Friday, May 8, 2009

The History of My Headaches

I got my first migraine when I was 15. I didn't know what it was. My mom took me to the emergency room, where they ran a bunch of tests (CT scan, blood work, spinal tap, etc.) and then just loaded me up with narcotics and sent me home. I spent 2 weeks on the couch in the basement where it was dark and quiet until the pain went away. That initial headache went away, life went on, and the migraine cycle began. I started seeing a neurologist, who just gave me drugs, of course. But I only got a few headaches a year so at this point, the migraines were easy to deal with.

I moved to Colorado to go to school when I was 18. I still had headaches, still went to a neurologist, but they were manageable. I did the whole journal thing, couldn't figure out anything my headaches were connected to, so I just had some rescue drugs (Zomig). I did not like that was obvious that he couldn't have cared less about me and my headaches and wasn't interested in doing anything other than prescribe drugs for me. In fact, he did so little for me that I can't even remember his name anymore.

I moved to Wyoming in 2002, and shortly thereafter the headaches started getting much worse. I went from having a few migraines a year to a few migraines a month. I started missing work on a regular basis (although my job was very understanding) and I began missing out on social events due to my headaches. They were really beginning to interfere with my life. There wasn't a neurologist in town, so I went to my GP, who was the most caring doctor I ever went to and she did as much for me as she knew how. She ordered another MRI and sent me to physical therapy, wrote me prescriptions for massage and chiropractic, and tried the newest drugs that were out there. She finally got to a point where she admitted she didn't know what else to do for me...which I respect. She sent me to the University of Utah's headache clinic, which is run out of their neurology department (of course).

The doctor I saw in Utah had done nothing but treat headaches for 12 years so I really had high hopes for her. But she was a neurologist at heart and did what they all do...threw drugs at me and told me to come back in 6 months. All the drugs did was give me annoying side effects; they did nothing for my headaches. I traveled back and forth between Wyoming and Utah for several years for treatment, as I figured a specialized "headache clinic" was the best I could do, even though it wasn't helping me much....and the headaches continued to get worse.

In 2007 I moved to the other side of Wyoming, where it was too far to drive to Utah for treatment anymore. I found a local neurologist who was ridiculously arrogant but he was the only neurologist in town and the only one who said he treated migraine patients so that's what I was stuck with. Early in 2008 I was hospitalized with a headache that wouldn't go away. By the time I was hospitalized, I had had the headache for 3 weeks. I was in the hospital for 10 days, and pumped full of a ridiculous amount of drugs before they could get it to go away. The one thing that finally worked was Droperidol...a drug that has a black box warning, meaning you have to be hooked to a heart monitor while you take it. That scared the hell out of me because I was only 27 years old. A week after I got out of the hospital, the headache came back. I ended up only working intermittently, and could not plan my life from day to day because I had no idea how I would be feeling at any point in time.

When my quality of life declined so that I was missing work 40% of the time, I decided to pull out all the stops. I found a new neurologist, one that was from a town 3 hours away but at least he seemed to think outside the box a bit more. He started giving me Botox injections for the headaches, which helped a bit. I started getting chiropractic adjustments and massages weekly. I got acupuncture. I went to a naturopath. I got another MRI done. When they found a bulging disc in my neck, I travelled to Montana to have a discography done...a horribly painful and frightening procedure...just to rule out that the disc was causing the problems. Nothing helped, nothing gave me any answers.

Another major headache hit me in September. This time I traveled back to Chicago and went to the Diamond Headache Clinic. I was admitted to their inpatient clinic for a week...and administered the Droperidol again to relieve the headache. The doctors at Diamond knew that by this time I had tried every drug in the book, and yet the still just threw drugs at me. They were not helpful at all. They refused to work with my doctor in Wyoming and would only treat me in their clinic. I was wholly unimpressed.

I went back home to Wyoming and fell into a cycle of painkillers, because there was no other way to get through the day most of the time. I quit all my social activities, quit riding my horses, quit doing much of anything but laying in bed. I would call the neurologist constantly, asking him to come up with something else but all he would do is prescribe me more drugs...steroids, anti-epileptics, narcotics.

The pain was constant, and it got worse every day. This was beyond a simple migraine. I truly believed there was now something very wrong with me but couldn't seem to get help. Eventually the narcotics quit working, and I was desperate. So I started doing some research. I decided it was time to go somewhere, anywhere, and do whatever it took to get my life back on track. I obviously wasn't going to get the help I needed in Wyoming so it was time to go where better doctors are. I took 12 weeks leave from work in March of 2009 and travelled to Chicago to find someone to help me once and for all.

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