Migraine Simulation

I have mixed feelings about Excedrin. I’m always a little skeptical of migraine products – their use, their effectiveness, their cost. Excedrin can be a dangerous thing if misused. With the combination of medicine – 250 mg Acetaminophen, 250 mg of Aspirin and 65 mg of Caffeine, people can often take too much of this medicine. More than 2 pills in a 24 hour period is overdosing which will lead to rebound headaches. Rebound headaches often cause the sufferer to take more headache medicine creating a vicious cycle where no relief can be found without withdraw. This isn’t the company’s fault – it’s the consumers misuse.

A couple of Excedrin’s products make me raise a skeptical eye brow. They make numerous headache/migraine products. The mild headache commercial makes me cringe. My “everyday” headache is not something that Excedrin can treat. This woman’s mild headache could be banished with the loss of her two annoying kids. The “Mild” formula is 325 mg of Acetaminophen with 65 mg of Caffeine.

The “Extra Strength” formula is the exact same as the “Migraine” formula. Both are 250 mg of Acetaminophen, 250 of Aspirin, and 65 mg of Caffeine. There is no difference between the two but are two different products? Okay. This annoys me. This adds to the stigma. They’ve re-branded something for bad headaches for migraines. A migraine isn’t a extra strength headache. There is nothing that annoys me more than the stigma that a migraine is a bad headache and something OTC can cure it. If Jordan Sparks has migraines, Excedrin Migraine isn’t going to cure it without some prescription help.

BUT! Excedrin has done something pretty cool.

Using Oculus Rift,  Excredin has created a virtual migraine. Well, the aura. They focus on the aura. It’s impossible to recreate the pain, most of the sensitivities, and nausea. The aura is really a vital part of a migraine for a lot of people. The aura is just the storm on the horizon but they can be destructive. The loss of vision, and impaired vision can wreak havoc on peoples lives, and that’s before all the pain. They are able to recreate the disorienting feeling of a migraine aura.

The people in the video, two gentlemen, can’t last with the simulation.

It’s something. It’s a start.

I hope that this experiment can open a discussion on migraine symptoms – that it’s not just a headache.


Counting to Thirty

I’m scrambling to get everything together in the morning. In my desk, I know I have one cymbalta left and the refill isn’t until next week. Someone messed up and I still haven’t figured out who yet. I’m blaming the pharmacy because I took it correctly and I’m assuming my doctor is smart enough not to make this kind of mistake.

“I just don’t understand,” my mom sighs.

“It’s easy,” I sneer, “someone doesn’t know how to count to thirty,” I set my bag down on the kitchen chair and sit down in another. My cat comes running over to me and jumps up into my lap, waiting to be pet, “good morning love,” I run my hands through her fur and she begins purring. I look back up at my mom, “I don’t know how hard it is to count to 30. I don’t know how they got that job and do not know how to count to thirty,” I run my hands over my cat’s fur. She meows, chiming in to the conversation. “Do you know how to count to thirty Norah?” I ask her, in my baby voice I reserve for her but the comment is still ever so condescending. “I bet you can count to thirty,” I scratch behind her ears and she purrs louder, meowing in reply. “You would be the cutest little pharmacy assistant,” I kiss her head and she nuzzles me under my chin.

I look up and see my mom glaring at me from across the room. She’s not happy with the situation and doesn’t appreciate my humor in the whole situation. I continue to pet the cat.

Weekend Update – Chaos and Thoughts

I need to start this post by running my hands over my face, and with a deep breath because this means this week is over.

Last Friday night, when 8 o’clock rolled around and I unscrewed the cap to my migraine medicine, I noticed it was running low. I picked up the phone and placed a refill order with the prerecorded message at my pharmacy. I forgot to pick them up Sunday and asked my mom on Monday morning, before school, if she could pick them up for me. I would be at school all day, from 9 until 6:30 due to a group project after classes. When I called my mom while getting a quick bite to eat, she informed me that the insurance would not pay for my medicine because I ordered it early. How did that make sense? I was out and needed more Cymbalta but shouldn’t need any until next week?!

On Tuesday, I was at school all day again, from 8 until 7:30 because of class and a conference in the evening. I asked my mom to call the doctor, the pharmacy and everywhere else. When I got home, she got as far as leaving a message on the machines. I took my last Cymbalta on Tuesday night.

I was warned by numerous people that Cymbalta is not something that can just be stopped, you have to wean off of it. I didn’t have that choice. I was at school all day again from 9 until 6:30 for the same group project. Antsy, stressed, on the verge of panicking the entire night, I was angry at everyone including myself for not realizing it sooner. Every so often, I would laugh pathetically, cynically, sadly at myself, at my situation. The one medicine that works, has been working, I am being denied. I had the best weeks of my life and it was coming to a close.

My depression has reared its ugly head again because of the lack of sunshine, the stress and pain again. It’s like I fell back into place. The end of the semester is so close, I do not know how much help I could get in going to therapy at the school. Mental health is so stigmatized in my house that I do not feel comfortable asking my parents about seeing a therapist on our insurance. Our insurance is so fucked up to begin with.

Thursday is when it all went to hell. I was okay all morning which was a godsend. I was able to go to the one class I absolutely cannot miss. Halfway through driving home, the cymbalta withdraw happened. When I got home, my mom had paid out of pocket for part of my prescription but it was too late. Fortunately, after such a long tiring week, I was able to sleep for a little bit. I would wake up intermediately from pain. My cat insisted on sleeping next to my face, purring in an attempt to soothe me but it sounded more like a chainsaw in my ear. The fading afternoon light was too much. All I could do was sob.

My brother asked me if I was tired when he saw my hollow face and bloodshot eyes.

My sister’s boyfriend asked me if I had allergies when he saw my red rimmed eyes, tear streaked cheeks and heard my sniffles and coughs.

I took an imitrex, which dulled the sensitivities but did nothing to help that pain. At 8, I took two Cymbalta.

While the sensitivies were gone, it felt like a sledgehammer had connected with the back of my head and my stomach rolled all night.

I emailed my teachers, explaining to them that the assignment due Friday night would not be completed, that the performance for our project would not be done until next week. I emailed my group to let them know that I had been bested by my head and a faulty medical system. Just when I thought that my migraine and headache saga was coming to a close, I was wrong. I thought I had beat this but never felt more defeated. Despite being one battle, one migraine, I left like giving up the war.

I woke up on Friday with an ice pick in my eye and pain all over the left side of my head. My stomach rolled as my mother offered my breakfast. My sister and mom ordered Chinese food for lunch, I ate some rice and wonton soup, something easy on my stomach.


The prescription reads: Take 1 capsule by mouth daily for 7 days then increase to 2 daily.

When I got it filled the first time, I took 7 days and then increased to 2. I had enough for the whole month. This month, instead of taking 1 a day for the first 7 days, I took 2 because I was taking 2 a day at the point. I’m not supposed to drop down to 1 a day for a week at the beginning of every month.

As I sobbed, it dawned on me that I’ll be short every month. I’m supposed to do this every month unless I get this sorted out.

Conversations (2)

“Why are you standing like that?” my mom asks. It’s more accusing than concerning.

I’m standing, one hand braced against the wall, with a foot in the air, rolling my ankle trying to shake the pain.

“My foot hurts, I don’t want to stand on it,” I tell her.

From across the room my brother pipes up, “If I don’t take my gout pill I won’t be able to walk in a couple days.”

Then take your medicine. Be grateful you have medicine that works for you, at least you have it.  The medicine I take is more problematic than helpful,” I yell indignantly, and limp off in much the same fashion.

Futile Arguments

“Did you take anything?” my mom asks when she sees me bounce off the hallway wall into the dining room.

I just sigh.

I’m not going to lie and tell her I did when I didn’t. I don’t have the energy to do so.

Her eyes narrow, “Why didn’t you take anything? You actually have to take something for it to work,” she scolds.

I collapse none too gracefully into the chair at the kitchen table. I should have texted to have someone bring me something to drink.

With a perfunctory wipe down the front of her shirt, her hands are drier than what they were, still soapy from washing the dishes. She crosses the kitchen to the long island that sits in the middle. Somewhere in the mess that was gathered on the far end is a huge bottle of aspirin – 500 white pills. She slams it on the empty part of the island for me. I stand on uneasy legs.

I shuffle over to the fridge and open it. My head pounds and I think I stepped in a bit of water from the sink that splashed on the floor. My socks soaked it up. I turn to face the island and pick up the bottle of pills.

I’m in too much pain to even have this fight with her. I know I have to actually swallow the pills for them to work. I don’t take them because they don’t work. Nothing works, aleve, advil, Tylenol, even the fancy headache and migraine combination – Excedrin and Bayer migraine – they all don’t work. It’s futile. If I wasn’t feeling so bad, I maybe would have fought with her. I have in the past. I asked her if she would leave me her liver because I would need it with all the NSAID’s I take. I ask her how many short of an overdose should I take to cure my headache. The fights are usually followed by a doctor’s visit where my mom pleads that SHE is at her wit’s end. Give me a break.

The bottle of aspirin is covered in suds. I look at her, her back turned to me – wrist deep in suds. I carry it back to my room. I don’t take any, just set it on my desk. It completes the illusion. When she asks later, I’ll lie. I’ll say I took 3 or 4 and that it didn’t work. It never does. I crawl back into bed and try to sleep.


The closest I get to pain free is when my head forgets it’s suppose to hurt all the time and I find myself with some sort of reprieve. When I take drugs to achieve the same effect, it feels artificial. It’s feigning because it won’t last. I only am “pain free” until my body metabolizes whatever I took. It’s fake because it only covers up the pain, blocking the pain signals. Whatever is hurting still hurts, I just don’t feel it. It comes at a cost, side effects that may or may not be worth the pain. When I’m not in pain, not on drugs does it feel real. The artificial pain free feeling is fake and I’ve learned not to trust it. It doesn’t last. It takes a toll on my mental health, I need to be sufficiently high and doped up just to feel what other people feel regularly. I can’t trust the drugs, I take too many to chase that pain free feeling and I pay with rebound headaches. It doesn’t feel right. The pain still lingers, waiting to make it’s grand reappearance. The feelings I experience on the drugs are fake, they’re artificial.


What if I get a bad headache? What if I forget my pills at home? If I’m stranded somewhere with a bad headache and nothing to take? What if I remember the them but forget the Vicodin and need the Vicodin? What if I’m at school and I don’t have anything and I need to drive home? What if I text someone for something but they don’t get it and can’t bring me anything? What if they don’t have anything anyway? What if I don’t have time to go to the bookstore to get something? What if I don’t have enough money? If I take something will I feel better in time for class later? Will I feel better when it comes time to drive home? Should I go buy a soda, will the caffeine help? Should I go now or finish my classes for the day? Am I going to feel better later? Should I wait or just go home now? What if I take something but it doesn’t work?