Tag Archives: Headache

Life as a Walking ‘House’ Episode

One of my doctors this week instructed me to change my name to “Bizarre.”

That was not the first time I’ve heard that.

I’ve spent the majority of my life puzzling medical professionals. Remember, I was the four-year-old tot complaining of throbbing headaches that turned out to be migraines. I’ve had a weak-ass immune system for the last decade because I was a dummy and didn’t feed my body what it needed. And just this week, I have two brother ophthalmologists bringing their sibling rivalry with then to work and arguing over what to do about the apparent contact-resistance my eyes have developed, as well as a father/daughter dermatological team trying and failing to figure out what these tiny flesh-colored bumps I have on my hands are. Frankly, it would be funny is it weren’t so fucking frustrating.

Seriously, seriously, I think I’ve had enough funky health crises to last a lifetime:

When I was in kindergarten, my class was going to perform 3 short plays for our parents on Open House night or something. I don’t remember what all three plays were; what I do remember is one of them was The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, which was my FAVORITE, and that I was the only kid in the whole class who had a role in all three plays. I was beyond proud and excited for my on-stage debut, but I never saw showtime because I came down with scarlet fever, of all things. I just remember lying on the couch the night of our performance, feeling like the dead, the lights in the house just agony for my eyes, and begging my mom to let me go to school to do the plays: “I’m OK! I feel fine! Who’s going to wear all the hats?” Even in my fever delirium, I was devastated.

The summer before 9th grade I attended a Catholic church volunteer work camp. A couple days into the trip I started feeling really awful: headache, feverish, weak, nauseated, WEAK. The third night, after singing “American Pie” in the common area and making friends with these great kids from around the country, when they announced it was time to head to our dorms, my legs wouldn’t work. I tried, but I couldn’t stand for even a second. I got a piggy-back ride up to my room from one of the nice boys I had just met, and the girls from my youth group called me a slut for the rest of the trip. The next two days I was completely out of commission: a 104 degree fever that had me hallucinating, no strength, throwing up, blinding head pain. No one thought to take me to the hospital; no, instead, they thought it appropriate to pray over me when they thought I was asleep. (Guess what guys? I was awake! And nothing scares a girl suffering from an unknown illness like strange people laying hands on her while she tries to recuperate and asking god to make her well. Pray for lepers; you should have gotten me medical attention.) It wasn’t until returning home and already being on the mend that a nurse friend of my mom’s said, “Oh, honey, you had West Nile Virus.” Hubba what? West Nile Virus?! Are you fucking serious?

Then there was the lovely time freshman year of college when I was falling ill every other month or so, heading to the clinic on campus, and being unceremoniously prescribed antibiotics for one arbitrary thing or another–strep throat, tonsillitis, you name it–without them even, say, swabbing my throat or trying to determine what I actually had. They misdiagnosed me 5 times. When I returned home for the summer, a capable doctor found out that I had an advanced case of mono, equipped with anemia and a spleen-on-the-brink, and demanded I sit inert on the couch for the remainder of the summer.

These health freak-outs have given me a shit-ton of interesting stories to tell, but living life like it’s one long TV medical drama can be exhausting. I keep waiting for my own personal Dr. House to come sweeping in one day and find the underlying cause, the obscure disease that ties all these seemingly unconnected illnesses together and either he can heal me, or he’ll tell me I have 4 days to live. Either way, at least I would know. I would know what the hell is wrong with my body that I seem to contract every bizarre disease in the book. I would know why I have spent as much of my life sick in bed (or worse, sick and out in the world trying to pretend I’m not sick) than I have healthy and spry. And I would know, for certain, that I’d never have to see another doctor look at me with their big dumb eyes and say, “Well, I don’t know what to tell you.”


*deep breath*


Sorry about that. It’s just that, I get through my day to day ignoring the little aches and pains, bumps and bruises, sneezes and sniffles that come my way. Feeling less than stellar is a part of life, and I am not above taking an extra Vitamin C tablet and drinking some hot chicken broth, or wrapping my own strained ankle and icing it every few hours. But when there arises a health problem that I can’t handle on my own (like not being able to see, or painful welts growing out of nowhere on my fingers), and I decide to fork over my hard-earned money so a medically-trained fellow or lady can help me get back to healthy and they say, “Well, sorry, you’re a mystery” it makes me want to terrorize their waiting room, tearing up back-issues of People magazine and upending Ikea coffee tables. It’s. Just. Not. Fair. I am actively on two different eye drops and three different lotions because I have 4 doctors working hard to make me better but simply FAILING. They are failing miserably.


I really thought recently that because I haven’t had a cold in a few months that beating my iron deficiency and going paleo might really be the keys to immune success, but my body is just as wonky as ever. So I’m not plagued with sore throats and stuffy noses; now I’m being plagued with useless eyeballs and stupid skin. (I know that sounds juvenile, but I’ve been struggling with this my whole life: I think I’m allowed to pout a little.)

Maybe I’ll call up Hugh Laurie. He probably would have as good a shot of healing me as my real doctors.


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A Brief Paleo Query

I mentioned in one of my previous posts that I have suffered from migraines since I was four years old. They are a family trait–my father had them growing up and then grew out of them, his sisters still get them–and I spent most of my life assuming these debilitating headaches were just another thing about life that aren’t fair.

But after years of having sometimes 5 migraines a week and my doctors being absolutely useless, my mom and I started tracking my headaches and figuring out my triggers. Over the years I’ve compiled a list of not all, but most of the things that cause my headaches:

  • Foods with Nitrates/Nitrites: hot dogs, sausage, etc.
  • Aged cheese: Parmesan, quality cheddar, etc.
  • Stress
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive hunger (normally going for 6 hours or more without eating will knock me on my ass)
  • Sleep Deprivation
  • Too Much Sleep
  • Vinegar (I still use it, but in small doses, and I don’t eat entire jars of pickles anymore)
  • Crying (yes, crying)
  • Splenda, aspartame, and other sugar substitutes
  • MSG

I have pretty much eliminated all of these triggers, but there’s one that no matter what I do, for the life of me, I can’t control it, and believe me, I’ve tried–rain dances, prayer, Wicca: The Weather.

I call myself the Human Barometer. Especially between the months of May and September, I can wake up in the morning, and depending on the pressure in my face I can tell you with 90% certainty if it is going to rain or storm that day. Uh-huh, I can tell the difference between storm pressure and rain pressure. I’m that good (or bad, depending on how you look at it). For some reason, my body’s response to any threat is a migraine. If I have a cold or even a nasty infection in a cut, I will get a migraine. The pressure on my sinuses is the same. I can deal with a nagging sinus headache, but when it blooms into a migraine and suddenly light is my worst enemy and my stomach is tossing and turning, I am out for the count.

I’ve gotten pretty good at noticing the signs of a looming migraine, and normally drinking some caffeinated tea or taking an Excedrin will stave it off. But every once in a while one creeps up on me and smacks me across the face.

That happened last night.

By the time I realized what was happening, I was grabbing my head moaning, “Stop hurting, stop hurting…” and I was dry heaving. The only way I managed to fall asleep last night was by pressing a pillow into my eye sockets to take off some of the pressure.

Sleep used to be the trusty cure for my headaches, but these weather induced ones like to hang on, sometimes for days. So this morning I woke up feeling like my head weighed 40 pounds, and the headache spread around my skull the moment I sat up. I’ve taken some pain killers, but what I really need to do is eat, and I am so nauseated I can’t bear the thought of eating anything, let alone something paleo-approved.

I need to be able to take care of children here (I am at work as I type; one baby is sleeping, the other is watching Sesame Street on the couch next to me) so I drank a glass of milk, and I already feel less sick and the painkillers are finally working a bit. But I really need some solid food so, what can I eat when I am nauseous that is on track with paleo?

When I’m feeling ill, my go-to foods have traditionally be ramen noodles, toast, and crackers or tortilla chips. I could just eat them on these rare occasions, I know it won’t immediately condemn me to a life of unwellness and obesity. But I’d like to have other options. Why put toxins in my body when I’m already feeling ill? There must beĀ  something comforting and tummy-friendly that paleo eaters can be happy about. Suggestions?

Someone? Anyone? HELP!!


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