Thursday, September 15, 2011

On headaches.

I've been getting a lot of headaches lately-- eyestrain, mostly, I think. I've been a migraine sufferer for about 25 years now, and I get occasional sinus headaches and weather headaches as well, so I am pretty good at telling the difference.

Having a headache makes everything a little more difficult. I move more slowly (literally), I get irritable more quickly. It takes longer to accomplish even fairly simple tasks, and it wreaks havoc on my attention span-- especially bad on days when my big plan is to power through a bunch of manuscripts, or when I'm redlining a contract.

I thought all of this would be easier to juggle when I was finally free to make my own schedule and set my own agenda (as I am now)... but I find that I'm really hard on myself on days when I haven't accomplished as much as I thought I should, or as much as I planned to.

Why is that? Having had headaches for most of my life now, I'm actually pretty good about not leaving things till the absolute last minute, because I know I can't assume I'll be in any state to do them at said crisis point; there's always a chance I'll be laid up with a migraine, where a dark, quiet room is the only thing worth having in this life. In other words, I KNOW what headaches do to me, and I KNOW a headache is always a possibility.

To get to the real point of this post, then, I have two questions for you guys:

1) Do you have any amazing headache remedies? Here are some things I'm already doing: getting enough sleep, drinking lots of water, maintaining my caffeine intake (I usually drink 2 cups of coffee in the morning), exercising, taking Excedrin or acetaminophen for an especially bad headache. I had an eye exam less than two months ago. I'm pretty bad about taking breaks from the computer, so I know that's a big one to work on.

2) What do you do when you fail to meet your own expectations? I know a lot of you have word count goals and the like; what happens when you don't meet them? How do you cut yourself a little slack when you need it, without lowering your standards?


Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

Courtney, I'm so sorry - I didn't know. My husband used to get migraines like that - really, really bad. I can tell you what helped him - cut out ALL caffeine. He said it's done him wonders - like a miracle. (Decaf isn't good enough - it's got to be caffeine free. A good substitute is Red Rooibos tea.)
As far as failing to meet expectations - welcome to the world of managing your own schedule. Best to start learning some balance now before you develop bad habits like chronic workaholism. DO keep a regular exercise program. YOUR time is just as important as work time. AND it keeps the synapsis connecting in more positive ways. Sometimes just a more positive outlook can put everything in perspective, and that's what a good walk/swim/whatever can do for you.
Hope this helps!
Fuzzy hugs,

Allan Petersen said...

Hi Courtney-

If you spend as much time in front of the computer as I do, then a component of your headaches is likely directly related to computer glare. I might recommend you look in to glare-reducing eyewear. make excellent computer eyewear. I use them on days when I'm already tired, or when I feel a headache coming on. It takes a bit of getting used to -- for example, you really should take them off every time you stand up from the computer.

For me personally, they have helped a lot.

Sara said...

Oof. The women in my family get migraines too (lucky men seem to have escaped this gene).

Here's what we find works:
Chiropractic adjustments
Massage (focused on the neck and shoulder muscles before the headache sets in)
Cranio-sacral treatments

I'm so sorry to hear that you get them too. I hope any/all of these help you :)

Shoshanna Evers said...

Obvious disclaimer - I'm not diagnosing or prescribing anything with these comments, just chatting about my experience as a former neurology RN :)

I'd recommend you ask your doctor about a daily prophylactic anti-migraine medication or a beta-blocker, since they're appropriate for people who suffer from several migraines a month.

Some people find that if they're getting tension headaches, a muscle relaxer mixed with an NSAID like ibuprofen helps. And of course there's the typical migraine medications like Imitrex and Fioricet and stronger medications like Vicodin, Percocet, and Stadol.

Another thing you might want to consider is a CAT scan or MRI of your head to rule out anything serious and put your mind at ease.

If eye strain triggers migraines, you can set an alarm or banner on your computer to remind you every half hour or so to stop and look away, perhaps get up and stretch.

As you know I used to be a neurology nurse so I've taken care of a lot of migraine sufferers in my day. One thing that *always* helped was when the patient would call us and come in for our special "cocktail" - we'd give them an IV drip in the office filled with several anti-migraine medications, and by the time they left the office the headache was gone!

So I guess the miracle cure I'm suggesting is to see a neurologist who specializes in migraines :) Feel better Courtney! :)

Jessica Brockmole said...

Ugh! And you don't have a job that helps with frequent headaches.

My husband used to have migraines quite often. He's now cut out all caffeine (apart from the occasional cup of decaf) and red wine, which seem to help more than any prescription medications he's tried.

Although not sure how to answer your second question, as I'm not very forgiving of myself when I don't meet my goals or expectations! This is something I need to work on....

Feel better!

Rebecca A. Burrell said...

Same disclaimer - not an MD. It could partly be that you're still adjusting to the change in environment. Migraines are essentially an inflammatory response, so if something in the air is making your blood vessels twitchy, you'll get more headaches. Hopefully, if so, they'll stabilize after a couple of months.
One of the newer treatments for people who get 3(?) or more migraines a month is botox - it's FDA approved now and you may be able to get it covered by your insurance if you have it. Sometimes I get ten or more a month, so it has been a lifesaver for me. Certain antihistamines and Vitamin D have also been shown to help. It can make it pretty difficult to hit my goals at times, but I make up for it by setting things that are more weekly than daily. If I have one day when I'm out of commission a bit, I just have to catch up the next day. For me, they're a bit hormonal too, so I try to plan around that a bit.

Lori said...

I used to get *terrible* migraines. My doc had me cut everything out of my diet and start reintroducing slowly. Ends up MSG and moldy cheeses were my food triggers, in addition to stress. I cook mostly from scratch now and am very picky when I eat out, and get one only very occasionally these days. Last one was in the winter sometime.

I also learned a trick to help loosen up neck muscles that seems to help head them off if I feel stressed (could be totally all in my head, but hey, if it works...). Sit up straight and relax your shoulders. Picture your skull sitting on the top vertebra about even with the tops of your ears. Make tiny circular and back & forth and side to side movements for a minute or so to loosen that first joint (very tiny movement up that high), keeping the rest of your neck and body still. Then work your way down one vertebra at a time to the bottom of your neck. It takes about ten minutes to do them all. They key is to stay relaxed and keep your shoulders down. That and some deep breathing can help talk the migraine off the ledge when I get that very first tingle that one might be thinking about making a visit.

I was on Imitrex for a while, but it didn't seem to help much and really messed with my stomach.

Good luck!

Delphine Dryden said...

Ouch! You have my complete sympathy on this. It occurred to me (just b/c I remember from lo these many years ago, the effect of moving from CA back to TX) that you might also try a few days of an allergy med to see if that makes any difference. I know that sinus pressure (even when I don't feel snuffly) is one of a set of triggers for me. There may be some plant or other environmental thing you're allergic to that you're not really aware of that's causing a low-level irritation?

Also - you can get some programs, many available as freeware, some share or paid, that will force you off the computer for a break at a scheduled interval. Might be worth a shot.

Security word: Pasty, which is how I usually look and feel when I have a migraine...

Kate Sherwood said...

Something a bit lighter, which might help if you can catch the headaches before they're too far along:

rub your temples with lemon slices. I know, it's ridiculous, but it works. I don't know if it's just the coolness, in which case any cold item should work the same, or if there's something about lemon, or if it's just the absurdity of the situation making you relax your tense muscles, but... it's an excellent way to get rid of low- to mid-grade headaches.