I’m not much for joining clubs. I never have been.
There is nothing wrong with clubs. I like them and have been in many: my figure skating club as a youth, a sorority in college, my alumni club now (heck, I’m co-president). I’m even on my University’s alumni association board, which is kind of like a club.
So it’s not like I don’t want to do the work. And I find great value in the social aspect of being in a club. Even if I think they can be exclusionary.
Though I do wish I could be excluded from one club — one I did not choose to join. I call it the Migraine Club.
In the past year or so, I was diagnosed with migraine headaches. As I think back, I’ve had these for some time.
Friends and co-workers now tell me they remember me complaining of headaches. One co-worker several years ago scared me into seeing a doctor after I announced that I’d had a headache for about two weeks. At that time, I was not diagnosed with migraines. That would take a few years.
That I finally was diagnosed makes sense. My sister gets them. My mother says her mother got them. Both of them have had it worse than I. My sister sometimes gets so nauseated she throws up. My grandmother used to have to lie down in a dark, quiet room.
Me? I typically get a burning sensation focused right over my left eye. I liken it to looking at a bright, scorching sun, the way it almost burns a hole in you if you don’t look away. That’s how it feels to me. A semi-dull but focused pain that makes me want to close my eyes and not deal with anything too taxing.
Often it goes down into my upper jaw, above my teeth on the same side of my head. I get stuffy and sometimes sneeze, which made me think for years it was a sinus problem causing the headache. Now, my doctor tells me, the migraine causes the stuffiness.
Sometimes the migraine pain takes a trip around my head. A surprise attack, like a pinch, on the right side, or a dull pressure like a band around the front of my head.
The worst of it — before I was diagnosed — was when it would settle in the back of my neck, below the base of my skull. I didn’t know what was going on, only that I felt as if every disk, tendon and ligament was grinding together like gravel with each move.
It was after chatting with my dental hygienist a year ago about her horrors with migraines (almost unbearable, nothing like my experience thankfully) that I realized we spoke the same language.
“I felt like I had rocks in my neck,” she said. I knew immediately what she was talking about. At least I think. Pain is so hard, if not impossible, to communicate to someone.
Which is why I hoped for a while my pain was not migraine. I’ve heard nothing but horror stories of people incapable of functioning with them. As with my sister and grandmother, they can take you down. Mess with your life. Make you miserable. So far I’ve not had it that bad.
But I accept the diagnosis. The clincher? When my doctor gave me some new migraine drug samples and told me: “If they work, then it’s most likely migraine.”
Boy, do they work. Damn it.
I do not accept membership into this club lightly. I’d be happy to be kicked out. I’d love to turn in my membership card and pay a hefty fee to break the contract. But I think I’m going to have to live with it. At least for now.
And so I’m making the best of it.
And you know the best part? The people. Like any club, the people are what it’s all about. I’ve still got to deal with the migraines, about two a month. But I’ve discovered a support network, however loosely defined and occasional the meetings — via an email, a Facebook comment, a conversation or tip at a party. I discover new members all the time. We help each other. We know each other.
Some of the advice I’ve gotten through my new club: Hydrate! Take extra magnesium. Watch your diet (cheese, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol are all typical triggers). Prepare for them around your monthly cycle.
I’ve discovered the drugs that work best for me: Zomig and Maxalt, even though they make my throat feel scorched and my skin feel sunburned. There is also the fatigue that turns your limbs into lead weights.
But those symptoms are better than dealing with the pain. As anyone in my club will tell you.
It’s an equal opportunity club, too. We come in all shapes and sizes, mostly female but some men, too. You’re lucky if you’re not in it, but I bet you have your own club you never chose to join.
I don’t plan to be president, and I’ll be happy if I can leave, but while I’m in it I’ll happily support my fellow members — and I do — and I know they’ll be there to support me.
What more can you ask of a club you never wanted to join?