Happy 5 years.

24/7/365 with a headache that came and just never went away since. [7/17/2013]

5 insanely long years, longer than it took me to become a pharmacist. 5 years where I lost pretty much all the people around me. 5 years where my headache became the only thing I had to remind me every second that I was as alive as I was in pain. 5 years where it would hold me back, lock me down, again and again from the things I wanted to do. 5 years where everything that I did do took an extra effort to do, enduring the unforgiving pain in the background.

I just hate the headache so much. I hate how much harder it makes life. I hate how hard I have to try to function like any other person. I hate how just going out is a full on battle, preparing and fearing for triggers that would make my headache go crazy. I hate how my mind is not like it was before, unable to think or remember things with the headache clouding my mind. I hate that I have to revolve my life around the headache with a list of things to do and things to avoid in hopes that it’ll be bearable for the day. And most of all, I hate how my biggest wish in life right now is just to live 1 day without pain, a feeling long forgotten.

It sucks having to live like this, not knowing if it’ll ever get better, if I’ll ever get some relief. It sucks that after the neurologist appointment, I didn’t even waver before running headfirst going cold turkey, no meds (since it’s difficult to differentiate between a medication overuse 24h headache vs a chronic migraine 24h headache) because I’m just that desperate hoping for a solution. And since life can’t get any worse right now, and everything else is on hold anyways, here I am. It’s been 10 days so far, and the headache is still there, still going crazy at times – so chronic migraine it probably is. Now, just onto the next hurdle lol.

At this point, I just don’t know… I don’t know what to do about my career on hold – can I even practice with this unpredictable headache? I don’t know what to do about my nonexistent social life – when I can’t keep promises or get out of the house because of bad headache days. I don’t know how to face my family – when I want to help them but I can’t even take care of myself. I don’t know if I want to try yet another medication and risk experiencing side effects like the many times before. I just don’t know how many more disappointments and difficulties I can take before it’s too much. I just don’t know if and how much longer I can coexist with this headache.

But I’m learning. Learning that it’s okay to not know. Learning that struggling through this doesn’t mean I’m weak. Learning that it’s okay to keep hoping, as long as that little spark can keep me alive. Learning that I may be living differently from everyone else, but that doesn’t mean I can’t live. Learning that even if I can’t change or get rid of this headache, I can still live a life that I can look back on with a smile.

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An empty shell

This past month (more than a month, actually) has flown by without a trace. It’s like I’ve just been a rock in hibernation. And existing itself was a daily struggle. I was on sick leave from work, had an extended probation for a “demotion” because of my “lack of connection as a introvert” aka lack of customer survey comments, and my headaches. I personally dislike asking people to do the customer survey because it might make me seem like I think I did them a great service, because I wanted something in return. And it’s not like I tell them about the times people have thanked me or those who took care to note my name after I helped them, because that’s just not who I am. Yet I guess to be judged, the numbers matter at the end of the day. I’m just not a fit to be a salesperson either. And the risk of my “sick days” of headaches, when I had more sick days because of actually being sick… well, a business is a business, even in healthcare. And then the sick leave happened, and is deduced to be a physical reaction to stress/anxiety. So with all that, the life just got sucked out of me. And before I knew it, the wish to die became so strong that it was a battle everyday to do the basic necessities of living. Reading about others’ stories of suicide made me jealous, that they were able to escape. But I couldn’t. I felt so guilty to my family who does everything for me to keep me alive, literally. I wanted to relieve them of the burden for caring for a lifeless corpse, but I didn’t want punish them with the pain. And I was so void of emotions that I’d want to burst into a waterfall of tears, but it’d be dry like a desert. I’d yo-yo between sleeping too much, and not being able to sleep. I’d watch dramas and shows all day to distract myself, escape from reality. Then of course I’ll think about how I’m just wasting away and feel guilty and all those gravitational thoughts of depression. I’d want to get better, then the will just fades into darkness again just thinking about how many more days, months, years I’d have to deal with life and my headaches on the side. And it hasn’t even been 5 years (just a few more weeks to reach that anniversary). How am I going to survive and stay sane living 10, 20 years with my 24/7/365 headache. I really don’t know.

Honestly, this post took forever to write as I’d keep procrastinating, continuing my lifeless days. It was only this week when I was able to actually have the energy to reply to texts, and want to write this out. I have no idea what to do or how to fix my life. Like I just see a dull light behind my walls. There might not be a door yet, and it’ll take all that’s within me to unlock the door, much less open it. For now, I’ll just wait for the neurologist appointment and once again throw that line of hope. To crawl towards the light no matter how dim it is and reach out. Because ambition is in my shadow, greedy for a better life even if it may end up catching yet another disappointment.

Day 1: arrival

Before it all even began, it was chaotic. I had my licensing exam in mid-November, and that experience itself needs its own post. I had my Artona photos taken on the 21st, then I had my graduation on the morning of the 24th. Then, I was on my way to the airport at midnight. I tried to sleep as much as I could on the plane, knowing that it was nighttime in the new time zone. I had already practiced staying up late to adjust to the time difference after my exams were over. I also timed my medications so that when I got to the Philippines, its effectiveness would work during their daytime. I was diligent to avoid having my headaches exacerbate overseas where I wouldn’t be able to just lay in bed with my mom there to ensure that I wouldn’t starve to death. I digress. So on the plane, I had small talk with the guy beside me, and hoped that he would stop talking so that I could get some sleep. I was also praying that the kid beside me wouldn’t be fussy. Well, you can’t have everything you want. So the kid only kicked me a few times, but did considerably well for his age. As for the guy…I didn’t even dare open my eyes as he would start a conversation once I was awake. After a long flight, I landed in Manila where I would spend my next 10 hours for the connecting flight to Iloilo.

I stepped out of the airport to go upstairs to domestic departures and was hit with the heat, like I stepped into a sauna. So I quickly retreated back into the air-conditioned airport to waste time. Of course, Wifi was limited to 2 hours, so my entertainment of conversing with my family was cut off. Meandering around the restaurants just got me hungry, so I ended up sitting by the window and watched countless planes land and takeoff. The nonstop overhead announcements also ensured that I wasn’t able to get any sleep. The last few hours I wasted by watching the Hospital Ship episodes that I had downloaded onto my phone. I guess part of me also wanted to prepare my dislike of gory/icky stuff for the hospital internship I was headed towards. Then finally I was boarded, and had the window seat for the short hour flight to my home for 2 weeks.

As with all flights, I loved the feeling at takeoff. When the plane lifts into the air, that floating feeling just brings me so much joy. With the window seat, I was able to also record the breathless scenery outside as we transitioned into the world above the clouds. The sunset made it all the more beautiful and at last, I descended into the night sky in Iloilo. After checking in with my family while waiting for my luggage, I went outside and was met with a bright smile and a wave from a staff member and stepped into the humid air that would become my home for the next 2 weeks. It was all dark as I gazed outside the window and listened to the staff tell me about the house and the students there. All the while, I just wanted to sleep with my limbs outstretched on a bed.

Walking into the room with 3 bunk beds with my two roommates, it felt strange. After doing a walk-around video to send to my parents of what would be my room, I was met with the coordinator who gave me handouts and information regarding my weeks to come. I then turned on the fan facing my bottom bunk, ducked under the mosquito net, and went to sleep, ready to wake up the next morning to tour the city of love, Iloilo.

Like a typhoon passed by

My mind is a mess, my headaches are worse than usual, so let’s try to get these itching thoughts out of what happened this winter. During my first trip to Asia, first trip alone, and first trip with just me and my dad. Just like the typhoon that was approaching Central Philippines when I was about to depart, the days just passed like a storm, leaving a mess in its path, but gone as fast as it came. As I was alone for all these insane experiences except for the few days that my dad was with me, it’s left me an empty shell of memories that no one can empathize with. Not all of it was a mess, the first 3 weeks where I was in the Philippines was amazing, like I had stepped into another world. It was not only the first trip alone, but also the first time I had made a big decision on my own and acted upon it without my parents’ approval, against their wishes actually. But I knew that I would have to do that someday, and I just knew that I needed something like this, to find what I can do with my career outside of work. It was also a much-needed daddy-daughter alone time. As well, it was going to be my first and last time travelling for a while as I was determined to focus on work for the next few years/decade. Therefore, the 4 weeks that turned into 6 weeks were nonetheless literally the “time of my life”. As for the adjective to describe it…nothing really fits. Maybe it’ll make more sense as I write in detail what exactly happened those weeks, and what I experienced. And hopefully, blogging will get my thoughts sorted out, like it always does.

Detours

It sucks when you’re trying to get somewhere and there’s those orange cones glaring at you with “detour” all over the place. Traffic crawls and the turns seem endless to direct you away from your destination.

When I didn’t feel well over the weekend, I thought it was just a cold. I missed Monday of my second last week of practicum. Then Tuesday afternoon, things didn’t feel right. I couldn’t concentrate or read as my eyes kept jumping lines. I couldn’t think and my head felt weird. I went home for the afternoon and the lightheadedness wouldn’t go away. I laid down and felt lightheaded, I rested and woke up lightheaded. When I saw the doctor, my systolic blood pressure was 78mmHg. I ate more salt and drank more fluids than I ever did in a week and it didn’t get better. I’d hate sleeping because lying there while I felt like I was going to faint sucked. Being unable to make it go away likewise with my headaches. And as the days went by, I had to keep in contact with my preceptor and school. 5 days. That was the limit before I had to redo the whole practicum even with a medical reason. I felt so much pressure from my parents. And from myself. I really enjoyed the placement I was in and I was doing great there. On one side, I hoped so desperately for my parents to just tell me to stop and get better, that health was more important. But on the other side, I really didn’t want to disappoint them. Except I really couldn’t tone it down anymore. They didn’t seem to think it was that serious when I was unable to walk more than one foot-shuffle at a time. When I spent most of my time lying down because it felt so much worse when I was upright. So in the end, I missed more than 5 days and have to redo the 4 weeks next fall.

I won’t graduate this May like the other 200 people in my class will. I won’t stand a chance at the interviews they have during the school year. I won’t be able to take my licensing exam until next fall. I might even be the only graduate in my class next November. I don’t even know when to take my Artona photos. Or if I will be able to participate in what my classmates will take part in. There’s so much I can/will lose. Most of all, I’ll lose my pride. My “perfect” journey of graduating after 5 years of post-secondary as a professional and getting a job will be delayed. What are my parents going to tell others when they ask about my graduation. What if I can’t get a job because of this delay. All because of a medication side effect.

But since it’s Thanksgiving, let’s think about what I’m thankful for. I’m thankful that it was just a medication side effect and although I still have relatively low blood pressure, the lightheadedness resolved. I’m thankful that it’ll just be a few months of delay and that I can still graduate in 2017. I’m thankful that my parents ended up supporting that my health is most important above all else. I’m thankful that I’m able to do my next practicum without further delay this month. I’m thankful that I still have a chance to continue this journey. That it wasn’t a “stop” but just a “detour”. Detours might seem like a maze that never ends, but the destination can will still be reached. And that’s all that matters in the end.