Head-aches & PTSD

I just discovered that June is national Migraine and Head-ache awareness month.  I know, I begin to find these ‘awareness’ month designations boring and a little eyeroll inducing, even when it is my ox being treated to a special awareness month.

Some believe there is connection between PTSD and head-aches (and increased pain levels in other areas as well).   I say ‘some,’ but that is the first question my first therapist asked, and it’s the second or third question the next one asked.  And when my first therapist asked me about it, I realized that there was indeed a connection.


Today I did something I haven’t done in a long, long while because it’s a ‘trigger,’ and a hard one.  I took baby steps, I did what I could to cushion the impact and change up the activity a bit., and all those things helped.

By helped, I mean that I am quite sure nobody else noticed that I was on the verge of tears, my heart was pounding, my mouth dry, and my head felt exactly like I imagine it would if somebody made a ski-mask out of  extremely thick and durable rubber, made it about five sizes smaller than my head and then pulled it down over my head, constricting the flow of everything and just squeezing.

It’s better than a migraine.   But I’m going to take a nap.



Updated on Monday to add this, which a friend sent, because, oh, my goodness, YES!

“Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs…”

When I tried my baby-step activity, I sat at the outside edge, so I could flee if I needed to.  My heart pounded, hard, for about 90 minutes.  I practiced breathing, I tuned out my surroundings as much as I could by reading something on my phone.  I looked out the window and imagined myself somewhere else.  Small things, very, very small things made me start in surprise, and twitch long afterwards.  I flinched when somebody stood up suddenly – nothing else, no noise, no movement my direction, just merely unexpected movement in my peripheral vision.  I recoiled from a cottonweed seed that wafted nearby.

I later went shopping, and while I was loading the truck, the young man tasked to collected carts had stopped by my cart, waiting for me to finish.  I did not hear him come, and he happened to be in my blind spot as I was bent over adjusting the groceries in the truck..  When I turned around to return my cart and saw him standing there, I yelped loudly enough that he jumped, and people in the parking lot three rows away turned to look.  I know this because my peripheral vision was suddenly on overload.

“Calm down” is something my son says every time something makes me jump.  I would if I could.  I do not give myself small heart attacks 20 times a day for sympathy (which is good, because I sure don’t get any), for effect, or for my own amusement.  It just happens.

The quote above is from a book, click through to read the rest.  I related to it so much.

A much later update- the small thing I did that is so hard and so triggering? I went to church.  Church combines multiple difficult, painful, exhausting triggers.  So I went to a church service five minutes from my house where I had never been before and nobody knew me- or rather, nobody was supposed to.  A couple people said hi. One of them I never saw back again, so that was weird. It helped.  I attended there a lot for the next year, slipping in and out, not talking to people.
I am not going to go into why that was hard and triggering and really, really painful to do.  It’s still not easy, but it’s much better.  But I will say- if you know somebody who might be in similar circumstances, don’t be glib.  Don’t tell them, as somebody told me, that church is the perfect place to go in those circumstances because where else can you be surrounded by such loving family, etc, etc.  It’s not true for all of us.

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