So after getting back to New York, I resolved to get to the bottom of my headache problem. The big challenge with that was that I didn’t have health insurance. I didn’t even have a regular doctor. While I did some research and tried to find a no-insurance-friendly doctor or clinic that could get me in without a long wait, I looked into alternative treatments.
I had a friend who’d known someone with another intractable problem that a chiropractor had fixed. I read some accounts of chiropractic treatment working for headaches, and figured it was worth a try. I found the person my friend recommended and booked an appointment.
The first treatment went well. According to the chiropractor, my pelvis was misaligned, and that was causing a bunch of cascading issues all the way up my spine, culminating in a neck misalignment that was at the root of my headache. He gave me some adjustments—cracking of various bones, including in my neck—and sent me home. I felt a little better over the next few days, and after the second treatment, I felt great—I had an almost-headache-free stretch of about four days, the longest I’d gone without a bad headache day since this started.
I really should have left well enough alone.
The third time I went, he made an adjustment to what I think was the second cervical vertebra. I felt fine afterwards, went home, and started feeling progressively worse. By that night, I had a screaming headache—the worst I’d had since the Great Claritin Debacle or the All-Night Panic Attack, and maybe worse.
But the headache wasn’t as bad as my neck pain. A bone-deep, intense pain had started just below my skull; I felt dizzy and disoriented; and when I turned my head (which I couldn’t do easily), I felt a disturbing weakness on the right-hand side—like my head might flop over if I turned it too much. My ears hurt too; I felt a sense of fullness behind my ears like you get when you need to pop them. I tried a couple of times and it was too painful. All I could do was lie on my couch and try to keep it together.
That morning, I woke up sleeping on my left side. My left ear was in a lot of pain behind the eardrum—like there was excess fluid in my head and it had all collected on my left side in the night because of gravity. There was even some weird fluid in my ear that had leaked onto the pillow.
Eventually, the pain in my left ear subsided—actually, it more or less just evened out. But that wasn’t the end of the weird ear stuff. One morning a couple of days later, I was in the shower when I felt a sudden head rush. A sort of reddish-purple mist came over my eyes and I couldn’t see, and I started feeling like I was going to faint.
This has happened to me before, usually when I stand too fast after lying down for a while, or if I haven’t eaten in too long and have low blood sugar. It usually goes away in less than a minute. This time, it didn’t. I leaned against the shower wall, waiting for it to subside. Finally I decided I really might pass out, and I didn’t want to be in the shower if that happened.
I made my way (carefully) out of the bathroom, naked and with the shower still running, to try to get to the couch. Before I reached it, I heard a sudden rushing sound in my ears, like running water, but loud. I was now basically blind and deaf. I got to the couch and just sat there, trying to control my breathing so I didn’t have a panic attack as well.
In about ten minutes my vision came back and the rushing sound went away, but for weeks afterward I had a residual ringing in my ears. At this point, I had absolutely had it. I needed a crack team of professionals to descend on me. I needed a Dr. House-style genius dillhole to make wisecracks while figuring me out like a Rubix cube. I needed health insurance.
Luckily, the open enrollment period for insurance had just gotten started. I spent the weekend with a screaming headache, debilitating neck pain, and Chinese food from GrubHub, doing my last three months of taxes so I could have an accurate picture of my income to give to the New York State of Health website.
I was optimistic as I signed up for health insurance for the first time in ten years. I’d found where the headache was hiding. It had been in my neck the whole time. Now that I knew where it was, it should be easy to figure out how to kill it.
I was spectacularly wrong about that. More about just how wrong in the next post.