Oh yeah, the other thing…

I remembered the other thing I was trying to say in my last post (see, I told you my brain wasn’t working).  Once I realized that my depression was often part of a migraine, that was encouraging because it meant the depression would go away in a few days.  Yeah, it sucked while it was there, but it didn’t mean I was starting to sink into a deep abyss where I’d be stuck for weeks or months or years, though it sure felt like it at the time.  I just had to wait it out, and it would go away all by itself, as soon as the storm in my head cleared.

That was a great relief.

But I’m glad you guys aren’t just saying, “shut up, no one cares what you think!”  I guess there’s always a little voice in the back of my head saying that.  Damned childhood.  To be logical though, if someone doesn’t care what I think, you’d think they just wouldn’t read my blog.  Not that everyone is logical.  Since I started a website way back in 2003, a lot of people have emailed me, most to say really positive things, but a few have sent messages along the lines of “no one cares what you think” (although usually quite hostile) which really made me wonder why they bothered to read it and why they went through the effort of writing to tell me they “didn’t care.”  Weirdos.

But I’m also glad I’m not just talking to myself.  Hi.

So I’ll go ahead and continue to be open and honest, warts and all. Figuratively speaking.  I don’t actually have any warts.  I saw a toad on my way home from the bus stop a few months ago though.  I was actually walking in the dark and I saw a movement in the grass and stopped and looked down closely and realized it was a toad.  Toads are cute.

And I’m easily distracted.  Where was I?

Oh yeah.  The migraines.  Well, to clear up some of the stuff brought up in the comments, yeah, I used to have them almost every day.  I’ve had headaches my entire life, for as long as I can remember, and tried pretty much every headache med there is.  Some did absolutely nothing.  Some made it much worse.  Some worked for a while, but then stopped working, so my doctor had me increase the dosage, then that worked, for a while, then it stopped working, then we increased the dose, then it worked for a while, then it stopped, etc., etc., until I was at the maximum dose I could take. Couldn’t increase anymore.  So I couldn’t take that drug anymore.  Next.

I’ve lost count of how many different drugs I went through, trying to find something.  If I take something to kill the pain, the nerve endings in my head quickly build up a tolerance, so the low level of the drug is like it’s not even there.  I have to take more to have any effect.  Then if it’s not there, it’s like the nerve endings have been sanded raw.  That’s what’s called a rebound headache.  I kept a headache diary for several months when I was trying to find something to work, and in 6 months, I only had one day that I did not have a headache.  I was seriously beginning to wonder if I would ever have a day without a headache again.

Sometimes I tell someone I have a migraine and they say something like, “oh, when I have a headache, I just take an aspirin” or “have you tried taking some ibuprofen?” and it’s all I can do to bite my tongue and not say, “you fucking moron, you don’t know shit.  Just shut up.”

Yeah, I could take some ibuprofen, and it might get rid of my headache. I’d have to take 4-5.  But if I took ibuprofen every time I had a headache, pretty soon I’d be having a headache every day, and ibuprofen wouldn’t do a thing, even if I took 7.  Years ago I was actually taking 7 regularly, and it no longer worked, and then I read about liver damage from taking too much.  So much for that.

Natasha  mentioned migraines being like seizures, and she’s absolutely right.  I started taking Topamax a few years ago, a drug originally used for epilepsy, but now also used for migraines.  It’s potent stuff.  I had to start off with an extremely small dose and gradually ramp up to the dose I’m at now.  I had to take it for a couple of months before I could even tell if it would work.  And during the first few months, I had bizarre neurological side effects.  Like I said, it’s potent stuff.

If the side effects were going to be an ongoing thing as long as I was taking it, there’s no way I’d be able to take it, but they told me what to expect (otherwise it would have been scary as hell instead of just bizarre) and that it would only last for the first 2-3 months while my body got used to having the drug in my system.

So, that was weird.  But eventually my system adjusted, and most of the side effects went away (occasionally I still have this weird hallucination that my head is further away from my hands than it really is, but it only lasts for about a minute, and it only happens when I’m sitting at my computer.  I’m used to it happening, so I just wait for it to pass. Other people have it too; it’s documented and referred to as “Alice in Wonderland” syndrome), and I stopped having so many migraines.  After a migraine every day, 2-3 per month isn’t that many, and a one minute hallucination every six months or so isn’t that bad, especially since I know it’s only going to last that long.

It’s just when I’m actually having one of the 2-3 per month that it’s hard to look at the big picture, because a) when I’m in pain, life sucks, and b) when I’m having a migraine, my brain literally isn’t working right, so of course I can’t think clearly.  Duh.

So when I have a bad migraine I go to bed, if I can, and sleep for several hours and hope the railroad spike through my eyeball dissolves.  That helps a little bit, though I still feel like crap when I get up.

Sometimes I can’t go to bed though.  Usually I can leave work if it’s really bad, but if everyone else in my department is gone, somebody has to be there, and that ends up being me.  In that case I end up turning the lights off in my office and working in the dark, and doing the bare minimum, only what absolutely has to be done, and trying not to move very much.  I don’t have a lot of spoons.

Or I might be out some place else, like grocery shopping when a migraine hits.  If that happens, I wear my sunglasses.  The lights in the store are too bright.  All I can do though is finish my shopping.  I can’t leave sooner because I can only leave when the bus leaves anyway.  I’m on bus time.  I might not remember everything I need to get though.  I always take a grocery list, but usually I remember additional things I need once I’m in the store.  If my head hurts, I won’t remember anything.  It will strictly be what’s on the list, and I won’t be moving very fast.  Just fast enough to get through the checkout line and catch the bus.  Then once I’m home I can put the groceries away and go to bed.

I sometimes wonder what I could do to have fewer migraines.  But I already eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, no meat, no dairy, no alcohol, I get lots of exercise.  I think it’s just stress.  I know sleep deprivation is a trigger, but since I realized I get depressed the night before the headache starts, i.e., the depression is part of the prodrome phase, I’m wondering what’s cause and what’s effect?  Did I get a migraine because I stayed up too late, or was I unable to sleep because I was getting a migraine?  Certainly when I wake up at 3am and can’t go back to sleep until 5:30, and then I wake up at 6:00 with a splitting head, that’s not from staying up too late.  Was I unable to sleep because there was a storm brewing in my head?

I’m starting to think it’s pointless to even ask these questions, especially since I read that it’s possible to have a migraine without the headache phase!  So I think it’s not that depression causes migraine or migraine causes depression, it’s depression equals migraine.  They’re the same thing.  They’re just different words for the same thing.  There are subtle distinctions between the two, like the way blue faced leicester has different properties than merino, but they’re both wool.

And this thing, this depressionmigraine (depregraine?  migression?), is certainly impacted by diet, exercise, etc., but even if you’re doing everything right, there’s still stress.  So how do you deal with stress?

I guess there’s always going to be some stress.  I accept that.  But in the past I accepted too much.  I grew up unhappy and figured that’s just what life was going to be like.

Eventually life was ok.  I spent a few years being more or less happy. Then I started sliding into the abyss again.  Scared the hell out of me. I didn’t want to go there again, but it was pulling me in.  Eventually, I slowly crawled out.  I felt ok.  Life was alright.

Then Ken was killed and it was just like a door opened under me and I fell straight into the abyss.

It took a while before I could even think straight enough to try to get out.  Eventually I started climbing out, though I realized much later that my judgment at that time was still impaired from grief.  I saw things that weren’t really there and ignored things that were right in front of me. I guess I was desperate to get out of the abyss.  Eventually I could see where I was and what was in front of me.  It wasn’t where I wanted to be. And I felt like someone was trying to push me into the abyss.

Enough.  I’ve been there too many times.  It was one thing to grow up there.  I didn’t know anything else.  When I slid in, I did my damnedest to get back out, and it took a long time.  Falling in was horrible.  But there’s no way in hell I’ll let someone push me in.

So when I say I accept that there’s stress, there’s a limit.  There’s stress, and there’s stress.  There’s the stress of Meijer being out of spinach for the third week in a row, why can’t they get their act together?, and there’s the stress of someone trying to push me into the abyss.  Well, you know, I can eat broccoli instead.  It just isn’t a big deal.

But someone trying to push me into the abyss does things to my head.  So even though I left the situation and did things I needed to do, my head is having a hard time getting over everything that happened.  That’s some heavy duty stress.  I can’t just eat broccoli instead.

My point was I finally learned that I don’t have to accept everything. Some things are unacceptable.  So I refused to accept them.  Other things aren’t worth getting upset about, and it’s better just to accept them. Eat broccoli if there’s no spinach.

The hard part for me has been where to draw the line between the two.  I grew up feeling like I had to accept everything because I had no choice. If I tried to voice an opinion, it held no weight.  As a result, I put up with a lot as an adult that I should not have tolerated.  I stayed in bad situations for far too long because I felt I had no alternative.  I always felt trapped.  I grumbled, but I didn’t really protest loudly unless someone did something completely unacceptable.  I realize now though if I’m in a situation I don’t want to be in, that makes me uncomfortable, that doesn’t feel healthy, that’s a good enough reason to leave it.  In fact, that’s a very good reason to leave.  I wish I had figured that out decades ago, but I guess I had to be in a situation bad enough for it to be like a kick in the head.

I’m still not sure exactly where the line is, but the rule is: take care of myself.  Do what is healthy for me.  Accept what is healthy to accept. Do not accept what is harmful.

I’m hoping in time I won’t be so haunted by bad memories.  Memories do tend to fade; it just takes time.  Some of them never really go away, of course.  They become scars.

I’m also trying not to get down on myself so much for not accomplishing as much as I’d like.  It’s frustrating when I see what other people are doing, and I just can’t get that much done, and I think, well, I have 24 hours in a day just like they do.  How come they can do so much more than I can?  Well, if they don’t spend a lot of the time feeling like crap, they have more time.  I just have to accept the fact that I don’t have a whole lot of energy.  I do everything I can to be healthy, but I have never been a super-energetic person, and it looks like I never will be. So I’m going to have to just do what I can do and not compare myself to other people.  Sometimes I wonder what I would have accomplished with my life if I hadn’t had migraines and depression for as long as I can remember, but it’s pointless to wonder.  I am who I am.  I have to just make the best of it.

On a happier note, it’s Rudy’s 10th birthday today!  Happy birthday, Rudy!

(I tried to get a picture of him, but the boy does not like the camera.  Every time I turned it on he ran away.  So here’s a photo of him from 2006.)



  1. Jeanne B.

    I know the difference between migraines and regular headaches, having suffered the former when I lived in LA (the smog, maybe?), and it’s no fun. You don’t just have a little headache, lie down for a bit then jump up and go on with life. It consumes you and wreaks havoc on your day. I care what you think, and it takes courage to be this open. Thank you for doing so.
    Something jumped out at me after reading about the correlation between depression and migraines and has lead to a question: you said it’s possible to have the migraine without the headache phase–could you explain that a bit further or point me in the direction of reference materials? TYIA.

  2. Sue

    I don’t have any sources to cite, unfortunately, but I’ve heard recently some ideas along the lines that headaches, both migraine and otherwise, can be caused or exacerbated by food allergies. Not eating unhealthily, but allergies that a person is unaware that they have. Again, I’m sorry I can’t point to sources, but I wanted to mention the idea in case you were interested in looking into it. I know there are naturopaths that can use a blood sample to run allergy tests against a whole slew of foods, and identify both major and minor allergic reactions.
    Sue in the
    Western Great Basin

  3. Mary E.Dadds

    Well,I had terrible headaches and i thought they were allergy related.
    maybe sinus,But then i had a back tooth pulled.And ive never had a headache like that again.Thats been about 4 years now.
    Im sure you know whats going on with you.
    And you most likely know this also,But with winter and not as much sunlight,that can make depression worse.

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