Tuesday, September 06, 2005

It's a Great Day to Be Alive - In Defense of Pain

This blog is about to get mad heavy on the cake as I post about Cupcake and LaHipster's Excellent Cake Adventure, but as of yet I am waiting for LaHipster to come through with the photos, so I thought I'd take some time to write something more personal. Yes, obviously the disaster that is Hurricane Katrina has made us all grateful for what we have and the little things we take for granted like being able to pick up the phone and call our loved ones. It also got me thinking about my family in Rhode Island, about how virtually all of my family is in Rhode Island and nearly all of their friends are in Rhode Island and if, God forbid, Rhode Island ever had to be evacuated I would suddenly have a lot of Guidos sleeping on the floor of my little Studio Apartment. I am very grateful that has not happened yet.

But today I am not talking about the "Gosh, it sure is great to be alive" sense that we get when we have skirted horrible tragedy, but the euphoria we experience when a constant, soul-crushing pain has lifted. This is not a blog about migranes, but today, you could say, this is a blog about migranes.

Note to GoldStandard and anyone else who is vomit averse: this post will feature a description of me worshipping at the porcelain altar, you might want to skip it.

I was wondering how long it would it would be before I ralphed in my new apartment. The answer of course is 50 days. Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore should make a movie about that. I have had migranes for as long as I can remember. Once, when I was very young, maybe 4 years old, my parents were taking us to the circus. I had a "headache" but I didn't want to say anything because I was afraid that if I told my parents I didn't feel good, they would make me stay home. I don't remember practically anything from the circus except that my parents bought me toy bunny that I had been asking for. And shortly after that, I puked. All over myself. All over the bunny. All over the seat in front of me. And God knows what else. I do know, my parents never took us to the circus again.

But I spent a lot of my childhood throwing up. I got carsick (still do. Roadtrip anyone?). On holidays, when my mom and aunties conspired to put out spreads of cakes and candies and brownies and cookies I had absolutely no self-restraint and would eat until, well, I puked. So it wasn't until I was 13 or 14 that I started getting treatment for these horrendous headaches I frequently got that sometimes caused me to vomit. I saw two different neurologists over the course of two or three years, but none of the treatments seemed to be working so I soon stopped going altogether. I didn't have triggers I could easily control like food triggers, instead mine seem to be brought on by changes in barometric pressure, hormones relating to my menstrual cycle (too much information!), stress and not enough sleep. Years later I learned that the same chemical imbalances in the brain that are found in people with depression and anxiety are also related to migrane. Check, check and check. Well, it's kind of a relief to know it's not all in my head, it's just all in my head.

So, some months ago I started seeing a new neurologist on the Upper East Side, a Romanian whom I impressed with my knowledge of Eastern Europe, and I quickly developed a crush on despite the fact that he is in his mid 40s and on my first visit administered a test to me where he used electrical shocks to test my nerve endings. I've been having good results with the treatment he has me on, but once a month or so I still get a killer migrane. Yesterday was the lucky day.

It started Sunday night after I went out for Indian food with Frau Foxtrot and then watched a DVD of Zero Effect, a great movie with Bill Pullman and Ben Stiller. I took some pills and got into bed. The pain only worsened making it difficult to sleep. How bad is the pain? Well, bad enough to make you hallucinate and vomit if that is any indication. I tossed and turned, trying to shut down my brain at least to get some kind of rest. The nausea was bad, I went to the bathroom for a wet washcloth for my face. The pain was bad, I took some more pills.

Now, I usually try to fight the nausea, mind over matter. "I won't throw up, I won't throw up," like a slightly demented Peter Pan. Let me tell you how this scenario usually ends: me running to the bathroom at the last possible minute and blowing chunks ... wherever. Highly unpleasant. That night I just decided, what the hell. I know how this is going to end, I really don't want to risk hurling all over my lovely little apartment, why not deal with it now. I got out of bed and walked to the bathroom. Here's a thought, did I want to puke with the lights on or off? Well, as it stands I currently only have pleasant associations with my nightlight, so I decided to turn the light on. I got down on my knees and called Ralph. Ugh. Horrible.

I cleaned myself up a bit. I felt a little better in that the pressing need to be sick was gone but I was still in bad pain. I wondered if I had thrown up the pills I had just taken. Now I had no way to know how much medicine was in my system. Brilliant. I got back into bed. I started fantasizing that someone would just walk into my room with a needle, plunge it into me and then all the pain would go away. I wondered if there was anyone I could call who would have such a magical needle. Heroin? Would heroin do the trick? Did any of my friends carry heroin? Nope, I was losing it.

I woke up and it was daylight. It only hurt when I held still. If I just kept moving my head I could chase the pain. Or was I imaging this? Did it hurt constantly and was this a coping mechanism I had invented? Just keep moving your head! I kept alternating between pillow/ no pillow. The pain got a little better when I sat up. I ate some Grape Nuts. I took some more pills. I went back to bed.

I woke up. It was still light out, but my clock read 7pm. I had lost nearly a whole day. The Princess of Darkness had called twice. I called her and explained I had just woken up from the night before. She came over for tea. Before she arrived I changed out of my puke splattered t-shirt and disinfected the toilet. I managed to stay awake for three hours before it was time to go to bed again and get up for work.

Tuesday morning. Glorious morning. I was hap-hap-happy to come into work. Happy to be out of doors in the fresh air. Nearly dancing down the street. Cupcake doesn't do "the drugs", after all I am a Winner and McGruff say "Winner's Don't Use", but the euphoria I feel after a the pain lets up - it is amazing. I suppose this is how people who jump out of planes feel, this natural high. I still have some residual pain now, but it's baby cakes compared to yesterday. I want to whistle. I want to kiss random babies. I'm sure everyone in the office thinks I just got laid. The coffee tastes better. My bosses' jokes are funnier. This is what happens when you tumble into the darkness and make out into the light of day again.


Vanessa said...

Bless your heart, Cupcake. I can relate; have migraines, too. Have you ever tried Relpax? It works well for me. Also, Phenergan suppositories are good for the nausea and they help you sleep. These are just suggestions I have found helpful. Glad you hear you're better.

A said...

cupcakes and suppositories. i wouldn't try to figure out which goes where in the middle of your hallucinagenic pain spells. glad you're feeling better.

Tiffany said...

Oh man - I feel your pain! Thought I'd share... Depending on what pain medicine you're on you can get a shot which will make all the pain float away. I've had that pleasure several times - I make a phone call to whichever supportive friend lives closest, drive to the emergency room and get the happy little IV. Good stuff man!

dacey said...

hullo. i read your blog. i also suffer from migraines...and like your other readers i have some suggestions. my headaches used to be really intense like yours sound, and then my pediatrician gave me these crazy pills called fioricet tablets to swallow when i feel the lines start to blur. they stop the blur, stop the vomit, stop the migraine... my current doctor also has me on some weird blood pressure pills, and i haven't been sick in awhile.

Cupcake said...

Thanks guys, maybe I'll print all these comments out and bring them to my next doctor's visit.

Hmm, suppositories eh? Well, it's something to think about. That reminds me of the time at Smith when I got a concussion and I went to Health Services. I asked for something to help with the pain. The nurse said, "The only thing I can give you is Tylenol. Administered rectally." Wha? What the hell? Is that even a word? "No," I said, "I don't think so. Give me something I can put in my mouth."

"No," she said, "You'll just throw it up."

Was it just me or was everyone at Smith trying to get in your pants?

I just went without.

Anonymous said...

As a fellow migraine sufferer who often winds up ralphing at the hospital, i can tell you there is nothing more blissful than a shot of fironal (or firocet). its liquid heaven.

glad you are whistling today, darlin. welcome back.