Thursday, March 27, 2008

What I learned yesterday

I learned three things yesterday.

1) Migraines suck.

OK, I didn't actually learn this yesterday, I've known it for some time. Yesterday just reinforced the knowledge.

I've had migraines all of my life. As I've gotten older, they've gotten less severe. Usually I just get head splitting pain in the front part of my skull and what feels like intense pressure right behind my left eye. Before it comes on I get depressed and moody. Afterward I feel like the inside of my head is bruised for a couple of days. Sometimes, I feel a little queasy. It doesn't happen all that often, maybe once every other month, and I can usually work through it.

Every once in a while it's worse. Much worse.

Yesterday was one of those days. I got the whole sheebang: pain, pressure, light sensitivity, and intense nausea. It was extremely unpleasant. Extremely. It lasted the whole damned day, getting worse in the evening. By the time I went to bed last night I was so unbelievably ill that I was considering going out to the shop and putting my head in the drill press in order to let some of the pressure out. Fortunately it didn't come to that.

This morning, I'm still a little queasy, but it's mostly over. The inside of my head feels the floor of a New York taxi cab - but other than that I'm much better. If the process holds true to form, by this afternoon I'll be manic with energy. Let's hope so, eh?

2) Despite the headache, I can still find humor in things.

I had to go into Anchorage yesterday, no choice. I had to pick up some items from one of the customers I do custom woodwork for. I went early, before the velociraptor in my head decided that it was going to bite its way out through my eyes. On the highway, I got behind a brand new, shiny red monster Ford pickup. I knew that the proud owner - the big guy in the driver's seat wearing the enormous cowboy hat and expensive Oakely sunglasses (you know, the sort of regalia that just screams asshole) - had just bought the vehicle because he had a temporary license plate in the back window and I could see tape from the recently removed dealer sticker on the left rear passenger window as he blew past me.

On the shiny chrome rear fender was this bumper sticker:

Hmmm, says I to myself - this guy has got issues. Seriously, brand new $40K truck and the first thing he does is slap on a "I heart crack whores" bumper sticker? What a complete asshole.

Then I remembered an internet add I'd seen somewhere. For this site.

And suddenly, despite the pain in my head, things seemed a whole lot funnier - because, really, he was just so damned proud of himself and that new truck, and I suspect he had absolutely no idea what was on his bumper.

3) Small furry creatures + Electricity = Crispy Darkness.

After I got home the headache started to get worse - and the nausea set in. Sitting on the couch didn't help, and I couldn't focus on the screen long enough to read, so I thought maybe some fresh air would help (sometimes just walking around helps). I went outside. Bright sunlight stabbed me straight in the eyes (yeah, what the hell was I thinking?) and the velocirapther reflexively kicked me in the cerebral cortex. Augh! So, I staggered over to the shop like a sickly vampire seeking the comfort of the tomb. I had no sooner stepped inside, firmly shut the door, and had gotten as far from it as it is possible to get in my very large shop - when from somewhere down in the valley came a ringing BLAM! and all of the lights went out.

Despite my diminished mental capacity, I was able to immediately figure out that a very loud bang followed by abrupt darkness couldn't possibly be a good thing. I wondered if the thrashing velociraptor in my head had severed the optic nerves with it's claws. Oh, good, I thought, I'm blind. Nice. A moment before I had been wishing for less light, and viola wish granted. The shop is extremely well insulated and sealed, with the doors shut it was exactly like the inside of Dick Cheney's heart (Shutup, I figured out for myself that I really need to go purchase some battery powered emergency lighting, I'll get on it, thanks). I felt my way through the pitch dark, banging into various heavy cast iron stationary equipment with lots of pointy and protruding edges, carefully protecting my head with my hands.

My neighbors, Boyd and Deb, were out in their yard and yelled over to ask if I'd heard an explosion. Ahh, good, thought I to myself - the bang I heard wasn't actually a blood vessel letting go inside my skull. And I can see. Things are looking up.

I went inside the house and unplugged all of the computers and the entertainment center. I spent a minute trying to remember how to find the electric company's number without an internet connection - yes, I actually considered calling my wife at work and having her look it up on her computer. Then I thought, oh yeah, phonebook, doh!

The guy who answered the help line laughed.

See the squirrels are thawing out, dehibernating, defrosting, reanimating, resurrecting - whatever you call it, the fuzzy little bastards are out in force and seem to have a particular affinity for electrical transformers. The electric company has had over twenty power failures in the last two days, all directly attributed to toasted rodent. Apparently one decided to commit suicide in the transformer that supplies my house. The help line guy said he'd send somebody right out.

I don't actually know how long it took to fix. I curled up in a ball on the sunroom sofa and went to sleep for a couple of hours. When I woke up sometime much later, the power was on.

Stupid tree rats.


  1. Sounds like quite a day yesterday. Glad to hear you survived. :)

  2. Glad to hear you're on the mend.

    And I've decided that if the price of being a Mary Sue is a battered, beaten, worn out body that's susceptible to migraines, I'll remain the borderline incompetent than I am.

    I'm so glad I don't suffer from migraines.

  3. MWT, well for a while there I was sort of hoping I wouldn't :)

    Janiece, I'm glad you don't either.

  4. Migraines are the worst sort of pain. I know, I know, "giving birth" -- but really, if you've had a migraine, even the ladies would agree it's worse. The pain is inexplicable.

    Your inner monologue, however, is splendid. :) Quite hilarious and well written.

  5. I dunno, Shawn, giving birth - yeah, it hurts but at least when it's over you've got something to show for the effort. And the causal effect of pregnancy is well understood - alcohol causes babies, it's a scientific fact.

    Migraines? Casual effects not well understood, and when it's over you just feel like crap with nothing to show for it.

  6. Plus, women often voluntarily get pregnant, even if they've been through it before.

    Nobody would volunteer for a second migraine. Just saying.


    Plus, ladies, don't kill me. I've suffered enough.

  7. That's kinda what I was getting at -- I am not of the mind that birthin' is worse than migraines.

    In fact, I think I'd rather shove a baby out of my eye socket than to have a bad migraine. It's an unholy pain...

  8. Nah, migraines aren't the worst sort of headache pain. Just ask anyone who suffers from true cluster headaches. I have migraines, and I have treated people with migraines for more than 10 years, and for the most part they just don't compare to cluster headaches. People with cluster headaches have been known to bang their heads on the wall, because that pain is so much less than the cluster pain.

    As for you, Jim, I'm glad that you're over the worst of the storm, and that today is bettter, NY taxicab notwithstanding (that has to be one of the most amazing internal head images I've EVER heard, btw). I'd be happy to provide unsolicited medical advice anytime you wish... :-)

  9. I've heard from several friends how debilitating migraines can be. I've only had one once in my life. I can't imagine having them on a regular basis. My friend Angela gets them every month when she has her period. She has three days when Vicodin is her best friend. It could be worse. You could be female.

    I do remember reading something about doctors using Botox in the treatment of migraines. It seems that if certain muscles on the scalp are frozen it helps alleviate the severity of some attacks. I always thought that made more sense than using it getting rid of crow's feet. (I always wonder about the vagaries of my sex.) You might want to talk to your physician.

    I'm glad you're feeling better, and I can't help but cackle with glee at the thought of squirrels committing suicide in your transformer.

  10. what's with all the NY taxi-floor haytin?

  11. Jim, I'm not going to say that I never get migraines, because, ya know, I don't want to attract their attention...

    I love the bumper sticker! I'd have to put a small "used to" between the I and the heart, though. It seems my taste in women changed after I stopped doing drugs! :)

  12. Neurondoc, well I over the years I've seen a variety of doctors. I've had every shot and drug they offer, none help much and some have side effects that I consider much worse than pain. I don't respond well medication and usually avoid it - especially any kind of narcotic. I'd rather have the pain than the fuzzy thinking that comes with most migraine treatments. On the other hand, I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, which would figure being as I'm in almost constant low grade pain from other various issues, and so as long as the migraines remain confined to the inside of my head, I usually take Excedrin and grit my teeth. The full blown ones just kick my ass though - fortunately I don't get them often, this is the first, full blown, migraine I've had in about three years. I don't handle nausea very well at all though, and I hate the depression that precedes the headaches by a day worse than anything else. I've had clusters, twice now, and yeah I agree, much worse painwise, even for me - though I've never resorted to beating my head on the wall - just thought of it makes me shudder today.

    Amyzon, welcome and thanks for the kind words. My wife used to get migraines with visual manifestation during her cycle - when she stopped taking birth control pills the headaches went away. As you might gather I do read extensively on the subject of migraines, and I've heard about the botox treatments. Oddly enough the back of my head is covered in scar tissue and that sometimes hurts just prior to the onset of a headache, though I doubt that is the actual trigger.

  13. Just making a comparison, Nathan, and checking to see if you were still with us. :)

  14. Jim,

    You have my complete and total sympathy, and I'm glad you're feeling better today. Even if your story from yesterday amuses me. :)

    So what is the difference between migraines and cluster headaches?

    And I really can't imagine anything worse than a migraine. Considering that I am physically incapable even of crawling when I get a migraine (it always amazes me when people are capable of doing things like working or driving with a migraine) and that on multiple occasions I've assumed I was actually dying, I can't comprehend something *worse*.

  15. Michelle, it's those people that I often suspect aren't really getting migraines. I'm not passing judgment, but I have a high pain threshold, and think I'm going to die as well. Really, it's inexplicable.

  16. Jim, welcome back!

    Tree rats and ravens provide a certain amount of job security for the spouse. And they have fun taking pictures of what's left over from the explosion. If anything.

  17. Michelle, I'm absolutely positive that Neurondoc can explain it better than I,and will. But in a nutshell:

    Cluster Headaches and Migraines are related and can have similar symptoms. The causal mechanism is different however, and therefor so are the treatments. Migraines have a number of variations and causes (and symptoms and treatments and etc), clusters (as I understand it) are caused primarily by spasming blood vessels in the brain. They are hideously painful.

    Neurondoc, yes? no? completely off base?

    And last night I didn't feel like I was going to die - rather I was afraid that I wouldn't. :)

  18. Tania, thanks. And if I hadn't been feeling so lousy yesterday, I'd have wandered down to where the linemen were working and taken a few pictures myself :) Hmmmm, fried squirrel. on a stick. Tasty.

  19. So, you're all better now? Feeling your regular old chipper self again? Fit as a fiddle?

    In that case, I'll start up again on pestering you for that "Oh Yeah" dance video.

    I'm still waiting!

  20. So, you're all better now? Feeling your regular old chipper self again? Fit as a fiddle?

    In that case, I'll start up again on pestering you for that "Oh Yeah" dance video.

    I'm still waiting!

  21. Well, Nathan, close your eyes really tight, picture Tom Cruise jumping up and down on Oprah's couch, put my hat on the image and chant "Oh Yeah, Ooooooooooh Yeah!" to yourself. Wave Tom's arms around as if you're summoning the Xenu (or cash bucks).

    And there, my friend, you have it.

  22. Well, Nathan, close your eyes really tight, picture Tom Cruise jumping up and down on Oprah's couch, put my hat on the image and chant "Oh Yeah, Ooooooooooh Yeah!" to yourself. Wave Tom's arms around as if you're summoning the Xenu (or cash bucks).

    And there, my friend, you have it.

  23. Nathan, commented twice, so I thought in only polite to reply to both posts.

  24. Both of us? Me and me captive velociraptor you mean?

  25. Jim, glad you're back among the living!

    So am I the only regular here that belongs to both subsets - migraine sufferer who has also given birth? Twice? ;)

    Mother nature blesses women with a form of amnesia post-labor & delivery that blurs & fades it and makes us willing to try again.

    I'd have to say that a truly horrific migraine is worth than childbirth. As Jim said, there's something very productive at the end of that kind of pain.

    A migraine, however - and I've had them so bad I bang my head against the wall or the toilet tank - can last longer than labor ever did for me, it's sustained, and it's completely unproductive. It's not even taken seriously, if you go to an ER, I've gone a few times when I've been ill for 24-36 hours and am getting horribly dehydrated, they often think you're narcotics-seeking.

    I too get the ick day after, feels like I've been run over by a truck. Maybe a NY delivery van. ;)

    And for me - alcohol causes migraines too. LOL

  26. So what if I don't feel icky after a migraine? I wake up feeling great?

    Of course that hardly makes up for the fact that I used to be awakened in the MIDDLE OF THE FREAKING NIGHT with my head exploding; I figured that was to make up for the lost sleep.

  27. I'm sure you do read up a bit on migraines. I would in your place, but I'm a librarian. I just thought I'd suggest Botox. When I read about it, it was still considered "experimental". And I couldn't believe how many plastic surgeons were offering treatment when they still hadn't worked out a good model. I've heard they're getting better with it.

    I can't tell anyone if childbirth is worse than a migraine. I can tell you around the first of August when the baby is due. All I can say now is pregnancy does involve nausea. Lots and lots of nausea, which is bad enough. I can report that alcohol did not lead to my pregnancy, but ovaries and a randy Navy sailor did.

  28. Randy Navy Sailor

    That's redundant ;)

    Amyzon, A librarian huh? Most excellent, you are in good company. Ah, that would also explain 'the oracle' part of your pseudonym. Librarians - the original search engine.

    Jeri, bang your head on the toilet tank? Uh, thank you no. When I've got a migraine, I don't even want my head to touch the pillow.

    Michelle, hey - good for you. No seriously. Me, I feel hungover, without the party the night before. Mostly though, afterward I feel like my head is bruised on the inside and I have weird food cravings. For example: this morning for breakfast I had two Hebrew National Hot Dogs (if you're gonna have hot dogs for breakfast, as least make sure they're good ones I say), with dill pickles.

  29. Chinese for squirrel: 松鼠 (Song Su)

    松 = Pine tree

    鼠 = rat, mouse

  30. I've never had the pleasure of getting a migraine. But from what I hear they suck. You have my sympathies.

    My office was feeling a bit stuffy the other day. But I was being a good trooper and kept on working. Pretty soon it became hard to breathe. I took in some fresh air then got back to work. But I had trouble breathing again. It wasn't until I had a glass of cold water that I started feeling better.


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