Summer time has arrived. A whole year of school and hard work has passed and there is much to celebrate.
My name is Vince Fontaine and I’m part of the NSI New Voices Alumni of 2015. I’ve just finished my six weeks of classroom training and today was the last day of post-production on my short film.
I’ve really enjoyed the intensity of the whole process, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have days with anxiety.
Yes, some of that was from the program itself, but there was also the anxious feeling of not knowing if, or when, my next cycle of cluster headaches would start.
I am a cluster headache survivor. That’s exactly what cluster headache victims are.
Cluster headaches, often more crudely nicknamed “Suicide” headaches, are among the most painful types of headaches. They are not headaches as most people know them. They always happen on either the left or right side of the head and always happen at the same time of day. My attack time is between the hours of 2:00 and 4:00 a.m., although there are triggers, such as alcohol, that can cause them to happen anytime.
The headaches are called “cluster” due to the fact they happen in extended clusters of time, some cycles lasting one to four weeks.
The pain is very intense and occurs in and around the eye. To put the pain into graphic detail, imagine this: an icepick is inserted into the eye and every five minutes someone tugs the ice pick and a huge bolt of excruciating pain is added to the constant sharp throb. This usually lasts two hours.
Looking back on my past I realize I’ve always had them since childhood and for the longest time I just called them “eye aches”.
It wasn’t until 2009 that I was legitimately diagnosed with cluster headaches. Since then I’ve had five cycles, three of them lasted for two weeks, every February from 2009 to 2011, and two cycles lasted for about two weeks in June for the past two years.
So, you can see where my extra anxiety was coming from. When cluster headaches start, I have no option but to endure and try the various treatments out there that at least help me cope during an attack. These include: breathing oxygen from a tank, taking the drug verapamil or, the most effective so far, steroid injections into the head. They hurt but I’d rather that than the attacks.
Pregnant women who suffer cluster headache attacks have claimed to prefer hours of labor pains than minutes of a cluster headache. So it’s no fun.
The month is almost over and I can perhaps sigh with relief that I missed this year’s cycle. I’m very grateful for all of my opportunity and experiences, but for also being in good health.