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Migraines, Meds, and Memoirs

The Breaking Point

As a child I was bullied so relentlessly that eventually it became the soundtrack within my own head, and I grew into my own worst bully. I am too hard on myself, but it has pushed me far in life and served me well in many ways. It is only with grit and stubborn determination that I persevered through my life's most difficult challenges, and those goading voices in my head are often the only thing driving me forward. And maybe my internal motivational speeches were a little dark and unorthodox, but they have prevented me from giving up in situations where many would have thrown in the towel. Until about two months ago, when they broke me.

There has been a noticeable absence from me, both on social media and in real life, as I have been trying to piece myself back together. As many of my readers know, a little over three years ago I had a stroke following a neck adjustment by my chiropractor. My brain tried rewiring itself as best as it could, but it has left me with chronic migraines which plague my daily life. Every day has been a game of roulette; if the ball lands on red I'll have a productive day and be able to play with my seven year old daughter, but if it lands on black I'll spend the day with knives stabbing my brain and she'll follow me around with my puke bucket. It's a pain I've grown used to. A familiar companion. And as long as I get a migraine free day or two every week, I can catch my breath, regroup, and face the next wave. When my dog Toulouse died in my lap on Christmas day, however, the grief and stress of it all threw me into an 80-day long stretch of stabby-brain with no respite. I had successfully managed to bully myself through over three years of chronic migraine pain, but couldn't push myself through this.

Showcase Showdown

My neurologist says my brain is a mixed bag. The migraines aren't the only type of headaches swirling around in there, and because they're stroke induced many of the typical treatments and medications either won't be effective or are entirely not an option. But after eight weeks of even the tiniest inconvenience reducing me to hysterical crying because the pain left absolutely nothing in my tank, we decided to try two new medications: Prednisone to knock me out of the acute migraine spiral, and a maintenance migraine prevention pharmaceutical to take long term. Problem was, they hated each other. The two meds were extremely combative. One made me exhausted while the other gave me insomnia. One turned my stomach with nausea while the other made me starving every waking moment. And then when I finally tapered off the Prednisone and all its side effects, my kid brought me Covid from her school. After that came shark week, with unexpectedly low iron levels that brought on migraines so intense they necessitated the return of the vomit bucket. It was one thing after another. An overwhelming sense of drowning. I was fully submerged and if I didn't catch a break, I wasn't sure I'd ever come up for air again.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

I wish I could say that I was now migraine free, but I am not. But with the maintenance medication I've been given breaks in between the migraines again, and a percentage of what used to be migraine days are now tension headache days instead. Opportunities to repair my armor for the next brain battle. Time to clean my house and run my errands. Snuggles and silly time with my daughter. Some non-fragmented creativity and focus with which I could finally finish the outline for my second book. I may be back at square one with the head pain, but I remain grateful to be on this side of the dirt when the stroke could have so easily taken me out. Plus, I've been referred to a headache specialist, and I feel extraordinarily fortunate for that as I know the majority of migraine sufferers go decades in pain without having access to this level of specialist.

With this whole experience also came an unexpected clarity around how I wanted to use this blog. I had the realization that I didn't just want to share my own stories and write about my own life, I want to help others write their stories, too. Your story might help someone get through a tough spot in life, preserve interesting aspects of your family history, or connect with other humans through humor, adventure, and love. So when my brain isn't being all stabby and I’m not fully engrossed in drafting book two, I plan to share more content on the craft of storytelling itself with the hopes that it helps others record their memories, organize their vignettes, and write their own chapters.

Maybe I'm just treading water, here. But hey, maybe we all are. And we all have a story to tell.


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