Monday, July 28, 2008

Where's Your Head At?

I just got back from a 2-week stint in L.A. for a UCLA summer course on neuroimaging. The class wasn't exactly what I was expecting, and ultimately wasn't that useful for me. But, surprisingly, that wasn't the most disappointing aspect of my trip. This short change of pace managed to put me in my place; it reminded me that, no matter how much I may enjoy visiting new places, extensive travel is probably not my forte.

I've been struggling with chronic tension headaches for not quite a decade now. After a sizable string of doctors and many different medications, I was effectively put on "pain management"--otherwise known as "we can't fix it". I eventually stopped seeing doctors, and stopped medication completely. And for the last 5 or so years, things have been very managable. I've figured out the patterns that trigger my headaches, and on the whole am pain-free.

Unfortunately, avoiding headaches seems to require that I live something like a 60 year old: regular meals around the same time each day, a pretty constant sleep schedule. I have to get in a routine and stay there. Any significant or sudden change, and I could be in for a rough couple of days. If I want to catch up on sleep on the weekend, for instance, I wake-up with what I refer to as a Sleep Hangover.

From the usual day-to-day, this is fine. I know my body, and don't feel particularly limited. Traveling is an entirely different thing. While staying at UCLA, I was at the mercy of the program. They set my schedule. Turns out, the schedule they picked (and switching schedules) was a recipe for headaches. I haven't had headaches this bad and persistent in a very long time.

I really enjoy traveling, and experiencing all that a place has to offer. But, I saw very little of LA. Some of that was because it's just so time-consuming to get around without a car. But mostly, I just never felt like exploring. After a full day of lectures, and an ever-growing headache, I just wanted to watch tv in my room. I can generally push through my headaches. (After 9-odd years, you kind of have to.) But these two weeks really kicked me to the curb. The transition back home doesn't seem to be much better, either.

I'm not particularly upset about this flare-up, but the reality of how tightly I have to regulate my schedule is a bit disheartening. I'd like to be able to be spontaneous, to be able to travel and not worry about when I can get to bed and when all of my meals will be. I'd like to live, well, like the 20-something I am.

Maybe this trip was an unusual circumstance; maybe it was the smog. I sure hope so, because there are a lot of places I'd like to visit--without an extra large bottle of Ibuprofen in tow.


Blogger Lis said...

Dude... I'm glad you at least fig'd out things that don't help out the headache, but sucks that it came back so badly!

12:46 AM, July 29, 2008  
Anonymous maria said...

totally the LA smog; totally. i hope you get back into your headache-free groove soon! i know what it's like to constantly have to be in a set routine. the thought of an overnight stay at camp this year even scared me... but i guess i've got to start somewhere.

10:04 AM, July 29, 2008  

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