Thursday, May 12, 2016

Withdrawal: MOH (medication-overuse headache)

I was sure I could handle the withdrawal without assistance. I did it with the Fentanyl, how much harder could this be?

Yah, well, it is harder. It's "cold turkey" instead of slowly tapering. That makes a big difference.

Just spent three days in the hospital neurology unit dealing with my horrendous withdrawal headaches.

The second day of no meds was on Shabbat (this past Saturday).
By Saturday night, my pain level was way past 10. It had gotten to 10 at about 4PM that day.
My neurologist said that the hospital could give me an IV "cocktail" to help the withdrawal and the pain if I needed it.

We went into the hospital at 8:30pm.

In the ER, they didn't know what to do for me; I was supposed to be going off over-the-counter medicines, and I was there in terrible pain, they didn't know what they could give me to help. They actually took initiative to call my neurologist at his home, at 10:45 at night.  Dr. Ezra (my neurologist) answered. That is also not to be taken for granted. He told them about me, and what to give me.

I got the "cocktail" IV only at about 11:30. I was in so much pain all I could do was lie in the hospital bed in fetal position and groan. I could barely see straight- my eyes were very effected with this withdrawal. It was hell.

So I was hospitalized at the advice from my neurologist. I couldn't do it alone, afterall.
Sometimes Hashem reminds us that there are things we just cannot do alone. We were not put in this world in a vaccuum; that, part of Tikun Olam (repairing the world) is realizing that people are here to connect and help other people. Ultimately this leads us to strengthen our connection with Gd.

At the hospital they gave me some steroids for the pain and a muscle relaxer medicine. It helped ease the pain a bit, but not a tremendous amount. For the most part I had to just slog through it, praying for Hashem to release me from the pain in my head.

My neurologist is really a gem. I have said it before, and it is only more and more true each time I see him. The morning after my intake, he came to my bed to visit and see how things are going. I said its been hard, but I'm plowing through. He asked me if I am doing any relaxation techniques, the kind I learned from his course on meditation for chronic pain sufferers. I told him I wasn't. At that moment, during busy morning rounds, he invited me to come into his office to do a relaxation session. Right then and there. I got comfortable in his big lounge chair with the leg rest and reclining back. He took my phone and recorded a whole meditation for pain session (in his voice). It took about 15 minutes. He asked me if I have less pain, and I said I didn't, but I am definitely more relaxed. He said to listen to it on "loop" (repeating over and over) to try to help overcome the pain.

Then he carried on with his rounds. Amazing.

He also had a special "protection" assigned to me... the nurses never woke me up to take blood pressure or temperature. After all, I am not sick, I just needed some back-up for a withdrawal. I never got woken up (by nurses or doctors) the whole time I was there. That, I think, is a miracle in and of itself.

I came home on day 5 of withdrawal. The hard part was over, but the headaches still hung around.

Today, the end of day 7, when Dr. Ezra said withdrawal would be finished with, I still have a dull, consistent hum of a headache. I went out with my family to celebrate Israel's 68th birthday, though, thankfully I was well enough to go to that-- our yearly cook-out with friends from all over the country.

My eyes are really effected by this withdrawal. The first two days I had a white light behind my eyes, no matter how dark I made them. I was also seeing strange visions, icons sort of, inside my closed eyes, for days. It was so strange. Now I still have some of that white light effect (kind of nerve-wracking, in a way) when my eyes are closed, and they are still over-sensitive to light. I am looking forward to a headache-free days (I have had one, yesterday), and taking off my sunglasses.

selfie from my hospital bed
Ya'akov calls it "gangsta momma"
What is unknown is what to expect about the migraines which triggered this whole cycle to begin with. I am supposed to start charting them, dates, times, rating of pain on a scale of 1-10. My current instructions are that I can take Excedrin/Advil if I feel a headache coming on (after this initial withdrawal period), but not more than once a day. Also, up to twice a week is OK, but not two days in a row. I see my neurologist again in a few weeks to follow-up, and see what comes next in evaluating the migraines. Probably an MRI first. I haven't ever had scans to evaluate the migraines.

This is all so "one-day-at-a-time".

Did I tell you my right hip (recent surgery, 6 months ago) started acting up also? It hurts these days. It had stopped hurting for like 4 months. I thought I was healed, but now I realize that all those analgesics I was taking were also helping cover that pain. Hopefully when I get back to the gym, and start working out slowly, it will be better. I hope.

As they say in Israel, "פרה פרה" (para-para, literally "cow-cow", like, we'll milk one cow at a time, no matter how many there are. It's a great expression.) Actually Dr. Ezra used an expression taken from Arabic- "שואי שואי" (shway shway) meaning "little-by-little".

I'm getting there.


  1. wow, Sare, you are certainly going through a lot... love the shades, but not the need for them.. hopefully this doctor will be able to get to the cause of the migraines soon.
    Miss you, any USA plans this summer?
    XXXOOO Dev from NJ

  2. Sometimes it seems that for every 5 steps closer you get to the finish line, some bastard moves the the tape 7 steps further away. But you are moving forward. - step by painful step, day after painful day. And you will reach that finish line.

    Keep on hanging in there, dear friend

  3. Sarah thinking of you, hoping you feel much better very soon xxx

  4. What? Ken Quinn's chocolates didn't cure you? Eat one more. They're wonderful. HUGS, and keep on climbing. You're closer to the the top than ever before.