} Tick Tick Tick Tick Tick

I have a headache. Well, not at this particular moment, but by 3pm this afternoon, I will be in agony, like I am everyday from about December til June. As pain goes, my headaches are above and beyond anything you can really imagine. I suffer from “suicide” headaches, a name coined in the 1930’s to represent that patients often see suicide as the only relief. No, I’m not about to commit suicide.

I suffer from what is officially now known as Cluster headaches. A typical cluster headache for me begins at the start of December, and lasts until usually June. It occurs every single day of every single week of every single month during that time period. Like clockwork.  I like to refer to this time as living in a Clusterfuck!

I’ve been told my headaches are caused by an abnormality in my hypothalamus, and my “biological clock”. I suppose this makes me a ticking time bomb. One without the relief of a massive explosion. Although it’s nicknamed the “suicide” headache, I don’t have any intentions of taking myself out, even if I do walk about begging my husband to just blow my head off. I’ve become very adept at dealing with the problem, sort of.

During a cluster, I drink unusually large amounts of herbal teas and coffee. There is a cup of one or the other within arms reach at all times. At the time of this writing, I’m sitting with two cups of coffee in front of me, because I’m going to need them both, and more before I type the last period. This is preventative medicine, but it really only aids in prolonging the inevitable.

How bad can it be, you ask? Dr. Peter Goadsby, who specializes in cluster headaches describes it like this,

“Cluster headache is probably the worst pain that humans experience. I know that’s quite a strong remark to make, but if you ask a cluster headache patient if they’ve had a worse experience, they’ll universally say they haven’t. Women with cluster headache will tell you that an attack is worse than giving birth. So you can imagine that these people give birth without anesthetic once or twice a day, for six, eight, or ten weeks at a time, and then have a break. It’s just awful”

Have you ever had a migraine? Now, imagine that migraine recurring three times a day, every day, for about 6 months. That doesn’t  begin to describe it.
Imagine someone repeatedly smashing the back of your head with a Louisville Slugger during that migraine. Now, we’re getting closer.

There typically is no treatment for a cluster. There are certain things I can do to help cope, like the aforementioned beverages, but nothing  stops it. Very deep breaths outside will sometimes ease the onset, but there’s a fine line between the effective deep breathing techniques and hyperventilating to the point of passing out. Unfortunately for me, clusters are magnified by barometric pressure, so there’s really no getting away from them. It’s what determines my “season”, the attacks are always most intense when there is a threat of snow or rain and a rise in barometric pressure.

I say I’ve become adept at dealing with my clusterfucks, because it’s been going on so long  that I can’t imagine living without them. Ultimately, the best treatment is to learn to wait them out, and this I’ve done. I’ve learned that the worst thing I could do is stop functioning…while most people would consider lying down and having a nap, I know that it would only intensify the attack. So I carry on living, riding out the storm.

If only I could reach in there and hit the snooze button on my clock…

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7 Comments

  1. March 23, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Gosh, I had no idea. I had clusters throughout my teens and twenties. I can’t say for sure why they stopped, but I did move to a different part of the country with lower barometric pressure. However, I also got involved in serious classical singing at that same time and had expanded my lung capacity and oxygenation rate. I also began drinking more water on a regular basis.

    The treatment was dihydroergotamine by injection, which was quick and effective. I got that at the ER. I realize you may have some philosophical objections to the ordinary sorts of medical treatment, and I respect your choice in that, but I would still like to offer you a link to the Mayo Clinic’s pages because they also (non-judgmentally) list alternative medicine info and other aspects you may be comfortable with:

    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cluster-headache/DS00487/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs

    • March 23, 2010 at 4:23 pm

      Thanks for the link, Mikey. I’m always on the lookout for alternative methods. (as I sit here drinking my 11th coffee of the day) The injections have been suggested to me many times, but, you’re right, I have objections. I was able to find some good resources to look into from the Mayo site. I’m heading into my 25th year dealing with clusters. Originally it was thought that I suffered from “chronic icepick migraines”.
      I’m very intrigued by the classical singing concept. I would certainly credit that, along with a lower barometric pressure with the fading away of your clusters. The singing has seriously piqued my interest, I’ve never heard of that as a pain management therapy, but it absolutely makes sense…how confident are you in a connection there? I do a number of breathing techniques, which make the biggest immediate impact, any way to increase my oxygenation seems logical to me. Thanks again.

      • March 23, 2010 at 7:40 pm

        Yes, it’s the oxygenation, you are exactly right. That was my suspicion too. Yogic breathing should have the same physiologic benefits. I just can’t do anything without trying to make art out of it. 100% oxygen inhaled at a rate of 7-10 lpm is also one of the standard medical treatments.

  2. willowbatel said,

    March 23, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    That gave me a headache just thinking about all that. Blech.

  3. jollof said,

    March 26, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Had no idea about the constant pain you go thru SBC 😦 I’m prayerful that one day you’ll wake and find that the pain has mysteiously disappeared…though if you’ve carried on with life and writing all that you have (to my amazement) then I dare to imagine what else you will get up to once you are finally able to thoroughly enjoy a cluster headache-free life.

    ‘You’re simply amazing’ – George Michael 😀

    • March 26, 2010 at 10:00 pm

      Thanks for the prayers, my crazy friend, and for making me blush with an “aw, shucks”, it was a great way to end the day.

  4. April 20, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    […] end of the day came at around 4:10pm, when the first of my clusters hit. It was a bit late, and that honestly left me with the hope that I would make it through the […]


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