Saturday, February 9, 2013

Meanwhile, Something DIDN'T Happen...

I told you a while back about Active Release Technique, remember? I started seeing Dr. John Beall at Rise Bodyworks back in November, to my immediate benefit. This is the body work I've been searching for, and my mobility and comfort have improved so much over the past three months, it's been nothing short of life-changing. No exaggeration.

To wit: I can turn over in bed at night without having to wake myself up first. I can lie on my back without having to bend my knees... and I can stand up again after having done it. I can sneeze without crippling myself. I can jog without feeling like my back is going to break in half. I can turn my head more than 45 degrees.

Um, okay, granted, my bar was quite low. But so were my expectations. And boy, have those been exceeded-- from the very first session.

(For reals, you guys: Active Release Technique. Your health insurance might cover it (if it covers chiropractic work it probably does). And if you've ever needed chiropractic work, or deep tissue massage, or physical therapy, or if you've got aches and pains anywhere and aren't sure how to address them, I  can't recommend it strongly enough.)

Once again, here's a resource-finder map that will show you where you can find your nearest practitioner. Non-US citizens, just zoom out-- this baby is international! 

But this post isn't actually about A.R.T. Or not only about that.

A month ago, I also started taking private Pilates sessions from Kiko at Rise Bodyworks, which Dr. Beall  recommended in conjunction with his A.R.T. work. I've never tried Pilates before, but since it was originally designed for soldiers with back injuries, it seemed like the perfect place for me to start.

I need to get into good enough shape that I can start working on... getting into shape.

Yep, it's still a pretty low bar, friends. I've been trapped in a vicious cycle for years: I've had trouble developing a good exercise regimen because my back has been so fragile; my back remains fragile because I haven't had a good exercise regimen. 

Like so many of the internal symptoms of PTSD and depression, the external ones tend to be self-sustaining, too. 

It's no wonder that this shit is overwhelming.

But I digress. 

I've been working with Kiko, who is awesome and hilarious and encouraging, for a few weeks now, and while I feel like a floundering walrus half the time, I've been getting progressively more graceful and accustomed to the Pilates method. And I've already begun to notice a difference.

I feel... stronger. More flexible. Just a bit. More than I expected to feel, this early on. It's hard work but it's allowing me to strengthen my core without injuring my back, and I can already tell that this key is going to unlock a lot of doors. Cool.

So that's what I've been doing.

Guess what I haven't been doing?

Having my regularly-scheduled monthly migraine, that's what.

I should have had it last week. I didn't. I didn't even notice at first, until it dawned on me that it was overdue by a few days, and then it still didn't happen, even though I'd braced myself for it and given every psycho-somatic trigger within me the chance to get things rolling.


Now, let me put this into perspective for you: I have had a migraine every month, like clockwork, for the past 16 years. Every. Month (I wrote a pretty vivid post about them last year).

And that's just the regular ones. I also get them whenever I'm sick. Sinus trouble in particular seems to bring them about. And I get them when I have massages, when I sleep in a strange bed or in an awkward position, when I travel, when I drink wine (and, for a while, when I drank any alcohol whatsoever), when I'm extra stressed, when I'm extra depressed, when I bump my head, and pretty much any other opportunity my body has had to throw in a little extra misery.

I'd say I average two or three per month, each one lasting from one to five days.

So. A lot of migraines in the past 16 years.

I have had a few reprieves during that time. I didn't get them when I was pregnant. And I have been able to make them stop for two or three months at a time by doing very intense and targeted treatments: rolfing (with Audrey!), trigger point massage (with Mario!), and, believe it or not, ozone colonics** (with Shayla!). 

**(um, that ozone colonic link will lead you to information you might prefer not to have. Ever, ever in your life. So click through with caution. You have been warned.)

Ah, Bay Area living! 

So each of those things held off a few migraines, but it was never sustainable. The migraines always came back.

This time, although I am doing serious bodywork, the cause-effect is less direct. I think the A.R.T. is a major factor, of course, but since it didn't stop the migraines immediately, it doesn't feel like the temporary, band-aid effect that the other treatments have turned out to be. 

I think the Pilates is a factor. I think my continued weight loss is a factor. I think my therapy with Dr. Oz and the writing I'm doing in this blog are factors.

I think my last migraine was about five weeks ago. Since then, I have had  a terrible two-week flu, a sinus infection, and a menstrual cycle, all of which should have brought on more episodes. 

They did not.

It's way too soon to be making any claims, and I'm almost afraid to talk about it for fear of jinxing myself, but it seems like I may finally be addressing many triggers at once instead of just one, and that I've finally managed to accumulate the right combination of tools. 

Don't get me wrong: one missed migraine does not a cure make. I've been hopeful before, only to be disappointed when the headaches ultimately returned. I don't want to have the rug pulled out from under me again.

It's a promising start, though. Especially since it's happened in a way that feels natural, rather than forced. I can't point to a single likely cause. That makes me think that I may have made some changes in my lifestyle that are sustainable, and this is one of the benefits. Which has always been what I hoped to do.

A lot is at stake, here. Not having migraines anymore would impact my life so profoundly, I can't even imagine it. It is hard to think of a better outcome of all this work. I'm not sure if there is one. "No more migraines" might be in the top spot.

So. I'm afraid to be too hopeful, but it's awfully hard not to be. Like I said last week, something is happening. Things are coming together. Pieces are falling into place. It seems an impossible dream that this could be one of them.

So, my fingers are crossed. If you get a chance, cross yours for me too, for a minute, will you?

As has been established, I can use all the help I can get.


  1. Hmmm!, This has given me much to think about, I recognise so much of my own experience here (motorcycle accident '95). I thought I'd dealt with the PTSD but I'm reading this and thinking 'Oh! I do that' especially about the dissociation. Thank you for sharing. I wasn't as badly damaged as you physically, but I am still as mad as a fish it would seem, something I have suspected for a while and something that has been being treated as clinical depression by my Drs.  By the by - Children, in my opinion, should always be encouraged to do their own thing, even if our hearts spend their entire childhood in our mouths.  How else will they learn? I wonder if that's a side effect of having been through the mill ourselves? Who knows.  I've managed to get two out the door to adulthood fairly successfully and still have one to go who has largely survived her childhood LOL.  I think the difficult bit for all of them was probably me :P Good blog, keep fighting that reptile brain. I might even put my accident diary online myself, could be good therapy.  Big hugs from the UK

  2. Elizabeth Graham13 February, 2013 12:56

    Hi Kate- So, I've just plowed through your blog from beginning to end in the past 36 hours, and I just want to say... thank you!  The content of this blog, the style, the humor... it's all helped me a great deal to reflect on things I'm going though.  Please keep writing!  And if you don't turn this into a book, the world is sorely missing out.  I will keep following!

  3. KateTheGirlWhoLived14 February, 2013 11:49

    Thanks so much, Elizabeth. I can't tell you how exhilarating it is to hear from other people that my story resonates with them. Partly because it normalizes it for me, but mostly because it really feels like I'm doing something worthwhile when these words are helpful to someone besides just me. 

    It's been great reading your comments-- it made me go back and read the blog from the beginning again, myself. I have learned three really important, really gratifying, and rather surprising things in the process:

    1. I have come a lot further than I thought. Hooray!

    2. I am a better writer than I knew. Damn. Not bad! ;>

    3. This blog has evolved enough, and has enough resolution in it (even though I'm nowhere near done) that I think I could pitch it to a publisher now. So. I'll be figuring out how to take that step in the coming months. It's always been the goal, but I don't know if I ever truly believed I'd have the confidence to actually make it happen.

    I might, now. I just might.

    Thanks again for all your contributions to the conversation we're having here. I haven't had a chance to respond to each of them, but I will if I can. And I look forward to more!