I got an incredible headache this morning. It started (most likely) because I had been coughing all morning. I’m not sure why, but I’ve been coughing more in the last week or so. It seems like my upper respiratory tract (throat, nose, sinuses etc) have been more congested and inflamed. At first I thought it might be a result of what I’d been eating. I had some particularly spicy curry (I made it, which is why it was overly spicy) and my throat had already been a little sore so when my throat got worse after the curry I naturally blamed it. But until this morning, my throat continued to be painful and my sinuses and nose congested. Anyway, although my throat was better this morning, things seemed to come to a head: I woke up coughing, and could feel the mucus in the back of my throat and I just could not seem to clear it out, even after I did every inhaled medicine available to me. And that urge to clear my lungs and throat was so persistent that I kept coughing long after I had realized it wasn’t helping. And sometimes, when I cough really hard for a significant length of time I end up with a splitting headache.
That’s what happened this morning. The headache started around 9am and persisted despite the water I drank and the cup of tea and another round of nebulizers. So, knowing that my uncle kept some ibuprofen in his car, I walked down the street to where he had parked it (by the neighbor’s house so he could use the internet) and asked him if I could have a couple. He, of course, said yes. And I took a few then sat down on the neighbor’s porch with him with my eyes closed and my head in my hands until it started to pass. I suspect the dark and quiet environment and my breathing (which I forced into a regular rhythm and suppressed any coughing or throat clearing) had more to do with my relief from the headache than the ibuprofen did. But perhaps they were effective solely because I expected them to help and because I haven’t taken any non-prescribed medications of any kind since I left the hospital. Not because I didn’t want to or anything, but because I didn’t need them. I tried to use other methods to deal with the pain because I know that just taking a pill (even if it is Tylenol or ibuprofen) is not always the best way to deal with my body. Just like I expressed in yesterday’s post, listening to my body is important, and when I just take a pill to cover up something my body is doing, I am potentially working against it.
This morning, I knew what my headache had come from, and I knew, for the most part, what I needed to do to stop it. But when it didn’t respond to all the natural methods I knew to use (specifically drinking water and/or tea, lying down, meditating, and deep breathing), I really didn’t have much of a choice but to try medication. Next time, however, I think I am just going to try sitting still with my head in my hands in a cool, dark, quiet room. I think that may be enough to take care of it so I won’t have to resort to something external.
Now, please don’t think I am saying that over-the-counter medication is “bad” or that taking medication in general is “wrong”. Obviously I take several medications every single day, many of them twice or three times a day. For me it isn’t about those things being wrong or bad. It is about trying new ways to deal with discomfort. Because, as most of you who are regular readers know, in the past the only way I knew how to deal with pain was to take a pill. No matter what was hurting or why it hurt, that was my only solution.
I am grateful that today, that isn’t the case. Because for me, medication will, for the rest of my life, need to remain a last resort. Only when all other methods have failed and I have waited to make sure that the pain isn’t going to get better on its own….only then will I take medication to alleviate it.
I wanted to write about this because it showed how much different my experience is today than it would have been just a couple months ago. In the past I would have ignored other possible methods for dealing with my headache and gone straight for the Advil. But today, I didn’t even think of it until I had tried everything else I knew how.
And now, I am tired, and my cousin Lindsay, my cousin Evan and his wife Hayley are visiting. Plus, we are celebrating my uncle’s birthday this evening. So I will leave you for tonight.