It is a rare human that does not have an occasional headache. Bad headaches have been a part of my entire life. This last three weeks I have had one long headache with spikes of pain that sent me to my knees. It feels like I have lost 3 weeks of my life. I logically know that I have not but it sure feels like I have accomplished absolutely nothing for 3 full weeks. Now that I am starting to come out of the headache I am starting to look back on this time frame and determine what actually did occur besides pain. There just has to be something positive I can declare from the last 3 weeks.
Anyone who has experienced chronic illness and pain knows that when you get a headache it is not just simply dealing with a headache. There are still complications from your particular illness that make a headache feel like the straw that broke the camels back. My chronic illness is Lyme Disease. I have worked hard on dealing with the disease and overcoming it and am in the recovery phase but I still have Lyme issues that have not been overcome as of yet. One of the most common Lyme co-infections is Babesia, a cousin to malaria, and I still have that. So along with the headache, I have had the sweats and chills from Babesia, day and night right along with a long lasting painful headache. I only bring this up because my focus is on chronic illness and pain which create situations that are more complicated than the “Top 10 ways to treat a headache.” Take your own situation into consideration and work your way through the rough spots the best you can.
Pain is probably my biggest downfall. I have a high tolerance for it but enough is enough at some point and I lose my eyesight to read, my common sense and at times feel like I have lost my sanity. I walk in circles getting nowhere in my own home, sometimes even bumping into walls and wonder what I could have possibly accomplished after 3 weeks of pain. Looking backward it is a little easier to see the forward motion even though it was barely a snail’s pace.
I noticed that this round only lasted 3 weeks. Since I have Lyme Disease I have, in the past, lost 3 months or even 3 years of time because I did not know how to move through it. Now that I am more prepared for the waves of pain and illness that come with Lyme, I know how to proceed through any setbacks. Just having a toolbox to reach into during intense pain keeps me moving forward instead of backward. The pain might bring me to a complete standstill but it is only for that moment in time and does not consume me any longer than necessary.
As hard as it was, I stayed connected which in all honesty is not my strength. I was fortunate enough not to have the worse of the pain on the days of my weekly ladies group that I attend. It was a miracle to even be able to drive during the headache but I did it with caution and a willingness to turn around at any point and go back home if need be. I knew the travel and the 3 hours of the group would be hard on me physically but I knew it was a necessity to keep my spirits up. The group accepted my disorientation and depression that the headaches were causing and they provided well-needed kindness and love and basic human interaction. No medicine was worth more than the value of that human interaction.
I personally choose chiropractic care for many of my physical problems. This time I even lost consciousness for over an hour because of the pain, yet I still choose a chiropractor. With more than 20 years of chiropractic victories through all kinds of issues, I fight through pain or anything to get to my chiropractor. Not only do I receive some immediate relief but the adjustments help my immune system and my overall health so that I do not get so many headaches. I happen to go to an incredibly kind chiropractor. When we are in so much pain any amount of kindness helps to heal.
Alternative to NSAIDs
Personally, I do not choose NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen). With Lyme Disease comes a tremendous amount of pain, headaches and other. I have used NSAIDs for years before I found out the dangers of them. While using them, I rarely received enough relief to make them worth it. Now that I know the dangers of using NSAIDs I try the alternatives. Some of the alternatives work for some people for some pain. Everyone is so different that it is an experiment every time I get into pain like the last 3 weeks.
This time I tried something new to me. Tumeric is not new to me but a particular turmeric extract made for inflammation on the brain that causes headaches and depression because of the inflammation of the brain. I played around with it and it provided more immediate relief than any NSAID I have ever taken. Every round of bad headaches I try a new alternative to see what works for me and my particular kinds of headaches. When I am in the middle of pain I do not have what it takes to do the research and go and buy something new. Instead, I get prepared right after a bad round of pain and get the next thing to try ready for when it happens the next time. And of course, I have anything I have already found works for me ready in my toolbox.
During the pain, I stuck to my healthy diet. I have all kinds of headaches for different lengths of time and different areas in my head and causing many different situations to get through. Pain is an incredible motivator. The better I eat, the fewer headaches I have, that simple. I have chosen eating well for the last 20 years of my life with waves of the Standard American Diet (SAD). SAD has proven, for me, every single time, that my body cannot handle it. At this point, I clearly know that I must eat well for my health. I actually like eating healthy and the variety of fresh food. Yet headaches still come occasionally. Life still happens and no matter how well I eat, I am still human and still living in a toxic world creating consequences, resulting in my last 3 weeks of pain.
My toolbox is growing and having it provides comfort. When one goes through enough headaches and other pain one learns tricks and tools. What I noticed during the last 3 weeks is that my toolbox is growing. As an example, I no longer think twice about the intense pain that needs immediate ice. I keep my soft ice in the freezer at all times. As my toolbox grows I am able to get to my tricks and tools faster so that the pain does not take me down as much or as long as usual.
Positive not the Negative
Yes, I lost a lot of the last three weeks due to pain. Yet I was also able to keep my head above water. There is nothing I can do about what did not get done but looking back I do see that I was able to accomplish more than it felt at the time. I maintained a good diet, kept up with my water intake, watched only uplifting movies, I stayed in contact with the necessary people, I walked outside most days even though it was not past the porch, got a daily shower no matter how quick it had to be, and most of all I did anything that I could at any given moment.
The pain never left during those three weeks but I was able to have waves of being able to drive a couple of times and reading things on the computer screen so I could continue using my brain. Reading from a book was not possible so I had to use my alternatives. I have a stash of recordings that I listen to when this happens and the computer screen allows me to make the print larger so I can see it when I hurt so bad my reading vision is highly impaired.
There are so many things we can do while we go through the valleys of chronic illness and pain. Those valleys are not voluntary so there is no point in looking only at the negative. The house will be a mess, the laundry won’t get done, the yard won’t get watered, this is life. Now that I am in a better frame of mind I can see that every day I made choices to keep my head above water and for that I am grateful. It has taken many MANY years of practice to learn how to do this. Things will work themselves out one way or another. We have no control over what we cannot control. When time at work is lost and family has to take a back seat we cannot control it. We do the very best we can and accept it so that we can move through those rough times and move more quickly into feeling better and getting on with things.
Now that I am in a better frame of mind I can see that every day I made choices to keep my head above water and for that I am grateful. It is raining today which waters my dried out garden and yard so I don’t have to. Things will work themselves out one way or another. We have no control over what we cannot control. When time at work is lost and family has to take a back seat we cannot control it. We do the very best we can and accept it so that we can move through those rough times and move more quickly into feeling better and getting on with things.
What are your tricks and tools that you use to get through times of intense pain? Are you noticing a depression that comes along with long headaches?
Maribeth Baxter, MBEC
Donations accepted to serve others on their chronic illness journey. Maribeth Baxter, MBEC provides voluntary certified health coaching services to the financially limited during their time of crisis.
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