How I Dealt With Chronic Pain That Wouldn't Go Away
Blogger and weight loss memoirist Jennette Fulda wasn’t sure what was going on when she started getting headaches, only that eventually she had to come to terms with the fact that her headache wasn’t going away. Unluckily for her, but luckily for us, the result of her ongoing quest for pain relief is her memoir Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief From the Headache That Wouldn’t Go Away (Gallery Books). She details everything she did to try to cure her headache, to the tune of $10,000, trouble at work, and umpteen suggestions from well-meaning readers, with only minimal results. The 30-year-old web designer talked to us about humor as a coping mechanism, dealing with inept doctors, what to say (and not to say) to a chronic pain sufferer, and who’d play her headache in a movie.
Rachel Kramer Bussel: What was your experience with headaches prior to the time period you cover in Chocolate & Vicodin?
Jennette Fulda: When I was a kid I occasionally got headaches if I was dehydrated or stressed out. Then when I was twenty-one I got a headache when I was driving three hours to visit a friend. I got detoured because of a chemical spill on the highway, got lost, got found, and got pulled over by a cop for speeding. That headache lasted for a month, but when I finally made myself visit the doctor she gave me a beta-blocker that made it go away. I took that pill every night for six years. I tried to go off of it twice, with my doctor's supervision, but when I did the headache came back. Then when I was 27 the meds stopped working and I've had a headache ever since, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. (And because I got the headache during a leap year, that was 366 days that year.)
How far into your headache journey did you get the idea for the memoir?
It was when a nurse came to my home to insert an IV in my arm so I could give myself a home IV treatment every day that week. I couldn't believe they were trusting me with this. It was insane. I could have injected anything into that thing! Or infected myself with bacteria from my kitchen table! So I decided I had to blog about it, but the blog entry got really long. That's when I thought it might be a book, but at that point the book didn't have an ending or even that much of a middle since that scene happens around page 60.
There’s a lot of humor in the book, even when you’re discussing very challenging times when you were pretty much unable to do much besides lie on the couch. Does humor come naturally to you and, especially relating to the headache, was it a coping mechanism?
Several people have asked me this, and I've thought about it a lot. I've come to the conclusion that I have no idea where my sense of humor comes from. It's just part of who I am. My family likes to joke around a lot and when we have an extended family reunion sometimes all the laughing makes pets flee the room. So it might come from that. Regardless, humor definitely helped me deal with the headache because if I wasn't laughing I'd be crying. And crying is bad for the headache. It makes me feel all stuffy.
You talk about chronic pain in the book and I must admit that I’ve never through about that in terms of headaches. How do headaches fit in with the world of chronic pain sufferers?