Archives for posts with tag: headache pain

I slept badly. Restless dreams. Woke ahead of the alarm, feeling… alarmed. I turned over and got comfortable again, just in time to hear the alarm go off. I felt stiff and sore getting up, which has persisted beyond a few minutes of yoga. I made my coffee in the dim ambient lighting of various household indicator lights, and a small lamp left on. The morning feels chilly, and my bones ache. The pain in my neck is a pain in the neck, slowly becoming a headache. I remind myself to take something for that, before the work day begins. I sit quietly, for awhile, wondering what’s missing from my experience of the morning, this morning. Something feels missing

…At some point, after some reflection, I accept that I just “don’t feel into it” today… like… disengaged from my experience, and generally… uninterested. I try to tempt my consciousness to be a tad more joyful… or at least minimally appreciative to have another shot at living life… Minecraft? I shrug silently. “Whatever.” How’s the coffee? Fine, I guess. No enthusiasm. I’m in pain, and I slept badly, and this entire day ahead of me, from the vantage point of right here, right now, can just… yeah, I’m not so into it, this morning. I at least manage to avoid feeling altogether bleak.

So…okay. New day, old practices. I breathe deeply, and sit more upright. I exhale and feel my aching cramped shoulder, perpetually twisted in an impression of being a rock of some kind, relax just a bit. Another breath. Another exhalation. I let thoughts drift in, and I let each one go. The pain in my shoulder is connected to the pain in my neck, that becomes the headache at the base of my skull – and just on the left side, leaving the right side taunting me with what life could feel like if I didn’t hurt like this. I tear up a bit. Breathe. Exhale. Relax. I let that go, too. These honest tears that threaten to fall aren’t shameful in anyway, I’m just… also not into that. lol

Time spent on meditation helps me gain some perspective. I know this is only “emotional weather”, and may source with unremembered dreams and poor quality sleep. It’ll pass. I remind myself to be kind – to myself, too – and give myself some support and consideration. The sky beyond my window reveals a gray rainy-looking day ahead. No wonder I hurt so much, I think to myself. Damn, …this headache, though…

I sip my coffee, and half-listen to a video I only half-wanted to watch, anyway. It doesn’t seem to matter. I find myself rather earnestly wanting to simply fold up into a pile of warm heavy blankets and just… cry. Or sleep. There is a work day ahead of me, and much adulting to do, on an utterly ordinary routine day in this life in the time of pandemic, and it’s not going to wait on a headache. I sigh quietly, and breathe. Exhale. Relax. Let that shit go… again. Feels like it may be a long day, today. I remind myself to let the moments unfold without pre-loading them with expectations and assumptions, and to give the day a chance to be more than this moment is, right now.

Practicing healthy practices that support emotional wellness day-to-day doesn’t mitigate my fundamental humanity, or erase the challenges I have – and my results vary. There is no “perfect” to get to, no “finish line” to cross with a champion’s raised arms, triumphant in victory. The journey is the destination… and sometimes the path is rough going, and poorly illuminated. This too will pass. It’s a moment. Like other moments, it is finite, and of limited consequence taken all on its own. I make a half-assed attempt at shrug. One day of many – sooner or later there will be one that isn’t characterized by contentment and joy. That’s just real. I let that go, too.

Another deep cleansing breath. I exhale. I relax. I think about a second coffee. It’s time to begin again.

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. 🙂