Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Headache Season

Headache season is here. It’s actually been around for a while, making its initial appearance around Independence Day when Hobby Lobby started clearing out the summer goods and stocking the aisles with Christmas. Yes. In July. And good luck trying to find a swimsuit for a pool party around that time – it’s already fall sweaters in the clothing stores. Ah, retail.

The season of the pounding head kicks into a higher gear in late September and into October when it’s tobacco smoking season and visitors and newcomers to town think some pyromaniac somewhere set all the barns a-smoldering or the Civil War re-enactors have gone overboard and are re-invading Clarksville and burning Palmyra again. I know a couple people who have a really tough time with allergy-provoked headaches during smoking season, not to mention the other symptoms – burning eyes, trouble breathing.

For the past two weeks I’ve been visited by nightly headaches, and coworkers or clients and I occasionally compare notes. Some are having allergy symptoms from raking leaves, various sinus problems, and colds with headaches and sneezing, but I don’t think any of these are the source of my problem. Mine doesn’t really feel like the ‘haven’t been drinking enough water’ dehydration headache, and I’m also having neck tension, so I’m thinking the likely culprit is my teeth. Probably because the holidays are approaching.

Stay with me.

Many, many moons ago, I worked for a company in New England that had a great health plan. The company owned its own health insurance subsidiary, and the plan had the broadest coverage I’ve seen in all my years of servitude to the man. The coverage had a low copayment (like $5) and covered pretty much everything, including alternative practices. Over the course of my five years with that company, I went to a Ayerveda doctor for a laundry list of issues (which were fixed), a chiropractor (back issues) and an acupuncturist (back and neck pain). I tried the acupuncture route after a year of chiropractic treatments still left me with ongoing headaches and neck pain (which may have been caused by an ex-husband, but why drag him into things now). I avoided the Western doctors because I was tired of being handed a prescription for every ailment, and wanted to find the root of the problems instead of turning into a pill-popping zombie.

It’s possible that my current (and ongoing) neck aggravation is rooted in my former habit of neck cracking, a skill learned sophomore or junior year when I hung around with a chiropractor’s daughter. Apparently I did it a lot, because I once bumped into a guy from high school in a coffee shop, and after exchanging the usual pleasantries and “I haven’t seen you in ages!” he said, “Hey, do you still do that gross thing where you crack your neck?” Great. Ten years later, that’s what he remembered me for – my neck cracking. I used to be able to crack my entire spine, but some time since high school, I guess I got all uptight. Or maybe it’s “more uptight.”

Anyway, to recap: headaches, neck and back pain, one year of chiropractic, one year of acupuncture.

A breakthrough came during a routine dentist visit when I casually remarked how, if I was ever in a car accident, I’d likely lose the insides of my cheeks from biting them between my back teeth because driving stresses me out. Dr. Dentist recommended I chew gum while driving to keep from tensing my jaw, and then he said, “You’re probably grinding your teeth in your sleep from stress, too. Do you have a lot of neck pain and headaches?” Bingo! And I was fitted with the prettiest little custom bite guard to keep my teeth apart when I sleep. It is one sexy accessory that makes me spray spittle, speak with a lisp and drool all over my pillow while alleviating my other issues. Hot cha!

Back to today.

Every year since 2001 when I moved to Tennessee, as the holidays approach, I have entered a cycle of stress and guilt, and look at the calendar, right on time for the annual angst! My molars will be ground to tiny stumps any minute now. The stress focuses on the decision making of where to spend the holidays. The family wants me to come ‘home’ and I have a yearning to just stay put. In the past eight years, I have had exactly one Christmas in my own home. My bank account votes for home – even the largest tree is less expensive than airfare. And my heart cracks with guilt every time my sweet nieces are on the phone asking when I’ll be back. ‘Cuz lord knows it is easier (and less expensive) for one person to go North than for an entire clan to travel anywhere. And they’ve been working on me since July when I neglected to schedule my precious few vacation days for a summer vacation (like a normal person) and chose to save them up for “in case I can go home for Christmas.”

So yeah, it’s the season of a little stress, a little guilt, and a string of headaches. It's my own doing -- after all, I'm the one who chose to move 1,200 miles from the kinfolk to a place nobody wants to visit. If only I'd opted for living in the pretty castle at the Magic Kingdom... Wait, that was never an option. And no, I haven’t been using a bite guard lately. But it might be time to get another one, before I bite someone’s head off.


  1. Glad I stumbled on this today; your writing is always fun to read. Remind me (if I ever knew) where in the north is family and "home."

  2. Check out - every ailment with possible remedies and input from real people.

  3. Peggy ~ 'home'= Massachusetts
    Thea ~ will do