Archives for posts with tag: headache pain

I’m sipping my coffee, a bit pre-occupied with this headache. It’s not “the usual headache”… new treatment seems to be providing some relief, which is so excessively awesome I hesitate to mention it, since that treatment is primarily to do with physical therapy, fitness, and… decompression. Traction. Newest round of doctors, images, and all that fuss and bother, and it apparently comes down to arthritis. Again. Fucking hell. So… I hurt, because it fucking well does hurt, and it’s going to. Huh. Okay, well, I can get my head around that (lol)… now what?

Verbs. An ever-loving fuck-ton of verbs.

I have to do the work, myself. It’s not actually about pills, or cures, or permanent fixes, at all. Effort. Routine. Practices. Skillful self-care. Observation. Awareness. Hey, wait… this is starting to sound like mindfulness may weigh in at some point… 😉 It’s probably fairly obvious that I can’t just stroll into the local gym and start aggressive strength training… I do, however, have to start somewhere, with something, and I need to persist at it, because it’s those incremental improvements over time that are going to be my best shot at relief. I’m fortunate to be able to “know that” confidently; I’ve been here before, with the osteo-arthritis lower down, in my thoracic spine. Holy hell, though, y’all… having arthritis in my neck?? Fuuuuuck…. The pain, the time taken getting to a diagnosis. The number of doctors puzzled why what looks fairly un-noteworthy in an X-ray could possible cause this much pain…? I sat down with the Physical Therapist and won the PT lottery that morning; she has direct subjective experience with a similar injury and condition, and ticked off the experiences I was having, confirming each are entirely within expectations for this condition. Empirical experience for the win. One more specialist to see, but it’s nice to feel like there is progress.

Steps in a journey; maybe every single appointment, and every doctor, and every image, were all entirely necessary to get to this place?

…About those verbs? Here’s the thing; knowing isn’t enough. If I want to feel better – any better – there’s also some doing to do. Practice isn’t going to make anything “perfect” (that’s just not actually a thing), but a lot of stuff does take practice. Including exercise. Including meditation.

Before I mislead anyone about the efficiency or efficacy of mindfulness for pain management, I’ll just point you in the direction of “the guy who wrote the book” about it, and the book, itself, and a famous place.  There are other great books, and authors, on my reading list.

Mindfulness for pain management isn’t like taking a strong Rx pain reliever. Let’s start there. It’s just different than that. Is it effective? Yes. If you practice effective mindfulness practices, and practice regularly, it does help quite a lot. Don’t attempt to force mindfulness to “be an opiate” – because it isn’t, and that’s not the way it works. Does it make 100% of all pain entirely go away? Nope. (And if you live with chronic pain, and you are honest with yourself, neither do the Rx pain relievers, including opiates.) The effectiveness of mindfulness practices for pain relief, though, actually improves over time, and mindfulness doesn’t make trade-offs with my health in other ways. Have I ever give up all other pain relief medication in favor of mindfulness? I sure have, for various periods of time, occasionally still returning to needing additional pain relief – because sometimes life fucking just hurts that god damned much. That’s just real.

…Mindfulness remains in my pain relief arsenal for all the same reasons I keep it handy for fighting my personal demons, or for maintaining great emotional resilience, or for managing my anxiety… it works, and doesn’t wreck my health in other ways getting that job done – and all I have to do is practice! 🙂 Are you good at something? Don’t you practice it? Martial arts? Hiking? Ice skating? Mountain climbing? Racing cars? Building models? Practice gets us to places we would never reach on aptitude alone, does it not? 😀

I sip my coffee chuckling a bit. I’ve gone on and on about using mindfulness for pain relief because this headache this morning is fairly horrible, and largely to due with the changes in physical therapy practices I’m now using; muscle pain, rather annoyingly at the base of my skull, and in my neck, and shoulders. Ouch. Meditation for the win, this morning. Maybe that won’t always be enough to manage every headache, every morning – but it’s a great start on any headache, any day. 🙂

…If it doesn’t work? I can always begin again. 🙂

Nothing like spending 8 hours of precious limited lifetime in the freakin’ ER to remind me how much I enjoy doing just about anything else. LOL

I’m okay. Just middle-aged. 😉

I resented the request to go to the ER, in the first place. I negotiated with my primary care physician like I was making a deal with the devil, when I finally spoke to her. I made work more important than my health and went in to the office yesterday still dealing with the ferocious headache that continues to plague me. The nurse in Neurology finally reached me directly yesterday mid-morning, and was fairly firm about seeing me immediately if possible. Damn it. I interrupted a productive work day figuring I’d go/come back, no problem…

8 hours, 2 blood draws, 2 IV insertions (1 failed), and 3 separate CT scans later… we ruled out most of the scariest stuff for adults in my age group worried about a headache. We’ve narrowed it down to… a headache. <sigh> No, for real? Back to Neurology. I can’t be mad. I got some first-rate care (and one failed attempt at an IV insertion that was both painful, and hurt like fire when imaging attempted to make use of it), and a chance to enjoy “Hospital ER” as a sort of live-action drama with all the pettiness human beings can bring to bear, as I quietly eavesdropped the conversations from the tiny treatment room I spent most of my time in.

Luck of the draw – I got a really good young doctor in residency. Because he’s a psychiatric resident, he “got me” on an entirely other level, and was able to do more to support me as a patient. The noise and lights and aggressively purposeful busy-ness of the ER aggravated other symptoms a lot (a lot), and that could have been a distraction for an MD who didn’t fully understand what seeing a c-PTSD diagnosis in my charts could mean. This one did. I wish he would be my full-time primary care doctor! By the time he actually saw me I was literally in tears from the noise; he took steps to ease it, first thing (ear plugs, a closed door, another closed door). Suddenly the experience was so much easier. I gotta say, hospital ERs are not actually designed to “heal” people as much as “repair” them. The noise, the actual moment-to-moment callousness (seriously, just watch, you’ll see it) of being entirely practical and attempting to be efficient, too, while serving as many customers as possible as quickly as feasible. The bright lights and infernal beeping of machinery and grinding or sliding of automatic doors. The repetitive nature of all of it just hammers at my consciousness – no stillness. Even the waiting is noisy. Nothing soothing. And for a place of healing? Holy crap they are going at such a breakneck pace that simple self-care stuff is entirely overlooked. They keep people there for hours and hours without calories or drinking water. lol Fuuuuuuck. Hospital ERs are no place for the ill.

Today is a whole new day. I’m definitely ready to begin again. LOL

 

I’m sipping a quiet hot cup of tea. The tea is hot. The room is quiet. The music is quite loud, in spite of the quiet room. I’m enjoying the contrasts. Cool room. Hot tea. Quiet room. Loud music. I am in pain. I feel that too, although I enjoy it less; it is part of my experience. I have mixed feelings about the pain; I am alive. I have survived all I’ve been through so far. My pain reminds me of how strong I can be. My pain is a reminder of my resolve. My pain hints at my pure will; I walk with it, work with it, every day.

…Fuck, I’m a bad ass! lol You are, too. Here you are. You’ve survived. Fuck yeah – all of it. 🙂

Tonight isn’t fancy. I am making time for me. The woman in the mirror needing a little care, getting the care she needs. It’s a nice system.

Tomorrow, I’ll begin again. That’s soon enough. It’s okay to get some rest.

I woke from a restless interrupted sleep earlier than I’d have liked to, and feeling very little sense of being “rested”. My dreams disturbed me. My wakefulness, whether caused by noisy neighbors lacking any sense how loud their car stereo sounds at 1:22 am, or the persistent whine of a freight train paused on the siding on the other side of the park, or the contents of my own dreams, rendered the night more or less pointless from the perspective of resting. I woke in pain, too, as stiff as a tiny wooden artist’s figure, new from the box. My head aches.

Beyond the patio, the meadow and marsh are hidden by a dense mist that suggests something mysterious, even sinister, beyond. It’s unlikely there’s anything legitimately amiss anywhere out there in the park besides litter left carelessly behind, and walkways covered in ice where there would usually be a puddle. The mist itself doesn’t seem at all sinister or hazardous, it’s just a mist, a foggy morning, a new day… but the obscured view puts my imagination into overdrive making something of nothing. I startle myself with my own reflection twice, from across the room, thinking someone is looking in at me from fairly nearby. The power of my imagination increases when I am not well-rested, and I am less well-defended against misinformation, influence, or deception. (Is that what happened, America? Where we all just that damned sleep-deprived?)

As the sky continues to lighten, I see that it snowed a bit more during the night; the meadow and the patio furniture are dusted with it. With daylight, the meadow mist is more distinct, and a firmer boundary between what is obvious, and what is accepted but unseen, a gray backdrop not yet painted with scenery. I watch the morning in the park develop like a Polaroid.

If we take time to see it, the view is continuously changing.

The view is continuously changing. We don’t always notice.

Today is a good day to take care of the woman in the mirror, and this fragile vessel, and to be mindful that lacking the rest I need, my awareness and thinking may be colored or distorted in unpredictable ways. Today is a good day to check assumptions, confirm expectations, and take my time, mindful of the weather – and aware that weather changes. Today is a good day to approach every interaction with consideration; I am not the only person who didn’t sleep well last night, who hurts, or feels headache-y. We are each having our own experience. Today is a good day to make the choices that make it a good one. 🙂

Some days I just have to pause for the good stuff.

One lovely moment in summer.

One lovely moment in summer.

 

I woke with a nasty headache this morning, a sort of combination headache, part dehydration, perhaps, and part sinus headache. It seems largely irrelevant now, that was more than an hour ago. I’m already well beyond the challenge of that moment, and quietly enjoying the moments after meditating; still considering the theme of the insistent thoughts that intruded. I am feeling appreciative that life isn’t worse, that’s all. 

I’ve been doing ‘the gratitude thing’ on Facebook. I enjoy it and have long since lost count of any number of days; it is enough to be grateful, to appreciate what is good, what is going well, what satisfies my needs. This morning is a little unusual. I am most sensitive to the gratitude of ‘not being worse than it is’ – without any negative emotional experience, and actually also better than neutral. Small things matter. It matters, for example, that although I’m in considerable pain from osteo-arthritis in my spine, pretty much all the time these days, I’m also still walking around on my legs with good ease of movement, in general, and managing 5 miles a day or more. That’s the sort of thing, this morning; gratitude doesn’t have to be dishonest, doesn’t need me to overlook what is real, or that I have moments of suffering. It’s a comfortable and nurturing realization, and I feel whole while considering it. 

One beautiful summer day.

One beautiful summer day.

Yesterday was hot and sunny. My lunch walk was a test of endurance by the time I returned to the office. I didn’t regret taking the time, or making the effort, the value in the moment is considerable in spite of the heat; exercise, sunshine, the beauty of life and the world around me…totally worth it. 

Color and perspective

Summer up close; I have to be out in it to see it.

Isn’t that how a lot of things ‘really’ are? The yearned for, paired with the tolerated. The needed, sought understanding there may also be a burden. The anticipated, alongside the dreaded. The pain and the reward. What is enough? Perspective, balance, acceptance, gratitude…all working together in a framework of mindful will. This is a very interesting journey. 

Small stuff matters.

Small stuff matters.

Today has all the ingredients of a very good day. What will I choose? What will I learn from moments of suffering? How will I face my challenges, meet my needs over time, and graciously handle the worst of what life throws at me, without being flattened by it? Today feels full of opportunities.