Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Head Case

There are people, like, unsurprisingly, Sandra Bullock, for whom a headache is a sometime thing. Two, maybe three times a year she will look up quizzically and announce that she has a headache. Naturally, since it is such a rare occurance, I immediately fear the worst.

That's generally the extent of her complaint - a quick acknowledgement, a slight dip in productivity, and then it's gone. This, I assume, is an inborn trait of the white and sturdy. Or the "lean, precise and consistent."

On some unconscious level I assume that headaches are the exclusive domain of Jews, like elevated cholesterol and a tendancy to argue passionately over unimportant topics. It's easy for me to reach this conclusion, as I am living proof of this unprovable opinion as fact.

In retrospect, I guess yesterday was stressful, only in that it did not go as planned. And when yesterday's schedule blew up, it took with it an anticipated large sum of money. Okay, whatever. It didn't seem bad at the time. It was only at 8:30 pm, when I arose from my customary TV-watching spot on the living room floor, only to suddenly feel as though my head were caught in a vise, that I realized I'd had a difficult day.

How difficult became obvious at 2 am, when I awoke to find that the sadist operating the vise around my head had turned it a few clicks tighter. Normally, sleep plus Tylenol equals no more headache. Not this time. This headache was so bad that I actually dreamed about having a headache. No escape.

At 5, I took some more Tylenol, went out to the living room and tried to read. No dice. I slept on the couch for a while, then came back into the bedroom.

At 7:30 S. Bullock and the Jawa woke me up, reminding me that I had a sales meeting at 9. I went back to sleep, woke up at 9:40, head still literally pounding. Back to sleep.

At 10:30 I dragged my sorry, pain-wracked self out of bed. I missed the meeting, but at least had to make some phone calls and send some emails. Since the Tylenol was useless, I tried option #2: sugar.

At this point, I'd like to ask the makers of Lucky Charms why they thought there was a need to update an already perfect product? Adding the berry flavor has only made it taste weird and harshly interrupts the expectations of the Lucky Charms consumer.

The most intense headache I ever had occurred the morning of the Jawa's bris (for the Gentile of you, please Google "'bris."), August 17, 1997. I woke up at 7 in the morning. It was already 85 degrees in Seattle and my head felt like someone had disassembled it and then reassembled it backwards during the night. I threw on some shorts and stumbled down the street to Safeway, squinting, looking to anyone who passed like someone with the worst hangover in recorded history.

Two donuts, a can of Coke, three Excedrin Migraines, several silent prayers and two hours of sleep later, the headache had receded enough that I could function. I was shaking uncontrollably, but the headache was under control.

Right now, the headache is winning. My entire head is clenched like a fist. My nicely ironed work clothes are still on their hangers. Thank you, internet, for allowing me to do work from home while wearing flannel boxers and a t-shirt.

But this is nothing. I once had a headache for two years. From October, 1999 to the fall of 2001, I had a headache. Every day. And not the usual headache, either. This one came with all the accoutrements -- nausea, dizziness, neck pain, sensitivity to light -- it was impressive, to say the least.

I went to 16 doctors. Nothing. Sixteen diagnoses. Weekly visits to a chiropractic neurologist, who cranked on my neck and then ran a red-and-white strip of paper in front of my face. Dentists, homeopaths, regular M.D.s, and one particularly frightening experience with an MRI at the scarily named "tumor center," where the admitting nurse responded to my, "Well, hopefully this'll be the only time I'll have to come here," with, "That's what everyone says."

Tinctures, beta blockers, low-grade antidepressents, massive supplements, self-taught meditation. Four jobs in two cities. Two rented apartments and the purchase of our first house. Daycare to kindergarten. Eventually, I woke up one day and felt normal.

"The Headache" comes back occasionally, usually after prolonged periods of high-pressure situations. Today's version is more of a simple, intense tension headache, running from my neck to my forehead. Debilitating as it is invisible, it is today's personal cross to bear.

Almost noon. Time for a Coke.


Anonymous flush puppy said...

Funny how people who suffer from migraine can mark their life by headache, almost like music for some people. Crowded House for me means sophomore year in college; I can also rememember waiting for a bus in Madison Park with S.B. suffering from at least an 8.5 on the headache scale. All you can do is hope to live through it without causing irrevocable damage while trying to be productive. Coke is good.

1:26 PM  
Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

i also get incredible headaches the kind that wont let you sleep. even tho thats all you want to do. if i feel the slightest pain of one of those, i take 1 advil cold and sinus and 1 regular advil together. and sometimes a redbull too. it works, but only if i catch it fast.
sometimes it only dulls the pain,but its better. try it, it might help.

9:14 PM  
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