Sunday, February 3, 2019

My Life With Chronic Headaches/Migraines: Part 3 NO STRESS LIKE TEACHER STRESS

If you haven't read the previous posts in this five part series, you can find them here:
My Life with Chronic Headaches/Migraines Part 1: In the Beginning
My Life with Chronic Headaches/Migraines Part 2: Welcome to the Real World


Summer 2016 came and went with minimal headaches. Though they still happened, they weren't as severe or as often. (Perhaps this should have told me something...) I didn't do very well at keeping track of my headaches this specific summer in my calendar, because they just weren't frequent enough to warrant me remembering to record them.

School, and my first year teaching fifth grade, began in August, and my mom came to visit me in September. We had a kickball game that Saturday that I played in, but I had a headache by the end of it. I went home and took some meds, then a nap. We were supposed to meet my friend and her mom for dinner that night, and I was determined to go, but when I stood up to go out to the car, I collapsed back down into my chair. I was exhausted and nauseous and knew I probably wouldn't even make it out to the car. My mom knew I was feeling bad, because there was no way I would have turned down Cheddar's (my favorite!!) otherwise. She sent me back to bed and went to get a pizza. I went to sleep without dinner that night. (Yes, I even turned down pizza in bed). Those migraines were the worst- the ones the left me drained and nauseated, with no appetite or even energy to eat. Those were the ones that give me, what I call, "migraine hangovers" the next day.

Migraine hangovers feel like alcohol hangovers, except you don't get the satisfaction of imbibing the night before. You feel nauseous and exhausted, and your head holds onto an echo of pain from the main event the day before. It also leaves you chock-full of stress and anxiety that the headache is going to come back, because sometimes it does.

My second year of teaching led to a drastic increase in headaches and migraines, as well as an extreme increase in the severity of them. I went to work suffering through it most days, because it was easier for me to exhaust what little energy I had into my lessons than to write plans for a sub.  It was easier to teach my kids, than it was to explain in sub plans how to teach my kids. In retrospect, I know that although kids rely on their teachers to show up every day, it probably wasn't in the best interest of my health.  Hindsight is 20/20.

I kept a large (full) bottle of Excedrine in my book bag at all times.  People knew to come to me if they needed some, because I ALWAYS had it.  I'd take three with a Mello Yello, then three more an hour later to knock the pain out.  The fact that my liver is still functioning honestly astounds me.  

A couple days they were really bad; severe enough that I would have to take a sick day because I knew I shouldn't be driving, let alone on my feet all day in charge of the safety of a group of eleven-year-olds.  Unfortunately, when taking a sick day for a migraine, I was told I had to have a doctor's note, which meant despite my nausea and dizziness, I had to drive anyway. 

If you've dealt with migraines, you know how cruel these days can be. If you haven't, you're lucky; let me fill you in.  You just want to curl up into a ball in your bed and not think. This is pretty easy to do, because the pain is so bad you couldn't think of you want to. But also curling up takes more energy than you even have. Nothing on your "to do" list gets done, because You. Just. Can't. Eating is a chore, but usually you lack an appetite anyway so it isn't too much of an issue. Forget about having any sort of conversation with anyone, whether it be in person, on the phone, or online.  Your brain has shut down and constructing even the most basic response to a statement or question is unimaginable.

When I would get migraines, I would lie in bed with my blanket rolled up and pushed into my eye socket on the side the pain was on in an attempt to relieve some of the pain and pressure. I'd put an ice pack around my neck, because even if it didn't make the headache go away, it numbed the pain until the ice melted.

The end of the school year meant packing up the place that had been my home for two years, and moving once again. And much like the previous summer, the headaches and migraines became slightly better with the increase of natural Vitamin D and the decrease of lesson plans.

At the end of June, I was in Minnesota visiting friends and family. My grandma and I went to La Crosse to go shopping. I had woken up that morning with a headache, and at 6AM I downed three Excedrine and a can of Mountain Dew Pitch Black. I went with my grandma; I figured it wasn't the first shopping trip I'd been on with a headache, I could power through. Unfortunately, I figured wrong. We went to a couple stores before hitting up the mall. Once at the mall, I knew I couldn't do it anymore, so I sent her in without me and took three more Excedrine while I tried to nap it off in the car. Again, shopping with grandma isn't something I would ever bail on unless I literally just couldn't. By the time my grandma came out I was capable of driving again, so we headed home. I spent the rest of the day in bed exhausted.

(To be continued...)

Stay tuned next week for part 4!

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