I wrote the following into my iPod around lunchtime today.
Sat on the doorstep of the Nina sagt gallery. The step is deep enough to shield me from the rain. Waiting for Nina, the gallery owner, to arrive. She went off to sort out booze and music for the opening tomorrow before I left her apartment, where she’s graciously putting me up for the weekend. I can see my paintings rested against the walls through the window. Now I’m here and there’s nothing I can add to the work, I’m a wee bit calmer about it all. And sitting here, dry but with rain coming down just inches from my face, listening to the Steve Miller Band (my current obsession), I feel kinda good.
Düsseldorfians walking by, the occasional smile, and for some reason I feel safe. I feel like I could fall asleep in this doorway. Times like this I wonder if taking up something like meditation would be good. I’d like to feel calmer more often. At the moment, though, I’m going through a phase of cluster headaches. I’m sure I must’ve mentioned them before, but if you don’t know what they are, they’re headaches that come in clusters. The length and size of the clusters vary from person to person, and I get it easy, comparatively.
I usually get them for a three or four week period, then nothing for eight months to a year. This last period of remission has been the longest since I started getting the headaches in my early twenties. This is my first cluster since September 2008. If you look on Wikipedia, you’ll see they are also known as suicide headaches. A rather ominous name, but if I was one of the poor souls who gets them every day for months on end, that name would seem a lot more apt. As it is, I ordinarily get them every 48 hours at about 2am for three to four weeks. I had my first one of this cluster last Friday, another on Sunday, and again on Wednesday.
It’s only since my last outbreak that I’ve known what they were. For many years I thought they were part of the iritis I occasionally get. My eye doctor was a bit perplexed by that, but seemed to concur. It just so happened that I would get them around the same time I was getting iritis. When they started to appear at times when no iritis was going on, a doctor thought they were likely to be migraines. So for about three years I was treated with migraine medication but with no real relief. Then I read an article in a British newspaper that mentioned a guy was medicating himself for these weird headaches with magic mushrooms. That obviously piqued my interest, so I read up on cluster headaches and found the symptoms to be the exact same thing that i was having: set-your-clock regularity, searing pain behind one eye, and being woken up by them. And during an active phase, alcohol being a trigger.
That last one is particularly frustrating cos I’d like to have a beer to celebrate my exhibition tomorrow night, but I can’t cos it’ll bring a headache on as sure as eggs is eggs. But looking at online forums, people have lots of non-prescription methods of retarding the headaches which, if not killing them, makes them less powerful and shorter in duration. So this period is a trial run for self-medication. When the first one happened on Friday, I went straight to the kitchen, switched the kettle on, and made a pot of coffee. Caffeine, you see, works for some people. And it helped for me. Instead of a three to four hour headache, it was gone in an hour-and-a-half. And it never reached the normal peak of pain.
In preparation for Sunday’s headache, I bought a couple of cans of Red Bull. Energy drinks were said to be a good way of killing it quickly. It had the same effect as the coffee because, again, by the time the pain woke me up, it was already in full flow. For some reason, I didn’t have one on Tuesday night. I dunno how much I should believe this, but I stayed awake and kinda had a bullish self-belief that I. Will. Not. Have. A. Headache. But it seems all I’d done was postpone it by 24 hours. I was still awake when it kicked in on Wednesday so gave it a threeway blast of possible remedies. Can of Red Bull, a few blasts of pure oxygen (mentioned on the forums as the best cure) and, err, sexual activity. Why the last one can cure a headache, I don’t know, but it was worth a shot. So I popped open the laptop, went to a porn site, and, well, I don’t need to describe the rest. But it worked a treat. The headache never went beyond a regular headache level of pain and lasted just half an hour. I’d like to thank Belladonna and Dana Vespoli for their sterling help with that.
Sadly, though, I got the worst of the bunch last night. After arriving in Düsseldorf, Nina, a couple of her friends, and I drove 20 minutes up the road to Cologne to go to the opening party of a clothes shop. Claudio, one of Nina’s friends, is a fashion blogger, so I’m sure it was interesting for him. Me, well, anyone who knows me will know my interest in clothing doesn’t really extend beyond baseball caps. Still, Cologne’s beautiful and fashionable people were out in droves, and, my oh my, there are some stunning women in Cologne. But the lights and loud music were doing me no good. I was hoping I could get bullish with the headache again, but to no avail.
I left to get a Red Bull (what a disgusting drink that is, too, and it always leaves me feeling really dehydrated) and I got the key from Nina and went to sit in the car to wait the headache out. The car was parked in an underground garage. It was difficult to get comfortable and shield myself from the lights in the garage. I ended up lying on the back seat groaning to myself. A couple of hours later, the others left the party, we drove back to Düsseldorf, and soon I was in bed as the embers of the headache burned themselves out. And what a night’s sleep. A good solid ten disruption-free hours. Still got a slight “shadow” of the headache today, which tends to happen, but I feel a lot better for the sleep. Anyway, Nina’s just arrived. Time to hang my paintings.