Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pranayama and Percocet

My Goal #2 for this gear is to reduce the frequency of migraines I experience. Sometime in my 30s I started with migraines, and last year they really became an utter plague. Seems every time I turned around, I had another. And it's so weird that someone, me, who does so much yoga (presumably relaxing, self-caring) still couldn't get a leg-up on this regular skull-crushing. So in December I picked up and devoured an excellent book, "The Migraine Brain" by Dr. Carolyn Bernstein. Seriously helpful. At the same time, though, I have to say that mostly I am straddling two very different worlds: the woo-woo world of yoga with all its ayurvedic, new age-y, homeopathic trappings, and the world of pharma, which seriously saves my ass over and over again, making it possible for me to get through a work-day or a weekend or whatever without losing a beat.

Because that's the thing about me: I don't want to be stopped by anything, least of all by a migraine. So even if my head is killing me, I'll swallow whatever I have to to just keep going, do what I want, not miss out. Life doesn't stop just because the walls of my cranium are pressing in hard. I refuse to sit out. I will not spend four days in bed just because my head hurts.

And that's how I found myself, last weekend, a beautiful weekend in Tahoe with my yoga buddies and 3 hours a day of practice, swallowing percocets just to be able to sit upright on my mat and not fall over in pain. Don't get me wrong: I hate taking pills, but sometimes I really feel like I have no other option if I want to live my life the way I want to. [Sorry, that's a bit of a lie: I don't really hate taking pills, I just hate taking them when I *have* to. If it were for fun, then I wouldn't mind so much. Just didn't want to lie.]

Since January, I've had two four-day migraines. And that's an improvement! The first (January) started the night before my birthday and lasted throughout the long weekend, the last woke me up last Friday, the morning we were leaving for Tahoe, and lingered through the end of Monday. I was triumphant not to have one in February, particularly because I was really paying attention and knew exactly why.

According to "The Migraine Brain," migraines are "a complex neurological disease," "a chronic neurological illness you were born with." The migraine brain is "high-maintenance, hypersensitive, demanding and overly excitable. It usually insists that everything in its environment remain stable and even-keeled. It can respond angrily to anything it isn't accustomed to or doesn't like." And clearly what my poor little migraine brain doesn't like is stress at work, hormones, sleeplessness, dehydration and excess caffeine. Throw the altitude of going to Tahoe into the mix, and last weekend's four-day migraine is inevitable! If I managed to escape a migraine in February, it's because during the precise week that I was in most danger of the killer head-pain [the book says 2 days before your period, migraine is 71% more likely to occur], I was super-hydrated, well-slept and on Cloud 9 in a 5-day yoga immersion. Yes, clearly and no-duh, my brain doesn't like my job. I don't blame it!

Now that I'm out of migraine #2 of 2010, two days free from pain and drugs, I am already planning ahead to April and watching for the warning signs that should manifest in about two weeks. I'm hoping next time I can get through it with more pranayama and less percocet, but I don't encourage betting on that.

1 comment:

sfauthor said...

Nice posting. Do you know about these pranayama books?