seven and a half years down

It occurs to me that today marks seven and half years since the daily headaches began. 

I’d had headaches before 19 November 2014; I just hadn’t had them every day before then. It’s been a difficult, ugly journey.

However. I think I’ve finally found something that helps.

After trying so many different prescription medications, vitamins, over-the-counter remedies, lifestyle changes, and environmental adjustments, I would go through periods of burn-out where I simply didn’t have the capacity to try anything new for a while. Sometimes these “rest periods” lasted a couple of months; sometimes they lasted a year or more. During those rest periods, I was still in pain, but I was also recovering from the side effects and other disruptions related to whatever drugs or remedies I’d most recently tried. Because I have dysautonomia underlying the headaches, I develop side effects to many things (even foods), and when it comes to prescription medications, these side effects are often intolerable, especially during the ramp-up periods when the primary complaint (headaches) remains while my body gets used to the new medicine.

I wasn’t enthusiastic about trying the three new drugs the on-call doctor wanted to prescribe for me, but I’d already committed to keeping an open mind. I was ready to give it another shot, and I tried to maintain an attitude of cautious optimism. The first drug, a preventative, produced intolerable side effects, and I had to quit it after a couple of weeks. The second, an abortive for vestibular symptoms, turned out to be the same drug I take over-the-counter for motion sickness; it interacted badly with the preventative drug in my system, but I’ll keep it on the shelf for the next time I’m traveling and/or feeling dizzy.

The third drug was another triptan, and I’d not had positive experiences with this class in the past. They always barely dulled the head pain while making me super lightheaded and fatigued—basically knocking me out while not addressing the pain. But when I was in the grips of another bad migraine during a particularly tense weekend, I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. I popped a tablet out of its foil packaging and let it dissolve on my tongue.

You might imagine my surprise when this one actually worked. The angry knot of migraine pain gradually subsided to more of an irritation. I did feel kind of loopy, which is uncomfortable for me, but even that was a “gentle high” in comparison to to the normal triptan knock-out. Within an hour or two, I was able to enjoy the rest of the evening.

And the kicker? The next morning, the normal pain was remarkably reduced. Same for the day after that. And so on. It’s been nearly four weeks since that first dose, and I’ve taken four pills in that time.

Folks, this rizatriptan feels like a freaking miracle.

Do I still have a headache every day? Yes, I do, and I continue to get migraines along with tension headaches, ice pick headaches, and the rest. Are the headaches as bad as they were before? Not so much, no. There’s also the fact that my thinking is more expansive and clear than it’s been in literal years. I keep talking about feeling like I have a “bigger brain” now, because I can do, absorb, and retain so much more than I could while the pain had my cranium under lockdown. My mental bandwidth has increased many times over. It’s amazing how different the world looks and feels when your ridiculously slow dial-up connection gets upgraded to a dedicated fiber line.

I remain hopeful that the rizatriptan will continue to work on the migraines, and that it will continue to have a carryover effect of reducing the pain and discomfort of the other headaches as well. For the time being, well, I have to say it’s awfully nice to feel like I’ve got my brain back.

Posted in thoughts from the spiral.

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