Reflection Cube

Three-dimensional thoughts

Tag: headaches

tick on leaf - Lyme disease, vector-borne illness, symptoms, disease, autoimmune conditions, aches, pain, headaches, fatigue, brain fog

Explaining Away an Uncomfortable Truth

So…warning. I’m kinda ranting here. 🙂

A family member of mine recently got diagnosed with Lyme.

Since then, while sharing this recent discovery with her friends/family, many have asked her, “Do you think that’s really what it is? Are you sure Lyme is really what you have?”

To which my family member’s inward response has been something to the effect of “Of course that’s what I have! I have the matching symptoms, and my doctor diagnosed me with it! Finally, I have a reasonable explanation for my symptoms!”

Lyme can actually mimic – or cause – a lot of other autoimmune diseases, so you may think you have fibromyalgia or adrenal/chronic fatigue or multiple sclerosis…and really have Lyme. It’s more likely that someone would think they have another autoimmune disease and in fact (or in addition) have Lyme (or a similar vector-borne and/or low-grade infection), than the other way around. Lyme is way more common than many realize (and can be transmitted through many means other than a tick bite, including through mosquitoes, spiders, and bodily fluids – saliva, tears, etc.).

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Such incredulity can be annoying, because it makes the sufferer feel that their diagnosis is invalid – at least socially. Which, for some, makes them question their own sanity (though it shouldn’t). Maybe they really are just a hypochondriac after all….

Except that…they know they aren’t.

It’s All In Your Head

Note: Not making any judgments or assessments about my family member’s friends or family here, or their motives/reasoning in asking the questions they did. Most people mean well when they ask such questions.

But this brings us to an interesting phenomenon about the human brain.

We tend to like to explain away or discredit facts that make us uncomfortable.

(Looked for the official name for this phenomenon and about the closest I got was Terror Management Theory…which…doesn’t exactly fit, but bears some resemblance.)

It’s a form of denial – an attempt to ignore, redefine, or disbelieve something that is terrifying or unsettling – even if that thing doesn’t directly affect you.

Having a loved one diagnosed with a serious condition can be irritating, frightening, burdening. (And it can also make undiagnosed sufferers wish they had an explanation for their similar, hidden symptoms (but sadly, they’ve come to believe the lie that any illness that is not completely outwardly visible is mental, and can’t have a medical diagnosis or root. So they think they’re just crazy for feeling what they feel.))



You can’t win! If you don’t have a diagnosis – and your symptoms are less visible (e.g. fatigue, faintness, brain fog), people think you’re lying about your health issues. And if you have a diagnosis, they don’t believe that either (“they” not representing all of humanity, but those who believe more in the prevalence of hypochondria than the growing reality of hidden illness).

A better question to ask in such situations might be, “Do you think that there could be an additional disease or factor in the mix? Or does Lyme pretty much explain all your symptoms?”

You’re acknowledging that the Lyme is a reality, but just expressing curiosity in asking if there might be more to the puzzle.

Or just a simple expression of sympathy. “Oh wow, I’m really sorry to hear that.”

Ever taken a personality test, read the description for the result you got, and gleefully exclaimed with relief “Yes! Finally, I make sense! There’s an explanation for my weirdness!”

Well, that’s how someone often feels when they get a medical diagnosis. Even if the diagnosis is very grave, it generally feels so much better to finally have an explanation for what’s going on. You know that you’re not actually going totally crazy, as many doctors have likely suggested to you in the past.

To have someone then attempt (however unwittingly) to shatter that source of relief and security is frustrating.

You’re thrilled that you can finally explain your health problems, and be confident that there really is a legit reason you feel the way you do. Finally, you know what monster you’re fighting, and you can learn what weapons to use.

And then, the very people you’d assumed would understand instead try to explain away your proof.

They doubt that you’re really up against that monster.

If the listener or questioner actually has some nutritional/medical knowledge (amateur or professional) and they have good reason to think you might have something else or something additional, then they should bring that up.

I would want to know if there were the possibility that I actually had a much more serious disease that I needed to be addressing, which symptomatically manifests similarly to the one with which I’d been diagnosed.

But to simply suggest – without any basis – to the diagnosed, “Um…nope, I don’t think you have that,” or press them with “Are you really sure that’s what you have?” – when they have clearly shared that they suffer from the symptoms for that illness and have been diagnosed – is uncaring at best, and cold and insensitive at worst.

Why would they be referring to it as their diagnosis if they weren’t reasonably sure? Why would they say “I have [X] disease” if they weren’t convinced it was so?

Denying the existence of the problem is not helpful. If someone has Lyme or cancer, suggesting to them (without any basis) that you doubt they really have that disease won’t make it go away, much as you’d like to see them stop suffering, or to think that your friend/relative really can’t be suffering from something so serious or painful.

My family member works really hard to encourage other people, keep pressing through, and give of herself. So a lot of people don’t see just how much she’s going through and fighting to do and give all that she does. They look at the surface and think “Hm, doesn’t look like Lyme disease to me. Look how chipper she is!” Or, “She’s not lying in bed at home all the time, so she can’t have such a serious illness.”

The sufferers of autoimmune disease today are the canaries in the coal mine. They are suffering because our environment is changing rapidly – being corrupted with water toxins, mutagens, toxic vaccine adjuvants, industrial poisons, and EMFs – which are particularly problematic for those who have been poisoned with heavy metals.

These environmental changes are awakening (pulling the trigger on) genetic mutations in extra-sensitive individuals. But it’s coming to a theater near you soon. What is happening now to the most fragile and sensitive will eventually become problematic for everyone.

Everyone will have autoimmune disease. Unless the environment – including “medicine” – becomes massively cleaner, you or your children will develop autoimmune disease. Many of their symptoms may be hidden (not outwardly noticeable in some way to the observer – or visible on the skin), but very real nevertheless.

It’s just a question of how rapidly the environment will become so toxic that even the strongest can’t withstand it.

We need to realize that this “mysterious” increase in cases of “hypochondriasis” is largely a mask for a growing and already pervasive problem: hidden illness, and the hidden threats to our health.

Please see Disclaimer.

© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

migraine pain - brain on fire - what it's like having a migraine

What It’s Like Having a Migraine

Ever had a migraine? Do you know a migraine sufferer?

A migraine is not just a common or severe headache. It is that, but much more. A migraine with aura means a migraine accompanied by sensory disturbances or odd perceptions or sensitivities to various stimuli. An aura is something that can show up for people before a migraine or seizure. However, I often experience mine during the migraine.

Everyone’s migraine experience differs in some way from others’ experiences – in the presence or absence of various symptoms, the severity and timing of those symptoms, and the triggers and remedies.

I’ve had migraines since I was six (or at least, I first recall experiencing them at that age), and only since radically changing my diet and lifestyle in recent years (especially the past year or so) have I seen major improvements.

I don’t get migraines very often now, but when I do, they’re still quite the nightmare.

Walking Through a Migraine

It’s 11:15 at night. You just got home from work, and you feel a throbbing pulse of knotted-up heat surrounding your right eye. You try to massage your head and dig at the deep pain, but it is too deep to reach, and it almost feels like any pressure you apply just pushes the pain deeper inside.

“Light jazz” music is on the radio when you walk inside. Normally, this type of music can give you a headache, but now, it’s triggering feelings of nausea. The lights are too bright, and the smell of garlic bread and pasta seeps through your nostrils and pierces deep into your head, setting on fire your already inflamed brain. The pain intensifies and spreads. You wish your remedies could pervade your head this quickly, could heal the damage as fast as it’s inflicted.

You faintly, dizzily wobble up the stairs to your bedroom and lie on the floor in the dark.

It’s been a long day, but you want nothing to eat. Even imagining food or the smell of it makes you sick.

You struggle to find a comfortable position.

Once you do, you don’t want to move. Doing so – even an inch – just reignites the fire.

Even the slightest motion is infinitely painful. It hurts to talk.

People visit and ask you questions. “Are you okay?” “What can I bring you?”

You attempt to respond as briefly and painlessly as possible, not speaking too loudly or moving your mouth too much. Which then prompts them to ask you to repeat your response, because it was not discernible the first time.

Inwardly annoyed – at your own hypersensitivity and pain more than anything – you muster the strength to speak more loudly (if possible), knowing that may set you back for the next several minutes or hours.

You know that they care and mean well, and you don’t want to ignore them. But it’s so painful to shout. You feel like you’re shouting. All sound is magnified. The vibrations of sound fuel the flames permeating your head. And it hurts to move your jaw. It hurts to think.

Your cognitive function is compromised, and it’s painful – if not impossible – to process thoughts efficiently or lucidly.

In response to your loved ones’ queries, you request a hot cloth to place on your face. This will aid in blocking the traces of light biting through your eyelids, as well as relaxing muscles and possibly clearing some nasal congestion, removing at least some pressure from your head.

After about five or ten rounds of heating and applying the hot cloth, you’re beginning to feel some improvement, but you know that your only hope for seeing the end of this migraine is taking pain reliever and trying to sleep it off.

But…nope. Unless you’re fortunate, it’s still there in the morning, if slightly less so. “Hey there!” it greets you. “Didn’t think I’d leave so soon, did you?” Your head feels like a block of lead weighing down your pillow, and you know you lack the energy or equilibrium to get out of bed uneventfully right now.

The pain has traveled since you fell asleep, radiating to other areas of your head.

Once you finally manage to safely descend from your bed to the floor, you attempt to rebalance yourself enough to make it down the stairs, and repeat the hot cloth procedure. You also prepare a cup of tea so that you can drink in the steam (and eventually drink the tea).

You finally feel like eating something mild, and after doing so – and continuing to apply other remedies – the final traces of your migraine at last begin to fade.

Migraines and the Workplace

In the workplace, staying home for a migraine is often viewed as a weak or unnecessary decision. As far as I recall, I never called out for a migraine (perhaps because I feared it’d be viewed as an “excuse” not to work), and so I remember dealing with them while working.

(The first manager I worked with there was pretty kind and understanding, and once he found out I suffered from migraines, he encouraged me to do whatever was necessary to care for myself, but he left soon after I was hired, and leadership changed a lot after that.)

I wonder how much the quality of my work was compromised, as migraines can diminish my thinking/processing ability, and also render me more dizzy and clumsy (I did spill/break my share of things at that job, a highly active and fast-paced position).

To make matters worse, at my first workplace, we were actually not allowed to have water bottles with us. We were only permitted to somehow carve out the time to walk far away from our work area (which was not always allowed) to drink water (laced with germs, heavy metals, and likely fluoride) from the water fountain.

If employers are going to “demand” that their migraine-suffering employees show up to work, they should at least make provisions for their staff that would aid them in coping with the pain:

An electric tea kettle.

A quality water filter.

Maybe some gluten-free tea bags with minimal ingredient lists.

Pain relievers (at least – or including – natural options such as boswellia and maybe white willow bark. Businesses should be able to get away with providing these if they label them as “food” and not “medicine”).

Slightly longer breaks.

Light sensitivity glasses (and/or yellow-tinted glasses for desk jobs), or allowing employees to bring/wear their own on the job.

If businesses are unwilling to make these accommodations, they should not expect employees to show up to work while suffering from migraines, unless they want to risk damage/loss in inventory, information, or labor processes and work quality due to clumsiness/dizziness, severe pain, and impaired neurological processes in their employees.

Chronic illness and autoimmune disease rates are only increasing, so the long-term solution is not simply to fire these employees and hire healthier ones.

The solution is to make our workplaces, homes, and environment cleaner, less toxic, and safer for – and more supportive of – those with chronic illness.

Triggers and Remedies

Some things that may trigger migraines for me (sometimes, they start out as garden-variety headaches and “transform” into migraines):

  • Dehydration.
  • Prolonged exposure to blue light or sunlight.
  • Crying.
  • Walking inside the mall (which I don’t do anymore).
  • Excessive physical activity.
  • Running, or lifting weights.
  • Eating dairy, eggs, corn, coconut, or foods high in various glutamates (tomatoes, grapes/raisins, black beans, foods [such as soups] with the ingredient MSG [monosodium glutamate]).
  • Eating foods high in refined sugars.
  • Eating foods containing dextrin, dextrose, or maltodextrin.
  • Exposure to gluten/wheat (sometimes even without consuming it).
  • Certain types of “jazz” or other “light music” (not quite sure how to describe this music, other than that it sort of tastes like peaches canned in pear juice).
  • Exposure to petroleum for more than a few seconds.
  • Exposure to synthetic fragrances (even briefly smelling them on other people).
  • Smiling for long periods of time (something I still have to work to do less, but often do because sometimes people perceive me as angry or upset if I wear what feels like a neutral face [I have deep-set eyes, so this makes me naturally look a bit more austere or intense when I’m not smiling]).
  • Staying at a party for more than maybe 1-2 hours.
  • Riding along in a car but not driving (in this case, I can usually only prevent a headache or migraine if I’m lying down or resting comfortably against something, or am riding along only for a short time). Additionally, the scents/smells of others’ cars often bother me and make me feel unwell.
  • Sickness.
  • Not taking magnesium.
  • Not getting adequate sleep.
  • Walking through a hardware store.
  • Walking through the laundry detergent aisle.

Some remedies that can help:

  • Being in a quiet, dark place
  • Putting a warm cloth on head
  • Steaming face over hot tea
  • Drinking water/tea
  • Taking natural pain relievers

If you are a migraine sufferer, what are some migraine triggers for you? What things help?

Please see disclaimer.

© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

faceless person

Battles in My Head

Another piece I wrote about depression – pretty sure in 2016. Slightly modified.

Battles in My Head

I'm tired of picking myself off the floor.
Sick of pasting on a smile when I walk out the door.
Tired of trying to believe I'm fine, trying to ignore
The hopelessness that feasts upon my core.

Faces, lots of faces, everywhere I look.
I wonder if my mind is like an open book.
And if the faces choose to look the other way,
Or if my suffering's a closed display.

Sometimes I don't even know I'm there.
I breathe it in and out just like the air.
It wears the guise of headaches and fatigue
Laziness, restlessness, nightmares, and fitful sleep.

Depression, why won't you show your ugly face?
And wear your heart on your sleeve, for all to see?
Why must you be my secret enemy
To torture me
When no one's looking,
Then force me to smile
And hide my trial
Live in denial
of you?
So they will never know what I am going through?
But punish me instead
For the outward signs of battles in my head?

© 2017 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

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