Sunday, December 28, 2008

From Hell to Hope

Well, it has been quite a difficult four months. These months have been nothing short of Hell on earth. But, I survived them. And, I am here.

In August, I decided to stop taking Lyrica (an anti-convulsant) because we were unable to increase the dose to a helpful level without also increasing undesirable side effects. As I stopped the Lyrica, I started Zonegran, another anti-convulsant. This medication gave me severe anxiety and panic attacks. It took three weeks to realize the anxiety and panic were medication-induced.

I decided to take a medication holiday because of the awful fear Zonegran gave me of trying a new medication. Even though I was still taking Verapamil (which helps my NDPH), the Migraines came back with greater intensity and greater frequency: daily. In late September, I started a very low-dose of Keppra, an anti-convulsant with a low-side effect profile. For other conditions, I have found that very low doses of medications can help resolve my condition, whereas higher dose make it worse or create other unwanted horrid side effects.

However, it seems that my medication holiday was too long, and I ended up hosptialized in mid October for seven days due to the intensity of my Migraines. (More to come on my hospitalization.) Both the Verapamil and Keppra doses were increased. Rescue medciations were changed.

Another month went by, I still had daily Migraines, so the Keppra dose was again increased. Meanwhile, at the beginning of December, I had another round of Cervical Facet Blocks, Occipital Nerve Blocks and C2 root nerve block mainly for my neck, but also a hope they might affect my Migraines as well. (More to come on these blocks.)

Finally, two weeks before Christmas, the intensity started to decrease enough so I can leave my bed and start gradually increasing my stamina. I forced myself to start walking on the treadmill despite my level of pain. If I could get out of bed, I would walk.

My husband and I spent five days over Christmas in Iowa visiting his parents. For a few days, my daily NDPH pain was down to 1 out of 10! Hurrah! And Migraine frequency has significantly decreased from daily to a third of that.

Today, December 28th, 2008, I look back at the last four months and wonder how I got through. Many days, I wanted to end the pain by any means possible. I was done. I was past done. I was burnt to a crisp. I had no will. I had no endurance.

But, I can now look back and say, if it gets that bad again, I got through it before and I can do it again. During the severe parts, I thought I didn't care to live until when it got better. Now, I am so glad I was sustained.

I will enjoy every moment that is a pain-decreased day. And when the pain-filled ones come back, I will remember today.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Six Tips For Maximizing Holiday Enjoyment

With all the holidays that fall at this time of year, I feel a little overwhelmed with plans and activities. Right now, I take things on a day-by-day basis and sometimes a moment-by-moment basis.

I am constantly learning about how to deal with everyday situations and Migraine disease. This month's blog carnival topic at Somebody Heal Me is "Maximizing Your Enjoyment of the Holiday Season." I am going to share with you some tips that I find helpful when trying to enjoy the holidays.

I had an enlightening Thanksgiving holiday. It has been a rough few months for me. I've been Migraining more than I ever have before. Therefore, making concrete plans is quite difficult. 99% of the time I cancel plans. Making holiday plans can be quite a leap of faith.

This year, my husband and I spent Thanksgiving with my side of the family: my parents from out of town, my brother, his wife and my uncle. They all came to my house. To take the load off of myself, I planned to have an easy frozen Italian meal that my husband could execute if a Migraine decided to rear its head that day. I was briefly concerned that my family might be disappointed with a non-traditional Thanksgiving feast. But, I knew they would be equally disappointed with nothing on the table if I couldn't make anything at all!
Sometimes I don't realize that I set expectations for myself that are way too high. On a day-to-day basis, my body, my Migraines, my NDPH, and my anxiety put limitations on me. So, when the often stress-filled holidays arrive, I need to give myself even more leniency. So, I made a plan on which I could follow through.

Holiday Tip #1: Make it easy on yourself. Be Flexible. Only plan for what you think you can reasonably do.

Upon hearing of my Thanksgiving meal plans, my parents graciously offered to make a simple and easy traditional Thanksgiving meal. I made sure they understood that I would not be able to help out, especially if I was having a pain-filled day. This brings me to my Holiday Tips #2 and #3.

Holiday Tip #2:
Let others help you out, especially when they offer it. :)

Holiday Tip #3:
Keep good communication lines open with those who you will be interacting with during the holidays.

When I get together with family members and friends, I have found it extremely helpful to let everyone know what limitations I have. Often I tell my family/friends what they might expect from me. I let them know, in advance, that if I have a Migraine or an elevated NDPH, I may or may not be able to participate in activities as planned. I am honest about the fact that I may need frequent breaks. By doing this, when I come upon a situation where I need to leave early, or go to a back room for a break, others already understand why. If I am going to someone else's house and find myself in a situation where it is necessary for me to retreat to a quiet bedroom because of a Migraine, I feel comfortable doing so.

Holiday Tip #4: Enjoy the moment.

This is a very simple one, but a tip I am still trying to master. My parents arrived on Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Tuesday and Wednesday, I had a low-grade NDPH, but I was able to enjoy my parents' company and conversation. A Migraine was not interfereing and it was lovely. As I was sitting on the floor, playing with the dogs and laughing with my mom, I realized how wonderful it was. I wasn't alone. I was enjoying myself. I had people to talk to and to listen to. It was great.

Thanksgiving Day arrived and so did menstrually related Migraines and severe cramps. I attempted joining my parents to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (one of my favorite family traditions). But I had to make a hasty retreat to my bedroom for darkness and quiet as all the symptoms of a Migraine settled in. I ended up spending the whole day in bed away from all of our guests. I ate my mom's beautifully cooked meal in bed and spent most of the day in a medication/pain haze. I did venture out to watch part of a movie with family, but soon retreated to my quiet cave.

Although, this was not the Thanksgiving day I envisioned or hoped for, having my family together at my house brought me so much joy. I could hear their muffled laughter and pleasant conversation. I could hear them cheering or groaning while playing a board game. In the past, I had the reaction of being jealous that I was not present. But, this time, I was so happy that they were even there. I usually spend my days alone. And to have a house full of family was a huge blessing.

Holiday Tip #6: If the holidays do not go as you'd hoped or planned, try to find something to be glad about.

Best wishes this holiday season for finding enjoyment despite Migraine disease.