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When Treating Your Illness Makes You Feel Like a Trial-and-Error Experiment

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An experiment.

A never-ending process of trial and error.

A frustrating, tiresome and continuous cycle.

The above is how I describe my health journey, and sometimes how I describe my life in general, because my headaches have become my whole life over the past couple of years. My health journey and life journey have merged into one, really.

When people ask me if I’ve tried a specific medicine or not for my chronic daily headaches and migraines, it truly takes a lot of effort for me to not chuckle out loud in response. Not because what I think they’re asking is ridiculous. In fact, I appreciate others trying to help me find a solution. I just can’t help but chuckle because all I want to say, and sometimes what I actually do say out loud is, “Trust me, I’ve tried them all.” Over-the-counters, anti-seizures, antidepressants, blood pressure medicines, beta blockers, the whole shebang. I’ve been around the block when it comes to poppin’ prescriptions. (It’s not as rowdy as it sounds, I promise.) Pills were all my doctors could think of to push to me. “Oh, topamax didn’t work? Try Nortriptyline.”

But, about six months ago, I got to the point where I couldn’t put my body through any more torture. I couldn’t try another pill. But a doctor I’m seeing told me to give a new medicine a try. You see, even when pill after pill doesn’t seem to do anything for your pain, you start to get discouraged. Heavily discouraged. But with the daily head pain I endure, my body and my mental strength can’t afford to be discouraged. No matter how pessimistic I may feel about a pill, I usually always give it a go, just in case this time it miraculously works.

Well, as luck would have it, the last pill (from the scenario described above) I tried did not work and in fact gave me adverse reactions that my doctor had never witnessed before. Being told, “Oh really? That’s very interesting. I’ve never heard of any patients reporting those side effects before” isn’t really the uplifting news you hope to hear going into your appointments. I wanted to say “Oh really? No one else ever felt like their migraines tripled in intensity? No one else ever felt so dizzy that they thought maybe they accidentally somehow got drunk at work in the middle of the day? No one else reported feeling like a zombie, not being able to focus on anything at all? Well, isn’t that dandy that I could be the first person to experience all of those things.” But I didn’t say those things, of course. Mostly because I respect and like my doctors too much and because I know it’s not fair of me to say such things.

Instead, I sulked. I hit a low. I pretty much told myself that there was no helping the pain I feel from when I wake to when I shut my eyes again at night. I told myself that I would just have to keep on truckin’ with no hope for any relief in the foreseeable future.

But then, the next time around, my doctor started suggesting some new treatment ideas that in fact were not revolved around me swallowing about four pills a day. These new treatments include: Physical therapy, atlas orthogonal, Botox, etc.

As always, I was and still am skeptical about the proposed treatments and try not to set my hopes too high on the idea of the treatments helping me feel better.

It’s gravely exhausting on the body and the mind to spend years of your life trying medicine after medicine, treatment after treatment, and never seeing enough progress to turn my frown upside down. Thinking about how much I’ve put my body through physically, by trying every chemical under the sun just to get the pounding in my head to subside, is sickening. To try treatment after treatment, just to get nowhere is a process that I’ll never get used to, but probably also will never be able get rid of.

To keep my sanity, I have to try every new thing my doctors and I can think of, because it’s not healthy to continue doing the same thing repetitively if it’s not producing any new and different results.

The irony, however, comes into play when the reality hits that actually, doing new and different things over and over again and never seeing different results is actually what can cause the sanity to slip away from you.

But that’s when you have to force your fortitude, perseverance, strength and dreams of one day feeling better to overcome all of the discouragement you may be feeling.

I must keep trying new methods. I have to give new treatments a chance.

People throughout history have found amazing things through the process of trial and error. Why does it have to be any different for me?

Originally published: August 19, 2016
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