June 7th, 2011
It’s ten o’clock on a Tuesday night and I have a little bit of a Migraine – one of those left-over ones. Left-over Migraine is not a clinical diagnosis, mind you. Just the way I describe it – had a nasty one Saturday and all day Sunday and then a bit of a sore-headed post-drome yesterday, which morphed back into a full-blown head-banger by bedtime. And here we are the next day still sore.
A few years ago this was par for the course, and I would have strings of days like this most weeks. Now I am very happy to say that most Migraines I get are mild and abort easily and resolve completely inside of a 24 hour period. Of course whenever there’s an exception, like this week, I get afraid that this will be the new normal – that my chronic days will return. That’s one of those moments when I have to thank my fears for sharing and move on. Get grateful, recognize how far I’ve come, and let go.
So the good news – it doesn’t happen to me often these days. The bad news – I have a harder time taking it seriously and really stopping the action and taking care of myself than I did when it happened more often. Of course, other things have changed, too. Instead of being not very gainfully self-employed I now have a 3/4 time job and work on building a private mediation practice in the other theoretical 1/4 of my time. (It’s theoretical because… with fibromyalgia, episodic Migraines, extremely strained finances, a job-seeking husband and a teenager with ADHD, a dirty house to try to keep somewhat on top of… I ain’t got much time!)
I’m still not all that gainfully employed, but I’m glad to have a job. I went in a pretty short time span from being semi-disabled to being almost the sole support of my family. Times are tough. I can relate to the many Migraine sufferers I have interacted with through the years who say “I don’t have time to be sick.” I can dig it. I’m there. I can only work as much as I do because I have gone from chronic Migraine back to episodic Migraine, but I do worry that the level of stress in my life is such that I could get kicked over into chronicity again. (I don’t care if that’s not a word – I like it anyway.) So… I meditate. I take walks. I pray. I put everything aside and just relax. I practice my affirmations. I get up in the morning and get on my happy face and face another day. Keep putting one foot in front of another and doing the next right thing.
I actually came on here tonight just to say, I wish I had more time to blog. To read and comment on all my beloved chronic pals blogs, and post on My Migraine Connection, share on line, and all that. I had over 200 comments waiting for me here, over 180 of them spam. I haven’t found the time to install the stronger spam filter that the fabulous Diana Lee recommended to me. I haven’t found time to reply to the many people who went on the contact page and asked me if I’d like to do a link exchange (yes, yes, no, yes, maybe, let’s talk…), or asked me if I want to hire them to do SEO for me (no, no, no, leave me alone, don’t you think I have my own people to work on that?), or asked me for advice (oy vey).
The good news is life does go on. I am so glad to be down to an average of 2 – 3 Migraines per month. This is huge. There’s a whole lot of living that can fit around 2 – 3 Migraines a month. I wish that living didn’t happen in the midst of a whole lot of economic hardship, but how much worse it would be to be sick like I used to be and going through this. So I guess I can put up with a left-over Migraine, for now.
Hang in, maties, it gets better. That’s what I’ve gotta keep on believing, anyway.
October 21st, 2010
Have you heard the news? Botox has been approved by the FDA for treatment of chronic Migraine. I first heard it from Diana Lee at Somebody Heal Me, but it’s been in the press this past week. This is great news for many chronic Migraineurs. Health insurers who have been refusing to pay for the highly expensive treatment will now lose the excuse that it is not a standard, accepted treatment. The FDA approval probably doesn’t guarantee they will cover it, but makes it much more likely. Like most Migraine treatments, Botox doesn’t work for everyone. As I understand it, for some Migraineurs, the injections into specific points in their heads and necks paralyze muscles that otherwise would contribute to the triggering of Migraines. With FDA approval, the treatments will be available for a much larger group of sufferers.
I guess some jokes are inevitable. Just for the record, the injections are highly unlikely to be into the same spots in your face that would plump up wrinkles, unless you just happen to have a wrinkle on one of those trigger points. Sorry. But I just ran across someone joking about it, and it got my goat.
A friend of mine who is a M.D. and has a great understanding about Migraine, has been very supportive of me, and also happens to work in a company that manufacturers dermatological products (so you could see she has some professional interest in the topic) posted a link on Facebook to the FDA approval of Botox. I commented that it was great news. Another friend of hers (who I don’t know) commented after me, saying “suddenly, I feel a headache coming on. sign me up!” Okay, I don’t know if this woman is a Migraineur or not and I don’t want to go off half-cocked, but it put me on slow burn. First I kind of shrugged, then read it again and was annoyed and gradually I’m getting that agitated feeling in my stomach… that could lead to a Migraine, among other things.
I’m trying to get at my feelings. The implication that I read there is that it’s a joke that you could get Botox for a “headache,” that people should fake headaches in order to get cosmetic Botox treatments. It trivializes our condition, maybe completely unknowingly, but even so. I was inclined to let it go so as to not drum up trouble, but if I don’t take on an opportunity to educate, I’m not being true to myself. So I’m going to answer her. If you’re reading this post on Facebook, I already have.
Of course I’d love to really let loose, but I want to educate, not alienate, so here’s what I’m saying:
Migraine disease is a serious neurological illness which is one of the top 20 most disabling conditions world-wide. Chronic Migraine sufferers have Migraines 15 or more days per month. For some of us, Botox helps prevent or lessen the impact of some of the Migraine attacks. The Botox is not injected in places that would help anyone with their wrinkles. It may be surprising, or sound strange, but it’s not a joking matter. I don’t think you intended to offend, but please understand that your comment trivializes a very real disease suffered by 36 million people in the USA alone.
What do you think? Am I doing right by our cause?
June 3rd, 2009
What’s going on? (pain in my head and struggle every day)
I write and work, children grow and amaze,
I walk the field when I am able and drink in the richness of the world.
Many days my world narrows to this pain in my head, and my struggle:
I must try – help to keep this family afloat, and I haven’t the stamina
or time free from pain
to stay on my feet more than half the day.
Why haven’t I told you?
I could not bear the disappointment in your eyes,
the well-meant advice and suggestions.
This was never who I set out to be.
I did not say I think I will grow up, yes I,
this talented and brilliant child,
I will grow up to be a sick person.
No, this was not my agenda.
Why have I been out of touch?
I could not bear the hope in your voice,
when I have a good day – that now I will be all better,
I could not bear you rushing to me with your cures for the incurable.
I could not bear your pain for me, mirroring my pain for me.
I could not bear my envy of your life.
I have learned lessons costly in the teaching
and too painful for a Christmas letter.
Hope is with me every day. And fourteen years of worsening health,
I grow older, the future is uncertain.
I have a sensitive system,
I have fought knowing that I have a sensitive system,
and it has cost me.
Now I try acceptance for a change.
What’s new with you?
- Megan Oltman
Writing pen image courtesy of Toshiyuki IMAI.
March 5th, 2009
I woke up feeling well, and well rested, before my alarm went off this morning. That may not sound like a big deal, but it is very unusual for me, and worth commenting on. I went to bed last night with a Migraine that hadn’t fully resolved, and with a queasy stomach, which I thought was nausea from the Migraine. The head pain was completely gone this morning but now in early afternoon my stomach has gone back to feeling a bit queasy, so I am wondering in retrospect whether the stomach gripe yesterday was Migraine nausea or IBS or whatever else this may be that I am feeling today. Having multiple chronic illnesses is like that. Most of the time I’m grateful if nothing really major is going on. It’s rare that some degree of minor ick isn’t happening, and it’s also rare that I can sort it all out and say definitively what is bothering me on a given day.
I felt so well that I set my Facebook status this morning to say “Megan Oltman is feeling really well for the first time in weeks.” Within a few hours I found myself musing on what exactly “feeling really well” is, whether it’s a moving target, and whether it’s a claim I can make. I’m not feeling as well as I was when I got up this morning. On the other hand, I don’t have a Migraine, my stomach is only a little queasy with no major pain or cramping, I don’t feel fatigued, I am mentally clear, I am not congested, I am fairly energetic – this is a good day! I might even color it pink!
I have a Wellness calendar which I color code to indicate how well I am on a given day. This allows me to keep statistics and track trends. I calculate how many Migraines per month I have, how severe, how long they last, what triggers them and what I do to treat them. I calculate how many days I am sick but functioning, how many days semi-functioning, and how many completely out of action. Each type of day has a color. Days I feel great I am “in the pink.” Then I calculate percentages of wellness and illness for a given month, for two and four months trends, for a year. Yesterday I caught my statistics up and discovered that 2008 was my worst year for wellness since I started tracking. Not that I couldn’t have told you that by gut feel, too, but it’s a rude awakening to see it in black and white and pink and orange and brown… I really think I deserved a pink day after that.
A dear friend, who lives far away, and who I don’t talk to nearly often enough, read some of my writing recently and told me she was surprised to hear me describe myself as having been chronically ill for the past 14 years. She thought I must be uncomfortable talking about it, or why had I never told her? Laura’s a perceptive one, and of course it has been uncomfortable to talk about, especially in the first 8 or so of those years where I was trying to figure out what was wrong with me, blaming myself, thinking I was a hypochondriac, all the things that so many of us do. Now I think it’s not so much discomfort as just a long story to catch people up on. That’s part of what I try to do here. I am chronically ill. I have chronic Migraine disease, chronice fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple allergies, and chronic, or at least frequently recurrent, sinus infections. The good news is that I am actually up and functioning about 75% of the time!
February was a bad month. I was sick 14 out of 28 days, and that doesn’t even count days I was okay all day but was knocked out with a Migraine in the evening. Today I got out for a walk. I am clawing my way back to the top of the mess in the house and on my desk, and feeling caught up with my work again. The sun is shining, the snow is melting, and I feel well. Pink? At least pinkish!
May 5th, 2008
My computer is well again, thank goodness. And I have just been through a bad migraine patch – 6 of the last 11 days. For those with Chronic Daily Headache or Chronic Migraine (Migraine 15 days out of the month), that may not sound too bad. A few of my migraineur friends have lived with the same migraine for 6 weeks or 5 months. On the other hand, for others who have 1 or 2 migraines a month, or less, that may sound awful. I used to have 2 a year. The good old days!
(By the way – do I have Chronic Migraine myself, or is mine still considered episodic? I have not hit the 15 days a month marker yet, but I seem to be close some months. We’ll see what Dr. Young has to say at the Jefferson Headache Center when I go in June.)
But life goes on. I learn more all the time about managing this disease. I always try to share what I am learning. I have been thinking a lot about managing Migraine triggers. Part of my recent bad streak is probably due to having been in a course that activated many triggers for me. Lack of sleep, florescent lights, lots of noise, having to concentrate way beyond my fatigue point. It took me about 4
days to recover from 2 days in that course. It was a price I paid willingly for a useful piece of professional knowledge. I can’t always avoid triggers. But I will try not to do weekend courses like that without spending a few days in bed afterwards.
My friend, neurological-chiropractor Dr. Heidi Kaufman introduced me to the concept of neural fatigue. I
haven’t found a good reference on this yet, but basically the idea is that neurons get tired out and stop functioning as well. I experience this when I am exposed to a lot of noises at the same time – I lose my ability to sort one sound from another and all I hear is undifferentiated noise. Parts of the course were like that, as some participants insisted in talking across the instructors. I believe this is an instance of what Dr. Hayrunnisa Bolay described in her research findings of
a mechanism that leads to problems with discrimination of tones and
lateralization of sound, particularly in a noisy environment, in
patients with migraine.
Another instance of just how weird this disease is: for some time now when I am fatigued, I have trouble with spatial perception. This occurs most often in a car, where I have trouble perceiving how close or far away other objects are. It feels like everything is moving too fast for my brain to catch up, to quote one of my buddies in a recent discussion on the MMC Forum. I find myself afraid I am going to fast, or that I am about to hit something when there is actually plenty of room. In case you’re worrying, I pull over right away if this happens when I’m driving. It happens most often when my husband is driving, and I flinch and gasp at what appear to me to be near misses, when actually he is leaving sufficient distance, slowing down and stopping quite appropriately. I am wondering if this is an instance of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, an unusual sort of migraine aura which affects spatial perception. I enjoyed this article in the NY Times blog a few months ago, and here’s a new one from Teri Robert: Alice in Wonderland Syndrome – The Basics. Since Lewis Carroll was a migraineur himself, he may have been describing his own experience when he wrote of Alice’s strange growth and shrinking. Adventures in Migraine-land.
I may appear to be rambling. I may, in fact, be rambling. I’m leading an exploration of migraine triggers right now at WEGO Health. It’s part of a series of lessons on Migraine Management Coaching. Please come and visit if you’d like to look more deeply into what may trigger your migraines, and how to manage your triggers!
Now the dogwoods are blooming – life is great!
March 6th, 2008
Does Migraine negatively impact friendships? You’d think so, wouldn’t you? I’ve certainly changed more plans due to Migraine than anything else. On the other hand, life, getting married, being an adult, being out of school, having a job, and having a family, can all impact friendships. Add Migraine or other chronic illness to that list, and it’s the icing on the cake.
I must say all my friends seem to be quite understanding of my need to cancel plans, or the long gaps when I’m not in touch. They are concerned and loving when I share with them about my struggles with Migraine. I think,though, that I’ve already gotten them trained not to expect too much from me! The best I can say about that is that none of them are all that great at being in touch either! Which at least takes the edge off my guilt feelings.
My best time for friendships was the last two years of high school and the four years of college. Law school wasn’t half bad either. And my first few years of work, before getting married. I was in a fun and stimulating environment, with a lot of people my age, sharing a common experience. The first inkling of
change came when I fell in love, and my friend Kathe said, “We won’t be seeing much of you for a while.” I vowed it would not be so, but sure enough – if you’re spending lots of wonderful delicious time with one person, you can’t spend as much of it with your friends. 24 hours in a day, right? (Here’s me and Kathe in college.)
And then the pressures of a career close in. And if you have kids – forget the next 10 years at least! Then you leave the city where everyone was a subway ride away and you move to where you have to drive to get anywhere, where everyone’s more spread out, everyone has oodles of plans with their own
kids, and the people nearby aren’t always the ones you’d most want to hang out with.
But this was supposed to be about Migraine. My migraines increased steadily at the same time these other life pressures increased. Life threw some more things my way – the terminal illnesses and deaths of my in-laws, the long recovery from grief in my own household, my sinus problems, severe allergies, career changes for Danny and me both. There have always been dear friends who I can call and cry to, or laugh with. Sometimes I wonder how they could stand my repeated tales of woe. As my migraines increased, time spent with friends decreased.
I just don’t see my friends, or talk to them, enough. I miss them. I’ve been missing them for over 20 years. And I know Migraine has made it harder – much harder, for me to make new friends. On one famous occasion Danny and I had an outdoor brunch at a trendy place with a couple we really liked – and I managed not to puke in the gutter until we were crossing the street back to their apartment. We never socialized with them again! Coincidence?
Year before last one of my best friends from High School, Laura, was ordained as an Episcopal deacon. I flew out to Chicago for her ordination, meeting up with two more of our closest High School friends. I endured long flight delays due to thunder storms, a noisy hotel, and lack of sleep. Had a wonderful day
at the ceremony and party with Laura and her family, and David and Vick. My migraine didn’t hit until I was out to dinner with David and Vick, head down on the table, unable to eat any of the expensive gourmet food I had just ordered. They took me back to my hotel and took care of me. They were angels. But it was not how I had wanted to spend the time with them! (The picture is from Laura’s ordination party – me & my High School buds, 29 years after graduation!)
Life is hard enough on our relationships. We don’t need Migraine on top of it all, making it harder. I just try to keep sharing, keep calling, keep trying to make plans. And when I do talk to my friends, I feel so much better.
- Megan Oltman
Friends do make life worth living!
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