Sometimes he comes alone, and sometimes he brings Jim, James, Paul and Tyrone. Well no, actually to be fair they all have their own names:
- the Gnome
- the Slasher
- the Archaeologist
- the Gremlin
- the Pumpkin Carver
They are my different types of headaches and they are as much a part of me as my arms and legs. They can last for days, weeks and sometimes months at a time. Literally, the same unrelenting headache can start one day in say, April, and will last all the way up and through Halloween.
When a headache strikes, I get up with it, go to work with it, come home and work some more with it, eat, shower, and go to sleep with it and the next day it’s the same and it can go on this way for a whole season or two.
The “Gnome” feels like a little man sitting on my head. He doesn’t do anything he just sits there making my whole head feel like there’s a heavy, warm weight on it. The Gnome makes my neck and my back hurt too. On top of that, I think he might be sitting with his head facing behind me and is also apparently a bit “gassy” because I’ve noticed I tend to smell a lot of very strong not so nice odors whenever he’s around.
The “Slasher” feels like an ice pick-wielding maniac ran up on the side of me, grabbed one shoulder and began stabbing me on that side of my head, over and over again.
Sometimes really quickly, sometimes slowly. Sometimes slowly with sudden burst of energy, and then it’s like he gets tired so he slows down but rarely is he too tired to stop completely. He’s got a pretty good grip on the shoulder so that hurts, too. The Slasher likes to attack different sections of my head per “session” but he always stays focused on his chosen area. Gotta admire focus.
The “Archaeologist” might be kin to the Slasher, but he’s a bit more refined since he tends to dig slowly and deliberately and pause dramatically between stabs.
The “Gremlin” with his claw-like hands and feet wakes up in some part of my head, realizes he’s trapped inside, and begins ferociously to try and tear his way out. He’s a bit panicky and jittery, so he might be clawing at one spot for a couple of hours before he bounces around in there and then picks another spot to try and shred. I think he bites, too, because sometimes there are sensations of tiny teeth gnawing. I especially hate the Gremlin for two reasons (1) he makes me jittery and there’s nothing worse than not being able to sit still when you need to and (2) when I was a kid I swear a giant Gremlin lived in my closet. He was 7 feet tall, and he’d come out at night and terrorize me. I’ll fill you in on the details some other time, but dear Lord, the horror. Just the thought of something like that in my head…
The “Pumpkin Carver" feels like someone is trying to reach into my head from the top and scoop things out. There’s pressure like someone’s leaning on my head to steady themselves, then small fist-sized pain coincides with the feeling my brain has becoming taffy on one of those pull wheel thingies. Then comes the face pain, first in one eye, then the other, making it hard to see, then my whole face starts to hurt. My nose feels punched in and I have hard time breathing and my mouth feels like I just sucked on a lemon, dipped my tongue in sand, and then got it caught in a mouse trap. (In other words, my tongue feels itchy, dirty and way too big for my mouth which feels dry and like the skin is peeling off the insides of my cheeks). The Pumpkin Carver always makes me feel dizzy, nauseated, and maybe inebriated. (I wouldn’t know, but I’m guessing …). This headache is almost always around and can make simple everyday tasks an interesting challenge; things like walking a straight line, turning corners without hitting a wall, or even thinking clearly.
“Zeus” showed up last year around the holidays and has been popping up at random ever since. I’ll feel fine and then I’ll just get a sharp bolt of pain to the top of the head. The pain radiates all the way down my body, usually just one side and is so intense, I’m usually frozen wherever I’m sitting or standing when it strikes. I imagine this is what it feels like to be struck by lightning. And even though the striking itself doesn’t seem to last long, my whole body is pretty sore for a while afterwards, plus it’s hard not to freak out at being hit by something you can’t see, being temporarily paralyzed -even if only for a brief minute- and not knowing if or when it will come back or why it’s happening in the first place. Zeus is also so extra random that he can hit every other day for a week, and not come back for months, but when he shows up, he shows out!
I’ve been to several doctors and have heard all kinds of explanations including my personal favorite, “There’s nothing wrong with you; this pain is all in your head”
I’m thinking, “Well yes, of course the pain is in my head, hence the label: headache. Are you sure you went to med school? Did you actually graduate? And how were your grades?”
So anyway, Zeus was kicking my butt for the last couple of weeks, and even as I write this, the Pumpkin Carver is in town (I guess preparing for Halloween, but then why doesn‘t he ever go home after that?)
Just like everything else in life I look for the lesson. I think maybe the lesson with all of this is that chronic pain can actually be quite valuable.
-1- Being in a enough pain to consider going on a killing spree has taught me patience (wait and it will pass)
-2- Regularly feeling like your head is being smashed into a wall gives you a great appreciation for your health when you are well.
-3- Being convinced someone put a box of firecrackers in your head gives you some understanding and sensitivity to the feelings of others, even when those feelings may seem a bit “odd” to you at first.
And -4- overall, I’ve learned to make a conscious effort to relax, how to make better use of my time, and I’m careful (usually) of how I treat myself and others. I exercise, eat right (generally- darn Doritos), take my vitamins and keep doing research on what might be out there to help me.
If I can’t cure it, the least I can do is learn ways to cope with it, and continue as best as I can to keep pushing forward.
I am stronger than my pain.
Or I am so delirious with pain, I sometimes forget to let it all get me down.
Songs stuck in my head:
I'm also thinking of a song called "The Mudfoot" from the old Fat Albert show. It's not on the original Herbie Hancock soundtrack, but trust me it's a great song. I'll keep an eye out for a link.