February 9th, 2017
That’s the side of my house after a snowstorm last year. Today we have only about a third of the snow (probably not more than 8 inches today) but it is way too cold and windy for me to want to take pictures. I set out to meet a client at my office after being home all day, encountered slick roads with masses of snow blown across them, and there was a big accident with people in the ditch, tow-trucks, police cars, lots of lights, completely blocking the road out of town. I came home and called the client to cancel.
We’re all disabled, more or less, by the snow. My email yesterday was full of notices of cancelled meetings in anticipation of today’s winter storm. Danny and I both worked from home; college classes were cancelled for Adam. Adam cleared the steps and got a car un-buried and running for me – we’ll have to deal with the rest tomorrow. Snowy days tend to make me feel simultaneously peaceful and antsy – I want to take a nap, I want to run around. I’m just glad I don’t have a migraine.
To add to the litany of injuries and ailments, I managed to herniate a disc in my low back right after Christmas. After several weeks of physical therapy it is feeling much better. I did have a fair amount of pain yesterday and my physical therapist said she thought it was probably the storm coming. I really don’t need another weather-predicting injury. Between my formerly broken elbow, my sensitive head, and my overall nervous system, I already had this human-barometer thing covered. The good news is I have a great excuse not to shovel any snow.
My weather sensitivities used to be mainly around thunderstorms – when a front moved in, I would get a migraine. And often a fibromyalgia flare to go with it. And a sore elbow. The past few summers I’ve been less consistent and weathered any number of thunderstorms without a migraine, but the past few winters I have had migraines triggered by snowstorms rolling in. Those of you who live in snowy climes – you know that peaceful feeling when the snow is falling? I have really missed that, and the snow falling tends to have my head exploding. Not today, I am glad to say. I had a few twinges in the worst of the storm, and when I tried my expedition out my head informed me that it was not keen on the wind that’s blowing out there. But I am counting my blessings. I’m back inside, and warm, and feeling no pain.
Be well, my friends!
- Megan Oltman
January 28th, 2017
If you’re like me, that’s something you’ve asked for many times. My loving son Adam made me another head when he was in 9th grade – at the time when my chronic migraines were at their worst, just before I started working with Dr. William Young at the Jefferson Headache Center. Adam came home one day, and said, “I can’t give you a migraine-free head, but I made a migraine head for you. Maybe all your migraines can go into this head instead of yours.”
Seven years later, my migraines are no longer chronic. Sure, I had great treatment from one of the best, and learned new techniques to manage my migraines, and menopause came by and blessed me with fewer migraines as well, but maybe the head captured a lot of them on its own. The magic of love. The gift of a truly empathic artist!
- Megan Oltman
April 8th, 2012
Well, not literally. Not that it would be unheard of in the Migraine world, many of us have banged our heads at times when the beast has settled down upon us. It’s a kind of counter-irritant, I guess. Something, anything, to try to break the repetitive throbbing. Or a distraction, some surface pain to focus on instead of the hideous rending inside the head. I’m really glad I don’t have many Migraines that get that bad any more.
Last Monday I woke up after a rough night, sleepy and with a mild ache on the left side of my forehead. Technically I’m sure it was a Migraine already, but I thought of it, as I often do, as more of a maybe-migraine, a migraine wannabe. My first impulse (so often the right one) was to call in to work, take my sumatriptan and go back to bed. And then the thought entered my mind of the budget for the month, and of the sick leave hours I try to budget too, and how since my Migraines have become less frequent I sometimes have a little headache that doesn’t turn into a full-blown Migraine. So my little headache and I went off to work, and chose to focus on the less mentally taxing of the tasks on my desk, and did most of my thinking out loud to help me focus, and took a walk at lunch, and did all I could to keep the beast at bay.
But I was talking about head-banging. Which I wanted to do before the night was out. I got home and tried to focus on all the stuff I try to focus on after work, like visiting my on-line world, Migraine related and otherwise, and helping Adam manage his homework, and imposing some kind of order on the chaos that is my home, and trying to build up and work on some of my free-lance work, and I found all I could do was go take a sumatriptan and lie down.
I set the alarm for about an hour and a half, rolled a pillow under my aching neck and dosed off, hoping the pill would do its job. And woke up groggy when the alarm went off, groggy and in pain. Groggy and nauseous and hungry and in pain. It was not yet two hours from the time I took the triptan, so I couldn’t do another dose, and the pill had had no noticeable effect. So I had to wait 15 minutes or so, and I needed to eat something for my blood sugar which was dropping (contributing to the Migraine). The head had started throbbing, one of those times when I imagined I could specifically feel each dilated vein around my brain pulsing and stretching and shoving against my skull.
So did I hit myself upside the head? In a sense. I didn’t actually feel like head-banging this time, though it was the worst Migraine I’ve had for a few months. Probably about an 8 out of 10 this time, the kind that makes me cry. I knew I had to bring out the big guns this time. I had to give myself a sumatriptan injection. A highly effective way to abort the Migraine, but which I put off and avoid as long as I possibly can. Why on earth would that be, you ask? If you have to ask you have never had one of these injections, or you are lucky enough not to experience them the way I do. First of all the injection itself hurts. It’s a spring-loaded injector; you shove it hard against your arm and hold it there, pressing until it injects. It’s not a jab, it’s a SLAM-STAB, and you have to keep pushing that thing in for 30 seconds to make sure all the medicine goes in, I do it while breathing hard through my gritted teeth.
Then you need to take your sore and aching arm and get yourself prone as quickly and smoothly as you can, so you can be lying down as still as can be when the real head slam comes. For me, and I understand for many others, the injection causes a “surge” of increased head pain before it begins to work. So the only thing, sometimes, that will make the pain go away, is a short-term, extreme increase in the pain. When I say short-term, it’s not an agonizing 30 seconds like the injection torture. It’s a good five to ten minutes of the front of my head feeling like it’s being hit with a tire iron, from the inside.
The only thing that gets me through to the other side is lying on my back as still as I can, doing my relaxation breathing. I have to go into the pain, be with the pain, and visualize my breath carrying the pain away, out with each exhale. And eventually I fall asleep, and usually in that sleep the pain goes away.
This time it took a long time, almost until morning, before the pain lifted. If I’d followed my original impulse and taken a pill in the morning before the pain was much of anything, I probably wouldn’t have needed the injection. If I’d taken the injection right away when I got home I probably would have been pain free in two hours. But I couldn’t bring myself to hit myself upside the head. Until there was no alternative. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean.
- Megan Oltman
October 20th, 2010
I am counting on some of you old hands at living with fibro to chime in on this one, okay? I believe I have had fibromyalgia for at least 15 years, and maybe for 35 years. I’ve only been diagnosed for a little over a year, though. My fibro seems to have grown a lot worse in that year as well. What I can’t tell is whether the fibro just seems worse because my Migraine disease has gotten so much better that I can actually notice the fibro now.
I think it is worse, though. Certainly the fatigue is nothing new, that’s a fifteen year old problem, which I thought was ME/CFS. It was raising the question of dealing with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) with my headache specialist last year which led him to press my fibromyalgia tender points, and led us both to realize that it was fibro that was the issue. since then things I’ve been experiencing for a while have “clicked,” like how a slap on the shoulder or the teasing pokes my son gives me can really hurt, for a long time. Things that used to be just mildly uncomfortable or unpleasant cause actual pain now. What is new is the feeling that my aching arms weigh a ton and are likely to fall off. This is after a day of sitting up at a desk typing.
I’m finding this disease a hard one to learn to manage. I try to keep my activity level fairly steady from day to day, but if I do get a flare I need to rest for it to go away. Then I’m back to a very inactive state and have to slowly build up all over again. I always want to do many things when I do have the energy for them, but I can cross the line to overdoing so easily.
Saturday, for example. A couple of our dearest friends were in NJ/NY for the weekend – in from Minnesota. It gave us the impetus to do a deep cleaning of the downstairs – one it had needed for a long time. But the day started at 6:30, because Adam took the PSAT today, and then we cleaned for several hours until they arrived. We had lunch and lots of talk, a too short wonderful visit of a few hours. I did take a nap after they left, but as the sun was starting to go down I was seized with the desire to be outdoors in the bright chilly Autumn day, and walk in the park. (What’s the good of living in the best spot in our little town if I don’t get out and enjoy it?) So I took a good 20 minute walk through the paths in the fields. Then I sat on the bed, propped up on pillows, blogging. There was still laundry to be done but I had expended about as much muscular effort as I should for one day (if not more). I ached a bit, but who knows how much more would have set up a flare? It’s very challenging.
November 19th, 2008
This may seem obvious, but it’s something I need to remind myself of from time to time. We can’t avoid every Migraine. The job before us in managing life with Migraine disease is to avoid as many as we can, through avoiding triggers, getting rest, exercise, nourishment, drinking enough water, living a healthy life, through relaxing and calming our nervous systems, through getting the best medical treatment we can, appropriate use of medications, using other therapies to help us maintain ourselves, balancing our energy and our work-load, getting support, getting to know our own bodies and our own reactions… are you breathless yet? Yes, we do all of that, and it is a big job, and most of us can have a huge impact on the number and severity of Migraine attacks that we get. But we can’t avoid every Migraine.
I didn’t avoid the one that hit me last night. Sometimes you can see them coming, you can see the set up as it is happening, like in a movie where you start yelling at the heroine, “No, don’t open that door, don’t do it!” but she does it anyway. Here’s what happened to me: I missed a dose of my preventive medication; I had several days of anxiety over current financial uncertainties; I slept badly for two nights; I got my period; something upset me and I cried; I had a fun and exciting radio interview which I enjoyed very much; I began feeling some head pain and didn’t take an abortive right away because I needed to drive my kids to some appointments.
Chances are that even with the large stack of triggers I was dealing with, if I had taken my triptan and laid down at the first sign of pain, I probably would have minimized the Migraine, if not eliminated it altogether. In a perfect world, my husband wouldn’t have had an important commitment I didn’t want him to miss, and could have driven the kids. Hell, in a perfect world, we’d have safe available public transportation! No, wait a second, in a perfect world we’d have the public transportation and I wouldn’t have the Migraine!
Instead, I took Adam to his drum lesson, then we went to the library until it was time to get Rachel from her rehearsal, then we sat outside the High School for 45 minutes until she was let out from the rehearsal. I should have let her drive home but the effort of climbing out of the driver’s seat and into another was too much to face. By the time I got home I could only climb upstairs, vomit, give myself an Imitrex injection, and lie down. I couldn’t find my ice packs. The pain was so intense that even shifting position in bed made my head pound. All I could do was lie perfectly still with my bean-bag eye mask, do my relaxation breathing, and wait for the pain to ease. After a couple of hours it let up enough that I could sleep. It’s still with me today, though much less intense. I think if I keep very quiet it will leave today.
I am lucky that I don’t get a Migraine that bad very often. Not more than once every month or two. Most often I am able to treat the Migraines I get right away; most of them do not progress to that kind of excruciating pain. Life happens, though. We don’t live in a perfect world. We have a disease; we do the best we can. I have been going about a week between Migraines, which is great progress. I’m grateful. I hope you are doing well too.
October 17th, 2008
A funny thing happens when you start blogging. There is this little bit of celebrity that arises. I can admit that like many people I once secretly wanted to be famous. My friend Laura told me in High School that she pictured me as a kind of revolutionary leader, with thousands chanting my name. If that had ever been my ambition, I’d have to say that I failed miserably. I’ve made it through nearly 50 years of life and I don’t think even dozens have ever chanted my name. Not at the same time, anyway.
But I digress. I started this blog for a few reasons. I wanted a place to share my thoughts on living with Migraine disease, and the other chronic illnesses I live with. I particularly wanted to share my hope and strength, as someone who has come a long way in managing a life with these conditions. I wanted to join the warm, intelligent, funny and committed community of Migraine and headache
bloggers and advocates who are making such a difference in the lives of patients and in advancing the understanding of this disease. The big reason was this moment of truth I had almost a year ago, when I realized that my chronic illnesses are not just an impediment in my life; they
are an opportunity to
share my professional tools and skills, and the
wisdom I have accumulated, to help others manage their lives with
Migraine. I wrote a bit more about that a few months back in My Migraine Story.
I didn’t really start the blog to keep the world posted on the doings in my own life. I tell a lot of stories, partly because I come from a family of storytellers,and partly because I’ve always made points (with clients and anyone who will listen) by telling personal stories, about things that happen and lessons I learn. So it’s been a lot of fun doing that here. And lo and behold, I learn that people are actually following (to some extent) what’s going on in my life. Little old me, Megan, Rachel & Adam’s Mom, Danny’s wife, Joan & Jim’s daughter, Jon & Ellen’s sister, the lady in the house on the corner by the field, the little red-head… that one. It’s a small and gentle sort of celebrity, but I find when I don’t follow up on things I’ve mentioned, sure enough, you’re actually listening, and sometimes you ask.
Hope your heads treat you well and you have an AWAP weekend!
- Megan Oltman
Tags: acephalgic Migraine, Adam Oltman Porcher, Adam Porcher, chronic illness, health insurance, medication allergies, Migraine disease, Topamax, vote
Posted in Communicating, Current Affairs, Musings, Weblogs | Comments (4)
June 1st, 2008
Well I had an exciting night! I passed out and fell on my face in the bathroom! The good news is that though my nose is very bruised and I’m getting a bit of a shiner on my right eye, nothing is broken, there’s not much pain this morning. I have succumbed to the nasty virus with fever and coughing that my son had for ten days. Danny came down with it after Adam was back on his feet for a few days, and I bit the dust (so to speak) a couple of days after Danny.
What makes this all the more exciting is that I have anaphylactic allergies to most analgesics. So there’s nothing I can take for fever. Luckily I’m not very prone to fevers; I often get the same virus as everyone else but minus the fever. Not this time. I’ve been lying around now for two days with a fever and a nasty painful cough. The coughing hurts my whole body and jars my head enough to wake the migraine monsters.
Around midnight my head pain was resolving into a migraine so I went into the bathroom with the Imitrex package. I was very feverish and not thinking too straight. I thought I’d first take my temp and then read the
Imitrex packaging to see if there was some reason not to take it with a fever – there isn’t, and that doesn’t really even make sense, but anyway… I didn’t want to wake Danny up because he was sick too.
So I sat on the toilet lid and put the thermometer in my mouth. I was very woozy and could hardly sit up. So I put my feet up on a little stool, put my elbows on my knees, and started putting my head down on my
hands. The next thing I knew I was on the floor in excruciating pain with bright lights flashing in my right eye. Someone was making this horrible wailing noise and it turned out it was me. The whole family came running in. I was so disoriented, I had no idea where I was or how I got there, I just knew my eye and nose hurt and my glasses were pressing into my eye. I don’t know if the glasses saved me from getting more hurt or if they made it worse. They didn’t break. There’s a big bruise and cut on the bridge of my nose.
The kids got me ice packs and Danny helped me up – he was going to support me back to bed. Next thing I know I’m very peacefully and comfortably asleep on the floor and he’s saying, Megan, Megan, can you hear me? Apparently I just kind of slumped and slid out of his arms back onto the floor. So weird. He got me back to bed and I slept the rest of the night. I’m still coughing and feverish and weak and I’m staying in bed!
I don’t know if it was the fever or the migraine or maybe both that made me pass out. What a mess!!! Just to make this all the more dramatic and interesting, my long-awaited headache specialist appointment is on Tuesday. I will call first thing tomorrow to get in to see the internist, and find out if the Headache Center wants me to come in. I “only” had to wait 4 months for this appointment – I really don’t want to give it up! I’m perfectly willing to go in not feeling well, but if I’m in danger of passing out it may not be a good idea.
Never a dull moment!
Blue tile floor image courtesy of Jason Meredith
January 7th, 2008
Journal entry from August 22, 1995 – “This is my fifth sinus infection since last November or December. It must be a dust problem; the house isn’t clean enough and I can’t seem to find the time to really keep it clean. The piles of things to do, literal and figurative, collect enough dust to keep me sick. But now the front of my face feels like it could explode and all I want is chocolate.” That was when Adam, my youngest, was 6 months old, my in-laws, Marika – 6 weeks dead, Walter – 3 months dead. Five sinus infections during that pregnancy and post-partum, through those deaths and mourning. Sinuses dripping along with the tears we shed. I’d say that was the start of the chronic sinus journey. 12 1/2 years ago. I had a baby and a four year old, a law practice I hated, a bereaved husband, and life felt way out of control.
I remember the first time the sinus pain hit – I was 13. Bronchitis, pneumonitis, those were my common issues then, and into my 20′s. When the front of my face started burning that evening, riding the train home from a play in NY, I remember thinking that sinus problems sounded like a very grown-up ailment. Anything for distinction. Dramatic child!
I don’t remember the first migraine – the first one I recognized as a migraine already felt familiar, like something I’d felt before. A couple of big ones in my late 20′s, then one or two a year until I turned 43. Then they became the ominous background chorus to the soundtrack of my life, the music threatens, looms, builds, then the crescendo! The year I turned 43 I had 2 or 3 migraines a week.
Today I am writing from my bed of pain – well, not too much pain today but writing from my bed of discomfort doesn’t have the same ring to it. How about, writing from my comfortable bed of discomfort and discontent? Now we are edging closer to the truth. The bed is very comfortable. My sinuses are full of ache and pressure. My head is only a little dizzy if I’m propped up in bed – more if I sit or stand, a lot if I sit or stand for more than a few minutes. I don’t have a migraine, for 8 days now, hooray! The migraine beast lurks around my temples, ready to move in if I give it a chance, boohoo!
And as for discontent – I am discontented. Downright disgusted. After all I’ve done to beat this… after all I do to manage it… after 12 years of recurring illness. No treatment, no respite. I’ve had enough! Thanks, done my time. Ready for my parole. Hello? Anybody listening? Where is my parole officer, anyway?
I wonder how I can coach and advise people about living powerful lives when I am under the power of some recurrent infection in some cavities in my head. I keep thinking if I was really powerful I would stop having sinus infections and migraine attacks. (And irritable bowel attacks, and fatigue, and allergies, and medication sensitivities, and while I’m at it I’d stop being nearly 49 and start being 25 again. Oh Yeah! That would be power.) And so I live with this conundrum every time. But it’s a false dichotomy.
As far as I can tell, here’s how it actually goes:
Being a powerful person with these chronic conditions is available to me.
What does being a powerful person with migraine disease and recurrent sinus infections (and all) look like?
Like assembling all the information I can get about my conditions, and the best treatment plan I can, and accepting that the best treatment plan is a moving target.
Like staying connected with people when I am sick, and reaching out for support. Taking all my supplements and medications and resting when I am sick, no matter how much I wish I didn’t need to. Doing what I can to move my work forward, right here, from bed. This involves a real honest look, sometimes it involves checking with someone else if I can’t think it through myself. What can I do, without endangering my recovery? Lucky for me, I have a lot of writing to do today. I can do that right here, in bed.
It’s 6pm and my head is worse than earlier. The stink-bugs are coming out of hiding, buzzing around the lamps in the room. Never had them in the house before this year – and in January! Frickin’ global warming! If they make me jump and squeal I’ll get that headache for sure, the one that’s threatening. Stink-bugs must be accomplices of the migraine beast.
Fighting the good fight, against the beast, the bugs & the Martians. Good luck to you in yours.
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