It’s a Total Cluster

I know it’s been a couple months of radio silence, apparently major home construction projects, getting your house ready for the market, selling your house, buying a "new" one (I say "new" because it's actually old), planning a complete renovation on the "new" house and actually moving everything you and your four other family members own will keep you too busy to blog. Not that anyone has been losing any sleep over my lack of blogging, but I just needed to write again. 

We also decided it would be a good idea to go on a trip the week before we moved. It was a good idea in the sense that it got us out of the house and made us stop thinking about every house and packing detail ever. It was also a good idea to get myself out to the mountains where I seem to be able to see all of life a little more clearly. I see and soak in all of the beauty of the mountains, the smells, the sounds with such appreciation. It was a good time for my soul. It wasn't a good idea in the sense that it was just a lot going on in a short amount of time. A couple nights before our trip was over I started to get migraines in the middle of the night. I thought it was odd because I hadn’t had that for a pretty long time. At least not a few nights in a row. I chalked it up to being stressed out over the move and maybe getting exposed to a few weird food things with eating out more. 

We arrived home from our trip and closed on our house two days later. That week was consumed with cleaning the “new” house, packing, planning, details, and oh yes, more headaches in the middle of the night. If you don't know my history, you won't know why I might be freaking out about that. Two years ago (almost exactly) I had my first round of cluster headaches. They are different than normal headaches or even migraines. In short they are hell on wheels. They come around the same time every day (for me between 1:00-3:00am) and you get them every day, sometimes multiple times a day for about six weeks to two months. They build in intensity as the weeks go on and then finally tapper off. They also tend to come at the same time of year and the last round I had was exactly at the end of the summer, just like now. They are fast and furious. They come on so quickly that taking even my heavy-hitting migraine drugs doesn’t help. I wake up in the night and can feel it coming. Within a few minutes it feels as if someone has jabbed an ice pick into my right eye (always my right eye) and is slowly turning it around. The pain goes all the way through my head and radiates down my nose and out to my ear and neck, but the most intense pain is in my eye. It is relentless. So when I started to have a chunk of days in a row with a really bad cluster-type headache in my right eye you can see why I started to freak out. 

"I think we're doing pretty good." Foolish words said by a foolish woman. 

"I think we're doing pretty good." Foolish words said by a foolish woman. 

We were scheduled to move on Saturday and I had been turning down offers of help all week. “We’ve paid people to come help us move the big stuff. I think we're doing pretty good.” I kept telling people. Not realizing that as I continually felt worse all week, less was getting done with the packing. Friday night (the night before we moved), I went to bed with so much anxiety. I wasn't anxious about moving at all. I was anxious only about what I had feared all week, that I was starting another round of cluster headaches. That all of the really hard work of trying to beat this over the last two years was for nothing. I had been eating a severely restricted diet for two years and hadn't cheated once! I had been taking every supplement I was told, using the creams, doing the brain therapies, every silly little thing I was told to do, I did.

I laid in bed knowing that if it happened again this night, there was no more denying it. I would have to admit I was starting another round. So of course I never even fell asleep. I just laid there looking at the clock, knowing what was coming. And like clockwork around 2:45am it came, the ice pick in the right eye… and I lost it. Literally lost it. I finally told my husband what I had feared all week was really happening. It was happening again. It was a cluster. A total cluster. I then proceeded to cry my eyes out and yell. I know I was laying on the ground at one point and there might have been some throwing of the kitchen piles, or maybe that was a different day, I can't quite remember.  There was some swear-yelling, I know that for sure. And there was definitely some swear-yelling at God.

I felt totally abandoned and betrayed. I really had believed over the past two years that he was healing me, that he was making me whole again. It felt like a cruel joke. It felt like a parent watching their child take their first steps and then pulling out the rug underneath them and purposely crushing their head against the ground, and laughing. I knew in my heart that this wasn't really what was happening, but this is what it felt like was happening. 

Drugs and truth. Two things you'll need should you ever find yourself in a dark alley with a cluster headache. 

Drugs and truth. Two things you'll need should you ever find yourself in a dark alley with a cluster headache. 

So I took some drugs that I knew wouldn't help and slapped the well-used ice pack on my head and tried to deal. I finally fell asleep early in the morning, getting at least a couple hours of sleep before the movers showed up. When I woke I sent out a S.O.S. text to a couple of trusted and true friends who live nearby. Before I could eat my homemade grain-free granola they had all responded saying they would be over to help. All day the only truth I could call to mind was this: "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalms 34:18. Don't be too impressed, I couldn't remember the reference at the time. "So I'm just going to keep praying that," I thought. “It sure as hell doesn’t feel like you are close to me right now and I feel pretty damn crushed in spirit.” But I kept saying the verse in my head, like my mantra for the day. 

Not only did my three sweet friends show up with their beautiful faces, but another sweet friend (who just happens to have cancer and is enduring chemo herself) showed up with her beautiful face at my “new house” door. One of them said, “You asked three friends for help, and four showed up.” This was the moment that I realized that the Lord had been close to me all day despite feeling like a total and utter crap pile. He had truly come to my aid when I was crushed in spirit. Not only did those four friends come to help, but we had a handful of friends come who were already planning on it (because my husband isn’t dumb like me to turn down help), a friend from out of town stopped by to help, my in-laws who carried boxes and unpacked boxes from morning till night, a friend showed up at lunch with food for everyone and my sister came with her whole family who worked like dogs for most of the day and my mom and dad watched our three kids all moving day and the night before. So I asked three friends for help and a whole slew of them showed up. That’s a pretty big “loaves and fishes” type answer to prayer if I’ve ever had one. 

I ended the day in total exhaustion feeling that even though I still felt slightly betrayed, God hadn't abandoned me completely. I wasn't sure why this was happening again but I knew I wasn't in it alone. Later in the week I met with a neurologist at the Minnesota Headache Center at Abbott and learned that while migraine headaches can be helped somewhat with diet and trying to avoid migraine triggers, cluster headaches are just a random disease and there’s nothing you can do to avoid it. “So I guess I won the headache lottery.” I said to him. And then I left the appointment praying for my multiple friends who have currently won the cancer lottery and my friend who won the ALS lottery. Praying for more and more loaves and fishes answers to the prayers of all of the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit. He is close.