World of Warcraft and Mental Health

About four or five years ago, I went through something that turned my life, and my head, completely upside down.

It started with, of all things, a migraine.

I was used to them. I got them all the time. I had them for days at a time. I pushed through. I got things done. I ignored the pain, and mostly, that worked. Admittedly, as things progressed, the amount of days I spent enduring migraines lengthened, until I quite possibly had less than a week out of every month where I wasn’t in pain… but it happened so slowly that by that time, I had adjusted. I persevered.

Until one day, my body decided enough was enough.

I had a migraine so severe I was screaming in pain. We rushed to the hospital, where they struggled to help. Eventually, the pain faded, and we went home… where I couldn’t forget what had happened.

The anxiety and fear of both the pain, and not knowing what had happened to me, or why, eventually led to another screaming migraine.

And another.

Finally, I was in such a state of constant vigilance, I couldn’t cope with even my normal migraines. I started having dreams of dying.

I had a dream of walking out into traffic… and I woke up completely numb – I felt nothing about it. I understood, my subconscious was speaking about my desperation. I wasn’t suicidal, but when you’re experiencing trauma coupled with pain, your brain does a funny thing. It grabs onto any idea for relief.

When I was a child, I was hit by a car, and I died. While I was dead, I experienced not light, but darkness. Pure, empty darkness. There was no pain, there was no fear, there was no hate, there was NOTHING… and it was the most beautiful, quiet experience of my life. When they brought me back, I cried for days, because I didn’t want to leave that peace for a life that was nothing but horror.

So of course, when I was again experiencing something I couldn’t cope well with, my brain remembered what it was like to be dead… and suggested, through dreams, that solution.

This is actually quite common in trauma patients. This does NOT mean they are suicidal. It means that their subconscious is reaching for a way out. That doesn’t mean they have any intention of acting on it… it just means they’re nearing the end of their endurance.

Realizing what my dream signified, I knew I needed medical assistance to get my pain under control. I had my mother take me to the hospital, where I TRIED to explain to multiple medical professionals about my pain, and the dream, and what I needed.

THEY decided I was suicidal, and stopped listening to me. They sent me to an inpatient psychiatric facility for a week, where I experienced even more psychological trauma. The only person I met during that week who DID understand was a paramedic who was an Iraki war veteran. He had shrapnel in his head. He lived with pain daily. He understood the difference between wanting to die, and your brain trying to find solutions to situations.

The end result of these experiences was an anxiety disorder, severe depression, and PTSD.

I sat on the couch for two years. I barely spoke. I wasn’t really aware. People spoke to me, and I honestly felt everything they said meant nothing. Their questions were all obvious, and clearly rhetorical. I stared at the world, and felt nothing, thought nothing. I was empty, at the bottom of a deep well. The world was very dark, and I didn’t care. The only time I experienced any emotions, I would be having a panic attack.

Eventually, we realized that the hospital’s solution of drowning me in medication I didn’t need had exacerbated my situation. My doctor took me off every medication she could.

I was unmedicated for a little over a year…. and slowly, I started to live again. I wasn’t my old self, by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t think I’ll ever get that person back. She died – that’s how I look at it. We found out that I have a sensitivity to sugar. I’m not diabetic – it’s a different issue. If I have too much sugar, I get migraines. We also found out I needed glasses, which clearly contributed to my issues. Dehydration and forgetting to eat definitely contribute, but the main cause is sugar. I stopped drinking gatorade, which I had been drinking because of chronic electrolyte deficiencies, and got an app for my phone that reminded me to drink, and to eat. My migraines and my anxiety both cause me to become very scattered and forgetful. I needed those apps.

Because I was home, and unwell, I had a lot of spare time. I read a lot, but even someone for whom reading is a passion can become tired of reading when that’s ALL you do… so I started playing games from Google Play. I played mystery games – games with a story line, where you would have to find objects, and use them to complete tasks to get to the next section of the game.

I bought a LOT of games. It was becoming expensive.

My husband suggested I try creating a character on WoW. When we first met six years ago, I had tried to play, but I had this tiny Vista hybrid laptop. It had a flip around touch screen, and the latency on the thing was so bad, I couldn’t see what had killed me… It was so bad, that I got very frustrated and just decided that I wasn’t a gamer. I didn’t blame my tech… I blamed myself. After all… I’d played console games with friends. I knew I was bad at games. Shoot – I died during RPG’s.

However, he convinced me to give it another go. I had a newer computer, and he’d played on it. It wasn’t awful, so he thought I would be able to play. He was right, for the most part.

Because I have a lot of social anxiety, I didn’t run any dungeons. I just quested. Despite that, I leveled a toon to 100 in under four months. For a new player, that’s pretty good. He bought me Legion as a present, for making it that far.

The thing about Warcraft is that it gives me goals. Small, achievable tasks, for which I gain rewards. Slowly, my mental health improved, because my confidence in my own ability to solve problems grew. I started running dungeons with my husband and his best friend. I joined a guild and ran some content with them.

My new laptop couldn’t handle Legion. I had latency issues. I had lag issues. Loading into dungeons and scenarios took too long, and I frequently dc’d and spent a lot of time catching up to groups… and dying.

We started saving for a computer that could handle Legion. I got The Beast as a Valentine’s Day present this year. I LOVE my Beast.

After I got The Beast, and realized that a large part of my problems WERE in fact technological, I started feeling confident enough to pug dungeons. We moved to a higher population server (we’d been on Moonguard, which is an RP server, and not really our style) which was progression based, because I finally felt ready to move forward. To challenge myself.

I found a WONDERFUL guild. I can’t even begin to express how helpful and understanding they’ve been. I was clear from the start about my issues, and the reason we click so well is that they are a group designed to support people with my health issues.

Because of Warcraft, and a strong support system, I’ve begun to enjoy being challenged. I still get frustrated if I die a lot. I feel like I’ve failed my team. It just pushes me to learn more.

I’m working, right now, to gear a new character, because I want to get into the higher level dungeons, the mythic plusses, and into the Nighthold Raid. I want to run the heroic Guldan battle, and get my Ahead of the Curve achievement.

I want to be ready for when Tomb of Sargeras comes out. I want to be in the front lines. I want to be part of the team of guildies who run mythic challenges for the guild weekly.

A friend dragged me into battle ground scenarios last weekend. It was the first time I’ve done real PVP stuff. I didn’t die as often as I expected. It was chaotic, and confusing… but I learned a lot. I think I’d like to do more, because I know things about my toon I didn’t know before.

 

I have gone from someone who, when I couldn’t log into my bank account, ended up curled in a ball under a coffee table, completely hysterical, to someone who is actively looking to challenge herself. To push. To grow.

World of Warcraft saved me. I am reborn, and I am ready to face the World… and the world.

Thank you, Warcraft, for teaching me that I Can. And thank you, my husband, for insisting I try it. You’re right… it’s cheaper… and a lot more fun.

 

I Find My Lack of Progress Disturbing…

Wednesday

GM

KKK I missed you so much!!!!

*hughughug*

Ok shall not squish you. *backs away*

ME

Lol

GM

You all right???

ME

I don’t really know… I usually tell people I’m getting there, or that I’m doing better… but mostly I’m just bleh anymore.

GM

*hugs* that’s a usual feeling to feel during recovery. You sort of hit a plateau of ‘blehness’. But that’s still an improvement from the horrible low parts of before.

Take it slowly ok? Don’t feel the need to appear OK just to please people.

ME

Don’t worry. I’m being careful.

GM

Good

ME

I have a good therapist.

GM

Oh that’s great

ME

Yeah… she’s been wonderful.

GM

I’m glad, I really am. You deserve good doctors.

ME

Yeah… it’s about time, huh. Lol

GM

Pretty much.

You’re not doing anything metaphysically right? Hope youve just been recuperating

ME

No… I’ve not done anything magickal since last year.

GM

That’s good, you’re focusing on recovering

Ah what am I saying? I’m just so happy to ‘see’ you again.

ME

It’s nice to be back.

GM

I’d like to think i’ve ‘grown’ in these few months. Lol.

ME

That’s good to hear. I’m not sure if I’ve grown… I think that I’ve changed so drastically, growth is the wrong concept.

GM

Well change isn’t a bad thing.

It just… is.

ME

Exactly.

GM

Changed how so?

ME

I’m not sure yet… I just know I’m not who I was anymore. I’m someone else, and I’m still trying to get to know the new me.

GM

Ok.

I’m not sure if what I’ve had to do lately has changed me.

ME

I didn’t realize I was someone else until the middle of summer, 15 months later.

GM

*nod*

That can happen.

ME

Yup. Lol Color me clueless.

Today

DR

Welcome back…I was wondering if I’d see you here again

ME

I needed some time..

DR

Nothing wrong with that…we all need to step away from time to time to work things out…it’s good to see you…pixelly speaking

ME

Good to see you again, too.

DR

How are you?

ME

Well, honestly I’ve spent the last 20 months trying to recover from a medical issue… I haven’t done anything more important than breathe.

DR

Don’t undervalue the importance of breathing, both literally and metaphorically…if you feel like talking about it in always a good listener, if not, it’s good to know that you’re still around

ME

I wrote a little on my blog… but I’m mostly trying to put it all behind me. I’m such a drastically different person from the Me that went through all of that… that old me died and now I’ve got to figure out who this person is that I rose from those ashes as.

It’s hard… like being a kid all over again… a lot of the time I feel very lost. At least my reactivity is getting better.

DR

I apologise, I am blogless and out of touch…but either way, kudos to you…it takes a lot to be able to reassess ones life

ME

I didn’t really have a choice… I was in so much physical pain that there were moments I was willing to die to make it stop… being tortured chronically by your own body, with no hope of relief or escape… well, I just had to confront things I believed about myself that just weren’t true, and I had to accept that, and adjust to what was real… I guess I kinda broke, and there was no putting the pieces back together the old way… I had to become someone new just to survive the experiences.

DR

Ah…metamorphosis…that is a concept I actually know quite a bit about

ME

*nods* I know. That’s why I can say these things to you and not worry about your reactions. It’s hard enough to talk about at all without having to comfort your audience.

DR

I’ve always found comfort to be…well, comforting…but not all that constructive…it seems to focus too much on the problem, where as the solution/s are where our attention should really lay…which probably explains why no one ever comes to m for comfort

ME

*nods* honestly, I’m not a very comforting person anymore… my best is to avoid discussion of things that make people feel uncomfortable unless they REALLY need to hear it… but this is more that people feel pity and a weird kind of helpless handwringing over my experiences, which is useless to me and creepy, too. So I just tell people what they want to hear… I tell them I’m getting better, when really, there’s nothing for me to go back to and GET better… there’s just pushing forward towards a new normal that hopefully resembles some kind of functionality and purposeful forward movement… but I’m nowhere near that yet… I seem to be in that stage where you’re not an emotional or mental basket case anymore, but you’re not out-monstering the monster yet, either. A plateau.

DR

Never understood pity, it’s one of those useless emotions that does nothing but belittle the recipient, and expose the ignorance of the giver…

And to be honest, there is something comforting (yes I see the irony in using the word) about building from scratch and starting over.. it means you can pour a brand new, stronger foundation from the last…or, to avoid metaphors, the experiences make you stronger and more able to handle what comes next

ME

Yes to both points. I don’t want pity… I’m alive and that counts for something. And I learned things about myself that have made me a deeper human being. More rooted in the truth of what pain lays bare. That definitely makes me stronger than someone who has never experienced anything that pushes you to the brink, let alone into the abyss. I know things now… I survived.

DR

How are your closest friends and family taking it all…generally speaking

ME

After everything happened I really shut down a lot. So I don’t really have any close friends anymore. I just… they didn’t understand and I couldn’t cope with the baggage of trying to protect them when I needed to be protecting myself… and… my family doesn’t seem to have noticed. I don’t talk to them about it. My husband is the only one who sees how much of a mess I still am… but even there… we don’t talk about it… he just gets shit done and lets me muddle along behind him.

DR

Is that the best course…to muddle behind? I understand the need to “get shit done” I’m of the same mind…but one also needs to communicate…otherwise problems stay problems

ME

There’s not really anything much to talk about. I mean we do talk, when there’s issues… but my recovery isn’t something we talk about, or what happened, either… because talking about that doesn’t fix anything.

DR

Not even as a “comfort”?

ME

It doesn’t comfort me to talk about it. It upsets and depresses me. I know that’s a sign that I really NEED to talk about it… but I just can’t. It’s easier to just not think about it, not feel, just move forward…. well, except that I’m not.

It happened. No one knows why. There’s no fix for the fact that it happened… and since there’s no why, there’s no way to prevent it from happening again, and I can’t face that… so we just ignore the elephant.

DR

Good then…focus on what you do have control over…Everything else will either happen, or not, in its own time

ME

Exactly. At least that way, I don’t have to think about how terrified I am, which always leads to panic attacks and migraines… which lead to more fear… best to not start the cycle. That way lies dragons. I wonder, though, if I’ll ever get over the trauma enough to stop being so afraid. Therapy hasn’t really gotten me too far… I’m able to ignore the issue, but that’s about it.

DR

I don’t know how helpful my advice will be…but when I find I’m afraid of something I go at it head on…it’s like poking a wound…it’s hurts at first, but eventually you get numb to it…and eventually it just stops hurting…i know, it sounds cliché…but I never feel so alive as when I’m afraid

ME

My fear is of pain, physical pain, of being trapped in a place where that is my only experiential reality and as I burn and writhe under the pulsing waves of my own body betraying me, I know there is only one way out. My fear is of pain so great that rational thought becomes impossible and I am not Kat anymore. I am just an animal, with one need…. to make it stoo, and I don’t care how. I’m not afraid of garden variety physical pain anymore , or even emotional shit… and I’m not sure how to face that and become numb to it, because in that moment, there’s no me to face anything… and trust me… there’s no numbing it out. It’s the only thing that’s real. I didn’t feel alive, I felt agony, and I wanted it to stop more than I wanted to breathe.

How It Happened… and What Comes After PTSD

It starts with a simple migraine – you remember me telling you about those migraines back in February of last year, those brutal migraines that left me screaming…

But I didn’t know this was anything more than an ordinary migraine.

I took my migraine meds, and I carried on with my day. I wrapped myself in darkness and I attempted to sleep it off.

It was only four hours later, when I was staggering from the living room to get more medication from the bedroom, vomiting from the agony that I realized that something was seriously wrong.

Whimpering when I couldn’t even pick myself up off the floor and had to have my husband help me dress, we drove to the emergency room in the middle of the night, I in my sunglasses with a thick jacket over my face, struggling not to scream whenever we came upon cars or traffic lights – we took the back roads as much as possible.

When we arrived at the hospital, I could barely leave the car, because the parking lot lights hit my skin like hammer blows. Photophobia is no joking matter. I clung to the bowl in my lap, and wrapped the coat around my face as my husband carefully guided me blindly though the doors of the emergency room. Every light we passed under made me cringe and scream, and crumple in pain. He had to hold me up. Somewhere along the way I lost the bowl of vomit all over the nice clean floors. I was beyond caring.

We sat in a dark room for a moment while we waited for them to take my vitals. I had a brief respite from the pain and I thought it was over… but suddenly, the pain came roaring back, ten times worse. It was as if the pressure had built up directly at the base of my skull and was attempting to lift my head off my neck by sheer force of pulse. My muscles burned, every nerve ending on fire. My feet kicked helplessly as I tried to push my own head off my neck. I don’t remember screaming, but apparently, I frightened the people in the outside waiting room quite badly.

They rushed me into a private, dark room with a bed… and when they had me calmer, and they’d given me something to stop me from throwing up that melted under my tongue and tasted like bananas, they tried to dope me up with opiates. The nurse chased me around the room, not knowing I was allergic… I remember the lights being turned on so she could give me the shot and me shouting at her as she asks me “Well, what happens when you take opiates?” “I start itching all over so badly I have panic attacks, and I think I’m high strung enough right now, don’t you?!” I shouted at her. I think I startled her into nearly laughing, but she left the room.

They put me on a very strong anti-inflamatory and a migraine medicine, but it takes a long time for the pain to go away… while we wait, I scream, the waves of pain encompassing my entire reality. There is nothing but me, my body, and the pain… and my longing for it to end. I entertain a variety of plans, from the waiting room all the way until the moment the pain begins to subside and my sanity begins to return in dribs and drabs, as to how I will find this end.

All my highminded ideals about suicide being a cop-out for anyone who’s not already terminal and who hasn’t sat down their loved ones and had a very calm and clear conversation with them all about it went out the window. I didn’t care about anything other than ending my pain… because all I WAS was pain. I didn’t even care that ending the pain would mean I was ended… I wasn’t capable of thinking that far ahead. I thought about ways I could trick the security guard into shooting me in the head. I looked at my husband and pleaded him with my eyes alone, hoping that he would kindly break my neck and end my suffering. Consequences? Who gave a damn – I was in pain, and he was my answer, my savior.

I wasn’t rational. I was an animal in a trap and I wanted OUT.

I broke. I broke myself. I broke my rules. I broke every promise I ever made about my life, my ethics, my loved ones… I broke my beliefs about myself… I broke under the lash of my pain and I gave up.

When I came up for air, I still didn’t quite understand what had happened… honestly, it didn’t really hit me for several months.

When they finally got me calmed down and stabilized, they sent me down to radiology to scan my head, even though I kept telling them, “This isn’t a normal migraine, and it’s starting in my NECK!”

The scans came back and the neurologist came into my very dark room to tell me I had the most beautiful grey matter he’d ever seen, such a lovely amount of wrinkles. I told him thank you very much, but could he do anything about the blue tunnel on the wall or the fact that my neck was hurting so bad that the pulse was making my head want to fall off? No one would listen to me about it not being a migraine.

Finally, the pain began to subside to a point that I could bare it like I could the migraines I’m used to dealing with every day, they sent me home – I guess since they couldn’t figure out what was wrong, all they could do was manage the symptoms and move me out.

I saw a giraffe on the side of the road in the trees on the way home.

Two days later, we got an ice storm. Thanks, neck… I appreciate your art of weather prediction by pain induction.

 

This experience was repeated three times in a two week period. When I remember the pain, my skin crawls. I remember it so clearly it’s as if I am reliving it. The very thought is enough to bring me to tears, and in fact, remembering these experiences is enough to trigger a migraine.

Three months after these three experiences, I started dreaming about walking out into traffic. I couldn’t cope with the disconnect. I couldn’t cope with the fact that I had given up under the lash of the pain, and I couldn’t cope with the fear that the pain would come back… it was even worse because no one can tell me WHY I had those three such severe migraines, screaming migraines… and I was still having migraines, though admittedly not nearly as severe…

I now had an anxiety disorder. I had PTSD, and generalized anxiety. I couldn’t cope with what I’d gone through… so… My subconscious started offering me relief.

When I was six years old, I was hit by a car and I died. It was quick… it was painless. It was just… suddenly dark. I never even saw the car that hit me. There was just sudden peace. Dying was easy.

My subconscious is not eager to admit that at 36, we have 30 years of weight and growth, and that we are considerably more likely to damage a car than the other way around. However, it did alert me to the fact that I had a problem. I was trying, I thought, to escape the pain of my migraines, and I needed to see a better doctor and get some bloody answers, dammit!

So… I went to the emergency room again, hoping that they would help.

They were… not really so helpful as all that.

They decided I was suicidal.

Well, I suppose I was… the problem is that I’m not. I couldn’t ever be truly suicidal because I’m too damned intelligent to be suicidal, and I know the odds… I’d never risk suicide because WHAT IF I FAILED?

There’s a whole host of nasty side effects I wouldn’t want to suffer… which is why I was dreaming of it, rather than actually doing it. I’m too apathetic to ever ACTUALLY commit suicide. Plus… as I stated earlier… I’m too ethical to do that. I believe suicide is something that you should only do if you are already terminal and you have planned it with your loved ones in the loop. It’s just common courtesy. Everyone has the right to die… no one has the right to harm others in the doing of it.

However, I do NOW understand, having had the shoe on the OTHER foot, that there are extenuating circumstances where mental, physical, or emotional pain may be so great that one should be granted mercy, irregardless of the harm it might cause others, because of the great harm it is causing oneself. HOWEVER – that should only be the case where there are no other options and there is no solution. If you are not rational, you are not capable of making that decision for yourself, and therefore YOU should not be the one to decide that suicide is an acceptable solution for yourself. I should know… I was there. I was not rational. It was not in my best interests. I’m doing better now… and I would have missed getting better had I been granted mercy.

It turns out that all I needed was glasses, by the way. Go figure.

Anyway, I digress.

In the emergency room, I explained about the dreams, and said, “Look, I’m in enough pain that my subconscious is now attempting to give me options to escape the pain. This means that I need some help to deal with the pain, and I need a diagnosis as to why I’m in this much pain in the first place. I need a neurologist.”

What they heard was, “I’m having dreams about suicide.”

What they did was lock me up  in a psych ward for 8 days.

I rode an ambulance in the middle of the night under armed guard to a city three hours away. I was forced to ride two elevators, of which I am phobic, which raised my heart rate to over 177. I STANK of fear and bolted out of the second elevator only to huddle in the hallway like a rabbit in the grass. It was humiliating.

When I arrived on the ward, the nurses, assuming I was your typical suicide case, attempted to strip me of my clothes and wanted to examine every inch of my skin. I had to sit them down and explain to them why I was really there, and that I wasn’t going to be combative, but that there had been a misunderstanding over a headache and I was NOT going to strip for them like I was in jail because I had already been traumatized enough. By this time I was in tears and was nearly hysterical because the incident with the nurses had hit a trigger with me.

I didn’t see a neurologist for six days.

Instead I spent a week without pain management. I had another screaming migraine.

I had dreams where my teeth were falling out because I was in so much pain that I was grinding my teeth in my sleep. Because I was in so much pain I couldn’t sleep, I asked them for something to put between my teeth, a mouth-guard or something. They didn’t have anything like that there. “Fine, go up to the NICU and get me a pacifier. This is a hospital. You DO have THOSE. I have to put something between my teeth because my teeth are killing me from all the grinding.” They told my husband I was psychotic, reverting to childish behavior.

He didn’t sleep for a week, barely ate, and cried every day. When I saw him, he was a bigger mess than I was.

About the only thing that staying in the psych ward DID achieve is that I’m now receiving therapy and I’m on a medication for the anxiety disorder that THEY gave me.

I don’t just have PTSD… I’m PISSED that I have PTSD.

I lie… I alternate between feeling sorry for myself and crying in incredible sympathy for all the pain I experienced, trying to understand WHY all this happened and how to never have it happen again, and being so angry I don’t know what to do with myself. I don’t know what to throw at whom. I feel helpless and hopeless and angry and compassionate all at once.

Every weekday I get up thinking, today, I’ll go to work. Today will be different.

Every day I sit down at my computer and I realize, today’s no different than yesterday… I can’t deal with other people’s problems because I can’t dig my way out of my own.

Some days, I actually CAN, though. Some days, it actually helps to bury yourself in someone else’s aura and forget your own trauma…

But today…

Today I had to write all of this out.

I had to tell the whole story.

I had to begin from the beginning…

To remember it all.

Admittedly, I haven’t even begun to talk about the side-effects that the screaming migraines and the mismanaged care have caused… the nerve damage and the fact that I can’t wash my hair on my own because I can’t lift my arms for very long anymore, or the fact that whenever I have migraines I lose control of my bladder now, or a whole host of other unpleasant facts of my new life… but those came after PTSD… those came after I got out of the hospital. They came with not being able to log on to the bank’s website without finding myself curled up between the couch and the coffee table rocking myself and crying because I entered the password wrong and it wouldn’t let me in. Those came with standing in the kitchen and the sudden blackouts, or the fear of the shower because I’m afraid the nurses will ask me to strip again. Everything after PTSD is different. Everything after PTSD is overwhelming. A grocery trip has to be managed after midnight, with medication, a protein bar and a bottle of water, and your favorite stuffed toy in a death grip. Any new experience has to be carefully scripted with people you know holding your hands and a quick escape route available at all times. After PTSD, patterns are everything. Spontaneity is a bad word.

After PTSD… everything is different.

But I’m learning how to put myself back together. And someday…

Someday I will be whole again.

Someday I will be me again.

Someday… I will be able to live like I never thought I’d want to die again.

Thoughts on Victim Type PTSD

“Why does PTSD happen?”

PTSD Happens when an experience is blocked, instead of finished. To avoid PTSD, a traumatic experience must be finished, fully experienced. When you stop in the middle, there is no resolution, no understanding in the subconscious or the conscious. There is only a disconnect.

“So I have PSTD because I didn’t finish my experience. The doctors stopped me from fully experiencing and resolving my emotions on my own.”

Yes. If you had been able to fully go through your own experience, instead of them layering more trauma in an attempt to prevent you from experiencing trauma and blocking the original trauma, you would not have PTSD.

“So what do I do now?”

You must face your trauma. You must go through it again and again, until you have resolution and understanding of the full picture. Shall we begin?

Three February Migraines

I am afraid.

When the wealthy or the artistic cut off their hair, people call it art, or call it a protest. When normal people cut off their hair, people say nothing, think nothing of it – “I guess they just wanted a change of pace.” When I cut my hair, when a person who is different cuts their hair, it’s butchery – and everyone thinks of it as symbolic suicide.

Of course, for me, it was two-pronged. I cut off my hair because I wanted to cut off my head. I wanted to kill my pain. Cutting off my hair was a last-ditch effort to cure the pain in my neck. But deep down, I think it was probably a cry out for help. The fact that I had it professionally done just meant that I got away with it in public – no one noticed but my Sister, and she was polite enough, kind enough, to keep her thoughts to herself.

I am so afraid of the pain I experienced back in February that I would rather die that experience it again. I’m not suicidal, by any means, don’t get me wrong. I don’t even believe in suicide – in my perspective it’s pointless and cruel to everyone – you don’t die until you’re supposed to – only Death claims the dead, and I’ve seen too many fail, and so many people suffer, both the living who survive those who succeed, and the living who fail their attempts… it’s just not worth that much suffering to me. Not only that, but to be honest, I don’t actually want to die – I have a lot to live for, so I’m not seeking death… I just… fear that pain… but that fear is eating my life whole.

I remember those three trips to the ER back in February with a crystalline clarity that is horrifying. I remember my thoughts. I remember the pain itself, as if it were a living thing, still pounding away at the base of my skull, beating and breaking apart my neck with every pulse, breathing down my spine. It’s like a beast that hunts me… haunts me. It is the terror in the night, and I the mouse that huddles in the field, frozen while it, soft-winged, invisible, claws through my skull to break me.

It always starts with sparks. Black and white, tiny, shiny flashes, right before my eyes, and a glow around everything that’s lit. But after a while, it doesn’t matter whether there’s light or not. I could have my eyes closed, and a blanket over my head, and light will hammer at my body in physical blows, blocks of cement weighing me down and shoving me to the floor.

It begins to build, pressure beside my temples, behind my eyes, and above my nose, and always, always, at the base of my skull, in my shoulders, in my neck.

Lastly, it begins to pulse. With the pulsing in my neck, the screaming starts. Pulse, pain, pulse, pain, pulse, pain… until the world is nothing but the need for darkness… and death.

Three times, my husband half carried me to the car, bowl in hand, as I tried desperately not to vomit again and again from the pulsing pain in my head. It was as if my neck controlled my entire body, pulse by pulse, the back of my head beating me senseless.

By the time we reached the hospital, every light made me scream in pain, because it was like a weight that hit me, punched me, knocked me senseless. I could feel light through my clothing – my thighs rebelled, my skin said NO, my muscles denied the light and screamed.. twitched, RAN. I crumpled in the parking lot. I think the emergency crew carried me through the hallways into a hospital room. I don’t know, because the pressure of the lights from the parking lot hitting my body that night made me pass out for a moment.

I don’t remember much of the three times I went to the hospital, honestly – it‘s all broken up into pieces. I remember that the pain reached from my neck down to my feet in waves, that it would grab the soles of my feet and the spasms of my feet as I writhed were because I was attempting to escape my head, kick my own head off.

I remember turning to look at my husband in a moment when a wave had passed, to beg, knocked speechless, with only my eyes, for him to please, MAKE IT STOP, thinking that I would do ANYTHING, anything at all, if he would just end it, end ME, to make it stop.

I remember there were moments when I thought of ways I could escape the confines of the hospital room to find and trick some security guard into shooting me in the head, because that would end the pain finally and completely.

I remember being in enough pain that I wanted to die, not because I wanted to leave anyone behind, but because I just didn’t want to hurt anymore. I love, truly, utterly, and completely. But I am also truly, utterly, and completely terrified of that pain.

I don’t want to die… I want to LIVE. I want to know WHY THIS IS HAPPENING TO ME.

But I don’t want to deal with that pain ever, EVER again…

And no one knows what caused it, or why it happened… and no one knows if it will happen again.

Do you know that after 5 months, they still haven’t even done an MRI? I have mentioned to four Neurologists so far that I was hit by a car when I was 7, and STILL no MRI. I’m thinking I’m not the only one who was hit on the head as a child….

So they don’t know what causes my headaches… and so I keep getting them. I have them every day… and every day, I wonder if this one will be like one of those February Screamers. And so… I am afraid. Every second of every hour of every day…

I am afraid. And I’m ashamed because I am this afraid, that this is not in my control, and that I did not tell anyone.