Sunday, February 17, 2019

My Life With Chronic Headaches/Migraines: Part 5 FINDING MY HAPPY & LIVING IN THE NOW

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
My Life with Chronic Headaches/Migraines Part 3: No Stress Like Teacher Stress
My Life with Chronic Headaches/Migraines Part 4: New State, Same Headaches


I ended post 4 with a "cliffhanger" about my career prospects, which, if you know me IRL, it wasn't actually a cliffhanger, because you know exactly what I'm up to.  While the position in Huntsville at the Arsenal was tempting, especially with all the travel it entailed, I knew that in this season of life, my heart belonged in Tennessee.  The months following my move back proved how true that feeling was.

This next part is a little weird.  I originally wrote all five posts back in early January.  Then things shifted.  But I couldn't decide if I wanted to re-write post 5 or add a post six so I did neither.  Below is post five. five and a half??


Now, here I am, back in Tennessee, doing what I love again. As I write this in the beginning of 2019, I can look back on the last few months and can count on one hand how many headaches I have had, which is miraculous. This miserable pain that CONSUMED my life for months is finally under control...for the time being anyway.  And let me tell you, it has been a PROCESS.

I no longer take my muscle relaxers unless I feel abnormally tight, and I no longer take the anti-anxiety meds unless I need to get my sleep under control. I still refill my Riz, because its still the only thing that takes away my headaches, I just need it a lot less.

I wear my hair in a ponytail again.  I partake in the consumption of adult beverages again.  I roll around in my sleep, and even sleep on my stomach again. I still don't sleep on a pillow, because those suckers still mess with my neck. I've found a chiropractor back home that I go to when I visit, who is a specialist in the atlas, the area of my neck that just can't seem to stay in place.

People ask me what changed, and honestly I have to say, everything.  Everything changed.  In a way, I'm right back where I was when I lived in Tennessee the first time.  I'm working in the same school district, teaching the same grade, and even living in the same apartment complex. But I'm so happy now, and that has been the biggest deterrent of my headaches.

Not that I wasn't happy before, because I was, but not like this.  I deeply feel like I'm in the right place in my life, in every aspect.  I don't know how to explain it.  I was happy before, and I was enjoying life, but something I can't quite pinpoint or describe is different now.

I love my work environment, I love living where I live.  I love my friends, both new and old.  I love teaching again, but I also love that it no longer takes over my life.  I love that I'm always excited about things, no matter how mundane they may seem to everyone else.  I love feeling like I have options, and that I don't have to rush to make choices on those options.  I'm much less anxious, and much more carefree. I do the things I want to do, I don't do the things I don't want to do.  I'm much better about giving up control, and letting things just be.

I wake up in the morning thankful to have the option to get out of bed. I think when it comes down to it, I hit my rock bottom, and its made me a more optimistic person. I've never really been a negative person per se, but I'm much more glass half full now.  Most days I am deliriously giddy, for what reason, I'm not entirely sure. Embarrassing as it is to admit, I walk around my apartment sometimes, smiling like a fool, because I'm just so grateful to be where I am, so grateful to be healthy and able to make choices that aren't centered around things out of my control. Every opportunity excites me, because I very clearly remember feeling like I had no options. I'm less worried about the tomorrows, and just happy to be living in the todays. I realize that most things people worry about, most things I used to worry about, aren't worth a second thought.

My journal is no longer filled with frustrations and concerns.  It's full of great memories and stories and positive reflections.  One of my kids told me at the beginning of the school year that she kept two journals, one for the happy things, and one for the sad things.  I thought this was a great idea.  I always enjoyed flipping through my old journals, but when you need happy memories to look back on, it sucks to see the sad ones, so I borrowed her idea.  Months later, and all I have are happy memories and thoughts to look back on.  I'm sure the day will come when I need the sad stuff journal, but until then, I've been really enjoying reveling in all the moments that have brought me joy.

The downside with chronic pain, is that it will probably always be there.  The downside with migraines, is that medical professionals really don't have any answers.  Remedies work, until they don't.  Preventatives work, until they don't.  Will my headaches and migraines get worse again?  Possibly. Probably.  But for now, I am enjoying every day that they don't, but also continuously making myself aware of new things to try if they do.


If I had published each of these five posts back in early January when I originally wrote them, that's where the series would end.  But I didn't.  And then January happened.  So, here is this oddly formatted addendum 5.5

Y'all.  I was doing GREAT. (As noted above).  I had no complaints for month, headaches or otherwise.  Then I flipped my head upside down to shake my hair out after a shower and knocked my atlas out of place.  Which sounds like the punchline to a dumb blonde joke, but it's my REAL LIFE. 🤦

I began seeing an atlas specialist in November, when I was home for Thanksgiving (and by began seeing, I mean I went twice).  Then I had another adjustment when I was home over Christmas.  Honestly, I wasn't sure if it helped or not, since my headaches had already improved so much, but I knew it couldn't hurt, and it had helped all of my family members who also suffer from them, so I figured I'd have an open mind.  If I've learned anything on this headache journey, its to give absolutely everything a shot.

Some background info - the atlas is the topmost vertebra in your spine.  I've had enough x-rays of my back done to know that my neck in general is all outta wack.  Too much reading!!! Apparently that's a thing.  I've been trying to break the habit of looking down while I read, but that's so much easier said than done.  I'd been told by my general chiropractors before that this was my issue, and I've been told by general chiropractors before that they were adjusting it, but it never made a difference.

Anywho, I know I messed things up after that hair flip because my headaches have been daily/every other day ever since, and the dizziness when I turn my head in certain ways has set in.  Unfortunately, the closest atlas specialist to me is south of Nashville, and despite my constant pestering over the past few weeks, the new patient consultant for the clinic has yet to call me back so I can finally set up an appointment. Luckily, I have an appointment set up back home when I'm there next weekend. HALLELUJAH!

So this is my now.  It's not the happy ending I thought I had a month ago, but even then I knew it was only a matter of time before they infiltrated my life again.  Some days are good, some months are good, and others not so much, but I'm getting by.  I'm going to make another appointment with another neurologist because this is life with chronic migraines and I can live it or I can be miserable from it. If you know me now, especially after the Year of Suffering, you know I have been absolutely refusing to settle for anything but my very best life, even if it entails more doctors visit and new trials with different treatments and prevention.

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