What can I say? I know how to party. But my wild December 31st was not by design. I got up, scraped the New England shell of slush off my car, and headed out toward the first of two doctor’s appointments that day- this one my semi-annual neurology appointment for migraines.

This gift from my father- this seemingly bottomless cup of suffering (and when not suffering, increasing anxiety about the next sip from that cup)- has plagued me since high school. That has given me a lot of time to try just about every treatment option the medical establishment has come up with- physical therapy, chiropractor appointments, triptans, preventatives- and with little result, the conversation recently had tuned to injectables. However, as I drove to that appointment I didn’t know that the injection(s) would be that day. The phone message I received mid-route went something like, “Hi Anna, the doctor who does botox injections had a cancellation this morning, right around the time that you are scheduled to be here. We’ve scheduled you for that treatment. See you in a bit. Call if you have questions.”

Did I have questions. Ha! Did I need to be driven to the appointment? Where exactly do they inject? Is the needle big? How badly does it hurt? Do I need to cancel New Year’s Eve plans? Can I still take other headache meds after the injection? Will I be paralyzed? Look surprised forevermore? Droop? So many questions I could have researched (and compulsively worried about) had I had time to do the research required to answer them. I was not mentally prepared. And looking back on it with all the wisdom that twenty-four hours can bring- it was better that way.

It turns out that botox for migraine isn’t one shot, or two shots, but thirty-one! 😮 If I had known that before I was actually sitting in the chair, I probably would have gone for injecting myself once a month with one of the new CGRP-blocking drugs. One shot a month sounds way better than thirty-one shots every three months- even if I have to stab myself…myself. Did I mention I often pass out when needles are involved? Ask my dentist! (Thank goodness for his soothing voice with his Indian accent, “Deeep brreath, my dearr.” Ahhh. But I digress.)

I didn’t look at the needle itself. Turns out I didn’t actually want to know the answer to that one. But the injections were in the eyebrows, between the brows, the temples, near the jaw, the hairline, the scalp, (then I sat up for the back half, saw stars, and had to take a break for a while), the base of the skull, neck, and traps. In such small doses the botox apparently relaxes those muscles, and over 90% of chronic migraine sufferers see a 50% or higher reduction in their episodes.

Not going to lie, the needle hurt- in some places more than others- and in some spots, I felt almost a burning sensation for several seconds after. I only saw the tiniest pinprick in one place on my forehead, otherwise the treatment was invisible. Apparently a small percentage of people experience bruising, but I have not seen any of that so far. After twenty-four hours, the sites of the injections ar just a bit itchy, but I’m resisting scratching too much, because when discouraging me from getting a massage in the near future, the doctor might have mentioned that the botox can be caused to migrate from where they injected it, causing problems. Now I’m a little paranoid that I will cause my eyelid to droop (another side effect seen by a small number of patients) because I itched my eyebrow too vigorously. I won’t look surprised apparently, but I may have trouble lifting one eyebrow. I’m hoping that won’t affect my classroom management too much. 🤨

Afterwards, I felt like I had survived a battle- not unlike the feeling I had after delivering my first baby, years ago. I had managed a mini-trauma, and felt compelled to talk about it in order to process it. I was probably not the most fun conversationalist while waiting for the ball to drop, but this will all be worth it if I can find a little peace from the mind-piercing plague of migraines. Cheers to a (hopefully) pain-free 2020! -A

Migraines make you mindful.

Blessing in disguise?

You close your eyes-

take deep breaths.

Live in the here and now.

Couldn’t think about tomorrow anyhow.

-Anna Hill

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