I’m Tired of This

I’m tired of having a headache. The thought crept up yesterday and I couldn’t keep it at bay. Usually I just don’t think about it; it’s just the way my life is. Every single second of every single day, year after year. It sucks.

My pain has been elevated since Friday. It’s about a 6, so it’s bad enough to affect by thinking but isn’t terrible. I’m not laid up and can still get things done. I’m afraid it’s a dam waiting to burst.

How do those of us with chronic daily headache do it? I guess we just do. I suppose it’s the same philosophy as the wisdom of William Churchill (brought to you by Honest Tea), “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

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Music as Medicine

Something as simple as listening to an hour of music a day can reduce the physical and psychological affects of chronic pain, according to a recently published study.

In addition to potentially reducing pain by up to 21 percent and depression by 25 percent, this therapy can help patients feel like they are in control of their pain and that they are less disabled.

This applies to all music, not just that specifically for relaxation. It makes sense. Listening to harp music an hour a day would make my hair stand on end, but I can never get enough Dave Matthews.

In fact, my Dave Matthews obsession is so strong that I almost never listen to anything else. I’m more than a bit embarrassed by this and have tried to become obsessed with other artists (which doesn’t work too well). What it comes down to is that his voice makes me smile. And what’s better than music that makes you happy?

So now I have a medical reason to listen to indulge for at least an hour a day (not like I needed one). I’m going to chart my pain levels for a while and see if there is a correlation. Let me know what you find if you try this with your favorite musicians.

My Favorite Husband

I can’t imagine coping with headaches without Hart’s support. He takes care of me when I need it, no matter how much I resist. When I overdo it, he encourages me to relax. If we have plans to go out, but I’m too sick to enjoy myself, he tells me it’s OK to stay home. When I beat myself up for always being sick/not having any energy/not making dinner/not getting out of bed, etc., he reminds me of everything I am capable of.

He never acts as though I’ve let him down, doesn’t resent of my moodiness and lets me complain when I need to. He doesn’t complain when I get a wild hare (like going to England by myself to follow Dave Matthews) and am too stubborn to back down. He encourages all my career explorations and helps put my ideas into perspective.

He’s caring, patient and understanding. My favorite husband is truly an amazing person and I’m so, so lucky to be married to him.

Happy birthday, Hart!

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Identifying Food Triggers isn’t a Magic Cure

After almost a year of avoiding the topic of foods triggering headaches, I broached the subject last week. One of the reasons I haven’t talked about it for so long is that there’s a perception — among patients, some doctors and the media — that everyone can control their migraines with diet modification. As you may know from your own experience, identifying food triggers is helpful for some of us and not helpful for others.

In response to an NPR story on food and migraine, Paula Kamen, author of All in My Head (which is now available in paperback), writes on the WIMN’s Voices blog:

“…The truth is that EVERY disease has exacerbating influences, such as stress and certain foods, but that migraine (like other pain and fatigue disorders) carries a double standard, that it all should be in YOUR control. This advice that all people can control headache through food is like someone giving that advice to all diabetics (types 1 or 2), that they can control their problems just through foods. For some, this is the case. For others, that is dangerously unrealistic.”

Convincing arguments for this are in her post. She is also a regular contributor to WIMN’s Voices, so check out her terrific writing.

Eat Your Fruits and Veggies

At the grocery store this morning, I walked happily through the produce section, greeting all the employees with a big smile. While I’m generally a friendly person, I was extra perky today.

Why the spring in my step? Because the fruits and vegetables were beautiful today. It’s not that they were brightly colored or smelled terrific, which they did, but simply that they were there.

The season of delicious, plentiful produce is upon us. Artichokes, spinach and radishes are only the beginning. Cherries, berries and peaches are right around the corner.

Of course you know that fruits and vegetables are good for people. But I’m thoroughly convinced that they are especially good for those of us with chronic illness. You only get maximum performance if you put the right fuel in.

In her latest Chronic in the Kitchen article, Jennifer Hess describes the benefits of produce that’s in season now, complete with easy recipes to enjoy the bounty.

Helping Docs Understand DEA’s Assault on Pain Meds

Is the DEA targeting docs who prescribe pain meds to make up for the agency’s past failures? Critics of the agency’s recent crackdown think so, according to a May 19 article in Medical Economics.

“‘If the battles you’re fighting are being lost, then, to win the war, find battles that you can win,’ says David Brushwood, a professor of pharmacy health care administration at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and a critic of government narcotics policy. ‘Doctors are more conspicuous and easier to find than drug dealers, and, besides, they don’t have guns and they don’t shoot back.'”

The six-page article is written for health care professionals, but it is a concise explanation of the problems that doctors face in prescribing pain meds. The recommendations it gives docs to follow when prescribing pain meds can be helpful for patients to understand how to help the doctor function within the system, thus potentially lessening the struggle to get adequate pain relief.

Pain and the Law, a website dedicated to helping health care professionals understand how to work within the law, is linked to from the Medical Economics article and is worth perusing. The site recommends these pain links for patients.

This previous blog post describes a detailed educational document on the DEA’s stance on pain meds.

My Summer Vacation

Spurred on by a chance to see Dave Matthews play three acoustic shows in small venues, I decided it was time for me to travel by myself, just for the experience. So I spent last week traveling around England and Wales alone. What began as a flight of fancy became a personal challenge and a chance for reflection.

I’m proud to say that I had a great time and made it out unscathed. More important is that I wasn’t waylaid by a headache or related symptoms even once.

Less than three years ago, I spent five days a week in bed. Last week, I drove around England and was fine. It took extra effort (I ate good-for-me foods regularly, rested frequently, didn’t pack too many activities into each day and took drugs when I needed to), but I succeeded. And what an accomplishment it seems.

Some of my ponderings:

  • I’m the happiest that I have ever been.
  • Although I spend more money on my “job” than I make, I’ve never enjoyed work more.
  • I’m not pain-free, nor will I likely ever be. And that’s perfectly OK.
  • I’m still independent and self-sufficient.
  • Needing people to help me is not a weakness, nor is wanting them to.
  • Indulging myself is just as important as indulging the people that I love.

I hate to say that being sick gives me perspective on the world; it just sounds dumb. But I can’t avoid the cliche because it is so true. Hooray for self-indulgence and the reminder that illness doesn’t have to eclipse our lives.

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