|The Face of Chronic Pain|
The thing the makes my life the most chaotic and the most challenging is my chronic pain. I've been dealing with this pain for nearly ten years and it’s been quite a journey. Because this is a long story, I’ll be writing up two parts.
As a kid, I was pretty healthy though I did have a tendency to be overweight. I did start having medicine allergies pretty early on. I’m allergic to a bunch of medicines, most notably amoxicillin, ibuprofen and aspirin. But all that was going to change in my mid-20’s.
I had gone to a local water park with a friend from college in August 2003. I got really sick afterwards, including an ear infection. My doctor kept telling me that I didn't have an ear infection over the course of a month until I ended up in the ER. Finally I was diagnosed with a bad ear infection and was given medicine. I got better, except for having permanent hearing loss in that ear, except for a headache that lingered. I've had that same headache for nearly ten years now.
The next nine months were some of the worst in my life. I was in and out of the ER because the only thing that helped my pain was heavy duty narcotics. I was also in and out of my doctor’s office as we tried ever headache / migraine medicine on the market. None of the medicines worked long term and most of them gave me bad side effects thanks to my sensitivity with drugs.
I also saw some specialists. The neurologist that I saw thought I was making it up, but gave a name to my condition – Daily Chronic Headaches. Though I think daily chronic migraines is a better label since when my pain gets bad, I get migraine symptoms like auras and brain fuzziness. I did get MRI’s and CAT Scans, but they didn't show anything which is probably why the neurologist was less than sympathetic.
After a while, I started having rebound headaches from the narcotics I was getting in the ER. I was really depressed, and my doctor tried an antidepressant. It didn't help because my depression wasn't chemical; it was because I felt I was in a hopeless situation. My doctor even tried changing my birth control but nothing helped.
During this time, I was working a full time job, though I did have FMLA so I could take time off if my pain was really bad or if I needed to go to the doctor. I was also just starting to date my now-husband, Todd. It was a long distance relationship and we managed to make it work despite my chronic pain issues.
I went to visit friends over New Year 2004 and I had one of my worst migraines to date. We had gone to the Hard Rock Cafe in Detroit. It was very loud, but what set off the migraine was the smell of raw onions on the plate across from mine. Todd ended up driving me home through a snow storm, and I ended back in the ER. I went and saw my doctor afterwards and he told me that I shouldn't go into noisy places anymore.
This pissed me off – I was 26 years old! I wasn't going to live my life hiding and decided I needed to take control of this pain. I started a pain journal and began finding out what my triggers are for me. I found ways to cope when the pain got high, since no medicines work, and I started coming out of the fog.
I was able to manage my pain even though it was and is still there. And I've been able to do things like go out to eat, go to noisy concerts and even have a baby. In the next post, I’ll talk about chronic pain and pregnancy, as well as my brain issues.