The headache chronicles

Posted: September 2, 2013 by shawnfury in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

No need to make a big deal out of this. It’s not Jack Youngblood playing in the Super Bowl with a broken leg or Michael Jordan playing with a hangover that we’ll agree to call the flu in the NBA Finals. It’s just one 38-year-old guy writing on a Sunday night with a headache. I don’t want any medals, don’t need any awards.

But if you have some Excedrin, perhaps you could send some east.

Sunday night headaches are nothing new for me. Some of them might have to do with the fact, like tens of millions of other people, my work week starts on Monday, even when there’s a holiday for laborers. But it’s not a work headache. I know because, over the past few decades, I developed a classification system that would be the envy of any archivist or internist. I know my body, and I know my head and I know what makes them ache.

I come from a family of headache sufferers. My sister starts her day with two or three Excedrin and a Mountain Dew and my dad, with the exception of May 14, 1986, has had a headache at some point during his day every day since 1964 (although I do think his Sunday headaches did improve when he retired…).

A partial list of things that cause my headaches: lack of soda by 11 a.m.; more than two alcoholic beverages; no cereal — sugar or healthy — by midnight; lack of red meat by 6 p.m.; no bread during the day; no orange juice during the day; the day after McDonald’s, if I get their burgers; having a “headfull”; wearing glasses instead of contacts; Chinese food; out too long in the sun; out too long in the cold; grinding my teeth while sleeping; playing basketball, usually develops two hours later; no sugar by noon, preferably in donut-ed form.

Louise doesn’t totally buy into my classifications. She blames 99 percent of my headaches on one thing: Dehydration. The other one percent is caused by dependence on Excedrin. She speaks as a former nursing student and an obsessed reader of women’s magazines.

Early in our relationship I scoffed. I now buy into her theory, though with every new headache I still attribute it to something out of my own medical library.

Sunday’s was easily diagnosed. I slept in so didn’t have caffeine by the normal time, which during the week is 9:30. Also, while light and delightful, the salmon-and-salad lunch meant I could tell Louise, around 5, “It’s a red meat headache. Maybe I’ll go get a hamburger.”

Refusing to believe my expertise, Louise wordlessly poured me a large glass of water and sat it on the table in front of me, shaking her head while I washed down a pair of Excedrin.

“They’re not going to help,” she said. “You didn’t have any water yesterday or today. You’re dehydrated.”

Even as kid I got terrible headaches, all of which, I now realize, were probably caused by dehydration. At one point I even had a scan done on my head, which, cliched joke, showed nothing. Louise has fought a one-woman war against my family’s use of Excedrin, first convincing my dad that it was foolish for him to take them without any water and then getting me to stop taking them for several months, convinced my reliance on them was causing more headaches than they were curing. When Excedrin became difficult to find in stores, she thought she had won, especially after I admitted that perhaps I was suffering fewer of them after the big white pills were retired.

But on a trip to Costo, on a day she must have felt sorry for me, a pharmacist invited her behind the counter and gave her two oversize bottles filled with the magic dust. There were so many I brought about a hundred of them to give to a co-worker who had been my dealer over the years, as payback and thanks. When I presented her with the bottle she gave a smile that wouldn’t have been any bigger if I’d handed her five hundred bucks cash. Still, at home the Excedrin comes with conditions. Louise has the giant bottle hidden away, secured like a sample of the smallpox virus in a military lab. She rations out about a dozen and fills them in a separate bottle, otherwise insisting I use Advil for my headache needs.

My headaches almost always hurt in the same place and if I go to bed with one I sleep with two fingers on the aching area, whether it’s right in the middle of my head or off to the side. I somehow believe this will help get rid of it, though sleep is truly the only surefire cure. If I could hook myself up to an IV while sleeping, even better.

Fortunately I rarely suffer a migraine; the last one was probably a year ago and when those hit they are the one time when Louise’s healthcare services don’t include a lecture about liquids. The pity outweighs the disgust at my blatant disregard for the basic human need for water. With those I simply take to the bed, motionless, perhaps a cool cloth on my head, trying not to move or even think, because any brain activity seems to only make the pain worse.

Instead I function normally with a headache because they’re a normal part of life. My continued suffering does provide proof of my stupidity. See, there are weeks — thanks to my vigilance or Louise’s insistence — when I do drink a lot of water every day. At work I’ll consume eight or nine glasses, all of them in the flimsy cups that replaced our Styrofoam ones a year ago and soak through if the water sits in them for 30 minutes. At home I have water with dinner. I have a glass after dinner. On weekends I drink bottled water or simply take it from the tap. And…I rarely get a headache. Still, I don’t like water enough to always remember to drink it that much and admitting water’s the cure for what ails me would mean admitting defeat to Louise.

So maybe the water helped a bit Sunday night. Me? I mostly credit the 10 p.m. bowl of Wheaties.

  1. Jerry says:

    A caffeine withdrawl headache is almost as bad as a migraine in my book. I went through the withdrawl when I quit drinking pop a few years back and it lasted about 3 days. But it appears that Louise is correct when it comes to hydration. You would be wise to follow her lead and drink more water.

  2. shawnfury says:

    The funny thing is that with my car pool driver, I’ve taken over the “you’re getting headaches because you never drink water” role, and she, too, is learning there might be wisdom to it. I just shook my head a few weeks ago when she got one after McDonald’s and she said, “I know, Louise is right. Dehydrated.”

  3. Lisa says:

    I too know “exactly” what has caused my headaches, alot of the same reasons you mentioned. I could have written this article. I have often thought of Excederin dependence but if I did not have any in the house I would probably get a headache just knowing there wasn’t any. Kind of sounds like a drug addict, mmm?
    Anyway Louise is probably right, water is always good for a person.
    I have passed on the “headache problem” to the next generation. Bronson gets migranes like I do but his Dr. gave him a prescription to take every day to prevent one. I probably should have done that 30 years ago. I guess I would rather waste a whole day in the darkened bedroom where everyone knows to just leave me be.

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