Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pregnant in July with Chronic Headaches



1. When sweet baby Everett was born I went down to Florida to meet baby and help out. "Help out" means cuddle to older children. It's pretty great to be an aunt!! But also exhausting!
2.I then got sick. And pregnancy sick to rough! Can't take any medicine and weakened immune system means it take my body forever to fight it off!
3. Yeah numb leg from pinch nerve. Could be worse. Better to be numb then ouchie. Rib pain is very ouchie! Hurts to breathe and eat and sit and move and lie down. Thankfully this had eased but it was almost unbearable in July.



4. Hosting a party is something I love and hate. I am a pretty great hostess (if I say so myself) but man it's draining. It's draining on a good month. It's deadly on a bad month. I was already empty but I had to keep going. And somehow I did.
5. Great family trip to Outer Banks but it's hard to have fun when you feel bad and tired with ouchie ribs.
6. Panic builds when I feel bad for too long. I know it will all pass but in the middle of it it's scary and I can do nothing but wait for the pain to ease. 

The End.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

More Headache Science: How Headaches are made with bonus: How to break your Dr's brain.

To get a little more background on How Headaches are Made check my previous post: Pregnancy & New Daily Persistent Headache












 There are so so very many factors to create my headaches. So many pipes that tangle together. If only it was just the three pipes she thinks it is. But it's not.




 Let's take a look at one quadrant...







 Learning is fun!


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Pregnancy and New Daily Persistent Headache


Headaches and pregnancy is not a fun combination. There is a sense of helplessness with not being able to take any medications and just having to grin and bear it. There are like 4 forum posts about what happens when someone with NDPH gets pregnant. Which is nothing. There is tons and tons of info about migraines and pregnancy. Most people with migraines feeling better during pregnancy. Maybe just temporarily but 90% of them find relief. This is the statistic that people liked to tell me. "Just get pregnant. It'll cure your headaches. When 'so-and-so' got pregnant her headaches went away forever. So go ahead..." I did not really appreciate that. Matt & I thought really hard about whether we wanted to have children or not. I worried I'd be a absent mom and that my kids would resent the constraints my headaches would put on their lives. Matt worried that it would complete break my already slightly broken brain. But after a while we just knew that a life without children would be a lesser life for us and that God would give us whatever strength and patience we'd need.  It took us a while to get pregnant and now that's it's happened I've had to come to terms with the reality that now I'm in my second trimester my headaches are not getting better.

Everything is actually worse :)

Here is a scientific picture of how headaches work.
Headache works the pain pump and sprays pain all over the brain which it then sends to the rest of the body.

It does what it wants.
Yeah somehow it's been six years already. Which seems like a lie because that's too long.

Pregnancy was supposed to calm everything down. It was supposed to lull my headaches to a restful hibernation. It was supposed to be a beautiful friendship.


But instead the pregnancy is only egging the headache on. Headache seems to see this all as a challenge and is using this as an opportunity to really test what it's capable of.
It. Could. Go. All. The. Way!

There was a little despair when I realized that my headaches were not going to get better. And it has been extremely painful having to explain this is every well-wisher who makes me repeat myself.
Well-Wisher "So how are you feeling?"
Me "Bad? But you know it is what it is"
Well-Wisher "Your headaches are better, right?"
Me "Um no. Worse actually."
Well-Wisher "I thought your headaches were supposed to get better. That's what I heard. So-and-so got better during pregnancy."
Me "Yeah. Not so much."
Well-Wisher "Well maybe it'll get better."
Me "Probably not."
Well-Wisher when they see me one week later "So are the headaches better?"
Me "Um no. It's probably won't get better."
Well-Wisher "Oh..."

I have had this exact conversation at least five times. Le sigh.
It comforts me to remember this verse:
James 1:2-4
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds. Because when your faith is tested your perseverance has a change to grow. So let it grow so that you may be complete and not lacking in anything.
1. I am neither complete nor lacking nothing so obviously my perseverance is not done yet.
2. I like to think that I would have had headaches during pregnancy anyway and that my years of training have prepared me for this.
3. I also like to think that I'm going to need perseverance for whatever new terrible thing is coming next so I'll need to grow so I'm ready for it.

I was having above conversation with a loved one and they said "When I talk to you, you sound so good. You put on a good show of feeling fine."
I decided to take it as a compliment and I said "Thanks. That's my goal."
Because it is my goal. Complaining doesn't help. Moaning doesn't help (sometimes it does.)
Here is my philosophy.
I have to suffer the pain one times. But when I complain and focus on my suffering I'm feeling the pain a second time. Why would I do that? I will not let it make me unhappy. I have to be in pain but I do not have to surrender my joy. That is suffering twice and no thank you.

Moral of the story: I'm really fine. And I'm really happy. And focusing on it is not an option because it gives me panic attacks which is another new thing that is happening. So cheers.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Review of Headache Treatment at True North Health Center



***Disclaimers***
1. Everyone there meant well and many people took excellent care of me.
2. While there were no 'good times' not every second was bad.
3. This is a little sad and contains many feelings.

I went to True North Health Center in September 2016 for my headache disorder, New Daily Persistent Headache. Basically I've had a headache every day for five+ years and it may never go away. Read this blog post for more info.  So I went to True North to try their treatment this past September. And it's taken me this long to decide to write about it. To be honest I have thought very little about it since then. It was too much and it is still even now too raw. And I can't wait to not think about this again.

True North Health Center is a clinic in California that treats all kind of conditions with water-only fasting and healthy eating. Water-only fasting means just that. Only consuming water for a set period of time. Many people do a week. My goal was 6-8 weeks. The thought behind this is that digesting our food takes 70% of the body's energy. So if there is nothing to digest, the body then has energy available to fix itself. Also the continuous water flushes out all the bad things. Sounds reasonable.

I heard about True North from many people. I didn't want to do it. But Matt did. Matt so rarely feels strongly about headache treatments that I felt compelled to try it and if he was hopeful, I was hopeful. People like to ask me if I'm glad I went. And I don't know. I can't go back in time and so I choose to be grateful for the things I got out of it even if I didn't get healing.

It's hard for me to describe to people in short conversation why it was so hard. It really wasn't just the not eating. I love eating for sure but I was pretty emotionally prepared to just have water. It was mostly that my body just broke. I'll take you through it.

The set-up. The compound is an old hotel. The rooms form a square around the central courtyard. There are probably 20? people there with me. But most fasters stay in their room. There is a cafeteria where meals are served for those easting. There are cooking demonstrations and lectures about eating well.
A staff medical person comes at least twice a day. (They come more often because I am a difficult case.) They tell me that they will come and wake me up in the morning to take me vitals. I do not like that idea. Most of the staff are men. But after a while I get comfortable and honestly most of the time when they come by I'm already awake. I had brought books and crafts but I barely felt well enough to watch T.V. Oh and you can't shower! Because fasting people will pass out in the shower. (Packing tip for anyone going there. Pack only these things: 4 set of pajamas, tank with built in bras, many underwear/socks, apple tv, bible, journal, toiletries including baby wipes, heating pad. That's it. You don't need a thing more.

 Here is a detailed summary of my visit. I wrote it all out because maybe someone who is thinking about True North for their headaches will find this page. I know I would have loved to read a blog like this before I went. Maybe I still would have gone and if I did it would have helped. I was unprepared for the level of suffering that was before me. Here is a day by day account. (Note: As I start feeling worse I journal less so I don't remember everything from the bad days.)

Sept  3: I arrive after a six hour plane ride, a three hour bus ride, and a fifteen minute taxi. (just missing a boat). I have -2 spoons. I could hardly stand to be around any of the check-in people. I just needed to be alone. I had paid extra for a room by myself (oh P.S. this is super expensive obviously) I get to my room and it hits me. I'm doing a crazy thing. I might be here for six weeks. Away from my kittens and husband for six weeks. I start to freak out a little. I felt scared, alone, overwhelmed and suffocated. And I fixed it by shoving it down because that was the only thing to do. After I unpacked and changed, I put on the Grand Hotel and felt like a new person. Oh Julio!

Sept 4:  I met my overseeing Doctor, Dr. O'Connell. She was nice. I wanted to start my fast right away but I wouldn't until the next day. I was still pretty optimistic at this point but anxious and awkward feeling.

Day 1 of fasting: I started the water fast and it was going fine at first. I felt excited and perky. I thought "Ha! I'm going to feel this good all month!"... Not so much. I started to feel bad around 1pm. Restlessness. Upset stomach. Back Pain. Bad headache. But all that stuff was expected so I just went to bed early and woke up at 4am. I'm a genius.

Day 2: No good, very bad, awful day. I'd never felt so horrible for so long a time. Headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting (3x). I wasn't sure if I was going to make it. It was really hard to keep myself distracted. I thought "It has to get better or I'll have to leave." It felt like hell. Sparkling water helped a bit.

Day 3-4: It's better. Bit by bit. Still bad but bearable. Statistically I should be finishing with my bad days. Whole body hurts but no vomiting. Constantly prayed "God help me!" Day 4 ends with lots of vomiting.

Le sigh
Day 5: Threw up too much yesterday... Forced to start 2 day juice. Doctor hopes that will calm my stomach and help me reset. Juice breaks the fast. So I'd be starting over with my six week count.

Day 6: Juice fast not great. Took sparkling water to help <----- Greatest mistake ever. Severe stomach pain. I mean for real severe. Thought I had appendicitis or something. Had to call the on-call doctor in the middle of the night. She recommended a suppository because she thought there was some stuff still in my tract (she is right 😊) **This on-call doctor is the best doctor I see the whole time. She is always there when I need her. Because my doctor, Dr. O, is also fasting and is useless to me.

Day 7: I'm on food, only temporarily. Zucchini, potato broth, juice. Felt full and bloated. Sharp pain. Suppository again.

Day 8: Stomach better. Strong pain hangover. Felt like I'd been hit by a truck. Wanted to sleep forever.

Day 9: Broth. Broth is 95% as effective as water only fasting. They think the electrolytes will help my stomach. I am still fasting.

Day 10: Felt good until 2pm. Full tight stomach. It felt like I had just had three Thanksgiving dinners. So full a sip of broth make me feel like I'll throw up. Only finished 1 1/2 of 4 broths. Risk of dehydration.

Day 11: Bottled water now. Full tight stomach again.

Day 12: Broth. Still can't swallow enough.

Day 13:Broth. Vomit. Too much vomiting. Risk of dehydration. My body now hates the broth. Juice now.

Day 14: Juice & water. I obviously couldn't go back to just water or broth. Juice does not put my body in fasting. I came to True North to fast. And my body wasn't letting me. I felt incapable and just wanted to go home. Dr O is not around to talk to. Other doctors come and I told them that I am paying $$$ a day to fast and my body wouldn't let me. They want me to stay for the whole six weeks but just eat their organic fancy food. I am 0% interested in that. I cry a lot. It's over. I failed.

Sample of my interactions with staff:

Everyone was nice and genuinely distressed at my body's reaction to everything. They so wanted me to be a success story. I felt taken care of and safe. It's not their fault.

Day 15: Refeeding. 4 giant plates of zucchini. Bleh.

Day 16: Fruit. I get to go home in a couple days. I felt empty. I wasn't sure if I regretted coming but I was glad for the lifestyle changes. (Note: during all this suffering, there is a DVD book you watch to kill time. The DVDs teach you that being vegan is the best and animal products kill you. I'm still (mostly) vegan now.)

Day 17: The food is not good. Why does everyone think it is? (Note: Everyone LOVES this food. It's not yummy. It's bland and bleh. I feel like everyone tool the koolaid but me. They are always talking about how delicious everything is. I almost want to ask if they are joking.

Day 18-19: I felt so anxious and homesick I could hardly function. I couldn't stand my own skin. Time moved impossibly slow

Day 20: Home. With a husband in my arms and two purring kittens at my feet.

When I started to feel bad (so most of it) I also started to feel dramatic (no surprise). I pulled up the Oliver musical because I wanted to listen to "Food, Glorious Food" but I kept listening. Then I feel in love with "I'd Do Anything." It's a song where the orphans tell Nancy (see below) that they'd do anything for here. When Oliver sings he sounds like an angel. I listened to this song like a million times but I had to stop because it made me long to adopt little Orphan Oliver so much I thought I might cave in from it. I finally understood the line from Decoy Bride. "I am caverns of longingness." But the soundtrack of Oliver had yet more to teach me.

There is a song called "It's a fine, fine life." It's sung by Nancy who is kind of a surrogate mother to the boys. She is in love with Sykes (the villain). Her life is the worst. She's beaten, unloved, taken for granted, and helpless to protect the children. But her song is called "It's a fine, fine life". She lists all these hard things and says but it's a fine life anyway. And I just had an epiphany that has stuck with me even months later. It's my new motto.


Nancy's version:


My version:

Being trapped (not really) at True North made me so grateful for my life. I love my life. It's a fine, fine life and I wouldn't change a thing. Having a headache every day doesn't diminished this fine life I'm living.

So when life seems too hard, when it seems unfair and too much. I remember Nancy.



In conclusion: I'm glad True North made me vegan. And I'm never going back there.