I wake up, on any given morning, to soft sounds or loud alarms. For a moment, one brief moment as sleep leaves me, I am free of pain. That minute between sleep and wakefulness is a peaceful, blissful, break. Then in a slow but steady wash it begins.
My nape begins to pulse, a slow throbbing that spreads up the back of the left side of my head into my temples. A sharp stabbing hits my right temple, jarring any remaining sleepiness away and the villain I live with comes to life. It roars into my ears, seeps into my skull, pounding more loudly with each moment. Before too long I have no choice but to get up, sleep will not come back, lying here will do nothing but hurt.
I get up. Movement makes me dizzy as the pain moves around, front to back, side to side. I stumble downstairs, brush my teeth, use the bathroom. The light is too bright, the sounds are too much. I breathe. Moving my head from side to side trying to pop my neck, stretch the muscles. Each step brings stronger pulses of discomfort.
Distraction time. Something, anything to give me a chance to push the villain behind something else in my mind. A book, a blog post, a t.v. show. Anything.
Some days it simply will not be ignored. On those days I struggle not to snap at my children when they hug and touch me. Every time they jar me my head pounds, every happy laugh is a sharp stab. I hate the kind of mother this villain tries to make me into. I breathe.
I know they can see it in my face if I am not careful, so I do my best to mask the discomfort they cause. They deserve a mother who loves their touch, they deserve praise and kind responses when they notice I have a headache and lovingly pat my head, unaware that the very gesture of love they give makes it hurt more.
I want to be the mother who wakes up and make pancakes, laughing and smiling in my froggy apron, joking around and bringing them smiles. Instead I head for the coffee, and sometimes, an illicit cigarette. The combination brings some measure of comfort, reducing the villain to a manageable background roar. Other times I try the Cephaly, it’s electric medicine slowly spreading the sensation of thousands of ants across my head as I sit and pray this time it will work and bring relief.
I don’t take pain killers. While they bring me an hour, maybe two of rest, the resulting kickback headache will be so much worse than the one they were meant to fix. I drink water. I breathe.
I eat something, as my stomach protests the coffee.
I remind myself, as my forehead demands attention, that the day will have work or play, family or friends, rest or peace, and that I can focus on those things, use my mind and strength of will to drive the villain into the background where it can just sit and be quieter. Other days I despair, wishing I had a different morning experience. Wishing a cure could be found. Wishing I could keep that one moment of waking pain free and stretch it out to last the day.