Apparently… It’s All Relative

“Shhh! Your dad is upstairs sleeping. He has one of his really bad headaches again.” My mom would inform my sister and me in an attempt to keep us from disturbing our poor father while he tried to recover from the excruciating pain that occasionally plagued him.

All I knew about his headaches were that they were referred to as “cluster headaches” and they made the whole side of his head and face hurt. He couldn’t even brush his hair without extreme pain.

“You girls leave your mother alone. She came home with another migraine today.” My dad would warn us while my mother rested, writhed in pain or ran to bathroom to throw up again. And we would eat takeout for dinner if she hadn’t already suffered through cooking our meal BEFORE addressing her own needs and collapsing on the bed.

What I knew about her headaches were that they were called “migraines” and they typically made her lose her vision along with whatever she ate that day. Oh yeah… and I decided that between her and my father… adulthood pretty much sucked.

Fast forward to my junior year in high school. I vividly remember sitting in art class and reading a text book. I’m not sure why I wasn’t painting or drawing at the time but that is irrelevent here. As I looked at the grey lines of copy on the page I noticed that entire sections of the page began to disappear into what can only be described as bright, white blind spots. I felt funny and asked to be excused.

Sitting in the office while the secretary called my dad to come and get me — a terrible pain I had never felt before began gripping my forehead like a vise. On the ride home with him, the nausea came. He had to pull over just four houses down from ours as my lunch began to resurface. It was then that I remembered the horrible migraine headaches that my mother and grandmother (as I would later learn) got with some regularity. And it was then that I learned how privileged I too was to be a member of that genetic club. Thank you, mom and grandma… I love you too.

I have since learned to manage the migraines that fortunately only come around two to four times a year. I have a prescription, know some of the “triggers” and warning signs and have thus learned how to keep from losing my lunch or an entire day. I count myself lucky that I am not one of those chronic sufferers who get several in one week.

Fast forward AGAIN to four days ago. While managing an estate sale at Lee’s childhood home I began to feel a burning ache in my inner ear and several “ice pick” stabs to the back of my neck and head. I took my migraine medicine figuring it couldn’t hurt and waited for it to work. And I waited. And I waited some more. Nothing. The untouchable discomfort soon spread to the entire right side of my head and face and by dinner time I had trouble chewing because my jaw and teeth ached as well. And I couldn’t brush my hair without wincing. Thank you, dad.

Four days later of ice packs, towels wrapped tightly around my skull and “chill pills” to help me sleep… the headache (though vastly better) is still with me. Apparently, unlike it’s lesser-of-a-pain-in-the-ass cousin, the migraine… these “clusters” can last for several days. Severe episodes are often treated with visits to the ER and injections of steroids, strong pain killers and other drugs to help the sufferer through. OTC pain medications do NOT work and you wanna know the best part — they don’t KNOW what causes them other than GENETICS! Ha!

So, as much as I love and adore my amazing parents for ALL that they have done and continue to do for me and for EACH of the selfless sacrifices they have made in the name of love… I would also like to say a hearty thank you for the great genes too! I know you had nothing to do with it, really. But if I’d had the choice… I would have much rather inherited my mom’s knack for baking chocolately goodness from scratch… and my dad’s green thumb.


15 thoughts on “Apparently… It’s All Relative

  1. JT says:

    You poor thing! My wife suffers Chronic Migraines but not the clusters. I am sure if your parents had known any way to avoid passing this on they would have done it in a heartbeat! I don’t typically get headaches and have probably never had a migraine based on the suffering I see my wife go through, still I can empathize with you not that does a darn bit of good 😦

    • Thanks JT. Yeah, they are not fun. I thought the migraines were the worst but I think if I hada choice, I’d choose them over the clusters now that I’ve experienced them. Tell your wife I feel her pain 🙂 Hopefully she doesn’t suffer often!

    • Hello Mother… I see I must still be logged onto your computer so your comment came up as me instead. That’s OK. I know it’s you. Hopefully Jennifer will never get the other headaches. Since she is older maybe she is out of the woods. Though I read that onset of clusters is between the ages of 25 and 50. UGH 😛

  2. Glad you’re getting better now! I can’t even imagine having migraines or those horrible cluster things. Hope you continue to improve and that these episodes are few and far between.

    • Thank you Paige 🙂 And thanks for your kind words on my last entry. I am just now able to respond to comments a bit. It is a miracle if I even POST anything these days… let alone read and comment and reply. I know it’s wrong but it’s the best I can do for now. Hope to be back soon! Hope all is well with you too!! 😉

      • Post? What’s a post? I know how you feel. I’ve been battling whatever is wrong with me — we’re thinking B-12 deficiency today; tomorrow it could be something else — so my posts have been nonexistent lately. No motivation or energy. I hope to be back soon as well. But I’m trying not to beat myself up over it. You can only handle so many things at one time and you have to give yourself permission to let go of certain things, even if they’re just temporary. I don’t gauge your strength of character on whether or not you publish a post every day (although I did look forward to those daily posts), but you’ll be back when you’re ready. I have no doubt. I know for me, I miss that feeling of writing a perfect sentence! That’s a great feeling!!!

  3. I hate to hear that anyone has those horrible things. I have what I think are migraines about twice a year. I used to use liquid benadryl until that gave me hallucinations. Trust me I will never ever take that again. Spiders (big ones) hanging from the ceiling fan.Once there was a black pipe (as in plumbing) that was standing beside my bed but it was evil. Yes I wrote that out loud. You read it. So now when I feel a headache getting that I grab ice packs and take tylenol which basically does nothing. How awful it would have been to have lived before there were medicines and ice.

  4. Donald Miller says:

    I didn’t know Marilyn Manson was also a migraine sufferer, although I should have suspected as much. That’s him in the picture, right? o.O

    I get migraines but I’m very fortunate that there isn’t any pain involved. Only flashes and flickering and all of that.

    Ya just feel kind of helpless when a friend is suffering. I guess about the only remedy I can think of is for you to get yourself a real big guy named Lee and have him hold you while you watch a good comedy. (Should be great for lowering the blood pressure.) That and a Valium is about all I can think of. Hope you get feeling better soon.

    • Donald Miller says:

      OR, as an “alternate strategy, you could grab a big guy named Lee and a little cat named Stanley and go to Mardi Gras!! Heh-heh. Mardi Gras (just kidding of course, unless it is M G season, would be my first choice of where to go for migraine relief. Ha!!

      Anyway. I hope you had a great time!

  5. Donald Miller says:

    In theory my previous suggestion would help. In practice, even though it sounds like you already know a lot about the conditions, in case you missed any information that might be useful, here’s the link to some links at the Mayo Clinic. It’s the first site I go to when I want to look something up.

    I decided I ought to find out more about my own condition, so I went there. I also copied the relevant links. (It was a snap.)

  6. Donald Miller says:

    Hi Joanna,

    I hope you are feeling better. From time to time, I make excursions through a few blogs on WP, hoping to find some personalities I can connect with. I hit it off with you and the Cowboy (even though he and I have nothing in common except that we like each other.) I also like JT.

    But your blog is unique in it’s genuiness. People are usually trying to sell me on an idea–most often religious ones. It’s so off-putting. I have no idea how to respond to someone who’s trying to tell me something I already know–and probably a lot better than them. I think I can write an okay essay, but I don’t have the “touch” for writing a personal narrative on something anymore than most other people do.

    So, bottom line. Thanks for writing the well-constructed well-written personable essays, and I hope you aren’t too long in writing your next one. I was surprised by how many people visit your site– shocked was really the right term. I naively look at the comments and think that’s how many people are going to a site.

  7. You’re not alone – I have cluster headaches and am in the middle of a cycle right now…I just blogged about mine a few days ago. I don’t know who I inherited mine from…I just hope my kids don’t get them when they get older. They suck!

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your headaches. And although at times I feel your pain… I do hope your latest episode has gone away. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with me. I hope you don’t get them often.

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