Adventures in Therapy

It’s been months since my last post. Not because I suddenly became well, though that may very well happen some day, but because I’ve been significantly unwell. And I haven’t wanted to focus on the headache at all. As a matter of fact, I spent the summer trying to ignore the elephant in the room and live life as though nothing was amiss. Image

I chose not to spend my evenings composing blog posts, which forced me to anyalyze myself. I watched Dr. Who with my family, becoming fully immersed in a lovely world of geekdom from which I was only forced to surface when there were no new episodes to watch. Instead of playing Dominion or Catan (table top games are one of my favorite past-times), I lay back and watched the rest of the family have fun. Rather than reading to myself, I listented to audiobooks. I may not have been doing the things I would normally do, but I was enjoying myself, right?

Chronic illness has a way of slapping off those rose tinted glasses and forcing you to face reality. As my headache worsened this summer, I was forced to re-evaluate my expectations of every day life.

And to ask for help.

In July I started counseling at a local practice. This about sums up what I took away from each session:

  1. We need to have family meetings every few weeks to talk about expectations, otherwise I won’t notice when I need help.
  2. My therapist has no idea what to talk with me about, so 30 minutes in he is looking at the clock .
  3. I benefit more than this talking with my husband.
  4. Learning skills to cope with pain, and talking with others who have similar issues might help, but this isn’t.
  5. I’m not actually depressed, if my head didn’t hurt I’d be fine. Thus I am diagnosed with “mental disorder due to a general medical condition.”
  6. Obviously we’re done here, can you recommend someone who knows what they are doing?

I have one appointment left with my therapist to close things up and see if he found any recommendations for me. I would like to find someone experienced with chronic pain and maybe a group therapy so I can hear from others. I’m pretty fortunate to not be prone to depression. I know of people who’s struggle with chronic pain is made worse by comorbid depression. Part of my reason for starting therapy was to rule this out in my case.

Feeling certain depression isn’t a serious factor for me, I am free to pursue my next course of action.

Which is…

Uncertain at best.


Chiropractor, or not

I had my consultation with the chiropractor yesterday.

His findings: two of the vertebrae in my neck, c2 and c3, are a little misaligned and the disk at c7 is somewhat compressed.

What does that mean? It means my neck hurts sometimes, and it is causing extra wear on the joints which could cause more problems over time.

Could treatment help my headaches? That is, as my neurologist said, “the million dollar question.”

The answer seems complicated. Some people respond well to chiropractic care, but not the majority. For headaches especially, there its no definitive answer. Nothing the chiropractor said made me feel the neck issues were contributing to the headache. Nothing he said made me think he felt confident treatment would help the headache. But he was hopeful.

He is certain treatment will help my neck. It is a problem worth resolving so it doesn’t worsen.

Timing is the question.

Chiropractic care isn’t cheap and it isn’t covered by my insurance. It isn’t impossibly expensive, but difficult. Right now all my resources, medically speaking, are devoted to treating my headache. Should I divert myself from other treatments to try this?

I’m undecided.

But alas, until I have the resources financially, it must wait, no matter what I decide.

What a week

I must say, I don’t believe I’ve had a week go so badly in many years.

Let’s start with Tuesday. I was supposed to write up a post detailing the chiropractor’s findings. Sorry I missed that, but I missed the chiropractor appointment. I hit a flat piece of metal on the interstate on the way. I made it to within 10 miles before my front tire went completely flat. I had gashed the tire badly and was lucky to make it off the highway. I rescheduled my appointment and limped over to the nearest tire store on my spare. Of course, had my tire not gone flat, I may not have realized how badly I need knew brake pads. So I consider it a blessing

Wednesday I woke up early with a serious migraine followed by 24 hours of fever and extreme nausea. I don’t know if I had a stomach bug that triggered a migraine or if the symptoms were just from the killer headache.

Thursday my husband had a tonsillectomy. The days since I’ve been caring for him.

On the bright side, I’m guest blogging for him while he’s out of commission. If you want to see the spiritual side of my writing, check out his blog: The Year of Prayer

My rescheduled chiropractor follow-up is in the morning. Hopefully I can get a post up shortly about that. I don't think my stiff neck is causing my head pain, but we'll see what he says. If treatment might help and isn't outrageously expensive I'll consider it.

Good night! Hopefully you’ll hear from me tomorrow.

And now for something completely different

I’ve finally gotten around to trying some of those alternative treatments the media is always going on about. Of course, they wouldn’t have to be so alternative if insurance would just pay for them. And why shouldn’t they be covered. There’s ample evidence of their benefits alone or in conjunction with medical treatments.

Massage, for example, has long been practiced alongside western medicine. Hippocrates wrote “The physician must be experienced in many things, but assuredly in rubbing.”

It was massage I tried today. Thanks to a local deal, I received an hour long massage and a chiropractic exam at an excellent price. (I’ll let you know about the chiropractic bit tomorrow, after my follow up.)

This was my first professional massage. I really didn’t know what to expect so I was nervous and tense. The massage therapist was very kind and reassuring. She kept the pressure relatively low. My neck and shoulders were a bit tender, but everywhere else it just felt nice. If you’ve never had a full body massage, there are a few sensations that might surprise you. Massage on my hands and feet felt surprisingly good and of course, I enjoyed the back and shoulders. Conversely, having my scalp rubbed and face massaged just felt strange. I’m sure the experience is different for everyone.

All in all, while the experience was generally pleasant enough, I didn’t really enjoy it. Part of that is due to my own modesty and nervousness. I had difficulty just relaxing. Instead I kept wondering if her hands hurt having to massage for a full hour. Or I was wondering what she was thinking and if I should be giving feedback. Perhaps if I tried it a few more times I would get over my discomfort.

I’m not sure that I will though.

And as for my headache, no improvement. Yet.

I’m thinking muscle tension plays some part in my issues. I’m wondering if it is the reason my headache has been worse this past year. Dealing with constant pain is stressful, after all.

Post Botox, Day 1

2012-03-31 Annabel Lee Photography

Beautiful weather today!

But this is not from today…

(Okay, there’s the positive news for the day.)

Today my head hurts worse. I planned lessons, ate lunch, and went back to bed. I got up in time to get ready and go to work, only to come home halfway through a 4 hour shift.

The right side of my head is sore from the shots. The left is fine.

It’s the right side that always hurts.

Go figure…

I’m hoping the soreness and extra pain diminishes soon. Two of my girls are gone to a friend’s house for the next two nights, so the house should be a bit quieter. My plans for tomorrow are cancelled. It will be a day for rest and recovery.

Any good movie suggestions?

Ouch, That Stings.

I had my first series of Botox injections and survived. It will be a few weeks before I know how much it helps.

Note the positive tone there. I don’t know what we can do next if it doesn’t help.

It hurt.

I’m no baby when it comes to pain, and I managed fine. Still, I will not be bringing my personal photographer (aka my daughter) to document the experience. According to my husband, my grimace will hurt her as much as the injections hurt me. They are brief, and over quickly. Dr. P. said the forehead is the worst for most people, but I vote right side. Apparently I’m a bit tense and I need to loosen up my neck and shoulders, so those injections hurt a bit more than usual.

I wonder if tension is worsening my headaches? I’ll work on that.

No serious side effects. For the first few hours I had  brief stinging sensations in some of the injection sites, but the discomfort was minimal. My pain level has been greater today and I have a few sore spots. Especially on the right temple.

So I think we need an I survived botox bumper sticker (or web banner.) It needs to be mildly cryptic so people will puzzle over what it means, like the marathon sticker. Here’s my go at making one:

Botox bumper sticker


Happy coping to you all!

Second Opinion

I went to a different neurologist last week. Actually, he’s a professor who taught my neuro. As Dr. P and I were stuck, it seemed like a good idea to get a fresh perspective.

Although he didn’t say it to me personally, he was as much at a loss as Dr. P. He did remind us of a few treatments we haven’t tried, and told me about a headache I’d never heard of.

Treatment ideas:

  • Botox – If you’ve seen any headache news in the past few years you must have read about the use of Botox in treating migraines. It consists of 31 injections given with very fine needles into the head and neck. It takes up to four weeks to see results and the treatment is repeated every 3 months.
  • Nerve Block – I had an occipital nerve block done last year, but it didn’t help. It might help to try blocking other nerves on my head.
  • Or we could consider the headache I’d never heard – Pseudotumor. Pseudotumor is caused by increased pressure in the brain. A spinal tap is performed to measure the pressure of cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. If there’s too much pressure it could be the cause of my headaches. It’s aptly named pseudotumor because the symptoms mimic that of a brain tumor.

I don’t think it likely I have pseudotumor, as there are symptoms that don’t line up with mine. Though if nothing pans out, it may be worth a check. Nothing else seems to match my symptoms either!

I believe I’ll be trying the Botox soon. I’ll post about it when I do. Maybe I can even take my personal photographer with me and liven things up on this blog with some images.