fierce attachments

a mother-daughter blog about the fierce attachments in our lives… title inspired by Vivian Gornick's wonderful memoir

Category: migraine and chronic pain

migraine + book talk = wait – where am i?

by nikki meredith

Last week, my friend Esther Wanning, writer and psychotherapist, interviewed me at the Larkspur Library for their local author series. Above is the photo my husband took of the event.

Do you see anything wrong with the photo?

The first thing that’s wrong: you can’t see Esther’s lovely face. My husband was trying to be unobtrusive and couldn’t figure a way to get her face in the photo without walking in front of the audience. Sorry Esther! (Just the first in a series of apologies to Esther in the wake of this event…)

But there’s another thing wrong: if you look closely at the face on the right, you will see a woman with migraine in her sunglass-shielded eyes.

But before I tell you about the migraine, I want your opinion. Background: The conversation Esther and I were having at the library was about my book, “The Manson Women and Me”…there’s a subtitle but I hate the subtitle so I’m not including it.

Where was I? Oh yes, I was about to ask a question. I hate to make you take sides but I am curious about this. Do you think that it was wrong that I mentioned Trump in a conversation about Charles Manson? Or, if not wrong, was it unusual, unfair, rude, and/or an exhibition of bad manners?

I didn’t say the two men were the same, exactly. I said they shared some traits, especially when it comes to the treatment of people. We’ve all seen the way Trump uses over-the-top flattery when in an ingratiating mode and infantile name-calling when he’s in a humiliation mode. That was Manson’s M.O. And then, there’s the grandiosity, the braggadocio, the vile sexism. Manson ordered murders and probably murdered people himself. I have no evidence that’s true of Trump. In spite of that, and I can’t believe I’m writing this but if, at gunpoint, I had to choose between spending an evening with Manson or an evening with Trump I would choose the former.  (No sex in either case. If the gunpoint person introduces sex into the scenario I will have to declare a mistrial and withdraw my vote. I know that’s a mixed metaphor or a mixed something but, what the hell, this is a blog.)

What I was focused on that night vis-à-vis the two men was what could be called, loosely, their hiring practices. Trump has the people he showcases, and the ones he keeps more or less in the closet. According to people who claim to know, Trump wants the people who represent him publicly to look the part: well-dressed, well-spoken and, oh, obsequious bootlickers.

I would guess that his looking-the-part crew includes: U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, his former communications director, Hope Hicks and, if you go for pit bulls, his new attorney Rudy Giuliani. And who can forget the way he drooled over Dr. Ronny Jackson in his rear admiral whites — the White House physician with a few bad habits. And then we have the others: the ones he keeps or kept, more or less, in the closet. Examples: his sort-of lawyer, schlubby Michael Cohen; his first press secretary, Sean Spicer; his first chief-of-staff, Reince Prebus. (I need a judge’s ruling on how Trump designates Kelly Anne Conway? I know where I’d place her.)

Manson had his back street girls, the ones who were not as attractive, like Patricia Krenwinkel, who did a lot of the work and kept a low profile; and his front street girls, like Leslie Van Houten, a coltish beauty who he used to attract guys into the fold. You’ll have to read the book if you want to know how all of that worked in the Manson Family.

So, back to the library. I talked briefly about what the two men had in common and in a minute, I’ll tell you why talking about it was a problem (hint: someone close to me, who may or may not have been the event photographer, objected.) Truth be told, I’m not precisely sure what I said about Manson and Trump. I can’t remember because I had a migraine and I was pretty loopy. My memory isn’t just a problem at the moment when I’m trying to reconstruct what I said about Manson and Trump, it was a problem that night.  I don’t think I ever completely lost my train of thought (subject to debate) but I do know that I drifted a few times. One person who was in attendance claimed that I drifted a lot. (hint: it was the same person who didn’t like that I brought up Trump.) All I know is that every once in awhile I would look over at Esther and notice that she was quiet, and, in fact, she looked to be waiting…waiting for what? And then I noticed that she looked a little concerned. Why is she concerned? Oh shit, she’s waiting for ME to…. WHAT? Oh, it must be that she’s waiting for an answer to the question she just asked me. WHAT THE FUCK QUESTION DID SHE JUST ASK ME?

The next morning my husband mentioned that Esther had to work pretty hard to keep the train on the tracks. (You may have guessed that the problem was not only the pain in my head…it was what I grabbed from my purse at the last minute to take for the pain in my head.)  It was bumpy, I’ll grant you that. But his other complaint makes me doubt his whole take on the evening. (You may have guessed by now who it was that was doing all that objecting.) I observed, and not for the first time, that he still has a lot of Canadian in him and his inner Canadian, the little guy who is usually dormant unless hurling a puck into the net on the ice), was stirred into action when he heard me compare the two men.  He wasn’t worried that the comparison wasn’t accurate, he was worried that I would offend people who had come for a literary conversation, not a political one.

I am truly sorry that Esther had to work so hard “to keep the train on the tracks”  and, by the way, her questions were great…the ones I remember. I’m truly sorry that my behavior caused my husband to worry about whether we were in danger of losing our polite society cred but, and I’m almost afraid to admit this, I kind of enjoyed myself.

How can that be? I think I bombed. My husband didn’t use those words. All he said was “not your finest hour.”  One friend who has known me through decades of migraines, diagnosed it immediately but another friend said she thought I was simply tired. The thing is, I wasn’t tired. I was something but I wasn’t tired.

So this is one of life’s little miracles. For the past six months, I’ve been plagued by a fairly acute case of stage fright, certain that it was entirely possible that at some point in the course of promoting my book, I would have a historic melt down. Not only would the paramedics have to be summoned, they would have to use the jaws of life, to pry me from the floor, where I was locked in a fetal position. But I never collapsed, never even came close and I didn’t even experience more than what I assume is the anxiety normal people have. Maybe I did blow it at the library (and maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned Trump…I also need a ruling on that) but as I sit here thinking about it, I have a smile on my face. It is now the custom for people who are confessing embarrassing moments to say, “If I can spare even one person the anguish I suffered…” (because of anticipatory dread), it will have been worth it. If I can do it, anyone can do it and you might even have a good time!

Advertisements

living with chronic pain – someone else’s: part 2

by nikki meredith

chopping vegetablesMy husband walks in the door from work. I’m in the kitchen chopping vegetables.  He kisses me and asks how I am. I shrug and then place the tips of my three middle fingers over my right eye – the sign that I have a migraine.   “Oh no,” he says. “I’m so sorry.” And he does look sorry though I wonder how he can keep feeling sorry when it’s  such a frequent occurrence. But even more than that, I wonder, why do I do this to him? Why do I need to tell him?

It’s easier for me to answer why I shouldn’t tell him than why I do.  I shouldn’t tell him because I assume that the hardest part of living with someone with a painful medical condition is the feeling of helplessness. I know how I feel when he’s suffering from any malady, large or small, especially if there’s nothing I can do to make him better.  When you love someone, you want to alleviate his or her suffering and when you can’t, it’s terrible. And when you can’t alleviate the suffering, over and over and over again, it must be terrible over and over and over again.  So, I repeat, why do I tell him? If I love him, why don’t I spare him this ordeal? Read the rest of this entry »

living with chronic pain – someone else’s: part I

by nikki meredith

I woke up this morning smiling.  It was the first morning in three days that I didn’t have either searing pain behind my right eye or nausea. I took the dog for a walk with a sizable bounce in my step. I ate breakfast and after breakfast I took a shower and, as I towel-dried my hair, I thought about how good the day promised to be. It was, after all, a glorious fall day and I was without pain. And then I heard the unmistakable, high-pitched whine of a smoke detector. I was confused. We don’t have a smoke detector.  (Why we don’t have one is a long story but it has to do with high ceilings in the kitchen and low tenacity in life.) I threw on my bathrobe and followed the sound to our guest room.  I opened the door. Opening that door was a terrible mistake. There was, indeed, a smoke detector emitting an ear-splitting shriek. I quickly closed the door. In a matter of seconds, the fierce, penetrating sound brought with it the searing pain behind my eye that had vanished a few hours before.

All that happened in that room is that I heard a sound. Read the rest of this entry »

my migraine, my HMO and me

by nikki meredith

As I’ve indicated in a previous post, I’ve had migraines for 34 years. During that time I’ve been treated by internists, family practice physicians, neurologists, chiropractors, homeopaths, acupuncturists, biofeedback therapists, and a multitude of body work practitioners employing a variety of techniques – acupressure, shiatsu, rolfing, etc. I have practiced yoga, Pilates, and an assortment of aerobic exercises promising that the oxygen intake would diminish my pain. I’ve also been injected with Botox, which, as mentioned in my last post, did not work. I’ve ingested feverfew, fish oil capsules and St. Johns Wart and because some migraine sufferers have been helped by anti-depressants, I have been prescribed Prosac, Paxil, Wellbutrin and Nardil (this is a scary one: if you eat aged cheese, pickled herring or drink red wine, your blood pressure can spike to the point of death…but hey, if the drug eliminated my migraines, it would be more than worth that kind of vigilance). I have also been given a series of drugs that are prescribed for people with seizure disorders — Verapamil (a calcium channel blocker), Topamax and Neurontin.  Not only did none of the above eliminate migraines, many of them triggered terrible head pain  – the most severe migraine was produced by Nardil. Read the rest of this entry »

one woman’s experience with a good pain doctor

by nikki meredith

As I write this, an intense pain is beginning to throb behind my right eye.  I gave myself a shot of Imitrex, a non-narcotic vasoconstrictor two hours ago but the injections only provide me with two hours of relief and the pain is returning. One can only have two injections in a 24-hour period so if the pain returns, and it does three out of four times, I need relief for the 20 remaining hours. I’ve had migraines for 34 years and during that time I have been to countless clinicians — conventional, alternative and combinations of both. I have been prescribed every category of drug that has a record of treating migraines, either in double blind studies or anecdotally, both on-label and off-label and too many herbs, elimination diets, “therapeutic” diets, supplements and non medical therapeutics to recount here. Out of all of the above, only one thing ever worked preventively: the blood pressure pill Inderal.  For three months I was migraine-free. And then they came back, if not with a vengeance, with disappointing regularity.  The doctor tried upping the dose and kept upping it until I was so lethargic I could barely get out of bed in the morning. High doses made no difference.  That was 25 years ago. Since then, years of trial and error, mostly error, have resulted in pain more days than not.

Despite that, life has been fine for the past six years because I’ve been under the care of a pain doctor. Read the rest of this entry »

Painkiller Paranoia is Over Prescribed

by nikki meredith

At least once a week there’s an article in The New York Times about the dark side of opiate use. Veterans, NFL players, pregnant women, old people — all on painkillers, all at special risk, whatever the study of the week finds.  Oxy, as in Oxycodone, is now ubiquitous in popular culture: we have Nurse Jackie lying, stealing and having sex to score oxy; the The Good Wife defending a doctor accused of prescribing oxycodone to a star high school quarterback who overdosed; and many of the Harlan County reprobates on Justify pop, sell or kill for oxycodone.

All of this attention strikes fear in the heart of those of us living with serious pain. Most pain patients will not die if they can’t get enough medication to dull the pain  (in most cases opiates don’t eliminate pain, they only ease it) but our appetite for living will certainly be diminished and, according to research, the toll unmediated chronic pain takes on our bodies will shorten our lives.  The drumbeat to restrict the prescribing of opiates is getting louder and who knows where this attention will lead. Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: