Which is exactly never, when you’re really hurting- something I recently learned courtesy of an extended hormone treatment that left me ping-ponging between nauseating migraines and splitting headaches for 6 weeks.
Let me put this into perspective. I’d never had a migraine before, so my first experience with one- three days after I started the medication- was comparable to an Amish housewife eating a Hoffman and spending the night at a trance party for Furries.
I thought I was fucking dying.
Iron deficiencies, early onset Parkinson’s, brain tumours and meningitis all played out in my hypochondriac imagination before I considered the innocuous little white pills I’d been popping. I started taking them to rectify a seemingly small hormonal imbalance*, not suspecting they had the power to make me to feel like I was on deck during the climax of ‘A Perfect Storm’.
* I’m not going to give the gory details about said imbalance, but for the record: No I didn’t grow (more?) balls and no, my elbow didn’t split open into a second vagina. Thanks for asking.
The doctor who prescribed the hormone insisted that I may experience ‘mild’ headaches as a result of water retention when I phoned her, in tears and mere minutes away from cracking my own skull open in order to pour my brain into the office freezer. ‘Mild’ headaches? I drank a full bottle of J&B on my 26th birthday (spread out over the course of an evening, I’m not an animal) and that headache was still better than what I was waking up to on the ‘Hormones from Hell’ diet.
Last night, after two weeks of waiting for the meds to work their way out of my system, I finally felt the vice grip of the chronic, yeah, I’m going to say it, chronic pain lift. After countless painkillers, three doctor’s visits, R1 000 on blood tests and two near-total emotional melt downs, I could look at the light in my living room without crying. It felt awesome.
For six weeks, I had forced myself to attend (minimal) social engagements with a thin smile and waning patience. I had missed gym, cooking, shopping, laughing, reading, playing, chatting, hanging out because I was too tired, too sick, my head hurt too much, and I had to lie down.
For six weeks, I dragged myself through every day at work, propping myself up every couple of hours with painkillers- all of which strictly warned against prolonged usage (I did mix them up a lot, so I think that makes it better), came home and collapsed into bed just when most people would be getting ready to enjoy their evenings.
I didn’t start off depressed, but living the life of a depressed person will start to wear on even the strongest psyches- which I don’t have.
While I’m beyond elated at the idea of being able to go back to ‘normal’ again (something I never knew I would miss so badly) I did learn a lot during this time.
1. I have more respect, sympathy and understanding for people who live with chronic pain as part of their daily lives.
Even when I was confused about the source of my headaches and nausea, I had hope that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. If you know someone quietly suffering from any kind of prolonged physical discomfort, go up to them right now, give them a cupcake, and thank them for not punching you in the mouth until your teeth fly out like hunks of bloody confetti. Because god knows they’ve wanted to.
2. Some doctors are like the internet’s proverbial honey badgers.
In that they don’t give a fuck. We all have days where our jobs make us feel like we’re working at a sausage factory- where we’re just churning shit out at a steady pace for the sake of it- and GPs are apparently no different. If a veritable stranger takes just ten minutes to diagnose you and dish out schedule eight drugs, that person is no better than a scientologist- and should be treated with mistrust and disdain.
3. Health care starts and ends with you (or me, I forget who this article is aimed at).
Doctors can listen (or not), poke, prod and prescribe, but you need to take responsibility for your body and your symptoms first. I trusted a doctor I had never met before, and she gave me hardcore hormones (although she still denies the strength of the medication) within minutes of hearing a highly abridged version of my medical history. She might have made a mistake, but I fucked up. I took the pills- and kept taking them. I didn’t question her or her prescription sooner and I let it get so bad that I considered pulling a Jonestown on the office Kool-Aid (sorry dudes- we’re all good now).
A lot of medical professionals will tell you not to Google diagnose yourself or the side effects of the meds you’re on, and maybe they’re right. But in my case, I just wish my scepticism had kicked in sooner rather than later.