Headaches: I Hate Thee

The morning after taking my last Cymbalta (the previous night) I woke up with a bad headache, nothing too out of the ordinary. Usually I take my painkillers before it gets too out of control because once it’s really bad it’s also much harder to treat, but because my bladder was still troubled from the Cymbalta I tried not to risk taking anything for as long as possible because narcotics can also cause urinary retention in some people. I usually take two Tylenol 3s (Tylenol, codeine, caffeine) and two muscle relaxers for the headaches. Trying to keep my use of painkillers as sporadic as possible I only take them when the headaches are getting beyond my ability to tolerate, but because of the urinary retention I was advised by the pharmacist to absolutely refrain from taking any muscle relaxers. The Tylenol 3 only really ever just takes the edge off of a nasty headache but without the muscle relaxers it does nothing at all. So, instead I was told to take 4mg of my Dilaudid, hoping that it wouldn’t affect my bladder. It did the trick on my headache for a while and allowed me to relax a bit but when it wore off my headache began to slowly return with a vengeance. Whether this was what some doctors refer to as a ‘rebound headache‘ – a headache made worse by the use of narcotics one they’ve worn off – or just a coincidence the pain eventually consumed my every thought completely. Sleeping was impossible, reading, television, computer were all out of the question. It was all I could do to gently pace or rock back in forth in a feeble attempt to distract my mind in the slightest. I couldn’t take any painkillers again, aside from the fear that I was in fact suffering from a rebound headache made worse by taking anything in the first place, the Dilaudid also made me unable to urinate for 11 hours. I knew any more of it and I’d be in the hospital with a catheter again. The headache was one sided, extending from the back all the way into the front. The worst of it was in my ear and eye. Every time I had to cough or get up it felt like my head was literally going to throb to the point of explosion. Eventually at around 6:30 in the morning I couldn’t take it and ended up in the hospital. At that point I would’ve volunteered without hesitation for a catheter if they’d be able to give me something for the pain, one of the nurses even suggested it. But instead after a quick exam the doctor had mr injected with a medication specifically for migraines. I had low hopes for it working but to my surprise by an hour afterward the pain was significantly reduced to the point that I felt somewhat like a human being again. I was in too much pain to really register much of what was said to me at the hospital so I intend to ask my doctor what medication I was given next time I’m in to see her.

My headaches have been relentless since then. I’m exhausted and becoming increasingly depressed by the amount of pain I’ve been in lately. I’ve always been extremely aware of the negative impact of narcotics on the body, how over time they can increase your pain levels, how quickly you’re body begins to tolerate them and how you’ll eventually need more and more to achieve the same effect. For the 4 or so years that I’ve been on them I’ve made it a point to do my best to keep my use of them minimal. I think it would be harder to do if they worked better on me, but even the modest amount of relief they offer is tempting even on a good day. I only take them on average about 2 or 3 times a week. Sometimes I take them a few days in a row during a bad spell, sometimes I go a few weeks with nothing during the good. I keep a journal detailing my use of them, this way I feel more aware of my habits and even of the pattern that my pain sometimes fluctuates in. Narcotic use is a slippery slope and though I’ve never been tempted in the least to use them recreation-ally I’m also not naive enough to think myself invincible to addiction. That’s why I take precautions, I’m still only 18 and I’ve got a long way to go in life. It is known that those who actually use these types of medications for pain are less prone to fall into addiction but even so it’s not impossible.

Q: “Always fall in with what you’re asked to accept. Take what is given, and make it over your way. My aim in life has always been to hold my own with whatever’s going. Not against: with.” – Robert Frost

{Any medical terms and/or definitions featured on this blog have been thoroughly researched by me as to not lead to any false consumption of information by the reader. Though, that aside; I am not a doctor and the medical information on this site should not be taken as a substitute for the advice of medical professionals. If you’re experiencing any health issues don’t hesitate to contact your doctor.}

A Constant Headache, Literally

I think now’s a good time to explain a bit about these headaches I’ve been getting for the past couple years.

I get them to some degree every single day – so in other words I haven’t had a day without a headache for a long, long time. This has been a major challenge to live with. The pain they cause can be so consuming and make it so hard to function. They are virtually unresponsive to every medication or remedy that I try; heat bags, massages, lying down, sitting up, hot showers – none of them help. The only thing that I find will ever touch these headaches are 2 Tylenol 3s and some muscle relaxers. Even those things often won’t work and when they do they offer very moderate to minimal relief.

The headaches are hard to pin to a specific category. Sometimes they are clearly migraine headaches – unilateral, throbbing, nausea – but my more usual headaches are a bit of a mix between a tension, migraine and cluster headache. It feels like my skull is too full at times, like it’s being crushed or pressed on. Sometimes it throbs to the point where I can’t stand up without it putting me in agony. It can radiate into my temples and eyes and can make me very sensitive to light and sound. For the most part it is always to some degree in the base of my skull right above my neck, this part of the headache is the constant. They also affect my jaw; the worse my headache gets the more my jaw pops and cracks. I know TMJ can cause headaches but I’m not sure what or even if there’s a connection in my case.

Sometimes the headaches are so extreme that I find myself wishing that I didn’t exist. I just sit there rocking back and forth or fidgeting, trying to escape from it. But when they get that bad there is no escaping. If it’s a fairly bad headache and I’m tired I find covering my head with heat bags and laying down on my stomach to be comforting. It may not help the pain but the heat is still soothing and distracting. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to be able to fall asleep like this and wake up feeling a bit better. Other times I’ll wake up in even more pain.

I think overall this is one of if not the most disruptive aspects of my disorder. It keeps me from doing much and makes me feel pretty useless. I’m always looking for input from those who suffer from headaches; what type of headache? What, if anything helps it? What makes it worse?