March 8, 2008 12:34 PM   Subscribe

I honestly do not remember a time in my life when I didn't have headaches Wilco's Jeff Tweedy discusses his lifelong battle with migraines, panic attacks, depression, drug addiction, and the influences of all on his music.
posted by timsteil (15 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
That was very interesting--thank you for bringing it to our attention.
posted by y2karl at 2:53 PM on March 8, 2008

Yes, and for once someone is honest about how people get hooked on painkillers: not by being legitimately prescribed them, but by self-medicating.

With all the pretense that Heath Ledger died because some doctors fucked up and gave him the wrong drugs in combination-- and with all the people who blame their addictions on doctors and then turn out to have a prior history of drug abuse-- it's very refreshing to see someone talk honestly about the relationship between addiction and pain.

You would never know it from the media coverage of this issue, but only around 1% of people without a prior history of addiction become addicted to pain medication by taking it as prescribed. The misconception that appropriately taking these meds turns people into junkies has been a disaster for pain patients and their doctors-- but is actively promoted by drug warriors and their cronies in the media.
posted by Maias at 3:05 PM on March 8, 2008

Maias, my twin brother died of an oxycontin overdose 3 years ago- and I can't say if he was typical, but the only bad things he had to say about doctors were the ones who wouldn't renew his prescriptions. The Oxy that killed him he bought on the street, which he'd been doing for at least a year before he died.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 3:12 PM on March 8, 2008

I honestly do not remember a time in my life when Wilco's Jeff Tweedy didn't give me headaches.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 4:26 PM on March 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

Great find, thanks.

Next time I feel like I can't make it through my work day because of looming panic, I'll remember that this guy dealt with that feeling + vomit-inducing migraines while PLAYING TO STADIUMS.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not romanticizing his pain. I often tell myself that I can't do this or that because of my panic disorder -- this helps put such thoughts in perspective.
posted by treepour at 4:39 PM on March 8, 2008

Tweedy drives me nuts, but that article was actually interesting and worth reading. I can both sympathize and empathize with pain and painkiller cycles. It's not fun.

And ethnomethodologist, I'm so sorry about your brother. I'm guessing that you're not looking for that here, but I wanted to say it.
posted by sleepy pete at 5:52 PM on March 8, 2008

Holy cats. I knew from I Am Trying to Break Your Heart that Tweedy suffered from migraines, but I had no idea how crippling they were for him.

I'm a migraine sufferer, too. I tend to get blurred vision followed by a crippling headache. The only thing that helps is to lie down in a dark room with a wet towel over my eyes and drink lots of water. The only time I've suffered from the nausea he describes is when I push myself and try to keep working despite the migraine. I don't usually take any painkillers for it because sleeping for several hours with the wet towel usually does the trick for me.

The blurry vision is actually the worst part. It is like there are these blank spots in the middle of my field of vision. I can't drive, can't use a computer and need to feel my way around to get places without injuring myself - and this is before the headache comes on. It is sort of terrifying and I sometimes get frightened that my sight isn't going to come back, which is silly, but feels real at the time.

Anyhow, I'd never read anything written by somebody who goes through migraines. Most people I talk to just think they're bad headaches - and they are - but they're much worse than that. Thank you for posting this.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:19 PM on March 8, 2008

Joey if it makes you feel better, I know exactly what you are talking about about the fear. I have to say I'm pretty lucky about the actual headaches, mine are pretty mild unless i rapidly stand up or bend over, change the elevation in my head any. Other than that it is just a really really sore feeling, sometimes kind of like being dazed or lightheaded.

The vision loss has always been the thing that scared me too, I don't know if this makes any sense, but every other type of disease or pain I've had has been something I could "grit my teeth" and kind of will myself through. I can walk on my feet even if they are hurt, I can get through a day with a cold or a flu, but I can't through force of will alter my sight during a migraine. And since it is literally in front of my eyes the whole time, it is almost impossible for me to ignore. And you do worry that it won't go away. The best thing I've found is to have company, going and talking to somebody has been about the only thing that will keep me from just worrying myself crazy and checking my vision every 5 seconds to see how it is progressing.

Mine start out as a dot near my center of vision and then spread out in a crescent, usually to the right, until the blank spot passes out of my field of vision and I start to recover a bit. But there's a period there where things don't seem to click right in the area it passed through, even if I can see everything in the area, it just seems difficult to pull together understandable shapes, words on a page, human faces, I can see all the components, every letter, if I try to just see the one at a time, but they don't seem the same as they do on the side of my vision that wasn't affected. They don't coalesce. (I really want to use that word, but the spellchecker seems to have escaped).

It also gives you a really horrible bit of understanding of the world of the truly blind. I don't know about where you live, but it would be literally impossible for me to be gainfully employed anywhere I've lived unless I could drive. Or really do much of anything. Luckily my attacks are rare, my doctor has never worried about this, and they come on slowly enough for me to be able to get somewhere and just wait it out, (I've only ever had one while driving, usually they are stress related with me I think, and I find driving pretty relaxing).

I know a guy who has epilepsy, and wasn't able to get a license. He lived with his parents for a long time, had no friends, got very bitter and introverted, and just seemed to close up. I mean, I really think there's something pretty wrong with our country if driving is a prerequisite for, well, living. I guess you move to somewhere like New York or go crazy. You really start to wonder about the way we look at driving too. It isn't a privilege, I hate to say it, it is an absolute necessity. I can't imagine what taking licenses away from drunks does except force them to drive without a license, and dig themselves under more debt. Oh well, this has gotten long and divergent.
posted by SomeOneElse at 8:55 PM on March 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

When I look back in my dotage, I will remember Jeff Tweedy and Wilco as the band that defined my 30s.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:21 PM on March 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

SomeOneElse: Thank you for sharing that. My experience is fairly similar to yours. Its actually comforting to know I'm not the only one who experiences this.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:37 AM on March 9, 2008

Yikes. I'm glad I discovered the advil-at-the-early-stage thing before anyone prescribed oxycontin to me.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:13 AM on March 9, 2008

The vision loss has always been the thing that scared me too, I don't know if this makes any sense, but every other type of disease or pain I've had has been something I could "grit my teeth" and kind of will myself through. I can walk on my feet even if they are hurt, I can get through a day with a cold or a flu, but I can't through force of will alter my sight during a migraine.

That's a really good way to describe dealing with migraines. I don't get the visual disturbances (thank heavens), but I get the headache, the nausea, and sensitivities to light and sound and get them about twice a month. I was actually relieved to have a bad head cold a few weeks ago because it was kind of relief to have the sort of illness that I could just push through and deal with.

With migraines, I always feel like any effort I expend is then drained from me 100-fold, to the point where I've just started sobbing with feelings of pain and emptiness and defeat. I've also tried to describe to people that it's not just pain, but something else. If the equivalent amount of pain that I feel in my head was transferred to my knee or arm, it would be a minor annoyance, but migraines are so much more than that. Relpax has been a lifesaver for me, though, assuming that I take it at the right time. I used to lose 1-3 days at a time to the migraine and now, again assuming that I've taken Relpax at the right time, I can usually feel at least 85% better in a few hours.
posted by stefnet at 9:06 AM on March 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Joey Michaels, your experience seems identical to mine, first the vision goes, then the headache kicks in, which is usually excruciating and can last for days. I also get overtaken by an overwhelming weariness. I have tried every quack remedy imaginable as well as prescription drugs but the only thing that works is lying down, in the dark, and waiting for it to go away.

I tried acupuncture for a while which seemed to have some effect, but they didn't go away altogether; I have also found, on admittedly rare occasions, that if I take 3 or 4 high strength ibuprofen as soon the thing starts, it can reduce the intensity.
posted by Fat Buddha at 3:52 PM on March 9, 2008

I was exceptionally relieved to be diagnosed and treated for migraines at age 40. For the prior 33 years, I had "sinus headaches" which would sometimes respond to advil/ibuprofen/naproxen/sudafed, sometimes not. A bad one would put me in a dark room for three days, and it was painful to even get up and email or call in sick.

So suddenly I had a prescription for Imitrex, tablets for slow onset headaches, and injectable for the ones that I wake up with, and my migraines went from a 2 - 3 day event to an hour or three. Over the past few years, I've learned that the key is to treat them EARLY, as soon as I recognize it's a migraine instead of a regular headache (which can later trigger a migraine, but is distinct). For me, it's a migraine if it comes with photophobia.

I did have about the worst migraine I've ever had a week or two ago, because I was at the park with the kids, and hadn't brought along anything but kid stuff, so by the time we got packed up and trekked home it took a couple of hours, and the headache got away from me. Once I'm vomiting, I can't keep down either the Imitrex tablets or the Vicodin, and I had already taken enough Imitrex that I probably shouldn't inject too. I ended up waiting miserably in the ER for a couple of hours until they got me on some kind of morphine derivative and anti-nausea drug IV, fell asleep for a couple of hours, and woke up at 3am feeling GREAT.

So if you have "sinus headaches," I strongly recommend seeing a neurologist who treats migraines. I wish I had done it two or three decades earlier.
posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 6:26 PM on March 9, 2008

Migraines are terrible. I've been suffering with them for the past 15 years or so, since high school. My dad suffered with them all through his twenties but they've abated significantly since then. My 14-year-old sister has been suffering from them for a few years already.

I dated a girl whose mother worked as some sort of engineer or technician for an oil company and the chemicals would trigger her migraines. Every week or two, she would miss a day of work. Their house would be completely dark and soundless, and she would be injected with some medicine or another, and she would sleep for hours and finally emerge, groggy and better. Fortunately she was able to eventually secure another job which did not involve chemicals and last I heard, her migraines had all but stopped.

I can normally tell when I am going to get a migraine; it is usually something I wake up with, a low, dull pain in my temple that grows into debilitating agony. They are closely tied to feelings of panic and anxiety, and feeling panicky or anxious (jitters, palpitations, trouble falling asleep) is usually a bad sign. Also, when I feel like that, I grind my teeth, and there is a strong association with my bruxism and waking up with a migraine.

When they hit, they are terrible. Sounds are torture and light is worse; visually focusing on things takes an unusual amount of resolve, and I cannot easily switch from object to object (this is why the few times I have driven with migraines have been some of the scariest car rides I've ever been in). I often vocally wish for an ice cream scoop or a spoon to dig out the area in my brain behind my right eye, or at my right temple, where the pain always appears. Fortunately, they have never made me puke, though I have come close a few times. I typically curl up in a ball, under a dark cover, in a dark, soundless room, and try to sleep it all away. My girlfriend will procure soup and a Coke, and eating sometimes helps. Caffeine in general does too.

Recently a doctor suggested I get a mouth guard and Imitrex. Since then, I have severely reduced the number of migraines I experience, and the ones that do happen to make it through usually respond to the Imitrex (the one that didn't, however, was killer). It's made life much easier.
posted by m0nm0n at 5:36 AM on March 10, 2008

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