Daith piercing – worth a try?

On Saturday I got a Daith piercing, this is a piercing which is rumoured to help relieve migraines. It pierces the innermost cartilage fold of your ear.

There is no medical evidence that it works. The Migraine Trust have a comment on their website saying this trusted neurologist from Dr Fayyaz Ahmed. However, many websites and people in the community of sufferers seem to believe it has helped them (Example).

Maybe it is acupuncture, maybe it is placebo or maybe there is a science we do not know. However, when you are suffering migraines for several days a week and none of the medications seem to be working, maybe it is worth trying.

I searched for a reputable piercing establishment with not only good reviews in general but for this piercing in particular. I found a shop in Reading, far enough from where I teach to not bump into a student and also with good reviews. Urban Piercing, I would recommend them if you are looking for someone too.

I booked an appointment…although nervous about the pain. I have not had a piercing since I was twelve and I was having the lobes pierced. That is all tissue so a completely different experience, yet I remember that not being too much fun. I remember being nervous and worst still having to experience the pain twice, at least this time it is just one side.

I took a friend for moral support and arrived to have the piercing. I chose to upgrade the jewellery to something a little prettier, being that once this is in it is unlikely to be coming out again.

The piercer was lovely and he put me at ease. We chatted as he thoroughly cleaned my ear, marked the spot and prepared. Then I laid down and waited… I admit it hurt but not as much as I thought it would. It was more like pressure and some uncomfortable pain than a sharp pain I had expected. After a little bleeding and more pressure as the ball was put onto the ring and it was done.

At this point I will also note that the Shed cafe next door is excellent and I felt I had earned some cake and tea after this. We loved the environment and the vegan chocolate slice cake was so amazing. It was just the reward I needed.

It will take a three to six months to heal as it is cartilage. I also need to kept it as clean as possible to prevent infections. I also cannot sleep on that side until it is healed. So it does take extra care while it heals, like any piercing.

I am also not expecting an instant cure. I will have to monitor how things go and get back to you. I actually think if nothing changes then I have a prettier ear and if it helps then that would be a great bonus. I felt it was worth trying if there is even the possibilities of less migraines in my life in this mental world.

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It is just a headache? Right?

It started on Sunday, I felt the pain closing in around my brain. The muscles in my neck got tight and my forehead started to throb. A headache started to form. I rested and tried to let it take its course, hoping it did not develop.

Monday it was a migraine. My vision was blurred, my head and neck hurt and daylight was painful. I felt sick and dizzy. So I called in sick to work and got out my migraine survival kit.

This kit has developed over the years but now includes; decent wax ear plugs, a wheat-bag eye-mask, and painkillers. It is simple, basic but essential. I drank some tea and biscuits to help the painkillers go down and I went back to bed.

It is often said that ‘sleeping is the best medicine’ and mostly I agree. Yet sometimes the migraine hurts so much, that sleep is just not an option. Or after some sleep I can no longer sleep as I am just not tired anymore and instead lay in the dark. Sometimes for days.

It is so hard to describe what a migraine is like to someone who has never had them. I have known my the pain to be so bad I could not put my head on the pillow as it caused me pain. I have contemplated whether chopping my own head off with an axe would actually be less painful (I think that is also the historian in me).

axe on tree trunk
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Pain can make you think dark and weird thoughts, especially when laying in a dark and quiet place can actually get quite boring. Sometimes I can tolerate an audiobook or podcast on the lowest of sound settings but usually not until the pain starts to wane or the painkillers have started to work.

I have seen neurologists many times, they have described me as a complicated case. I have tried many medications and alternative treatments. I have tried herbal remedies like feverfew leaf alongside medication prescribed. Some work for a while and reduce the number of migraines I have. None work completely or for long.

Recently I was describing the migraines and headaches to the neurologist and he pointed out how my headaches are migraines, they are just missing a couple of the symptoms I describe as migraines; blurred vision and constant dizziness. So all these headaches I have been having our migraines! Explains a lots. He then asked “How many days of migraines do you get a month?”I replied “Including what I thought was a headache?”. “Yes everything” I thought about it and replied “20 days”.

Some of these the pain lasts hours in the evening or morning. Other times it lasts all day. Sometimes it stops me and I have to retreat to my room but sometimes I can continue with my day after some doses of painkillers.

addiction adult capsule capsules
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This week it started Sunday and finished today (Friday), although I am in some pain still. Today I feel like my shackles have been removed and I have been taken out of the dark cell my brain has been locked within. I had Monday and Tuesday off work, as the blurred vision means I can not do anything but then went back to work. Retreating to my bed and painkillers as soon as I could. I lost my appetite, it was replaced with bouts of nausea.

The hardest thing to explain to someone is the detrimental effect the pain has on me as a whole person. Yes the pain is in my brain but it affects my mood, my thoughts, my ability to concentrate and my patience. I love sunshine, I am a Sun worshiper, until I am in this state and then I curse its brightness. This week I felt I was being tortured in a cell by my own mind and I did not know when it would end.

This might seem extreme to some but constant pain is demoralising and impairs cognitive ability. I can’t remember names of students, everyday words and history facts I would usually recall easily. I lose some of my hand eye co-ordination and become clumsy. My limbs feel prickly and tingle or they fall asleep.

Studies have shown that being a migraine or chronic headache sufferer significantly raises your risk of suicide and depression. In one US Study the risk rose from 1% to 10% from non sufferer to sufferers of migraines (US Study) and in another it tripled the likelihood (Migraine Again). Although this is believed to be due to the more general symptom of pain rather than due to the specific pain of migraine or headache suffers.

For me my depression rages during a migraine. I think the lack of control, the not knowing when it will end and the feeling like there is nothing I can do is just hard to handle. The relief when it does is like euphoria. It is like being given freedom again.

I hate to feel like someone who is always complaining or thinking ‘woe is me’. However I think awareness of this debilitating illness and the wider affect it can have is important. I have had migraines for as long as I can remember and so I do not think they are going anywhere. Maybe my brain is just wired in the wrong way. I am being referred to a Neurology Department in London to consider Botox for Migraines but I will contemplate that in June when I get to my appointment.

In the mean time I take each day as it comes and hope for brighter clearer headed days ahead in this mental world.

Letting Myself Cry

Dear teenage Becky,

I know things are hard. It seems like no one loves you or cares about you. You have the weight of the world on your shoulders before you should. Your mother is mean and yells, she tells you that you are not worthy. Your siblings and father call you ‘cry baby’, ‘lemon head’ or ‘melon head’ as you cry a lot. But you have every reason to cry and be sad.

Crying is absolutely fine. Cry away the sorrow of your childhood. The abuses and bullying you have to endure. Cry for the people you lost; loosing Nan and Granddad, when you were 14 and 15, was tough. Nan was the one person who seemed to understand your plight and then she died. It is ok to be sad about that, it is not blaming her. She had to go she was sick, you gave her permission to go, to gain relief from all her pain. But you have no relief from your pain.

You held back tears when people died believing you had to be strong for the family. You hold the family up, like the adults should. It is honourable, but you also have to look after your own feelings. Let out the tears. Bottling them up leads to pain, causing some of the migraines you suffer with and flaring up your fibromyalgia.

Crying lets out toxins and relieves stress. It is a natural bodily function that you should have and do. It expresses so many emotions from happiness to sadness (Wikihow – Cry and Let It All Out).

I know you do cry a few tears, for others and for happy occasions. You well-up at a wedding, when a baby is born or watching a romantic film. But you should also cry for you. Let out the pain and hurt from your own life story. You have suffered, and people have hurt you. You deserve those tears for you.

As an adult, I find crying almost impossible. I wish I was there when you started to hold back the tears to tell you “It is ok, let them out”. To counter the bullying and stand up for you. To come up with a witty comeback to the names they called you. I mean really ‘melon head’ what does that even mean? They were not the most intelligent of names.

Finally, also know that if you cry you are not your mother. I know she cries at every whim, at every argument and that she uses it to emotionally blackmail everyone. But when you cry you are not doing it with malicious intent, your tears are pure. Crying does not mean you are her. I know becoming her is your deepest fear, but you never could be her. You will come to learn and accept this in therapy.

With all the love and support you should have had.

Adult Becky

(Still no tears but I am working on it, in this mental world)

Looking well and living with invisible illnesses

Today I interviewed Jonny Benjamin MBE, for the podcast I co-host (The Mental Health Book Club Podcast). In part of the interview we spoke about people’s perception of mental illness, that he ‘looked well’ so must be better.

This is the problem with an invisible illness, people assume if you do not look sick then you are not sick. I have done it, I think we all have. To see someone get out of a car parked in a disabled bay who ‘looked well’ mentally question if they were ‘really disabled’.

But I have an invisible illness, actually I have several; Fibromyalgia, chronic migraines, depression and anxiety. This means that I may look well. I can still dress, clean my teeth, take a bath and smile when I need to. Not every day, but those days I usually stay at home, where you will not see me. Unless you deliver takeaways, are my lovely postman or an Amazon delivery driver.

Saying that there are the in-between days, days which mean I am up and in life but not feeling great. It could be post migraine symptoms, depressive episode or my anxiety running a muck. Days I go into school (work) and have to smile and teach even when I want to run and hide. Those days I might ‘look well’ and be able to act ‘well’.

I just think we should remember that we do not know what is behind closed doors. We cannot assume people are well and healthy because they smile at us. I know I have got very good at acting well, I can fool even my best friend for quite a while. For when I am ready to share and ask for help.

I even have trouble with bathing; pre-verbal childhood trauma which has led to an illogical fear of water. But I make myself keep clean and bath as society expects. Also because no one wants to be the person who smells.

My parents wash occasionally and brush their teeth even less frequently. I have had to ask my mum to brush her teeth before we go out. So I do have a fear of smelling or having bad breath. So I learnt no matter how I felt I was to look ‘fine’.

My mum is someone who is always feeling worse than you are, ever. I was not really asked how I was and looked after when I was sick. If I was off sick from school I was given a lost of chores to do. Mum also likes to moan about her many illnesses, she is ill. She is living with cancer and also has high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type two diabetes, mobility issues and is morbidly obese. So she does have a lot to complain about, but she has been moaning even before she had all of these.

It was like my illnesses were not real. Therefore, now as a grown up I have had to learn to ask for help and show people how I am really feeling. To no longer just say ‘fine’ all the time. It is ok to say ‘I am not ok’ without seeing a moaner, another mother linked fear of mine. I am more open about days I am not feeling well but doing what I need to do, work.

I think I fear too much sympathy. That look that people give you when they feel so sorry for you. I hate it, it makes me feel ill. I am a strong independent woman. I do not want to look weak, I am a perfectionist, and I am stubborn. But I am also learning that I need to be open to help and support. To be honest to break down stigmas and let people learn about the real world to me and others who also suffer.

So here I am, sick but well in my life in a mental world.

 

When emotional stress becomes physical pain…

I have spent the day in my pyjamas with a migraine. I am a chronic sufferer of migraines, have been for as long as I can remember. Through therapy and reading books, like The Mind/Body Prescription by John E. Sarno MD, I have come to understand some of my migraines and fibromyalgia pain is linked to my current stresses and past traumas.

So, is this migraine a stress migraine? Well, tomorrow I am meeting my family for our Christmas get together, so highly likely. It is not like I was actively even thinking about this event, looming ahead, and yet it has been stressing me out. Last night I couldn’t sleep and tonight the same. My head hurts, I feel dizzy, nauseous and my eyesight was blurred. This physical reaction comes deep from my subconscious, from a past of trauma and a present of the same.

You might think this is an overraction or you may be thinking ‘What the hell did these people do?’.

Well, either way this is the reaction I have. These days it is more about seeing my sister, Kirsty, although it is worse as this will be alongside my mother. So lets start there, my mother is a narcissist and I am her scapegoat. She will never see or understand the impact she has had, she believes she loves me and always has, I believe that is true but her actions said otherwise. I wear a bracelet everyday to remind me I am worthy and what I do is enough – it literally says ‘worthy & enough’ – to try to counter her abuses which shaped my self-esteem. I have told her about the trauma she caused me, well some of it, and she has apologised (with her usual justifications). The big change is that I no longer let her treat me badly and she has mostly adapted her behaviour. However, I am also learning to accept she is never going to change and therefore I have to stop expecting that change.

My sister is the bigger issue at the moment. I do not have a relationship with her beyond presents and family celebrations. We are polite to each others faces but that is it. To me she is toxic, narcissistic and unkind. I have chosen to separate myself from her, but this is new. I have spent 30 odd years of my life trying to prove to her that I love her. I have done everything I could to be the ‘good big sister’, to go the extra mile and beyond. However, the hoops she set for me to jump through got higher and higher and I finally realised she was never going to believe me.

This is the sad part of narcissism; often they just want to feel loved but don’t feel it when someone shows it to them. So they pick a new thing the person can do to prove their love and when that doesn’t work another and another. I could do it no longer, Kirsty is not able to love me for who I am and see that I love her.

Last Christmas this accumulated in me saying ‘No’ when she asked me to collect her (and her boyfriend, Lighty) from London and take them to our brothers for Christmas Day. Neither drive and there were no trains, but we are also talking about a journey that is usually 25 minutes to being 2-3 hours. I did offer my sofa bed if they came down by train the night before, but she did not want to spend time at my house with me. I suggested a hotel room near my brothers, or staying at our parents. From her point of view I did not want her at Christmas as this was my way of excluding her, to her I was being unreasonable and it was not a huge request to ask of me.

This last year was then filled with disputes like this; annoyed at me for taking my brother’s family on holiday and not inviting her (I was paying and could not afford to take her too not to mention her not wanting to spend time with me). Telling me off for having to work the morning of my dads 60th Birthday party and using this to say I did not love him enough, and so many other similar moments. These are twisted and manipulated to make me seem evil, conniving and wicked.

I know there are two sides to every story and she definitely has a different point of view. Maybe this is what worries me so much, as her view of me as a person seems so awful. A person I would never want to be.

I recently found out that, on a weekend visit to my brothers, my sister had a massive argument with my sister-in-law (Tash) over me. It started out so nice, my sister asking how I was and my sister-in-law saying I was good, expanding to include I was still seeing my therapist and had a dip after out holiday but I was overall okay. Apparently my sister and her boyfriend took this as I was clinically depressed and my sister-in-law was not taking it as seriously as she should have been. Why was she not more worried about me? So Tash pointed out to my sister, she has spent time with me and supports me so knows I am okay. It was pointed out to Kirsty that if she really wanted to know how I was she should talk to me. The argument went on and at one point I was even blamed for it happening. Kirsty and Lighty went home and this should have been the end to it.

But, Kirsty then messaged my best friend, Sydney. She asked from a place of concern how I was, as Tash and Aaron had described how I was not taking care of myself and exhibiting serious depressive traits. She asked that this not be mentioned to me as she did not want to change our relationship or alter the one I have with my brother’s family, but was concerned about me.

I am sure she does, on some level, care about me and my well-being. But she is also the one who does not want to have a relationship with me. I have offered to discuss things, I have apologised and have wanted to talk. I was knocked down and Kirsty said she was not ready, I respected that. I said to her that ‘this door is always open’ and that she just needed to let me know when she is ready. Yet she complains that I have not approached her to discuss and apologise, not that she wants me to. She wants to keep me continually trying to prove my love but that is exhausting and never going to actually change anything.

I have also got to the point where I am not sure I do like who she is, or at least the last Kirsty I knew. I do not know her now and would not profess to, but the last Kirsty I knew could not forgive, be open, listen and understand. She pushed me away and keeps me at arm’s length. She is also now acting like this with Tash, our sister-in-law and our brother, both who have much less to do with her now. I find this sad for her, I feel sorry for her and what she might be missing out on.

Stress ‘a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances’ (Google Dictionary). 

So tomorrow by definition stresses me out. I do not know what will happen. Will remarks be made about my mental state? Will I have to defend myself? Will there be an argument? Will I be blamed? Or will everyone pretend we are one happy family – which is so exhausting and also not good for my mental health but it is good for peace. I can bite my tongue to some extent. I usually busy myself with the nieces and nephew or helping with preparing food but why do we subject ourselves to this? Should I avoid these situations? Should I keep trying with her, as she is my sister? Should I confront her or avoid her?

So many questions on how I should act and what I should say. I feel there are no answers, I just need to gauge the situation and go with it. I need to try to hold in the anger and smile though it all. It is just one afternoon. I think I am trying to convince myself more than any readers out there.

I will report back soon so you know how I coped with my life in this mental world.