The headaches started on my fifteenth birthday. I am now 36.
Me and headaches have been fucking for over 20 years, with me as the abused bottom. Cluster headaches, or suicide headaches, are described by those cursed as positively the most excruciating pain a human being can
Mothers claim that labor and giving birth to a goddamn baby are preferable to having a cluster (though I am suspicious that this is claimed by mothers because at least you get a goddamn baby out of that deal, but
still, the headaches are probably worse).
A “cousin” to the migraine, cluster headaches occur on either your left or right temple. Me? I’m southpaw. Place your fingertip to your temple. Feel that vein throbbing there a bit? That thing gets cut off, yeah, it like tapers, constricts. The blood builds. And the pain spills in because of that. There is something to do with pressure. The headache begins at that point.
Picture a fishhook in the meat of your temple slightly tugging. Picture a fishing line, but a poleless one, with hooks tied to both ends and…Look. You’re temple line is getting a nibble. As the fish eats, and as the fish
dives and jerks and swims, the headache blossoms in you like the fish is lifting a net from a sandy seabed, from its center, your temple.
The pain from the cluster will seal shut your eye and demand it remain in a wince throughout. The pain will spread up to the top of your cranium, it will spread down through and into your teeth (it’s so unimaginably bad when you got it in the teeth, you cry for death itself), filling one side of your skull. It will descend as low as your shoulder and mid-back. The pain takes over a good quarter of your body. It is poured into you.
You are rendered limp, and you are made fightless. There is no fight; the cluster gives no quarter.
Imitrex is the most popular medicine to treat the cluster headache. It does not always work. And when it does, it still takes 20 minutes to kick in once injected. People have always had a lot to say about Time, how it passes, if it passes, if counting minutes matters. When a cluster headache surfaces in your head, time is immediately slowed, drugged almost. If I had to guess, I’d say each set of 5 seconds feels like 5 minutes. Three hours of a strong cluster feels like one whole long entirely bad day.
They started me out on Stadol nasal spray, which is Demerol, pretty much (the buzzes are identical). Demerol is some pretty strong shit and all it does to a cluster headache is barely takes the edge off, so you can maybe deal, until the Imitrex kicks in.
There is no painkiller man can make that can kill this pain. Isn’t that unimaginable?
They have to put me unconscious when the headache gets too bad and I go to the emergency room. They got a drip of Goodnight! waiting for me, my goddamn name on it. But usually my cocktail is this: Imitrex injection, a couple squeezes of Stadol, an icebag, and, most important of all, the utter necessity of a dark, quiet and empty bedroom.
You may not want company when you are inside of this pain. It feels relieving to worm around, to do your best exorcisms (for this is a true possession), reach your arms up above you into the air above your bed to Oh God Lord Jesus Please Stop This Pain God who appears in your belief system as soon as the headache does, to be begged of, and then Whom quietly leaves, arm in arm with the headache, when the headache lifts (me being that kind of atheist dick that all of a sudden believes in God when he needs Him). There is beauty in this. There is an immense amount of beauty when the headache lifts. When that fucking headache finally
decides you’ve had enough, when it finally gives quarter, there occurs: euphoria.
Okay, being sober and not having a headache and doing a shot of Demerol can be a beautiful thing, of course, I love that shit too, who doesn’t. But when a pain of such great proportions lifts itself from you, that sudden absence of pain, and when that feeling is placed on top of the Demerol buzz you got going underneath, you are taken to the closest thing to pure elation. The two goodnesses meet to create a greatness.
It’s how I imagine Heaven, even if Heaven is darkness, to be. Death will be a lifting of great pain (life), a sudden absence of great unfightable pain (life), and even if Heaven occurs in darkness, the lifting of pain (life) will be a good thing. This is all we are promised. That’s the only thing we are guaranteed, don’t you see?
We fucking have that one. We have it by the balls with that one. Sounds fucked up now that I say it. That pretty much seals me in as a doper, right? Right? (It’s all right.)