I have suffered headaches for forever. Sometimes cervical spasms with vomiting, sometimes I feel half of my face pulsating, sometimes it’s a migraine with an aura, during which I cannot see or hear for three hours. I’ve been with this nice illness since I was a kid. Although the headache is underestimated by those who do not have it, it is to all effect a debilitating illness that sometimes forces you to sleep in a dark and silent room for a whole day and anyway at best, you live muffled, slowed down and unconcentrated for three days in a row.
A headache is difficult to cure, the causes are multiple and different for each of us. But I don’t give up. After years of happy coexistence with Aulin (I can say that I was young, little aware of the side effects, with a strong liver and strong attitude to party) I have tried the following therapies:
- Swimming: It seems to relax the muscles of the neck. But it bores you to death and then I hate the cold water on my skin. And still it did not work.
- The Contraceptive Pill: It appears to sometimes regulate the flow of hormones that if unbalanced cause headaches. It made mine worse.
- Traction from the physiotherapist: Extremely pleasant but useless.
- Tecar therapy: Same concept, loosen and relaxes the muscles of the neck and shoulders, but not mine.
- Glasses: Worn.
- Teeth: Checked.
- Body alignment: Done it, including Pancafit and stretching.
- Neurologist: Just in case I have a brain tumor … you never know. No tumor and new medical care. Against my will I started taking beta-blockers. They seem to be miraculous and with less devastating side effects of Aulin and Hepuprofen. In very rare cases (0.01%) can cause cystitis. After 3 months of burning and orange urine, I decided that it was enough.
- Osteopath: For him the problem seemed to be blood pressure. After the third session, I came out with painful cysts at the base of my neck and the panic of a stroke caused me to lose confidence in the cure (although the pressure inside the ear was particularly pleasant).
- Diet: Great success here. Turns out that I’m intolerant to wheat and dairy. The diet was long and extremely tiring, the results remarkable. Headache drastically reduced and bearable, 22 pound weight loss in 6 months. I felt like a terminal ill patient, but no migraine. Unfortunately, after 2 years, despite the fact that I am a food-conscious person, the attacks began again.
- Acupuncture: Even though I am agophobic (like I have my hand held while having blood drawn) I braced myself and went to Dr. Zhong every Tuesday morning. Result: I looked like Po of Kung Fu Panda with headaches.
Given the nasty results I’ve made so far, I decided to do it for myself. I do physical activity, eat well, drink little, avoid certain foods near the period, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, meditate to control the stress. Of course stress and anxiety, it does not take a neurologist to understand it, does not help.
So here I am in China, ready to throw myself into the arms of Chinese medicine.
I went to Dr.Ho’s medical office. It’s just a matter of how to line up with a basic practitioner, but instead of asking “who is the last one”, you take a number. The similarities with our Italian family doctor ends here. The waiting room, the doctor’s desk and the pharmacy are all in the same room. So everyone knows what you have … hemorrhoids, dysentery or pustules.
The air is filled with the pungent smell of Chinese herbs, the pharmacist crumbles with the pestle the roots of various colors and weighs them in a golden libra, as a music background a repetitive relaxing mantra.
My eye falls on the wall clock. For every hour of the day there is a Chinese character with its English translation. I suppose they used a bad translator because it does not make any sense, and yet I keep staring at it. I’m in the Joyful hour. Hope it brings me well.
After an endless wait it is my turn. The doctor has a friendly smile and a sweet look, she seats me and starts to feel my right pulse. She looks at my eyes and controls my tongue.
“You suffer from headache.” Wow I think.
“You have shoulder pain.” I did the MRI for nothing, I re-think, nodding.
She change wrists and checks the left pulse.
“You don’t sleep well and you eat little.” This is a genius, I re-re-think.
She take a sheet from the book of prescriptions and start writing fast the medicine recipe. Her calligraphy looks like a tribal tattoo, her hand as an artist painting.
The pharmacist prepares everything for me and tells me with a hand gesture that the herbs should be cooked and I can go back to drinking the concoction after an hour. So I walk around the city, I go to look at the villain hitters who are right here behind, eat something because the Chinese medicine cannot be taken on an empty stomach.
I come back to the Doctor in the Cheerful Hour. I find on a shelf in the middle of dozens of bottles, one with my name written on it. Of course it is wrong, but it is the only Western name so it must be that. I pour the liquid in a paper glass and look at it worried. It’s black and nothing appetizing. I smell it. Not bad, smells like liquorice. But then I taste it. It taste like a dead mouse but bitterer. I hate bitter things. I hate the bitter orange jam, Belgian indive, rocket, grapefruit and sugar-free coffee. I will never do it.
My friend Claudia is approaching the pharmacist’s desk and with conscious air (she is a Dr.Ho’s affectionate customer) passes me a pack of paper containing a dry plum.
“Keep it in your mouth as you drink, takes out a bit of the bad taste.” I try.
“Argggh, it fucking didn’t take out the bad taste. It still taste like a dead mouse with a light plumage aftertaste.”
I gather my courage and slowly put it down.
We go back to the street and I start to burp. Heavily and uncontrollably. I’m laughing, with the Chinese medicine I would have won the burp championship in the basketball team changing room.
I get home at Casual Elegant hour. I am thinking to change my dress and go celebrating instead the gut must have some purifying effect because I spend the hour and the three consecutive days on the toilet. And I have no dysentery. It’s just heavy accumulated matter, excess toxins. Given that I eat very less the amount of stuff that has been expelled must have been there since 1990.
Anyway, I go to Dr.Ho every Friday. For now, no headache. I drink different colored and flavored stuff each time, she changes them depending on what she sees and hears from my eyes, tongue and pulse. With her sweet voice she smiles at me and always tells me the same thing that summed up in earthly words is this:
“You are empty of stuff and full of shit.”