Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Pain and Independence

How does pain affect your independence? Do you push yourself too hard? Do you hide the fact that you're in pain? Is it hard to ask for help?

I was invited to address these questions, along with several other people who blog about pain, by HowToCopeWithPain. To see all the other posts, go to the How To Cope With Pain blog.

“M” is for Migraine

I think one of the hardest things for me to do is asking for help, especially when I have a migraine. Here is an example of how a simple task like driving to work and parking my car became a crisis when I combined being a migraine chick with being too overly independent.

The other day, I woke up with a blazing migraine, feeling a lot like the flaming skull in the movie “Ghost Rider”, and I really wanted to stay home sick, but I had already called in sick three times this month. I considered calling a friend to drive me to work, but I didn’t want to impose on her and I thought I could manage on my own.

Pushing on, I took my migraine drugs, dressed as comfortable as I could in khakis and a cotton blouse, and I drove myself the twenty miles to work, where my building is located in a sprawling office park with several service drives and a nearby expressway. Never having been good with directions, I only know one way in and out of the parking lot.

That morning, I found several orange cones blocking the entrance to the parking lot. Huh? I glanced around, realizing there was a work crew blacktopping that section of the parking lot. There had no memos or warnings about this!

Feeling my head pain cranking up, I took a few deep breaths. All I wanted to do was park my car and stagger into work like a zombie. I didn’t need this today.

Trying to stay calm, I located another nearby entrance where I saw some cars parked in another section, but I found the spots were all taken and there was nowhere to turn around because the exit was blocked by more orange cones. Therefore, I had back down the row of cars to get out of the mess. My nerves were fraying by the second.

At this point, I saw a co-worker, who I know by face but not by name. She was walking into the building, apparently having found a coveted parking spot. For a second, I considered asking her for help, but I didn’t embarrass myself by saying I had a migraine and I couldn’t even find an alternate place to park my car at the building where I had been working for the last three years.

Back on the street, I drove around to the other side of the building. I had heard there was another parking lot, but I had never been on the other side and I couldn't find the driveway.

By now, my head was going nuts. I was nearly crying by now, which was making my migraine a lot worse. The sunlight was killing me even with my sunglasses, and my stomach was twisting with nausea.

With my burning pain brain feeling like it was bouncing around the inside of my skull, I tried to consider my options. I could keep driving around like a lunatic until I had a break down or I could just go home, or I could call my team leader inside the building and have her help me get to the right spot.

Digging into my purse, I found my cell phone and dialed my team leader. Thankfully, she answered. The conversation started with my saying “Please don’t think I’m an idiot, but I’ve got a migraine and I find a place to park my car,” and it finished with her getting me to a parking spot.

As I was getting out of my car, it occurred to me this wouldn't have happened if I weren’t so hell bent on being independent even with a migraine. If I had just asked my friend for a ride to work, I could have avoided this. If I had just asked that co-worker to help me find another parking spot, I could have avoided this. And look when I did ask for help the sky didn't come crashing down.

Walking toward the building, I suddenly looked back at my car; worried that I would forget where I parked by the end of the day. Towering over my car was aisle sign. Oh, that was going to be easy to remember, I thought, staring at the huge letter. “M” is for "Migraine."


htcwp said...

What a perfect letter for your day! Thanks for participating.

Joanna / "Her Life In A Nutshell" said...

I have had similar instances - with my New Daily Persistent Headache (NDPH), I am in a similar boat with never knowing when I'll be hit with a wave of big pain. Sometimes I can be on my way somewhere in town (like you said, where you've been going for years) and if I'm hit suddenly with my sharp pain, I can sometimes feel as if I'm lost or I have to totally question my route. I tend to "lose" my car in parking lots because I can never remember where I parked it... it's hard for us when we've been independent and know how it feels to be independent, only to have to revert back to dependence sometimes...

jeisea said...

Great description. As the saying goes, "Been there.done that."
I've had migraines for 35 years and until recent years had only asprin for relief. Did you know sleep apnea can also trigger them? I woke up at 3 every morning with a headache. Nine years ago I fell into a stair well making my way to the kitchen at 3.00 in the morning with a migraine. I crushed my wrist and developed a pain syndrome. Migraine now make the syndrome worse. I was forced to find treatment for the migraines I'd put up with for years. my specialist told me about a Berlin double blond study into Vitamin B2 for prevention of migraine.
According to a 3-month double-blind placebo-controlled study of 55 people with migraines, riboflavin can significantly reduce the frequency and duration of migraine attacks.1This study found that, when given at least 2 months to work, a daily dose of riboflavin (400 mg) can produce dramatic migraine relief.

"The majority of the participants experienced a greater than 50% decrease in the number of migraine attacks as well as the total days with headache pain. A larger and longer study is needed to follow up on these results."
Google "migraine B2" for more info. I take a multi B with high B2 at less than the research suggested. It actually prevents migraine for me. In addition I was told to sip dark grape juice (riboflaven) when I do have a headache. This helps with both pain and nausea. I buy a large bottle and rebottle into small water bottles and pop in the freezer. One at work and the rest at home.
You could print out information on this and show it to your treating specialist. It's a simple and very effective preventative.

Laurie said...

Great post, great example!! While I don't have migraines, I've definitely had my fair share of moments where I know if I had just asked for help, things would have been much less complicated. It's a lesson I seem to keep learning (and keep learning...)