Monday, December 27, 2010


This period of time between Christmas and New Year's tends to be kind of dull. The shows are all in rerun. The Christmas decorations are coming down. And the new year has yet to begin.

I haven't yet had a chance to watch all of my Christmas movies so I'll use this year's awkward last week to do that. Generally speaking I'm not one to make new year resolutions but I do like to take stock this time of year and set some personal goals. That will occupy some of my time too.

I almost hate to say anything but...I feel like the tide may be turning with my migraines. At the end of November and into the first part of December I didn't have the use of my migraine rescue. I didn't treat some of my migraines at all and then I was able to treat a handful of them with the Tylenol 3 until I saw Dr Garza at Mayo. I had no intention after my visits with him of starting the new plan of limiting my rescue medication to 9 days a month until I returned home. After all I still needed to take care of my mom and make the long drive home. As time ticked by I wasn't really having horrible migraines very often so I wasn't needing the medication.

Now with just a few days left in the month I am finding that I was able to stay within that number this month. There has been plenty of days when I thought I would have to take my rescue meds but I was able to manage without so I didn't. And the closer I get to the end of the month the more motivated I am to keep the number of rescue meds I take to fewer than 9. It is now clear that I will achieve this goal and I am thrilled about it!

Even more exciting is the possibility that this may be what the months ahead hold. I may actually be able to regain control over my migraines. I'm almost afraid to put this out there - afraid that even suggesting it will chase it away. But I have seen my body create problems for me and then change quickly when a cause is discovered, even if treatment has not been administered.
For example, in the fall of 2009 after years of irregular periods I had a period that went on for about 6 weeks so I made an appointment with my GYN. She ordered an ultrasound and found a giant cyst on my right ovary. She wanted to wait a couple months and look at it again to see if it would resolve on it's own. It didn't, so in January she had to go in and remove it. The thing is that as soon as we discovered the cyst and knew what was going on, but before the actual procedure was performed, my period corrected itself and was suddenly regular for the first time in years. The cyst was so big the doc said it had to have been growing for years.

My body has done this sort of thing several times before. I'll have a sudden change in what is normal and it persists until the cause is discovered and then it just changes - before I've even had a chance to address the issue.

I don't remember if I ever went into what Mayo thinks was causing the chest tightness and such. They think it was an anxiety response. I don't consider myself an anxious person and my friends (who work in mental health) actually had the same thought too. Of course they have not seen much of me since the migraines got out of control because that was also around the time I moved so far away. I've certainly had much more stress since things changed and I've certainly developed some unreasonable fears such as flying and riding the metro over the Potomac River. On the other hand I don't have any trouble going out in the world to shop, attend appointments, or even socialize.

Dr. Garza at Mayo's headache clinic said that often people with these kinds of chronic migraines will also have depression, anxiety disorders, chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia. I had to ask if he thought it was a possible cause of my migraines becoming out of control or if he thought it was the result of. He told me that the relationship is not well understood at all, it has simply been observed and documented that they often accompany one another. He wasn't sure that the anxiety I was experiencing was something mild enough that I could control with meditation, breathing and such, or if it would need to be addressed with medication. He was going to consult with someone else and make recommendations.

I've been thinking a lot about it since that conversation and I can see how I could be anxious. I think the discrepancy is simply one of language. I wasn't using anxious to describe how I was feeling. Instead I was stressed, or overwhelmed, or on edge, or in a migraine fog. And while all of those may have been true my research tells me that I could easily have used the word anxious instead of, or in addition to. I have almost all the risk factors and certainly identify with some of the symptoms.
Nothing is certain but I am very hopeful and excited for the year ahead.


  1. Ugh, my brain is just broken right now and I'm having trouble commenting coherently, but I wanted to say that (1) this post made me smile, (2) hope is good, and (3) bodies are weird.

    That's about as articulate as I am capable of right now, heh.

  2. I do hope that your headaches will stay under the number for your rescue medicine!

  3. Hoping for a great year, and migraines that behave much better!!! Tell that tricky body to work the way YOU want it to for a change!

    Myself, not normally depressed or anxious, did start having anxiety when the pain got really really bad. I started feeling panicky (which for me is anxiety). I took biofeedback sessions for a whole summer, and although they never helped the pain, they did help me control the anxiety. Breathing through it certainly helped! Remembering to breathe was a big one too!!!

  4. While I have had issues with anxiety in the past, I never experienced depression until I became chronically in pain. I think chronic illness brings on periods of despair and anxiety....not the other way around as some suggest.

    Know what I mean? It is late and I am sick so hoping I am making sense!!!

  5. I'm so glad to hear you are doing better! I know what you mean about being afraid to mention anything about feeling good, in fear of jinxing it. I'm in the same boat, and haven't wanted to say yet again that I'm feeling great just to have it backfire on me. Feel good, keep the hope, BELIEVE!

  6. What would I do without all you wonderful ladies! Thanks for all your support and kindness!