I've had a headache this year. Since January. One headache. All day, every day. It took me a while to realize that it was the same headache, and that it never stopped. I actually didn't realize it, until GF, who had been listening to me complain about my headaches, pointed out that she couldn't remember the last time I didn't have one and made me go to the doctor.
I resisted the doctor. I grew up in a headache culture. My grandmother had one every day of her adult life; my mother's had one pretty much consistently since she was seventeen. My uncles have them, several of my cousins. It's our family thing. My mother always has darvocet, percocet, and/or tylenol 3 (that's with codine, for those outside of headache culture) on her, which makes her a fun date, if you like mind-numbing painkillers, because she's very generous with her meds. She knows what it's like to be in pain, always. But me, I've escaped the family curse so far. I thought I had it in my early twenties, but it turns out that was just Utah, with its high pressure systems and deep valleys which keep industrial pollution right at breathing level. Once I left, the headaches went away.
Now, they're back. I hoped it was a sinus headache (I'm still not sure it isn't), and that the doctor would prescribe an antibiotic and I'd be free. But she said no. That pain isn't in your sinuses (I still think it is); that's a tension headache. I started to cry. I don't want tension headaches. I don't want to be one of those people, who have to lie down as soon they come home from work, or who have to use phrases like "it's blinding" and "nothing can touch it." I've heard those words my entire life.
The doctor made an appointment for me with a neurologist. I didn't go. Partly, because it was way too early in the morning, but really because I knew they couldn't do anything for me. You know, growing up in a headache culture and etc. All neurologists can do is run expensive tests, that my insurance may or may not cover, tell me I have chronic tension headaches, and prescribe really strong painkillers to mask the pain.
And me, I don't do so well with painkillers. In fact, it says that on the front of my medical folder, in pretty big writing. But my doctor wanted to try giving me a "milder" painkiller, so she prescribed ultracet. She said it was so mild that I could take it during the work day. So on my way into school that day I filled the prescription and popped two (the recommended dosage) on my way into a guest lecture I was giving on queer theory for a friend's class.
The class went well. It went really, really well. I think. What I remember is that the ideas seemed really big and yet completely accessible. By the end I felt pretty floaty, but well enough to go straight from there to a two hour meeting. I had a great time at the meeting. It was the fastest, funnest meeting ever. But by the end I realized I was having trouble writing down what I was hearing, and the pen was getting hard to hold. In fact, I didn't think I should drive home, so I went to a lecture. No big deal, I thought. I can sneak in the back, slump in my seat and listen. By the end I thought I'd feel better, and I'd get points for supporting the center that a senior colleague in my department runs. But there were only four other people in attendance, and there were no rows: the talk was around a conference table. Damn. Damn. Damn.
With two hours of talk/discussion looming in front of me, I tried to be brave. I tried sitting up really straight, I tried leaning back in my chair, but I couldn't get comfortable. I started to sweat. I was really cold. I left the room and threw up. I came back in and tried to pretend I was fine--believe and it will be so, I thought. Finally the talk ended. I stumbled back towards my building. It was going on five hours since I had taken these meds and I was feeling worse and worse. I didn't have a headache, though.
It was late, but I thought I'd go up into my department and see if any of my colleagues were going home soon. One, who lives by me was in her office. As soon as I opened my mouth to talk to her I started to cry, and with a wavering voice I told her I didn't feel so well. She pointed out that my pupils were the size of pinpricks, had me sit down and started talking to me about what I'd taken. Turns out it's not such a mild narcotic, and that she'd had a similar reaction to it. She wasn't leaving, but she helped me corral another colleague, who's one of my favorite people in the department, into driving me home, which she did, generously driving me in my own car and then having her girlfriend pick her up at my house. The minute she left I started throwing up, and I didn't stop for hours. The next day I felt like I had been in a fight.
Last week I started going to an acupuncturist/chiropractor. As soon as he cracked my neck, I actually felt a little better. After a half hour of acupuncture, with these cool vibrating patches on the back of my neck, I felt much, much better. Really. I still have the headache about half the time, but half the time I don't. This past week, for the first time this year, I actually felt happy. I was even able to write--real writing, the kind where you go deep, deep inside your head and stay there for hours. So I'll keep up with the acupuncture/chiropracty and see if I keep feeling better. If not, I think I might have to go to the neurologist after all. Who knows, maybe they'll say it's a sinus infection and give me an antibiotic.