Friday, December 12, 2008

Migraines and Wonder Drugs

When I woke up this morning at 3:00 AM, I had a migraine. Not just any migraine, but one that was fully in progress. For those of you who get migraines, there is nothing worse than waking up with that feeling that someone just slammed you in the head with a baseball bat and then turned your stomach upside down.

I’ve gotten to the point that I usually get some sort of signal in my dreams that a migraine is coming so I know that I have to wake up and take something immediately. Sometimes it’s a dream where the colors suddenly get very bright and lights flash on and off, or a dream where I am trapped somewhere and can’t get out, or that I start feeling strong emotions in my dream such as anger, fear, etc. I have very vivid dreams as a rule, so I tend to see anything extreme in my dream as a warning that a migraine is coming.

But last night, there was no such signal, so by the time I did wake up – probably from the sheer pain – it was already so bad that I couldn’t stand it. I get up and take an Imitrex immediately, and lay back down in the dark, hoping that it would work very quickly. While waiting for what seemed like an eternity, I found myself reflecting on those days when there wasn’t such thing as Imitrex, or at least nothing like it in pill form. I had heard of people getting injections of Imitrex from their doctors but there was no way I could run to a doctor every time I got a bad migraine. I recall getting blinding headaches that would knock me off my feet for sometimes days on end. And when they hit on a day that I had to work – which is when they usually hit – it was sheer torture having to work while office noise, phones, fluorescent lights, and someone’s awful perfume made me feel worse.

But sometime in the early 1990s, when I went to the doctor because I was desperate for relief, she ordered a CT scan, but also prescribed me some Imitrex. I was fearful about taking it at first because the side effects sounded awful (the info sheet at the time listed “death” as a possible side effect). But, the pain in my head had to go, and I figured if the drug killed me maybe it was all for the best!

Now, many years later, I realized last night that I have taken the drug for granted. It works so well that it made me forget all those days of misery. When I was watching The Today Show this morning, that annoying Dr. Nancy Snyderman was going on about how many drugs that people take, and was strongly suggesting that people look to drugs as the easy way to solve their pain problems. She even commented something about people years ago just toughing out those bad headaches. Sure, I toughed out many of my own, thank you. But I wanted to talk back to Dr. Snyderman to tell her that just because humans CAN experience pain doesn’t mean we HAVE to. I have to say that Imitrex helped me to function as a normal human being and allowed me to live life the best I could. Along with a daily dose of a beta-blocker, I get far fewer migraines and they are far less severe. I make no apologies for avoiding all the pain and suffering that a bad migraine can bring.

There are people out there that do look to drugs to solve all their problems. But there are millions and millions of people who need them to help them live normally, or help them to simply survive. While Nancy bemoans people taking too many drugs, I can only bemoan all the years that went by when doctors offered no solid help in order to alleviate my pain just because they thought as Nancy does – that people could just work through the pain.

So, the next thing I am hoping for is for something like pain transference, where you can just pass your pain along to someone else. I would just “transfer” my next bad migraine to Nancy Snyderman and tell her to handle it without the drugs.

Whew. Now I feel better!

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