A few years ago, I was lying in bed with the lights off, wet flannel over my eyes, praying for the pulsing pain to stop. My then-boyfriend, who’d never experienced a headache, said maybe it was all in my head.
It’s not an uncommon reaction.
Migraines and headaches still seem to be a medical mystery. In nine years I’ve seen as many doctors and their explanations are all equally vague. Your headaches could (but might not be) triggered by one (or some or all) of the following:
I still remember one doctor who’d sighed and said, “I would rather you have Pneumonia. Pneumonia I can treat.”
It’s difficult to take your pain seriously when so many professionals don’t. It’s not a sexy problem. It’s not blood or gore or broken bones. It’s a quiet, inexplicable storm inside your skull that no amount of prescribed drugs can touch.
And prescribe them they did. For the migraines, one doctor put me on codeine for years, even though I became a vomiting zombie. Another doctor switched me to sumatriptan. It worked about 66% of the time, but as you only get six tablets per prescription, you’d better be damn sure you’re having a migraine. Nothing touched the headaches. I’d become immune to ibuprofen and paracetamol.
The pain is life changing. It can last anywhere from two to five days; sometimes it’s constant, sometimes it comes and goes in debilitating waves. You’re afraid of taking too many sick days in your office job, and you don’t want to plan ahead in case you have to cancel. Spending an entire weekend with friends makes you anxious, and in our booze-loving society, trying to explain you’re not drinking because you get migraines is like telling the person you fancy you’ve got genital warts.
You blame yourself, of course. In your darkest migraines, when the pain is exhausting and you can’t sleep and you feel mad; you tell yourself it’s your fault. You’re sunk in a depression and the pain is as infinite and unknown as a black hole.
Over the past nine years, I’ve slowly ticked off a list of what could be the root cause. I gave up processed food and tried stints without dairy, sugar and caffeine. I became obsessed with drinking water. I became a vegetarian. I left my office job, exercised more, got my eyes tested, and saw a chiropractor. I even let my housemate pierce a pressure point in my ear (it did nothing, but the earring is cute).
I’d pretty much given up, until last October, it got so bad, I ended up in hospital with an eye-watering five-day migraine. The ER doctor told me I had two choices left: more drugs or meditation. It was the low point I needed to keep trying.
I went home and googled for hours. Finally, I came across a medical acupuncturist nearby. His reviews were phenomenal. I had nothing to lose. And so I met Avin.
After an assessment, he said:
“If all goes well with the treatment plan, I reckon after about three months, your headaches will have gone.”
I laughed. His confidence was ridiculous. Sure, I thought, as I braced myself for the needles in my neck. Almost a decade of pain gone in a few months– poof! Just like that.
That’s exactly what happened.
It’s been six months, and I can’t remember the last headache I had. I’ve had one migraine– totally self-inflicted after I let loose at a house party. That’s it.
It’s a miracle. It’s medicine. It’s quack. It’s coincidence. I don’t care, it means I’m now waking up pain-free, and that is something I will never, ever take for granted. No one should.
I wanted to share this story, just in case anyone you know suffers from migraines or headaches. Medical acupuncture may not work for them, but if there’s a chance, trust me, it’s worth trying. Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
I started writing this article years ago, mainly to express my anger at how helpless I felt, as nothing was working. But I didn’t post it, because the same then-boyfriend had read over my shoulder and said: “Headaches? Why are you writing about that? No one wants to read that shit.”
So I put it away.
I came back to this article to share my experience. Re-reading it made me angry all over again. Mainly because I’d let a guy dictate what I should write. But I could hear the sadness and desperation in my former words. How hurt I’d been that I couldn’t fix myself and couldn’t talk about it. It’s hard to express how joyful I am to finally publish this post, pain-free (and happily single).
HEADACHES AND MIGRAINES: A HANDY GUIDE!
Never had a headache before? Never fear! Here’s a guide I put together after years of research …
- THE DULL ACHE:
When a cement mixer has been poured over your brain and dried in all the cracks and wiggles. You are sleepy and slow. Can last 2 – 3 days. Cure: sleep/ luck.
- THE NEEDLE POINT:
Someone has made a voodoo doll out of your head and is slowly piercing a needle from the outside in. Comes in waves over 1 – 2 days. Cure: stick it out.
- THE DRUM:
Deep within the belly of the brain, a throbbing drum beats with your pulse. Made worse with movement/ loud noise, comes in waves for 1 – 2 days. Cure: don’t move.
- THE CLUSTERFUCK:
A combo of the needle and the drum, but with added eye-streaming, nose running, puffy eyelids. Can be misdiagnosed as sinusitis. Can last 1 – 4 days. Cure: pretend you have a cold and take a sick day.
- THE MIGRAINE:
Your skull concaves and your brain is its own torture chamber. The pain is burning, throbbing, relentless. Light is the enemy. Movement is sickening. You might vomit, become achey or dizzy. Lasts 2 – 5 days (by day five you’ll be in a dark madness). Cure: sumatriptan and buccastem. Rest.