i have suffered from migraines for quite some time. Let me backtrack a minute. I’ve had a low-level headache pretty much all my life. It’s always been there whenever I really think about it. For decades, it’s been something I’ve lived with and just dealt with as need be. I took ibuprofen when it got bad, and that did jack and shit. I will confess something that I rarely talk about. When the migraines hit in the old days, they were fucking awful. Two ibuprofen did nothing to them. My migraine just laughed at that pitiful attempt to block it. Three? Ha! Not a chance. It took six in order for the ibuprofen to have any effect on the migraine. Which, by the way, I didn’t recognize as a migraine at the time because I don’t get auras.
Side note: This is one of the reasons that it’s important to not have a fixed idea as to the symptoms of a health issue. They don’t manifest in the same way for different people.
Side note to the side note: It’s similar to how most medical studies are done on white dudes. Well, that holds true for a lot of things, but the medical part is especially pertinent here. I was in my thirties when I discovered that Asian people needed much less of most medications than do white people. It was around the same time when I also realized that as a woman, my ‘normal’ dose would be much less than a man’s. This had disastrous results when I tried to find a solution to my sleep issues. Hm. Was it in my late twenties? Maybe. That or my early thirties.
I was desperate. I had tried a bunch of things that didn’t work. Hot milk before bed. Hot chamomile tea. Lavender in the bath (how I found out I was allergic to lavender). Ambient music. White noise machine. Which, I will say, did help, but didn’t eliminate the core problem. Same with earplugs and an eye mask, but those didn’t come until later. At some point, I tried melatonin, valerian, St. John’s Wort (more for depression than for sleep, but didn’t work). The valerian actually made me suicidal because it slowed my brain down so much, I couldn’t make a coherent sentence.
At the end of my rope, I went to a shrink. I have to say, she was terrible. She was cold and removed, and she acted as if she didn’t give a shit about me. She listened to me for about two minutes before prescribing sleeping pills. I want to say Trazodone, but it might have been Amitriptyline. Either way, the first time I took a pill, I slept for fifteen hours straight. When I woke up, I was groggy for several more hours. In fact, it was probably forty-eight hours before I felt as if I was completely free of the effects of the pill.
My psychologist suggested I cut it in half, which didn’t help. I cut it in half again and it still made me sleep for fifteen hours. I gave up because it’s really hard to cut a pill more than that and what’s the actual point? I didn’t know or care at that point. I also wasn’t going back to the shrink because as I mentioned above, she sucked. I figured she must have given me too high a dose which was true, but the reason was one I wouldn’t figure out for probably a decade. An as Asian woman, I need much less medication than the norm so she was seriously overdosing me. In addition, I as a person who has massive sensory/sensitivity issues, which means meds are weirder on me in general. It’s not fun, let me tell you.
This actually is relevant because we are talking about conflicting medical issues and in this case, sleep is one of them. The other is the one I mentioned before–migraines. To recap, the only thing that–oh. I never finished my ibuprofen rant. I didn’t find out until some years ago that ibuprofen is more for body aches than headaches. Now, I’m reading mixed messages on this, but when I read it for the first time, it clicked in my brain as to why it took six ibuprofen in order to make a dent in my migraines. When I switched over to the generic equivalent of Excedrin Migraine, I could take two and be done with it*.
I will say that sometimes, I had to ‘cheat’ and take two more twelve hours later, but for the most part, the initial two pills were enough to keep the worst at bay. Then, the elections happened and I was feeling the start of a migraine every day. I’d be popping those pills every morning and I was starting to worry about medication overuse headaches–a thing where the painkillers can actually trigger migraines if consumed too indiscriminately.
I decided to reinstall coffee into my life. One cup of regular-strength coffee was my starting point to see if that took the edge off. My problem in the past was that I drank three or four cans of Diet Coke/Coke Zero a day which was too much. I have a hard time moderating pop so I decided it was easier just to cut it out completely again. Well, rather, to wean myself off of it. I think it’s been a year, but who knows? Time means nothing now.
Reintroducing coffee into my life did help with the migraines. By the way, I want to mention that my base is still low-level headache all the time, but I can live with that. Oh, and what I was saying about not having the major symptom causing me to miss that I had migraines, it’s also because I don’t get them nearly as bad as some people do. I feel almost embarrassed to call them migraines, but from all I’ve read, that’s what they are. When they’re really bad, I cannot tolerate any light. I can play a video on low, but, I feel nauseated and like I want to throw up all the time. It can last up to twenty-four hours and I’m completely wiped out afterwards.
Here’s the problem, though, with the caffeine situation. I think it’s messing with my sleep. My sleep has gotten steadily worse since the election and in the last week, it’s gone completely off the rails again. Part of the problem could be that I’m not used to caffeine any longer. In addition, I tend to sip at it all day long until about eight hours before I’m going to bed. Third, everything affects me weirdly.
I’ve decided to give up caffeine again once I’m done with the made coffee in my house. Which should be today. The problem, though, is that yesterday, I went caffeine free, and I could feel myself fighting off a migraine. I don’t know what the answer is because the two big problems (sleep issues and migraines) have the exact opposite solution to them.
*If I caught it in time and by be done with it, i mean just have low-level nausea, a slight headache, and some light sensitivity rather than full-blown symptoms.