Here is the story of how my life changed after my migraines went from 3-4 a week, to 3-4 a year...
It was in the 7th grade when they started. I remember waiting for my mom near the bricks in front of school while 3rd period was taking place for my friends. She had been called at work to come get me. We were going to see the doctor because I was feeling nauseous and the teacher commented that I looked "pale" and didn't seem my "normal self".
It was just the day before that might have been the worst feeling day I had ever experienced up to that point in my life. While wrestling at lunch, my friend had lifted me over his head and during a spinning move accidentally dropped me face first into the grass, my feet toppling forward over my head. I had landed hard, hard enough to knock the wind out of me. I was pretty shook up and needed a minute to gather my focus. I didn't really get that focus back for 13+ years.
As I waited there for my mom to pick me up, I recall feeling like my head was too heavy for my neck and I had felt like I hadn’t got good sleep the night before. She arrived promptly and drove me to the doctor’s to get checked. After being seen by the doctor, it was concluded I had… wait for it… heat stroke. I was told to go home, drink fluids and get rest. This was the first of many visits that concluded with different shot-in-the-dark diagnosis’s that seemingly had the same at-home recommendations.
The headaches were not frequent at first, nor were they as bad as they would eventually become, however that inability to focus seemed to always be present. It wasn’t until the eighth grade when I experienced something I'll never forget, my first migraine. For those of you who think the terms headaches and migraines are interchangeable should feel blessed to have never xperienced a migraine. They are not the same, not even close. They are not fun. Words cannot describe the helplessness you feel when you just want to be left alone in the dark with total silence, just lying as still as possible and accepting that you're gonna be like this for the rest of the day. Time drags slower these days and nothing seems to help.
By high school, the headaches had gained some momentum, and went from about once a month in junior high to once a week in high school. Fortunately, the migraines were only about every other month. They didn’t really effect my high school activities as much as they effected my boy scouting activities. (Yes I was a boy scout. In high school, I sometimes acted like I hated scouting, to be cool, but in retrospect, some of the most fun I've ever had - Thank you Mr. Greg Almand).
After graduation, the frequency of the headaches increased to 1-3 times a week, and believe it or not, the migraines actually got better on it's own. Although the headaches had increased in frequency, the migraines decreased. I felt like this was a win. I didn’t know why they did, but I sure was happy. I had met a girl and I couldn’t let a silly headache effect spending time with her.
The migraines didn’t really come back in full-force for about 3-4 more years. I remember the day well. It was in August, the day before our annual family rafting trip and I remember considering not attending it. I was in no condition to leave the house and I wasn’t sure whether I'd be better by the following day. And nothing sounded less appealing then a day in the sun of all things. I woke up the next morning feeling better and although reluctant, I went. On the ride up, I remember talking about it with everyone in the van, how I almost stayed home that year. They all assured me that they would have come to my house and dragged me along so I wouldn’t miss this tradition. There would have been zero chance, nothing short of knowing it would be the last time I’d see a family member ever again, they could have gotten me out of that house feeling the way I did. No chance.
It wasn’t too long after that rafting trip during the same summer that my girlfriend came over with plans - we were set to go see a movie and hang out, with the possibility of going to a bar where our friend worked. There was literally nothing she could say to get me to leave the house that night. And drinking? No thank you. I was already feeling hungover. It was that night however, that she did say the very thing that pushed me down a long winding road. She said to me “you’re just not fun anymore”. This broke my heart. It wasn’t meant to be hurtful, it was meant to spark something and it did. I wanted to be this fun guy and actually never took a moment to reflect that I was acting like a cranky old man. I became desperate to take any steps necessary to tackle the way I had been living.
Doctor visits became plentiful. I had great insurance and was desperate. Turns out, this is a great combination for the doctors who wanted to try treatments on me. Over the span of the next 3 years, I had tried almost every single migraine/headache treatment that was known. Most of the medications I tried made me feel “loopy”. Concentrating was tough, but it was better than a headache, and ten times better than a migraine. This one medication that seemed to stand out for me, caused me to feel better than I had felt in years. Unfortunately, it had one draw back, my digestive system had become a wreck. To counter my digestive issues, I was given another medication that had the exact opposite effect on my digestion but gave me muscle cramps. You might see where this is going… in the end, 7 medications later, I was feeling whole again except the headaches were coming back. Truth: Believe it or not, the 7th medication’s side effect, of all things… headaches! I could not believe it. Still to this day it blows my mind. (I’m pretty sure I still have the 7 bottles laying around my house somewhere).
The next course of events happened so fast, its kind of a blur. I sometimes get confused as to the order. According to my doctor, the medications I had been taking had put stress on my body and weakened my immune system causing me to be susceptible to illness.
It was May the 2nd sometime after Y2K. I remember the date because it was the night of my wife’s birthday (yep, that girlfriend that I had, I totally married her). I was in bed that night with a pounding headache that had reached a point that caused me to moan with pain. Quite literally. At about 2am, she aggressively got out of bed, frustrated with the sounds of discomfort I was making and insisted we went to the emergency room. After multiple 2am ER tests, the hospital had decided my to evacuate the emergency room to avoid a possible outbreak. Their seriousness scared me. My immune system had become so low, that I had acquired bacterial meningitis. I was instantly admitted (I like to joke I was detained) and given an entire vacant floor in the hospital. It was, and still is, the most terrified feeling I’ve ever felt in my entire life. Although I had been regularly seeing the doctors for headaches, the signs of meningitis went virtually unnoticed, hidden behind my frequent pounding migraines and headaches.
After I recovered from what was a moment in time that lead to great reflection and a change of course in my life, I felt like the medical system had failed me. I was done with the trials, the medications, the side effects, the nurse-injected shots to the neck and head, the preventatives, the abortives… I was ready to try anything else. This just wasn’t working. It was this time in my life, for the first time I ever considered non-western medicine for treatments. I tried acupuncture, cupping, combing, massage, acupressure, chinese herbal tea, meditation, exercise, even self inflicted pressure points. Some things worked better than others. The acupuncturist which seemed to help, recommended I try a specialized chiropractor.
I was extremely reluctant to try a chiropractor, mainly because I had heard mixed things about them and… well, my back didn’t hurt. That being said, I had reached a point where I was desperate and was willing to try anything. After meeting this chiropractor, I was skeptical to say the least. He must have made some valid key points that sparked enough thought for me to allow him to take a few x-rays. Right away, the chiropractor pointed out my head was noticeably not sitting directly over the body. I recall him saying “you don’t have to be a doctor to see that”. He was right. My head was way tilted, you can even say shifted. It wasn’t until he mentioned it that I actually felt it. In fact, I had always sort of felt it. He made a deal with me, if it worked, I had to tell everyone who will listen. Desperate to get rid of these headaches, I agreed to a care plan that would take approximately 3-4 months. Truth was, I had nothing lose, I had tried everything else.
Looking back, this is the part where I am really embarrassed. 12-18 weeks go by with visits dwindling from twice a week, to once a week, to every other week. Constant muscle tests, grip tests, and weird motion tests. It was near my last visit, one following a two week stretch, that the doctor finally asked about my headaches. I think back and can’t believe I never noticed, but he never asked me about my headaches in my 18 weeks. Not a single “How are the headaches? Are they decreasing? Is this working for you? Do you notice them getting better? Nothing! That is until that last visit. When he did ask, my answer stunned me. The words coming out of my mouth were not right. I said “they’re still there” but truthfully, I couldn’t remember the last one I had. I had been going without headaches or migraines and not even noticing. For something that has such a dramatic effect on your life, you’d think you’d notice when they went away.
Was this a fluke? Was it really possible that my headaches disappeared without me noticing? I really hadn’t had a headache in 2 months. I knew right then that my life was very different. This had an effect on me in a way that was bigger than anything I had ever experienced before. This little adjustment had given me my life back. I am and will aways be forever humbled and grateful for finding chiropractic. I kept my promise and still to this day tell anyone who will listen.
And well, the rest is history. =)