Thursday, October 26, 2006

Something You Didn't Know, Part II

Okay, so it wasn't really a miracle. It just felt like it at the time.

When I first got my braces on, the orthodontist promised me we'd be all done by the time I went to college. Yet even though I had delayed college a year, I still had a retaining wire bonded to my teeth (I had to have it bonded because I took the removable one out every night in my sleep. I woke up with weird marks on my back a lot). So I went back to the orthodontist and told him to remove the wire, I was going to New York City and I was not going to have braces on my teeth at NYU. He wasn't happy about it, but he did it. I was soon not happy about it either, as my front teeth soon developed a gap you could drive a truck through. But more importantly, something else happened. My headaches started getting better.

At first, I attributed it to the medication I was on, whatever it was at the time. That, and perhaps the effects of some illicit substances I occasionally dabbled in (yes, Mom, just dabbled, all right?) Then I went to the NYU dentistry school to get my teeth cleaned at the student, cut-rate prices. Within five minutes of opening my mouth, I had five dentists standing around the chair, asking me "Do you seem to get a lot of headaches?" and "Have you ever had braces?" Yes, my friends, I had a classic case of Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction. Subsequent visits to the doctor helped determine that the TMJ trouble caused enough irritation to trigger migraines. This is why massage and muscle relaxants often worked and ergotomaine/caffeine medications and beta-blockers (the standard treatment at the time and what my treatments focused on) did not. Was I angry at the orthodontist who screwed up my bite and at all the headache specialists who didn't listen to me, causing me to lose years and years of my life and everything I'd worked for? Oh, just a bit.

My next challenge was finding a doctor that didn't think I was a drug addict when I went in and asked for some Soma. Eventually I did (I think it was my fourth try), and it was around that time that triptans were introduced. My headaches didn't go away, but they became manageable with medication. Well, sort of. These pills took away most of the pain, but still knocked me out cold when I took them, so I wasn't able to just take a couple at lunchtime and go back to work. Plus, the doses I take are huge compared to most people, and I am very susceptible to rebound headaches. Still, I was functional, which hadn't been the case in the previous eight years. It felt like I'd been let out of jail, and as I got older, the headaches got progressively better, and they went away almost entirely during my pregnancy with Peanut.

So why am I telling you this? Well, to explain why I stopped posting and commenting much. The headaches came back. They started creeping back last spring, and by the middle of the summer I was back to having one every day. Not a migraine every day, but a severe, intractable tension headache that hurt just as much. I was waking up with one every morning. It would get better after my morning shower, but come back with a vengeance by the end of my workday every day. They woke me up at night, but when I would try to catch up on my sleep on the weekends, they would get worse, and about once a week they would turn into a full-blown migraine. The cause this time is more complicated than just TMJ. Stress, musculoskeletal problems, autoimmune system problems all have been conspiring against me.

The difference now is that I am older and have more resources and support. After having Peanut, I have become far more proactive in my own health-care, and more disciplined in my approach towards healing myself. I have been taking it one step at a time, and making it clear to the health-care workers who are treating me that this is not a matter of finding one right fix that will solve my problems. It is going to take a long time to tease out the various triggers that have kept me in pain for so long, but I have faith that I will be able to do it. I'm pretty sure that's not just the Lexapro talking, either. Maybe I am being naive, and have convinced myself of this to make up for my lack of control over Peanut's health, but things feel different now. There was a time this summer when I was as depressed as I have ever been, but I'm working on that too. Chronic pain changes your brain, and it has certainly changed mine. I am not the person I would have been without it, for better or for worse.

So that's what's been going on. I'm not dying, it just feels like it some days. Things seems to be working, little by little, so hopefully I'll be able to get on here more and more. I'm thinking about the NaBloPoMo challenge, which I think I might just take up. So pretty soon you'll be sick of me. Be careful what you wish for!


Andrea said...

Oh, ouch, Carrie--that's awful.

I personally would be thrilled to see you posting so often. ;)

Jen said...

Could stress have brought it back so quickly? Isn't that about the time you went back to work? I'm just curious.....

Hope you find a way to manage them, I know severe headaches can be so debilitating.

Meredith said...

Having just recently experienced my first magraine - all I can say is wow. I have no idea how you can get your day to day business done with those. I am so sorry to hear they have returned but I hope you find solace soon.

Suzsqueak said...

I completely understand your pain. I started with migraines when I was 7 years old, and they've gotten progressively worse since. I'm sure you've already tried this, and you don't need advice, but have they talked to you about a short term course of an anti-epiletic med? It didn't cure me, but it did make the headaches reduce from an everyday thing to a 5 times a month thing with the help of Topamax.

The downside is that it doesn't last forever and every few years it's time for another course, and the side effects kind of stink, or at least they do for me, because it increases your body temp and so I'm always a furnace.