Pain in la cabeza
Aaaaah. Eyes drawn into slits. My hand is on my forehead, trying to push the radiating agony back in—don’t know what that would do, but it’s something.
I get crazy-bad headaches every few months. I can’t predict the patterns and, in fact, I can only remember three, maybe four, in my whole lifetime. One was when I was a kid in Japan, wanting to play at recess. My head hurt so much that I remember being woozy. I couldn’t go out to play, which really was a bummer to a six year old. I think Mom came and got me, writing it up to one of those thousand random “sick” moments in a child’s life. Still, I remember that pain. My vision closed to a narrow tunnel. I couldn’t stand up straight. I had to take a knee, and it took what was left of my rationality to go to the teacher, forgoing my recess.
There was one in Maryland a few years later, I think. The two that are most recent, however, are the ones that I remember the best.
They both happened while I was stationed here at Fort Hood. The first was when I first got here, before the deployment and all that. I was just settling in to my apartment and, of course, didn’t have any pain medication in the house (look, I didn’t have bowls for a while either, so medicine was really stretching it). I remember it was evening and the pain sort of crept in, arraying itself behind my eyes and pushing outward. There was this intense, vice-grip pressure on my head that sharpened around light. Luckily, the sun had set, otherwise I probably would have been knocked out.
I tried to bear it during the evening, feeling in no condition to drive down the street to the store or Walmart, but eventually I couldn’t take it any more. I squinted, and grit my teeth through the pounding, throbbing, intense pressure. I thought that if I screamed maybe it would relieve some of the pain—vent it out into space, something. I restrained myself, but had to rock back and forth, like I was nursing a broken arm.
I walked outside, not fully cognizant, locked my door and made my way to the car. Walmart was just two blocks down a side street—I wouldn’t have to enter any high-traffic areas. If I kept my speed down and hugged the curb, I’d make it. I just hoped a police officer wouldn’t pull me over, thinking I was drunk. That flashlight in my face would be the end of me.
By God’s grace I made it to Walmart and walked up. The air was warm and the humid, orange fog from the parking lot lights was a-buzz with whatever sound those damn lights make. It didn’t help the headache.
Walking in to the store, awash in Walmart lights and smells, nearly sent me to the ground. There wasn’t a greeter, masha’Allah, otherwise he’d of thought me drunk and turned the cops on me.
There, in the entryway of the Walmart, I stood, squinting, grimaced, holding my hands out in front of me and stumbled over to the Pharmacy section. Again, this was 10 or so at night, so it wasn’t overly crowded, thankfully.
I made it to the pills section, past the hair-care and lotion crap, and stood, scanning the rows of medicines, unable to focus beyond a couple of feet. I finally found the “head stuff” section and leaned against the shelves with one arm over my head while I groped around in the blinding light for the right box. Dayquil sinus? Sure. Extra-strength Tylenol? Yes. Store brand sinus medicine? Two boxes.
By this time the pounding had increased so much that I thought I was going to lose it. I’d collapse and be a prostrate, screaming man in the middle of a Walmart Pharmacy. Not the end I had in mind.
I tore in to the boxes and took the recommended doses for each—I little bit of an overkill, I’m sure, but considering how close to the edge I felt, I didn’t care. There was this mother and child with a cart nearby, who saw me clawing at the boxes, tearing through the packaging and those cursed layers of foil on the backs of the sheets.
“I’m paying for these,” I muttered, two pills in my mouth, squinting and trying to stand erect. She was a blur, but moved off. Had she heard me? Were “they” coming to get me?
The pills stuck to my dry throat a bit, sending me into a short gag/swallow/gulp/gasp routine. With my medication ingested, I shambled back to the registers, trying to play it cool.
“Did you open these?” the lady at the register asked.
“What? The pills? Yes, yes, I needed them, you see? I needed them now! Aaaarrrgghaaa!” (Ok, I think I just said “yes” but that would have been funny, no?)
By the time I fell through my front door, kicked it closed and sprawled out on the carpet, I began to feel the first tendrils of medicated relief working on my agony’s periphery. As the pain abated, I shed a tear, and sang a hymn before I passed out in the living room.
Fast forward to today, where I have a similar life-changing case of pain in my head. Luckily, I’m clearing, which gives me leeway on how often I go into work. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have made it. It’s just too bad that going on sick call in the military requires driving three different places, interviewing with your command to ensure you’re really sick, and waiting in rooms for four to six hours…just to get some Aspirin.
Praise God for clearing. I’m going to take a nap!