Pop, Goes Me…

I heard the blood-curdling scream – one like I had heard only in movies…. 

The journey started on an icy February morning. I sat staring at the computer screen, waiting for inspiration. I was attempting to work on a massive web design project, but I had made little progress. The project was vitally important to me. It meant helping my husband, Robert, keep a roof over our family and food on the table for the rest of the month.

The pressure I was under was inhibiting my creative side and was making the deadline seem to approach at lightning speed. As a perfectionist, my work must be just right, and I did not have a clear vision of where I wanted to go with this project in order for it to have the perfect blend of functionality and eye appeal. 

What hit me instead of the needed insight was excruciating pain. I was startled when I heard a loud “pop” and, to my shock and dismay, the sound was in my head – literally, in my head – between my ears! 

In that moment I heard a scream and realized the sound was coming from me. 

The pain had brought me to the floor. I do not know how, but I managed to crawl across the varnished hardwood to the other side of the room and into my favorite comfy beige chair covered with pillows. However, it could provide little comfort at that time. 

Robert had heard the scream from his workshop several yards from our house, and he came quickly. He was in a panic and panting from the fast run as he asked, “Are you okay? Is the baby okay? You’re not in labor, are you? I mean, you’re not even half-way there.” He ran his still dirty hands soaked with a blend of grease, oil, and other 2-cycle equipment fluid through the remains of his hair as if he would pull it, that is, what was still growing, if the answer was too much to handle.

When he finally quit blabbering, seeing a single finger raised to my mouth, he realized a pillow covered my head, and my hands were tight over my ears. I was fighting to keep out all sound and light. 

Tylenol,” I finally managed to whisper as I attempted to answer his questions yet speak and move my head as little as possible. 

While I remained in the fetal position in that beige chair for the remainder of the day, Robert managed to get our five children fed, bathed and put to bed without me. He kept the gang out of my office and tried to keep them as quiet as possible. It was no small feat with our rambunctious crew of little ones ages eight to eleven months. 

I heard only a few of the usual words echoing from the other room, but I could not fully distinguish the voices due to the pain piercing my head like a knife.

“Stop it!” one child screamed.

“That’s mine,” another child whined, while no doubt, yanking back a toy from a sibling’s hands.

“I’m telling Mommy,” one child threated, a typical response I heard daily. 

Robert had suffered from migraines off and on over the years, and he thought I must have had a sudden one overtake me. I was thankful that he was taking charge of the household and that the children went to bed that evening without the usual fussing. 

Looking back, I probably should have gone straight to the hospital, but that just was not my way. I would not go through those doors until the time of my delivery…. Some things still haven’t changed. I do not like doctors’ offices, hospitals or medicines. However, the level of pain I was experiencing caused me to make an exception – on the medicine rule at least. 

For the next twenty-four plus hours, that comfy, but non-comforting, chair was my home, and I sustained myself on an alternating combination of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. I had to be careful and not take more than the maximum safe amount. After all, I did not want to hurt my baby, but the pain in my head had to go away somehow. 

The following day, my headache finally subsided as a golf-ball size blood clot worked its way through my nostrils. I was both disgusted and relieved, believing this ordeal was finally over – finished, complete, done, and soon to be just a bad memory. Boy, was I wrong! Dead wrong! This battle – soon to be war – was  just getting started!

The Battle Within

During the next several weeks, headaches continued, sharp pains pierced my head at various locations like a sword. These were not as extreme as the one on that February morning, but they were not the usual dull throbs of a “regular” headache, nonetheless.

That loud pop inside my head was merely the warning signal at the beginning of the war, the siren sound that meant take cover and prepare because things are about to get interesting. It was time to either pick up the sword to fight or flee for one’s life. The problem was that I could do neither. 

As in every war, two sides pitted themselves against each other, but this battle was very personal, and I was the only civilian witness to atrocities inflicted, but, as was yet to be seen, not the only victim.

Two mighty warriors – the Black Warrior and the Red Warrior dominated my battles. I have no clue what they were fighting for, nor why they chose the inside of my head as the place to compete, but there I was: my body was the battleground, and I was helpless to do anything about it. 

The Black Warrior – the King of Pain – took pride in stabbing the interior of my brain with a super-sharp, two-edged sword. At least, that is what it felt like when those searing pains sent me to my knees. Luckily, they did not last long, at least not yet, but they were excruciating. 

It did not take long for me to learn to quickly and voluntarily go to the floor wherever I was instead of waiting for the pain to force me there adding additional injury. Those pains would only increase in intensity and frequency as the days and weeks passed, but I had to live through them, as many of us do, before I realized the severity of the situation. 

The Red Warrior, on the other hand, was cruel in a different sort of way. He enjoyed tricking me all the time. His favorite form of torture was confusing me on the exact placement of doorways. Somehow, he magically made them move just as I was walking through them. I would be going along, minding my own business, doing a typical sort of thing like going from one room to another. Then I would have to make a special stop along the way that most people do not. My face frequently kissed the wall, and not a single kiss was a gentle peck. They were those squash your nose, burst your lip, make-your-glasses- one-with-your-face type of kisses. The Red Warrior was tops at trickery. 

I did not like these stops in my short walks from room to room, but to go with them, I involuntarily started a couple of new fashion statements. One of them made black and blue famous since I was wearing them so frequently and, more to the point, it seemed no one could scarcely see any other color on my skin. Of course, in about a week, an ugly greenish and brown color was added to the mix as old bruises started to heal, but new ones were added to keep the cycle of colors going.

The second fashion statement was the crazy lopsided look. My glasses did not fair too well on these kiss-the-wall stops either. The right side was slightly lower than the left, and the difference became more pronounced with each kiss

The eyecare professional that I visited said, “Elizabeth, if we adjust these glasses too many more times, they are going to break.” She sighed as she handed the glasses back to me. 

“I know,” I replied, “but I just cannot afford new glasses right now.” 

As I looked in the mirror, I could tell that my glasses would never go back to their regular shape. As I left the optometrist’s office, I held the door for another patient coming in, and she stared at me with wide eyes as she noticed the glasses I was wearing. Without a doubt, those spectacles were making a spectacle of me wherever I went.

To fight this Warrior, the King of Trickery, I learned to walk more slowly. I also started holding my hand in front of me to catch the wall first. This practice helped tremendously – for a while.