Thursday, April 3, 2014

Book Review: My Head Hurts!

If you want to read a good, and dare I say, entertaining, headache book - this one's for you. It reminded me of the book Chocolate & Vicodin which I reviewed three years ago (wow, time flies!).



In My Head Hurts!: My struggle with the headache that refused to stop, author Jonathan Larney very openly discusses his constant headache and how it affected every aspect of his life. His headache started suddenly one day when he was lifting weights, and it remained constant for more than two years.

So how could a book about pain possibly be entertaining? Thankfully, Jonathan has a wonderful sense of humor - which is pretty much a necessity in order to survive constant pain. In the prologue, he writes the following which literally made me laugh out loud:
"I will attempt to lighten the mood, because reading about someone's headache seems thrilling enough to give oneself a headache. If smiling at how I illustrate my own misfortunes isn't entertaining enough, I encourage you to make this book into a drinking game. Each time I mention the word 'headache,' you take a sip of alcohol. The unique and clever part of this idea contributes to you waking up with a similar headache as I do every morning."
 Hilarious, right?! I also enjoyed the chapter titles. A few examples:
  • Karma, You Have the Wrong Guy
  • This is Your Brain on Optimism
  • Turn Your Head and Cough
  • I Didn't Choose the Headache Life, the Headache Life Chose Me
  • The War Against My Headache
That last one is my favorite, naturally.

Jonathan is great with metaphors, and he cleverly put into words how physically and emotionally draining it is to be in pain. While my pain isn't constant like his, I can still relate to having headaches/migraines that wear you down, but I often have trouble explaining them to people who rarely get headaches. Now I can use some of the metaphors or even have them read the book if they're close enough to me.

The author shares stories about others' reactions to his pain - which made me want to punch some of his co-workers. Most of the time he tried to act as though he wasn't in pain, but then people - doctors included - didn't take him seriously. I can identify with him, as I'm sure most of you can as well. It's frustrating when you hurt so bad that you can hardly stand it, yet on the outside you look fine and people treat you as though you're fine and should function at 100 percent. But you can't show how you really feel because then you would just be whining all the time. This is why a lot of pain sufferers keep to themselves and end up being depressed, which is what happened to Jonathan for a while.

The book describes the many treatments Jonathan tried and the different emotional stages he went through, including acceptance. Like him, I've always been afraid of that word because I figured if I accept my headaches, I'm giving up and allowing them to take over my life. In Jonathan's words, "acceptance is not about giving up though, but rather understanding and recognizing the need to retake control and resume living your life."

Does Jonathan still have a constant headache? Did he find the cause? Is he now headache-free? The book keeps you in suspense so I'm not going to give away the ending. But that's not really the point of this book. It's more about the journey and the laughs (and tears) along the way.

Disclosure: I was given a free copy of My Head Hurts! in exchange for this blog review. My review is 100% unbiased.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book Review: Migraine & Headache Answers

This is the first of two book reviews I'll be doing - finally! Special thanks to the authors because it took me months to get these done and they have both been very patient with me.

Cover from amazon.com

Migraine & Headache Answers: Find Out How to Heal Your Migraines is by migraine sufferer Michelle Tweedy and her partner, Bryan Inkson. If you don't have time to read my entire post, here's the main takeaway: the book contains a wealth of information and unique things for migraine and headache sufferers to try.

I was provided the e-book version, but since I don't have an e-book reader I read it all on my computer. That made it a little harder to read and follow as compared to a physical book. Also, the authors are from New Zealand so the dialect was a little different from what I'm used to (the terms "bloke" and "crikey," for example), but at the same time that made it more interesting. The journalist in me (I'm not actually a journalist, but that was my minor in college) picked up on a few errors that weren't just from the different dialect, but most people probably wouldn't notice or mind them. Not judging though because I'm sure I make mistakes on this blog all the time! ;)

Aside from the above, I enjoyed reading the book. It starts by telling Michelle's story and switches between Michelle and Bryan's perspectives. The book reads almost like a journal and does a great job of covering all that is involved with chronic migraines - the emotional side, trying many things, reactions to those things, looking into the cause of the pain, etc.

What I liked most about the book was all the ideas! I've been blogging for a long time now and have researched the heck out of headaches/migraines, and I hadn't even heard of some of the things Michelle tried until reading the book; for example, deer placenta (!). It's almost overwhelming, but it gives me hope knowing that there's still so much more I can do. While Michelle doesn't promise a cure and she does acknowledge that everyone responds differently, she has gone from 26+ migraines per month to one per month - and she can manage it without medication. Although the book covers non-medication tools for helping migraines, it points out that if you have to take medication, it's okay and do what you feel is best. I'm thankful that the book stresses that because I hate taking medication, but some days that's the only way I'm able to survive.

This book inspired me to stay at it and keep fighting my war on headaches. It talks about juicing from raw fruits and veggies, and last night I made a big batch of baby food for Hollis and I set aside some of the foods and made a green juice for myself, something I haven't done in a long time. I also plan on having a hair analysis test done - an entire chapter of this book is devoted to the importance of that test.

If you're interested in purchasing the book, please click on the link above.

Disclosure: I was given a free copy of Migraine & Headache Answers in exchange for this blog review. My review is 100% unbiased.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fenugreek is a Headache Trigger

Fenugreek can help a long list of things, but I started taking it for milk production since I'm still breastfeeding my baby. I tried drinking Mother's Milk Tea at first, and it seemed to help a little (I only had one cup a day but they recommend more than that). Not that I really had a problem with milk production, but I figured it couldn't hurt. But when I took Hollis to her six-month checkup, she was only about 14 pounds and in the 8th percentile for weight, so her pediatrician asked about my milk production. She said that fenugreek was safe and worth a try, so I got serious about it and switched to the stronger pill form. In the back of my mind, I had this crazy idea that maybe it would magically help my headaches too. Well, it did increase my milk supply, but it also increased my headaches and migraines. Boo! A friend on Twitter later told me that fenugreek is notorious for triggering headaches. She also informed me that it's an ingredient in curry powder (I immediately went to the kitchen and threw out my curry powder). So in case you didn't know, fenugreek can make headaches worse. You live and you learn!

Also, a quick alert to pregnant women in case you didn't hear about this today: acetaminophen exposure during pregnancy has been linked to ADHD, but it just slightly increases the risk. Here's an article from Reuters. Yes I took a LOT of acetaminophen during my pregnancy and I still take it now that I breastfeed. It helped my head (when it decided to work) which lowered my tension and in turn was better for the baby, and if I could have avoided taking it I would have. Which makes this quote from the article hilarious:

Nevertheless, "it's reasonable to say that there's no reason to use these drugs during pregnancy unless there is a clear medical indication," said Olsen, a professor of epidemiology at UCLA and at Aarhus University in Denmark.

Because, ya know, pregnant ladies generally take acetaminophen just for fun. ;)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Christmas Present from the Husband: TheraSpecs

Hey, I'm still alive! Yes, it's been a while and I also have two book reviews that I'm behind on, but moving on... :)

I asked my husband for a migraine-related Christmas present - time out - speaking of Christmas, as a new mom I have to share the cutest Christmas card ever (I'm biased):

She was smiling at Daddy, of course

As I was saying, I asked Jonathan to buy me TheraSpecs for Christmas, specifically the indoor aviators. If you haven't heard of them, the company was developed by Hart, whose wife, Kerrie, is a fellow migraine blogger (The Daily Headache).

Light doesn't necessarily trigger my migraines (although fluorescent lights including CFLs may do so; I'm not certain because I try to avoid them), but when I have a migraine any light feels like it's entering my eyes via two knives. I keep my curtains closed at home and wear sunglasses outside, but I work on a big iMac and if I have a deadline, I have to try to work through the pain. Why not just wear sunglasses inside? They would be too dark and end up hurting my eyes in the long run. So my sweet husband got me these:

Pilot TheraSpecs - Indoor

Good side coverage to keep the light out

When I start to feel a headache coming on while working, I'll put these on and suddenly the light from the computer screen is no longer piercing my eyes. They're very lightweight although one time I had to take them off because I had a migraine where anything on my face hurt, but that doesn't happen too often. I also wore these once outside when I had a migraine on a gloomy day and even the small amount of light was bothering my migraine, and they were very soothing.

I've had a lot of migraines lately so I'm happy to have one more weapon in my arsenal!


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Acetaminophen / Tylenol Study & Infographic

Hi, friends! It's been a while...my graphic design company (at-home freelancing) has been super busy lately. I'm so blessed to have lots of work coming in, and FUN work at that!

So just a quick update before I dive into this post. My last post was about me planning to try biofeedback. Well, my insurance said biofeedback would probably be covered under their mental health side, and I haven't been able to figure out if I even have that, much less if they would cover biofeedback. I called a bunch of doctors in my area and one was nice enough to give me contact info for a couple places that do biofeedback, but I never got around to calling them. My deductible starts over in January so there's pretty much no point in trying now. Has biofeedback helped any of you? I'm guessing I would still end up paying big copays either way, so I'd rather use that money to try massage, something I really feel would help because of all the tension I carry in my neck/shoulders. But I'm still working on convincing the husband because it's expensive.

Acetaminophen Study

When I was pregnant, I was told that acetaminophen is generally safe to take for headaches (I took Fioricet for the really bad migraines). I tried not to take anything but my headaches and migraines got way worse the first and second trimester, so I couldn't help it. The stress from enduring the pain without taking meds wasn't good for the baby, so it was pretty much a lose/lose situation. Anyway, I just read about this recent study that found:
"Close to four percent of women took Tylenol for at least 28 days total during pregnancy. Their children seemed to have poorer motor skills than kids whose mothers had taken the drug fewer times or not at all. Tylenol-exposed kids also tended to start walking later, have poorer communication and language skills and more behavior problems."
 I definitely took acetaminophen 28+ days during my pregnancy...not gonna lie. BUT the study also says:

"Heavy users most often reported taking the drug for five to seven days in a row a few times during pregnancy."
I didn't do that and I don't ever do that because (1) I'm afraid of rebound headaches and (2) if I take meds too much my body adjusts and they aren't as effective (there's a medical term for this...google wasn't any help).

So far, my baby girl seems to be developing just fine. But I still want to warn anyone who is pregnant to be careful what you take and don't take too much of something (if you can help it) just because it's "safe."

Acetaminophen Infographic

On that note, I have an infographic to share - not related to the above study, but related to acetaminophen. The folks at the Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition (KnowYourDose.org) emailed this to me. The designer in me is loving it, and it's a great way to spread the word to, again, be careful what you take!

Larger version/download here.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Back to the Neuro

After an almost three-year break, I decided it was time to see my neurologist. The one I'm seeing is tied to a hospital, so insurance is billed twice (or something like that) which is one of the reasons I stopped going - I was having to pay a lot out of pocket. I hope things have changed, but it's doubtful. Plus I feel like we tried everything I could afford so there wasn't much else to do. But my migraines are becoming more and more frequent and I'm still having the nearly daily headaches, so I had to do something.

The time with my neurologist (whom I LOVE) was pretty uneventful. Since I'm still breastfeeding and plan on doing so at least a year, there's not much I can try. Biofeedback was at the top of my list and my neuro agreed that it could help, at least with the regular headaches. I was all pumped up until I walked down the hall to talk with the administrative specialist who informed me that biofeedback there is considered out of network for my insurance. Lovely. They do have payment plans if I wanted to pay for it myself, but it would be more than $1,000. The next step is for me to call my insurance and see if they can recommend someone in network to do biofeedback, and even then I still need to see how much it will cost.

But back to the neurology appointment. When I arrived, the check-in person told me that my neurologist had a 1.5 hour wait. Ouch! I'd been lucky enough to never have to wait more than 20 minutes or so (that I recall) at the neurologist. I had little Hollis with me, but luckily I had just fed her before the appointment. Here's a picture of her in the patient room - she slept the whole time! Well except for her waking up briefly when the nurse took me back, and she smiled at everyone (babies attract immediate crowds). She's such a good baby!

Hollis rockin' the chevron blankie
Turns out, two of my neuro's patients had to go to ER that day. One of them was in the room across from me waiting for a ride to the hospital (she didn't want to take the ambulance which is understandable when you have a migraine). At one point the neuro had to guide her to the bathroom because she had a hoodie over her head and coudn't take the lights. She threw up at least twice while she was there. My heart was breaking for the poor girl. :( 

After the appointment it was time to feed Hollis again, so I had been there about three hours (I got there 20 minutes before my appointment time). I fed Hollis in the parking lot (fun) and then ate lunch out...at 3:00. But I was just happy to be back at the neurologist so I could try something - anything!




Thursday, October 3, 2013

I seriously hate perfume.

The book review I was going to write is on hold, and my neurology appointment isn't until next week, so I don't have much to write about at the moment. So please let me take this opportunity to vent, if you don't mind.

I HATE Perfume

And all lab-created scents, really...but especially perfume. I admit, before my headaches got out of control, I actually wore perfume for special occasions (prom for example...yes it was that long ago). And some perfumes and colognes don't bother me much. But others literally drive me crazy. They make my nose itch, my brain cloudy, and every time I inhale it feels like I'm getting stabbed in the eye or hit in the forehead or back of my head. Usually it's a minor stabbing feeling, but after too long it gets worse and develops into a bad headache or migraine.

My hatred of perfume has grown lately because I have a baby, and women like to hold babies. Don't worry - I only let people I know hold Hollis - but some of them wear perfume, and then she ends up smelling like perfume, and then it rubs off on me, which requires outfit changes for both of us and a bath for her. Also, I have a friend who wears a certain type of perfume (not sure which brand) that REALLY gets to my head, so bad that I actually dread getting together with her because I know how badly it will affect my head.

I don't feel right telling people what do to, like not to wear perfume or not to hold my baby if they're wearing perfume, so all I can do is vent. Thanks for allowing me to do so. :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Migraine & Pregnancy Stats

I just read a timely (for me) post from James at HeadacheandMigraineNews.com called "Migraine During and After Pregnancy." Check it out if you're interested. I really like how he has been creating images/mini-infographics to go along with his posts. As a graphic designer, I should totally be doing this!! I'm still trying to figure out a schedule with the baby and make the best use of my time (aren't we all?) but I'll do my best to start making some fun graphics. :)

Next week I have my six-week (post-birth) check up with the OB and since I've had at least two migraines since giving birth, I'm going to ask what my options are. Unfortunately they're limited since I'm breastfeeding and plan to do so for at least a year. Since I've met my deductible, I really want to try something new that I'd normally have to meet my deductible to try (Botox, for example). Once I have a game plan I'll blog about it. I also have a unique book review coming up.

Be well, friends!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

So, is labor worse than migraines?

Now that I'm putting Hollis down for regular naps, I finally have time to share my labor story. But first, some cute pictures from our photo shoot. Yes, I put my baby in a suitcase. Blame Pinterest. :)





Honestly, I thought I would kick butt at labor. I figured that nothing can be worse than migraine pain and the scenario in my head involved me having some cramping, showing up at the hospital and discovering I'm near 10 cm and ready to push. Ha! Wrong.

I was a week and three days late when I had Hollis. Tuesday morning I had an OB appointment and was scheduled to be induced later that week. That afternoon, I started having contractions. The day earlier I had regular contractions for five hours and then they just stopped, so I wasn't getting my hopes up. But they got stronger and closer together, and by 7 p.m. they were averaging five minutes apart. At 11 p.m., I called the OB who told me a had a looong way to go. Great. By 2 a.m. they were about three and a half minutes apart and I was ready for some narcotics. Called OB and got the green light to head to the hospital.

Funny side story - when I was admitted into my delivery room, I went to the bathroom and since peeing brought on contractions, I finished, stood up and leaned against the sink because leaning on things helped with the pain. Suddenly the sink came off the wall and was hanging by the pipes! It must have happened before and whoever fixed it didn't do a good job, because it was already loose. So during my labor, a maintenance crew came in and attached the sink back to the wall (I agreed to have them come in; I didn't care at that point)!

Once I arrived at the hospital I was 4 cm dilated - up from 1 cm that morning - and they admitted me and gave me Stadol, a lovely narcotic that allowed me to relax enough to take a nap. Unfortunately, it made me too relaxed and I went hours without making progress, so the nurse made me get up and walk. The Stadol only lasted about an hour and they only give two doses, so things were getting painful but bearable. But during the second walk things got awful. My husband was walking the halls with me and would stop and stand with me as I leaned on the very helpful side railings during contractions. Then during one particularly painful contraction, some stainless steel carts (carrying supplies or whatever) and people went by and suddenly everything inside my head (my eyes were closed) got loud and disruptive. I grabbed my husband and realized I couldn't inhale...I was having a panic attack. When the contraction ended I practically sprinted to my room, crying hysterically, and demanded an epidural. This was at 10:15 a.m. Wednesday. I hadn't intended to get an epidural, but I definitely had left the option open. Once I got the epidural, I found out I still was only 4 cm dilated so I was put on Pitocin (Oxytocin) to speed things up. If you're not familiar with Pitocin, it makes contractions come on super fast and super strong, so I was thankful I had decided on the epidural.

After napping more (seriously, the epidural was magic - while it lasted), I was checked at 1 p.m. and suddenly I was 9 cm dilated! I felt a slight urge to poop, a sign that it's push time, so the nurse suggested we tried pushing. The first push was great - the nurse could see the baby's head and told me she had a head full of hair, and Jonathan and I were ecstatic. Then for some reason nothing was happening during the next few pushes, and I started to notice the contractions again. Within what seemed like seconds, I was in excruciating pain - the epidural had stopped working. I tried pushing but the pain just made me subconsciously tense up. The nurse upped the amount coming out of the pump (I don't know the medical term) but it didn't help so the anesthesiologist had to come give me another dose through the tube. Once the pain subsided, I was able to push productively, but then my uterus stopped contracting regularly (which needs to happen in order to push), possibly because the epidural relaxed me too much. We went through this cycle twice (epidural not working, anesthesiologist a.k.a. ANGEL administering more drugs, uterus relaxing, contractions slowing). Finally my nurse called in my OB and she told me I had one more chance to push or else I'd need a c-section. I pushed with all my might and with the encouragement from Jonathan that I was, in fact, making progress, Hollis came out at 4:25 p.m. and was placed on my stomach...where she proceeded to poop all over me. I didn't care. I was in love. :)

The pushing took two hours and during the parts where the epidural wore off and I could feel the full force of the Pitocin-aided contractions, I was in SO MUCH PAIN. So, is labor worse than migraines? It's a different type of pain, but from my experience I would say it's just as bad if not worse. The whole experience got me thinking, do I just have a low pain threshold? My mom and sister both survived labor without painkillers. Why was I different? My parents think I have fibromyalgia (Dad has it), which can make your nerves more sensitive. The pregnancy and childbirth recovery were pretty bad - I felt like I had been in a car accident I was so sore - which could also be from fibro. Or are people who get migraines just overall more sensitive? I certainly don't have the answers.

While my migraines went away during the end of my pregnancy (they were worse during the beginning), they're now coming back and it's definitely a hormonal thing because I'm also starting to have breakouts, oily skin, etc. again. I'm breastfeeding and am limited on what I can take, but I'm planning to talk with my OB about it at my upcoming checkup.

The above experience is just my own; every pregnancy and labor experience is unique. If you have any questions or want to share your experience with migraines and pregnancy/labor/breastfeeding, please leave a comment or send me an email!


Friday, July 26, 2013

She's Here! Meet Hollis Kate

At the hospital

Yes, I already did a photo shoot with Hollis




War on Headaches readers, I'd like you to meet my sweet baby girl, Hollis Kate. She was born July 10, a week and three days past the due date. At birth she weighed 7 lb. 7 oz. and was 20 inches long. The name Hollis means "near the holly bushes" and we named her after my sister, Holly. Last year my sister had a daughter and named her Hadley, which means "heather field." The cousins are 14 months apart, same as me and my sister. As for Kate, it's really the only girl name my husband and I could agree on (aside from Hollis of course, but that name had to grow on us).

My next post will be all about the birth. It still hurts to sit down for very long so I've been avoiding the computer, but I'll get started on the post asap and I won't hold anything back, as is always the case on this blog. Let's just say I thought that after dealing with migraines, labor would be a breeze. Uh, not the case. At all.

I'll post more baby pictures too. I used ideas from Pinterest and probably tortured the poor baby during our photo shoot, but she was a trooper. She's such a well behaved baby; I'm very blessed! :)