The doctor said "migraines suck" (softly) as we reviewed treatment options. He treated me with several medications & slapped on some high-flow oxygen for good measure (I had to Google it - it did help). My discharge paperwork said "Migraine headache" on it.
This was huge.
When I left Urgent Care my pain was down to a 4 from a 9 (out of 10). I stayed home from work that day and the next.
Then, less than 2 weeks later, it happened again - only this time I was throwing up too. Not cool!!
I decided to skip Urgent Care and try for a visit with my regular doctor. I called as soon as they opened. They squeezed me into the schedule and I saw her about 9am. I was adequately medicated, home and asleep within an hour.
My doctor diagnosed me with a migraine - actually added it to my chart right under "asthma" and "environmental allergies" - and wrote me two prescriptions: one, a known migraine treatment and the other an anti-nausea medication - just in case…
FINALLY! I had an official diagnosis and was receiving appropriate treatment.
I missed 2 days of work (doctor's orders), again.
As I explained the latest tale in the headache/missing work saga to my BFF (who just happens to work in HR) she asked me why I didn't have the medical certification on file at my work...then she cursed herself repeatedly and said "OMG!! I cannot believe I didn't think to tell you about this sooner! Actually, your HR should have contacted you and asked if there was a chronic illness behind so many sick-days, but that's beside the point! SHIT! I am so sorry! You need to get an Intermittent Leave on file ASAP!"
So I did.
Having that little piece of paper on file that says I suffer from a real condition (one that causes me to be incapacitated and unable to function properly at times) and gives me some lee-way with work absences is a god-send. I cannot tell you how much weight it has taken off my shoulders!
But...the greatest relief by far (after suffering with severe headache pain for 20 years and being given the run-around by the medical establishment) is hearing a doctor finally call my headaches exactly what they are - migraines.
I knew I wasn’t making this shit up!