“You’ve had a headache for a month?”
I’ve heard that a lot lately. I’m stubborn. I know it.
Headaches are a long-time companion, actually. Usually a headache signals one of these things:
• not enough fluids
• not enough protein
• not enough exercise
• not enough sleep
Like distinguishing the cries of a baby, I’ve learned to tell the difference and respond with the obvious actions that correspond to this list. If all else fails, there’s always ibuprofen.
Not this time.
This time the usual tricks did not work. I experimented with ergonomics in my office. Changed my chair. Put something under my feet. Dabbled in caffeine, which I hardly ever do. Reading glasses. Bifocal glasses. Brighter light. Dimmer light. New pillows in my bed. More pillows.
Nothing helped. In the meantime, the pain got progressively worse.
I stopped going to my exercise classes because I couldn’t take the movement. I was hardly getting any work done. I didn’t want to deal with preparing decent meals. Progress on my new novel came to a halt. I wasn’t sleeping.
Life as I knew it had disappeared.
Finally I admitted I needed help figuring out just what kind of headache this was so I could manage it appropriately. I woke up one morning and cradled the phone until the moment I knew someone would be at the doctor’s office to take my call.
By the time of my appointment, about seven hours later, I was a puddle. Thankfully the doctor immediately went into high gear to treat my pain first and then talk about what happened. Turns out I had an occipital neuralgia headache. You can look it up if you’re curious. Suffice it to say treatment involved getting a shot of steroid straight into a nerve at the back of my skull—with the caveat that it would take 48 hours to calm the inflamed nerve. I tied up an exam room for more than two hours while the doctor made sure I was okay. I went home armed with three days worth of post-operative strength drugs.
Stubbornness did me in. Thinking I could handle my suffering on my own made me wait longer than I needed to before I sought help.
Where is the line between toughing things out and accepting help? And why do we keep pushing that line farther out?
Whether you have a head pain or a heart pain, whether you feel overwhelmed, scared half to death, or like you’re standing naked in front of strangers, these questions are worth asking. Here are some lessons that floated to the top for me.
1. You may not know as much as you think you know. It’s okay to ask for help.
2. You don’t have to suffer alone. We were created to seek connection. Life is richer when we live it with others.
3. Don’t keep your story to yourself. Other people do care. They want to hear. They want to help.
Learn from my headache and take care of yourself.
Oh Olivia, I’m so sad you’ve been going through this pain. Praying for you as you slow down a bit and take time for recovery. Lots of love!
Thanks, Sue. I am much better now. Yesterday and today I have felt my normal self, and I’m grateful.