Do You Believe In Magic?

Multiple semi precious gemstones on board

Do you believe in magic? I never have. It’s hard to believe when you live with a chronic medical condition.

I went to a summer camp for 11 years when I was a kid and there was a magician who came to visit every summer. My first summer he made a playing card stick to the ceiling of our Rec Hall. It stayed there for all 11 summers. I bet its still there to this day. Every summer I would check to see if it was still there, and even when I’ve been back for reunions. Not because I’m in awe of his magic, but because I’m skeptically trying to figure out what the trick is that’s keeping it stuck up there or whose job it is to reapply it before each summer.

I’ve recently gotten to the point where I’m willing to try anything and everything under the sun to feel better. I’ve turned to alternative therapies in the past, but I admit I didn’t give them a fair chance. Lately I’ve been adding in a lot more supplemental yoga, physical therapy and meditation to my routine which I’m finding helpful to what I’m already doing. I’ve heard of crystals and their healing abilities before and I’ve been intrigued but also skeptical because after all, can a rock really possess the power to heal? Or is it just a scheme that celebrities buy into because they need something to make them feel connected to the Earth so they can claim that they’re “grounded”?

I was in Upstate New York recently for a friend’s birthday and while I was there we came across this really cute store that was selling crystals. The store owner was talking about what each of them do. They were really pretty and I thought I could use something like that in my life, but I just wasn’t sold on the legitimacy of it all. Plus, it seemed expensive for a rock. But after we left I couldn’t stop thinking about that store and its crystals, which is usually how I determine if something is worth buying. Unfortunately, we weren’t going back to that area for the rest of the weekend.

Then this past week I got an email from a yoga studio I went to once inviting me to an event they were having called “CRYSTAL JOURNEYING WORKSHOP + REIKI CIRCLE”. It felt like a sign. In the description they were going to teach you all about crystals, their meaning, how to tell the real ones from the fake, how to use, clean and store your crystals, they were giving away a free crystal gift and then there would be a reiki circle at the end. I wasn’t too sure about the reiki circle but I felt like I needed to be at this workshop in order to get all of my questions answered.

I asked my sister and a friend to go with me but neither could make it. I was nervous to go alone but decided to be brave and do this for myself. There were only 5 people that attended the workshop which allowed for each of us to get a lot of personal attention. I went in there really curious and with an open mind. I learned a lot. Everyone there was so kind and friendly. I felt comfortable opening up about why I was there and asking any questions I had.

We did a crystal meditation with the clear crystal that was gifted to us and during the meditation I could feel its energy. It may sound unbelievable to some but the crystal which is naturally cold turned extremely hot in my hand and I saw visions during my mediation that have some very personal meanings to me.

We ended the workshop with the woman who led it performing reiki on each of us. I was nervous about this part only because I had reiki done to me once and I didn’t feel anything. If you don’t know what reiki is its a type of massage but the person performing it never touches you, they use energy and go over each of your 7 chakras to open up any blockages. I had a mask over my eyes so I could never tell where she was except for the fact that I could tell when she was over my crown chakra, or my head, because it was tingling. It felt like intense pins and needles. And then when she was at my throat chakra I felt pressure in my throat and then the same thing happened with my chest, which is the heart chakra. I didn’t feel any other sensations anywhere else but I saw Chip, my dog who passed away 3 years ago. I’m aware it sounds crazy but I believe he was coming to say hello after she opened up my crown chakra.

I entered the workshop with a migraine and left feeling amazing. I did, however, wake up with a migraine again the next morning. I’m not saying I’m going to forego my medication and only do crystal meditation and reiki from now on but I think supplementing the Western medicine with the Eastern can’t hurt. Egyptians and lots of cultures have been using gems and stones for thousands of years so if its good enough for them, why not me?

I think everyone should do whatever makes them feel good because at the end of the day that’s what matters — getting to a place where you feel well, even if its just for a few minutes. I bought a few different crystals since — amethyst, fluorite and blue citrine are particularly good for what I need right now — and I set my intentions and have them around my room and plan to use them as I see fit. I currently have a lot of doctor appointments and don’t know if I can fit reiki into my schedule at the moment but the yoga studio did say they plan to have reiki circle events coming up so I will definitely plan to attend those.

These are all words I never thought would be coming out of my mouth but I guess a skeptic with a chronic migraine condition can believe in magic after all.

A New Approach

 

Medicine pills

Yesterday not only marked a new month but also a new beginning for me in how I approach my treatment.

I had my new patient appointment with Dr. Colman and it was exciting but also scary. I worried that I may have put too much emphasis on this appointment and didn’t want to be let down. However, Dr. Colman and her team did not disappoint.

They spent over 2 hours with me going over my history, every concern and issue I have or have ever had and they made me feel so safe and comfortable and NORMAL. I didn’t feel rushed, like they needed to get to their next appointment. I never felt like any of my concerns were being minimized or anything that I had been through made me a freak or a medical marvel.

When it came time to discuss treatment going forward, everything was explained to me in a way that was easy to understand even if it was hard for me to swallow. In the past when I spoke about how nothing was working and my migraines were still so bad,  I was just prescribed more medication, had my doses adjusted and was sent on my way. I was in and out of the office in 15 minutes or less. If I had a migraine that lasted more than 4 days and I needed the cycle to be broken, I was told I could go to the emergency room for a DHE infusion, but first I had to get approval from my insurance so I’d have to wait 3-4 days for that. It literally made no sense. And the ER is absolute Hell for anyone going through a migraine.

Yesterday I was told that I’m too reliant on my medication. As someone who has had a stomach ulcer rupture due to NSAID overuse, I would agree. I’ll be the first one to say I never want to end up in that situation again, but I also need to be able to function on some level and my medicine allows me to do that on most days. But then I got schooled on rebound headaches. I’ve heard about them before but I never paid them too much attention, because I deal with migraines. Chronic ones. I was always in the mindset of, I can’t concern myself with the likes of mere ‘rebound headaches’. I’ve got bigger things I’m dealing with.

However, Dr. Colman and her team disagrees. Because of all the medication I take and all of the combinations of triptan cocktails I mix together when I’m in a pinch, I am hurting myself more than I realize. On top of all my preventative medication, I’m using triptans almost every day and I also end up using extra strength tylenol most days too. I am currently prescribed three different brands of triptan and use them at my own discretion depending on my mood, intensity of migraine, etc. At yesterday’s appointment, like Sophie’s choice, I was allowed to pick only one to continue using. I can use it just 3 times a week. No more than that. If I need to use something else, they prescribed me a muscle relaxer that can be used more frequently.  I’ve been instructed to start with only half of a dose before bed when needed.

If I need to use a triptan more than three times in a week I can reach out to Dr. Colman via email and either her or one of her fellows will get back to me about other ways to help me. Those can include prescribing a steroid, another prescription, coming into the office for a nerve block or possibly seeing the nurse practitioner for an IV infusion. All of these including the muscle relaxer are options I have never been offered before.

We also spoke about so much more than medication. I went for lab work, which I haven’t been asked to do in such a long time. I am still awaiting results. We spoke about my mood, anxiety, how it affects migraine and the vicious cycle of cause and effect. As a result, we discussed methods of coping including therapy, meditation, exercise and more. We spoke about my sleep habits (or lack therof) and some big changes I need to make to combat the insomnia I struggle with. She brought to my attention the fact that I have an increased risk of stroke since I experience migraine with aura and the brand of birth control pill that I am on increases that risk further.

This appointment was eye-opening for me. Not only in how many more doctor appointments I need to make immediately, but how doctors in the same field treat patients so differently. Don’t settle for a doctor who may not be giving you the best treatment, just because supposedly they are the “best” in their field. I always try and steer clear of dwelling on the past. No sense in harping on what I can’t change so I ‘m not going to sit here and think about what could have been during the 7ish years I was under my previous doctors’ care, but I’m grateful to now be under Dr. Colman’s.

Though this new way of treatment is overwhelming and letting go of all of 2/3 of my triptans is going to be difficult, I’m ready to embrace this new approach because while I know it may get worse before it gets better, as with anything that is hard I have a feeling it’ll be worth it.

 

Thinking About Tomorrow

injecting injection vaccine vaccination medicine flu woman docto

Tomorrow is a big day for me. It is the day I have been waiting for. It has the day I have been working towards for over a year. Tomorrow marks the end of a campaign I started over a year ago, a campaign of epic proportions. Why then am I scared out of my mind?

Botox for migraine is currently the only medication for chronic migraine that has been approved by the FDA that is strictly for migraines. Sure there are the pills I take nightly but those aren’t actually designated migraine medications. One is used primarily to treat epilepsy, another to treat depression and another to treat high blood pressure. Sounds like quite the cocktail, right? Especially considering I don’t have any of those conditions. But I take them because as a side note they also have been found to maybe prevent migraines so I overlook all the other stuff in favor of a glimmer of hope that I may find some relief in them.

But with Botox for migraine comes an exciting new opportunity — the possibility of lessening the amount of medications I take and getting some real results. Finally I have something to thank my guilty pleasure, the Real Housewives, for other than just allowing me to escape my own reality every once and a while. Because believe it or not it was women who were getting Botox for cosmetic reasons who first discovered their added benefit. They realized that as a bonus to a wrinkle-free existence, they were no longer getting headaches. So then doctors did more research and found that Botox actually did treat migraines and the manufacturer began their pursuit of FDA approval and reimbursement for medical use.

After talking to my neurologist and deciding that I would be a good candidate for the treatment, he had one of his employees go ahead with trying to get approval from insurance. Now I know working with insurance is never an easy process. Trust me, when you have as many medical issues as I have over the course of my life you get familiar with it, but my doctor has an employee that’s entire job is dedicated to getting approval for and scheduling Botox appointments for his patients. An entire staff just for Botox approval! Maybe that should have been my first red flag. But never in my wildest dreams did I think it would take over a year to make this appointment happen. Honestly, I thought my medical history would speak for itself and maybe it would take a couple months tops. But with the hoops I’ve had to jump through and the phone calls I’ve had to make over this past year, it’s surreal that this day has actually become a reality. And now that it’s here I’m freaking out.

I mean… 31-35 injections in my forehead, scalp, head, neck and shoulders? Why was I fighting so hard for this again??

It’s actually not so much about the pain of the injections. That I think I can handle. I mean I live with chronic pain everyday. I have a pretty high tolerance as it is. It’s more so the reaction I may or may not have afterwards. The unknown. And what if it doesn’t work?

And of course there’s the fear of changing my appearance. I mean I know the only visible part the injections go in is my forehead. And many will say what a great side effect — a wrinkle-free forehead! But while I love watching the Real Housewives, I really don’t want to end up looking like them before I hit 30. And while, yes, my worries may seem irrational they are mine and mine alone. And because without them I would not be human.

I have to just keep reminding myself it’ll be worth it in the end… Probably. If it works. But I won’t know for at least 9 months as it usually takes 3-4 treatments to really tell so until then I just have to keep a positive attitude and low expectations. One day at a time. And tomorrow is a big day.