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More Gifts for People with Migraine or Other Chronic Pain

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It might seem challenging to buy gifts for someone with migraine, neuropathic facial pain, or other chronic pain, but if you forget the word “cure” in your quest for the perfect gift and think of comforting the person instead, it will be much easier for you to get something that they’ll appreciate. Remember that “chronic” pain means “constant” pain: if it could be eliminated, most of us would have done anything necessary to rid ourselves of the debilitating, sometimes disabling, pain. Gifts for People with Migraine and Chronic Pain explains some of the products that I’ve come to rely on to reduce pain. Here are more of my favorite products that your family, friends, and colleagues with chronic pain might appreciate.

Ginger Root Tea

Migraine attacks and other chronic pain are sometimes accompanied by nausea. While prescription anti-emetics might help prevent vomiting, they don’t do anything to quell nausea. Ginger, whether crystallized, cut fresh from the root, or made into tea, is the best natural remedy I’ve ever found to quell nausea, whether it’s from migraine, medications, motion-sickness, flu, or holiday overindulgence. It has none of the side-effects of pharmaceutical anti-emetics (prescription or OTC) and can be added to liquids so you ensure that you remain hydrated. Ginger is also an anti-inflammatory, and I’ve found that when I drink ginger tea regularly, the neuropathic facial pain is reduced. Therefore, instead of saving the tea for hemiplegic migraine attacks, I have some regularly throughout the day (for Warnings about ginger consumption, see my Natural Nausea Relief).

The best ginger I’ve ever gotten for homemade tea is Tea Spot’s Organic Ginger Root. I realize that tossing a couple of pieces of crystallized ginger into a cup of boiling water will give a faint ginger taste, but Tea Spot’s Organic Ginger Root makes a wonderful tea that I can have without sugar. It provides all the stomach-calming and nausea-quelling properties of the crystallized ginger without any of the sugar. Also, since Tea Spot’s ginger root is dried and chopped, I don’t have to store it in the refrigerator or freezer as I do with fresh or crystallized ginger, which makes it very convenient.

You can get Tea Spot’s Organic Ginger Root for tea in several sizes: $4 sample (2 servings), $13.50 (¼ lb), $46.50 (1 lb). The Tea Spot has a large variety of black, green, and herbal teas, all of excellent quality and flavor (but then, I’ve been a tea-drinker all my life, preferring it to coffee). They also have tea samplers, tumblers, mugs, teapots, and more. Tea Spot gift cards ($25, $50, $100, $200) are available if you are unsure about which teas your recipients might prefer.

Books

I’ve always been a huge lover of books so even when I have a migraine attack, I need to read. Books have always been an integral part of my self-care routine even before I understood the meaning of taking care of myself. Sometimes, migraine or other pain is so debilitating that the person cannot read. Other times, as when migraine becomes chronic (more than 15 days per month for at least 3 months) or intractable (never-ending), the pain, though quite severe, allows some reading. Some people with migraine have told me they cannot read e-books during a migraine but can manage traditional paper books. At times, I can read on my tablet, but I need to put it on Night (Dark) mode. When I have a hemiplegic migraine and cannot read or even lift my head from the pillow, I listen to audiobooks, which was a lifesaver in April 2018 when this intractable migraine began. There are several ways to provide books as gifts to recipients: paper books, e-books, and audiobooks.

Paper Books

So many books, so little time. I get most of my books from Amazon these days, if only because living up here on Big Rock Candy Mountain with the nearest bookstore about 2 hours away doesn’t allow much wandering the aisles and spending the day as if you were in a library (no libraries around here either). Also, as someone with intractable migraine for over 19 months and with neuropathic facial pain (formerly, atypical trigeminal neuralgia), I am mostly house-bound. I love being able to browse any category of books I wish without leaving home.

If you know the categories, authors, or specific titles your recipients might like, it’ll make your job easier when looking for books they might enjoy. If you don’t have specifics on authors or titles, you can always get them Amazon gift certificates: available as a physical card in a decorative box or tin ($50-$2,000, several designs), a card in a decorated mini-envelope ($10-$2,000, 3-5 designs), a card in greeting card with a separate envelope for mailing ($10 to $2,000, several designs), or as an e-gift card ($25-$2,000).

eBooks

10 years ago, if you’d asked me about e-books, I never would have imagined that they could have existed, let alone that I would like them. When we moved up here on the mountain in 2009, however, all my boxes of books had to stay in the barn: the house was simply too small to hold them all, and it took me years to save enough money to have some bookshelves built in my office. In the meantime, when I was desperate for something to read, I began to look at the classics, which were inaccessibly stored in the barn, in electronic book form. At that time, most of the classics were free in e-book form. Now virtually all books are available in both paper and e-book formats, and though I love paper books most, I love the convenience of e-books.

Your recipient can use an Amazon gift card for either paper or e-books, but you can also buy someone a subscription to Kindle Unlimited ($9.99/month) and they can read any book enrolled in the KU program. If you really want someone to gush with gratitude, you could buy them a Kindle ($69-249) — Amazon’s tablet — but that’s not necessary for them to enjoy e-books or to be in Kindle Unlimited. Kindle Reading Apps are free for any device: iOS, Android, Mac, PC. (It’s what I’ve used since about 2010, on my iPad, Mac, and iPhone).

Any Amazon gift cards can be used for e-books: card in a decorative box or tin ($50-$2,000), card in a decorated mini-envelope ($10-$2,000), card in greeting card with a separate envelope for mailing ($10 to $2,000), or e-gift card ($25-$2,000).

Audiobooks

Just as I never would have guessed that I would love e-books, I really never would have known that I would love audiobooks. And I never even listened to an audiobook before June of 2018, by which time I’d had an intractable migraine since April of that year and was bored witless. I couldn’t read — neither paper nor electronic books — so I tried the Audible 30-day free trial. I got a couple of my favorite classic books, each read by one of my favorite actors. While I lay on the couch (tired of lying in bed), I listened to the audiobooks. Before the end of the first couple chapters of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I was hooked. Now I have a huge audiobook library, mostly classics, but some bestsellers and memoirs, too.

You can purchase gift cards for audiobooks directly from Audible (1, 3, 6, or 12 months for $15, $45, $90, or $150, respectively) or Audible via Amazon (same months and prices as at Audible). (Please note that Amazon gift cards are not eligible for use at Audible, and vice versa.)

Guided Meditation Apps to Reduce Pain

Surf City Apps and Relax Melodies

I’ve written several articles on the many free self-hypnosis meditation apps that successfully reduce migraine and chronic pain, and the links in this paragraph will take to those more detailed articles. I use Surf City Apps’ Migraine and Headache Relief, Chronic Pain Relief, and Sleep Well: Insomnia Relief (since both migraine and other types of chronic pain can cause painsomnia: pain-induced insomnia). I also use Relax Melodies, a guided meditation app which has a “background” feature which allows you to play its sounds “behind” other apps and which I use for the relief of both pain and insomnia.

Both Surf City Apps and Relax Melodies are available for iOS and Android devices. All these apps can be used for free, for an unlimited time. Download Sleep Well Insomnia Relief from Surf City Apps, from the App store for all iOS devices, from Amazon for Kindles, and from GooglePlay for Android devices. You can check out all Surf City’s free apps on its website. Their apps have been downloaded over 5 million times and average 4+ stars out of 5 for Sleep Well Insomnia Relief. Ipnos’ Relax Melodies app, available in 10 languages, has a 4.5 out of 5* rating (with 700,000 reviews).

Migraine & Headache Relief is free from Surf City Apps for iOS or Android devices, from Amazon for Kindle, from the App Store for iOS devices, or from GooglePlay for Android devices.

Chronic Pain Relief is free from Surf City Apps for iOS or Android devices, from Amazon for Kindle, from the App Store for iOS devices, and from GooglePlay for Android devices.

Sleep Well Insomnia Relief is free from Surf City Apps, from the App store for all iOS devices, from Amazon for Kindles, and from GooglePlay for Android devices.

Relax Melodies is free from Ipnos after selecting your type of smartphone, from Amazon for Kindle, from the App Store for iOS devices, and from Google Play for Android devices.

The Difference Between the Free and Premium Versions

Although all of these apps are available free, they’re worth purchasing the premium version. The difference between the free and the paid versions of these apps is the ability to change background noises and to Loop the meditation so that it repeats as often as the listener wishes (Surf City Apps) and to include additional guided meditations to reduce the stress and anxiety (Relax Melodies) that are often common in people with migraine and other chronic pain. The premium versions of Surf City Apps’ self-hypnosis guided meditations are $1.99-$4.99 depending on the meditation. Relax Melodies premium version is $4.99 for one month access to all its features or $27.99 for lifetime access.

If you know of a specific app that someone uses to reduce pain, anxiety, or insomnia, you could always purchase gift cards so they can buy the premium versions of these apps. For people with an iPad or an iPhone, you could get them an Apple App Store or iTunes gift card via Amazon (physical gift card in $25, $50, $100, $200 amounts; e-gift card for $25, $50, $100, $200). You can purchase a Google Play gift card via Amazon (physical gift card $50; e-gift card for $25, $50, $100, $200) for anyone with Android phones or tablets.

Additionally, all of these guided meditation apps to reduce pain and insomnia are also available via Amazon for its Kindles: any Amazon gift cards can be used for the premium version of these apps: card in a decorative box or tin ($50-$2,000), card in a decorated mini-envelope ($10-$2,000), card in greeting card with a separate envelope for mailing ($10 to $2,000), or e-gift card ($25-$2,000).

Health Journeys App, CDs, MP3s

Health Journeys, founded by holistic medicine advocate Belleruth Naparstek, sponsors a large library of guided meditations, with many of them devoted to pain relief and healing. I regularly use Naparstek’s Meditation to Ease Pain and Meditation to Help Relieve Headaches, the latter of which features a guided meditation for relief of headache pain as well as a meditation designed to help prevent future head pain. I list several of Health Journeys other pain relief apps in my Gifts article.

These audio guided meditations are available in MP3 or CD format ($11.98 or $17.98, respectively) and are also available to stream from Health Journeys app for Android and iOS, which features a 7-day free trial. Health Journeys also has other items for pain relief and healing, including guided meditations by Dr. Andrew Weil, one of the leaders in holistic medicine (CDs only), essential oils, books, pillows, lotions, etc. They also have gift cards ($15-$100) so that recipients can choose their own gifts. Health Journey’s catalogue is available online or by mail.

Remember to think “comfort” instead of “cure” when considering gifts for people with chronic pain and it’ll be easier for you to please people. Don’t have anyone to buy gifts for you? Then take care of yourself by getting at least one of these gifts, or those in my Gifts for People with Migraine or Other Chronic Pain (portable aromatherapy roll-ons and balms; all cotton heating/cold pads; and more details and meditations from Health Journeys, which  I’ve used almost 30 years, back when cassettes were the way to have portable audio). Whether you buy these gifts for others or for yourself, they’ll help reduce pain and comfort anyone suffering from migraine attacks or other chronic pain.


Related Posts on Migraine & Chronic Pain

For more of my articles on migraine or chronic pain,
see my Migraine & Chronic Pain page.

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Chronic Pain, and Insomnia Relief

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Filed under Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia, Audiobooks, Books, Caregivers, chronic pain, Chronic Pain Treatment, E-books, healing, Health and Wellness, hemiplegic migraines, Meditation and MIndfulness, migraine, migraine self-care, Migraine Treatment, Migraine with Aura, Migraine Without Aura, migraines, Neuropathic Facial Pain, PTSD, Self-Hypnosis Apps, Self-Hypnosis Meditation Apps, trigeminal neuralgia, trigeminal neuropathy

Gifts for People with Migraine or Other Chronic Pain

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It’s not as difficult to buy gifts for someone with migraine or other chronic pain as some you might imagine. Think “comfort” instead of “cure” for neurological disorders and you’ll have a better time finding gifts that anyone would appreciate. After the onset of neuropathic facial pain (formerly called atypical trigeminal neuralgia) three years ago, and an intractable migraine that’s lasted almost 20 months, I’ve been looking for additional products that might bring me comfort or help relieve the pain. I’ve found several that have become my constant companions, so to speak. Here are my favorite products to relieve pain and comfort someone with migraine or other chronic pain.

Essential Oil Aromatherapy Roll-Ons

Essential oil aromatherapy roll-ons, which come in a variety of scents, are portable, cost only about $10-13 each, and have been a life-saving product for me the last several months. My favorites are Migrastil Migraine Stick (therapeutic grade spearmint, peppermint, and lavender essential oils in a base of fractionated coconut oil), Aromata’s Headache Be Gone (lavender, peppermint, and wild-grown frankincense essential oils in almond oil), and Lavender Calm (organic essential oil of lavender in almond oil).

Some people may have sensitivities to lavender, so they might like the lavender-free Prime Natural Headache Relief (peppermint, Spanish sage, cardamom, ginger, and fennel essential oils in grapeseed oil). I like these roll-ons so much that I bought a second set to carry in my purse (the Aromata brands come in a small bag, so I store a few roll-ons in one of those pretty bags and toss it into my purse.) I swipe the essential oil roll-ons along the trigeminal nerve, from my temples to the spot in front of my ear, on both sides of my head (even though I only have pain on one side), on both sides of my collarbone, on the back of my neck down the center and on the back of the neck from the center outward at the hairline. These roll-ons immediately reduce pain, and though the scents only last about half an hour, they are not overpowering.

Essential Oil Aromatherapy Balms

Since someone else wearing perfume or other odorous products can trigger attacks, I try to be extremely conscientious with fragrances in public spaces, even if the fragrances are therapeutic ones. For people who need more subtle or short-lasting essential oil aromatherapy products, I recommend Badger Balm’s Headache Soother and Stress Soother, which are under $10 for a single balm or under $15 for a two-pack.

Headache Soother contains the following certified organic ingredients: Extra Virgn Olive Fruit Oil, Beeswax, Castor Seed Oil, Lavender Flower Oil, Menthol, Peppermint Leaf Oil, Sunflower Vitamin E, Eucalyptus Leaf Oil, Mandarin Peel  Oil, Sandalwood Oil, Calendula Flower Extract, Rosehip Fruid Extract.
Stress Soother contains the following certified organic ingredients: Extra Virgin Olive Fruit Oil,  Beeswax, Tangerine Peel Oil, Lavender Flower Oil, Rosemary Leaf Oil, Cedar Wood Oil, Sunflower Vitamin E Oil, Spearmint Leaf Oil, Damascene Rose Flower Oil, Calendula Flower Extract, Rosehip Fruit Extract, Roman Chamomile Flower Oil.

Since Badger Balms have more ingredients than any of the roll-ons listed above, I was initially hesitant to try these pain relief products. However, I’d used Badger’s Muscle Balm with great success, so I decided to try some of their other Soothers, which are more portable than their balms in a tin and don’t require you to dip your fingers into the balm to apply it to your skin.

All of these essential oil aromatherapy products, roll-ons and balm sticks, are portable and can be applied directly to the skin (barring absence of any allergies to the individual ingredients). Because these products contain essential oils, already diluted for application to the skin, and because they are portable, they would be weelcome additions to any chronic pain or migraine warrior’s self-care bag.

Heating & Cooling Sacks

SacksyThyme All Natural Premium Herbal Heating and Cooling Sacks are filled with organic flaxseed, or a combination of organic flaxseed and cherry pits, in a woven 100% cotton cover, and cost $30-40 each. The Sack can be put in the microwave for 90 seconds for warmth, misted with a little water before heating for moist heat, or placed in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer for 2 hours for chilled relief (and then stored in the sealed bag in freezer for instant comfort). I bought a Medium Unscented (13″ x 7.5″) one, which has no odor at all from the cloth or the filling; they also have an XL Unscented (16″ x 13″), covered with woven cotton on one side and cotton fleece on the other. The Sack comes in various sizes (L is 22″ x 7.5″), colors (blue, green, black, grey, etc), and prints (paisley, houndstooooth, plaid, leaves, bubbles, etc.). SacksyThyme also offers the same organic flaxseed or cherry pit filling with a proprietary blend of essential oils (lavender, cherry, eucalyptus, and lemon verbena). SacksyThyme makes an Unscented XLong Neck Wrap, filled with organic flaxseed, that can be heated in the microwave and won’t fall off your neck (22″ x 6″, and available in charcoal, hot pink, or dark red).

All SacksyThyme’s heating/cooling pads come with a one-year warranty.

Guided Meditations & Self-Hypnosis

Guided Meditations or Self-Hypnosis can reduce pain, and I’m a big fan of Belleruth Naparstek and have used her guided meditations since the early 90s (when they came on cassette tapes only). I regularly use her Meditation to Ease Pain and Meditation to Help Relieve Headaches, which features a guided meditation for relief of headache pain as well as a meditation designed to help prevent future head pain. Health Journeys has guided meditations specifically for the pain from TMJ, and Naparstek, one of the founders of Health Journeys, has meditations for traumatic brain injury, migraine, to increase healthful sleep, to promote general wellness, and more. These audio guided meditations are available in MP3 or CD format ($11.98 or $17.98, respectively) and are also available to stream from Health Journeys app for Android and iOS, which features a 7-day free trial. Though I still have the original cassettes with these guided mediations, I prefer the MP3 versions since I was able to make a playlist out of all the Belleruth Naparstek guided meditations: I put the volume on Low, put in my wireless earphones, and play the meditations on Repeat all day long to relieve pain.

Health Journeys sponsors a large library of guided meditations, with many of them devoted to pain relief and healing. Health Journeys also has other items for pain relief and healing, including guided meditations by Dr. Andrew Weil, one of the leaders in holistic medicine (CDs only), essential oils, books, pillows, lotions, etc. Health Journeys has gift cards ($15-$100) so that recipients can choose their own gifts. Health Journey’s catalogue is available online or by mail. If you or your give receipients have any questions about Health Journey’s Guided Meditations or other products, founder Belleruth Naparstek is available via email to answer questions.

It doesn’t take a great deal of money to comfort people with chronic pain and migraine. Most of us have to spend a great deal of time at home, and virtually all of us with migraine or other chronic pain have to invest a great deal of time taking care of themselves. Gifts developed specifically for people with chronic pain make holiday gift-buying easier. Everyone with migraine or other chronic pain will appreciate receiving gifts that will help with their self-care.


Related Posts on Migraine & Chronic Pain

For more of my articles on migraine or chronic pain,
see my Migraine & Chronic Pain page.

Related Posts on Migraine,
Chronic Pain, and Insomnia Relief

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Continue reading
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Share

Leave a Comment

Filed under Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia, Audiobooks, Books, Caregivers, chronic pain, Chronic Pain Treatment, E-books, healing, Health and Wellness, hemiplegic migraines, Meditation and MIndfulness, migraine, migraine self-care, Migraine Treatment, Migraine with Aura, Migraine Without Aura, migraines, Neuropathic Facial Pain, PTSD, Self-Hypnosis Apps, Self-Hypnosis Meditation Apps, trigeminal neuralgia, trigeminal neuropathy

Relax Melodies: A Great Free App for Insomnia Relief and Meditation

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Whether caused by good or bad life events, insomnia can hit anyone at any time and is due to multiple causes (discussed more fully here). Short term or “acute” insomnia can be caused by common illnesses, while chronic illness, disease, and disorders can cause acute insomnia to become chronic. Over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications, along with some herbal remedies, can bring on this sleep disorder, though not for everyone. Trauma, at any time in life, can cause long-term negative effects including insomnia, as can blue light from our digital devices. Even the brain seems to have its own wake and sleep cycles, which can get stuck on “wake,” preventing sleep. Though Sleep with Me Podcast is the best free app for insomnia relief that I’ve ever found, Relax Melodies is another free app that significantly helps reduce insomnia.

Lapierre and Bérubé. Photo © Ipnos

Relax Melodies was made by Simon Alex Bérubé and Philippe Lapierre after the latter was troubled with chronic insomnia triggered by tinnitus. Lapierre tried different sound-apps to mask the ringing in his ears, but found the sound choices limited. With another software engineer, his friend Bérubé, the two developed an app that includes 52 free sounds and melodies (the paid version has 122 sounds and melodies). Some of the soothing sounds in the Relax Melodies include white noise, rain, flute, campfire, windchimes, humming, cat purring, city ambience, monk chant, tribal drums, forest, and city day (nice bird sounds). The Discover tab allows you to listen to some of the most popular combinations of sounds and melodies created by app users as well as by its staff. Some of these have a few too many sounds for my liking, but most of them are absolutely wonderful. The app also allows you to create your own melodies: simply tap on one, two, or three of the icons to hear how they sound together. There is no limit to the sounds you can combine., but if you combine add too many, you may have nothing but noise, which may not help if you’re trying to sleep or playing it behind either of the best free apps for migraine and chronic pain relief.

The Brainwave melodies include Isochronic tones (no headphones required) and Binaural Beats (headphones required), and all of these range from range from 2.5 Hz (Dreamless Sleep) to 20 Hz (Focus). Each of the brainwaves is explained under the app’s Learn More.

One of my favorite things about Relax Melodies is its background sound support: you can play it while using other apps and that includes Sleep with Me Podcast and the Migraine and Headache Relief or Chronic Pain Relief self-hypnosis-meditation apps. I love having the Relax Melodies grandfather clock or rain playing behind these pain relief tapes, especially when I have a migraine attack and play them all day long at a low volume. And the app’s sounds are just as comforting when painsomnia — insomnia caused by both acute and chronic pain — keeps me awake in the long dark night.

Free vs. Paid Version of Relax Melodies
The app’s free version includes its most important features for combatting insomnia. Relax Melodies may not take your away your insomnia permanently, but it does significantly reduce insomnia for most of its listeners. Even when I’m in pain from a migraine attack, they help me drift off to sleep, if only for 10-15 minutes at a time. Combined with Drew Ackerman’s Sleep with Me Podcast, I’m bound to feel some relief for my nagging chronic insomnia, even when its caused by a migraine attack.

The paid version, which is $4.99 for a one-month access to all features, or $27.99 for a lifetime license, features additional sounds, guided meditations, and guided movement meditations designed to get you ready for bed or to help you reduce stress and body tension. These are some of the paid features:

• Sleep Moves has moving meditations designed to relax you before your nightly sleep.

• Guided Meditations include Sleep (to help you fall asleep), De-Stress (to reduce stress and anxiety), Life Coach (to reduce stress, improve your relationships, and improve focus), and Reduce (to reduce tinnitus), and more, with additional guided meditations on napping and dreaming.

• Breathe has both daytime and nighttime Sound Breathing: counted inhale/exhale to specific sounds, like water or Om. for daytime, and the yogic breathing techniques like De-Stress, where you inhale, hold, and exhale breath to the count of 4-7-8, respectively, while the app plays a different sound for each section, providing both visual and sound clues on-screen. The 4-7-8 Breath is recommended for stress relief by many leading health authorities, including Dr. Andrew Weil and Healthline.

You can join over 30 million other users by downloading the popular Relax Melodies app, available in 10 languages, with a 4.5 out of 5* rating (with 700,000 reviews), from Ipnos after selecting your type of smartphone, from Amazon for Kindle, from the App Store for iOS devices, and from Google Play for Android devices.

Relax Melodies is on Twitter, though the account seems to be relatively inactive, and Facebook, where the posts are more current and where they are quite responsive (replies within 24 hours), if you have any questions.

Sleep well, my Lovelies.


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Head-Banger’s Ball: Escaping Abuse the Hard Way

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Trigger Warning
This post, though not graphic,
discusses childhood sexual abuse.

Life is unbearable,
but death is not so pleasant either.
Russian Proverb

I was dancing when it happened. After almost four years, I’d just had the braces removed from my legs and, in my joy at being free, I was dancing all around the kitchen and the empty dining room, wearing nothing but my panties and a camisole. My father was there, drinking beer, watching me, following me all around the house. I thought he was impressed with my improvised ballet skills. I don’t remember where my mother was, though I do know that it was late at night.

When my father grabbed me and began kissing me, I squirmed and twisted away. I wanted to dance, not kiss. Besides, I didn’t like the way he was kissing me, putting his nasty tongue all over my face and mouth. I fought hard enough to make him lose hold of me. When he tried to grab me again, I ran to the kitchen and got under the table, trying to hide.

Unfortunately, he found me.

My biological father first raped me when I was 3. My mother walked in when it was happening, and had to beat my father over the head to make him stop. Instead of taking me for medical attention, my mother told me I was a “bad girl” and locked me in the closet until I stopped crying. I don’t know how many days I was in that closet, but it seemed longer than any lifetime. I couldn’t understand what I’d done, but I vowed never to forget.

As soon as I earned my freedom from that closet, I  began telling people that my father had done something bad to me. I told family members, neighbors, doctors, nurses — anyone I thought could punish him. Anyone I thought could make him stop hurting me, which he continued to do. No one listened until I was 4 or 5 years old, when a Judge, in his chambers, asked me to show him — by pointing to my body — where my father was hurting me.

I don’t remember what events led up to that encounter in the Judge’s chambers, only that he was kind and patient, that he actually listened to me, and that after I talked to the Judge, my biological father lost all visitation rights. Furthermore, though I visited my father’s parents each weekend and though he now lived with them, he was not even permitted to be in the same room with me. I never saw my father again.

After my mother divorced my father, I thought I would be safe from men’s violence. Unfortunately, by the time I was 5, my mother was already dating a man who was sexually abusing me in every way imaginable, doing more atrocious things than my biological father had done. At the ripe old age of seven, after an entire lifetime of abuse from my mother, my father, and my mother’s boyfriend (who later became my stepfather), I decided that life was unbearable, so I decided to kill myself.

My only problem was that I wasn’t exactly sure how someone did that. During the last violent fight with my father, my mother had slammed him in the head with a cast-iron skillet. I’d seen him lying motionless on the floor, surrounded by a pool of blood. When the police arrived, my mother told them she’d killed her husband because he’d killed me. Though my father actually survived the assault, he was seriously injured. Because I never saw him again, I thought he was, in fact, dead. Since my mother had “killed” my father by bashing him in the head with the cast-iron frying pan, I decided, at the world-weary age of seven, to become a head-banger.

Swing-sets, telephone poles, brick houses. Fence posts, church pews, marble statues. Bang, bang, bang. Walls, bedposts, porch supports. Basement floors, steel pipes, tree trunks. Bang, bang, bang.

I hit my head so hard so many times in a row that mostly I walked around in a daze. Sometimes I hit my head so hard that I fell asleep. Each time that head-banging numbness rushed over me, I was convinced I’d successfully killed myself, and I was so relieved and so grateful that I could never be hurt again that I slipped into that deadened sleep with something like joy.

Each time, however, I woke up.
Disappointed.
With an unbearable headache.
And with dreadful pressure in my skull.

Although many people know that a baby’s skull plates move — to allow it to pass through the birth canal — they don’t realize that the plates of the skull remain mobile throughout life. The brain and the spinal cord, furthermore, are surrounded by their own pulsing, hydraulic system that does not match the rhythm of the heart, breathing, or any other system of the body. Dr. John Upledger discovered this brain-spinal-cord hydraulic system and named it the “craniosacral system.” Upledger went on to develop a medical massage therapy designed to put the craniosacral system back in proper alignment.

When the plates of the skull are not in their proper position, as from any common injury such as bumping the head hard, then headaches and pressure inside the skull (from the non-circulation of craniosacral fluid) may occur. A severe head trauma, or even a minor fall from a slide or swing, can shift or jam the skull plates, preventing the craniosacral fluid from moving as it is designed to do, creating a tremendous build-up of pressure — and pain — inside the skull. The pain and the pressure will only stop when the skull plates are restored to their normal positions, something that may take many sessions with trained craniosacral therapists, especially if the skull plates have been jammed for years after some serious accident.

Of course, in my case, it was many accidents, some of them caused by my repeated head-banging at age 7, some of those accidents caused by my mother from the time I was born, but one of the most serious head injuries caused by my father during an argument with my mother.

My parents were both drunk the day it happened. They were standing in the living room, quite close to each other, screaming and shoving and hitting each other. My father suddenly shouted something that made my mother jump at him, clawing at his face. Then he began choking her. Since what he’d shouted had been about me, I must have felt, even at three years old, morally obligated to separate them. So there I was, shoving myself between their knees, trying to push them apart so they wouldn’t kill each other and leave me all alone to be sent to an orphanage.

In his drunken rage, my father must have perceived me as quite a pest, something you just fling away from you. So that’s what he did. He grabbed me under the arms, lifted me as high as he could, and flung me away. I remember the sudden rush of air as he swept me upward, the terrible, mind-numbing fear, the choking sensation I felt as he released me and I flew, without a net, across the room.

I remember the horrific jolt of pain as I smashed the upper right side of my head against the marble mantel of the fireplace.

I remember, too, the cold blackness that descended on me in an instant.

By the time my migraines got so debilitating that my family doctor recommended I go to craniosacral therapists, I was over forty years old. As soon as they touched my head, the medical therapists informed me that the right frontal skull-plate was “significantly jammed” under the left one. It was wedged under the other one so tightly, they couldn’t fix it in one treatment. Also, since it was a long-standing injury, they informed me, the muscles of my face and head had gotten used to holding the plate in the incorrect position. They agreed with the doctor that, though my tendency toward migraines was probably hereditary * as well, the jammed frontal skull plate wasn’t making the migraines any better.

The therapists warned me that, as they attempted, over several sessions (which turned into several months), to free the wedged cranial plate from under the other one, my migraines might get much worse before they improved. They were absolutely right. I’d been having about seventeen migraines a month when I went to see them. The first month of treatment, I had twenty-seven migraines. It took them five months of three-times-a-week sessions to get the jammed skull plates back into place.

When the skull plates moved back into their proper positions, the intense and unremitting pressure in my head disappeared. The pressure that I’d grown up with and assumed was normal had been caused by the craniosacral fluid’s inability to circulate freely around the skull plates and the spinal column. As soon as the right frontal plate slid free of the left one, the crushing pressure inside my head disappeared. I lay on the massage table and wept in gratitude and relief.

When I told my psychologist about all the times I’d banged my head when I was a little girl, trying to kill myself, she said she doubted that I’d really been attempting to commit suicide. She said that since I was so determined and so successful in other areas of my life, if I’d really been trying to kill myself, I probably would have succeeded. She said that I’d been in so much emotional and psychological pain that I was merely trying to medicate myself. Since I didn’t have any healthy coping skills, I’d banged my head against the hardest things I could find, to “numb” my pain.

I still maintain that I was trying to kill myself in order to escape the incessant torture from my mother and my rapist stepfather, and to atone for my father’s murder, which I believed I’d caused since my parents had been fighting about me when my mother “killed” my father with the cast-iron skillet.

You see, that day, when my mother killed my father by slamming him in the face with the skillet, they were fighting about me. That day, when my father said the words that sent my other into her uncontrollable rage — making her scratch his face, which then made him choke her — he was talking about me. The words he said were what I myself had been saying to my mother, family members, neighbors, and doctors for some time, though I said it like this: He does bad things to me.

That day, my father said it to my mother himself, despite her already knowing what he was doing to me, but he said it in a way that she couldn’t ignore. I didn’t understand what he meant, but I always remembered his exact words.

“Sascha’s a better fuck than you are.”

Bang, bang, bang.

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* Familial Hemiplegic Migraines (FHM) are caused by a genetic neurological disorder. I have FHM as well as from Complex Migraines.
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Note: a different version of this post was published in March 2017. This version has been updated.

a small portion of this post is adapted from my true crime memoir M is for Munchers: The Serial Killers Next Door © 2002, 2007, 2014, 2017 by Alexandria Constantinova Szeman. All rights reserved. No content may be copied, excerpted, or distributed without express written consent of the author and publisher, with copyright credit to the author. Please don’t support the piracy of Intellectual Property.

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Filed under Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia, Audiobooks, Books, Caregivers, chronic pain, Chronic Pain Treatment, E-books, healing, Health and Wellness, hemiplegic migraines, Meditation and MIndfulness, migraine, migraine self-care, Migraine Treatment, Migraine with Aura, Migraine Without Aura, migraines, Neuropathic Facial Pain, PTSD, Self-Hypnosis Apps, Self-Hypnosis Meditation Apps, trigeminal neuralgia, trigeminal neuropathy