It was 6 years ago that the intermittent pain in my head became permanent. I’d told my GP about my ‘headaches’ on a number of occasions. He told me I was depressed. I didn’t buy it at the time and so took no antidepressants instead letting him counsel me on a weekly basis. Of course this didn’t work and the pain became worse. He prescribed pain killers. They didn’t work, my ‘headaches’ were getting worse. He prescribed stronger pain killers. These didn’t work either. Eventually I became so disenchanted with this approach to my health that I started to take ibuprofen which worked as well as anything else (hardly at all) and stopped seeing my GP. Besides his counselling skills had run out after the first few weeks.
When I moved back to Liverpool in 2008 I saw a new GP. She asked me if I’d like to see a neurologist for the pain. I wanted to hug her, I genuinely had to stop myself. Of course I did and a few short months later I had an appointment. The neurologist examined me and asked questions and diagnosed me with migraine. In that moment it was a huge relief to have a diagnosis. Millions of people have migraines and so I assumed that the end to my pain wasn’t far off (the end to my migraines seems a million light years away, but that’s another post). But then she told me something else. She told me that I was addicted to Ibuprofen. This was quite a shock. It had never occurred to me that I would ever be addicted to anything. I’ve just never seen myself as that sort of person. But it seems that addiction to pain killers for headaches is different. Less an addiction as we usually perceive it, more a case of the brain being so weird and mysterious that given too many pain killers it has the tendency to turn relief signals into yet more pain signals. Whilst I’m utterly fascinated with the brain, it does have it’s down side.
I accepted this explanation and asked her how I went about ‘getting off’ them. She told me simply to stop taking them. Forever. That was that, no help, no alternative. Just a label and the promise that things would be fine from now on.
I did stop taking them. I was rather proud of myself for ending my addiction. It was hard not to reach for the ibuprofen every time I had pain, which was every day. But I did and for the last two years I’ve been suffering alone, waiting for the next neurologist appointment, checking the internet to see what the latest developments in migraine relief are.
But the pain didn’t stop.
So, this morning when I went to see a new GP and explained my history with head pain I was surprised to say the least on being told that Ibuprofen can’t cause bounce back headaches and therefore I could never have been addicted to them. My frustration got the better of me and I cried, right there. Two years of my life wasted. Two years with pain and no hope of relief. It’s no wonder I cried. And so, he’s referred me back to the neurologist, the one who told me not to take pain killers, and has prescribed some pain killers.
I’m still going no where, but at least I can hope again to have one, just one pain free day.