Monthly Archives: October 2016

A bit of a headache

For 16 months I have had chronic sinusitis.

16 months.

If you have had sinusitis, you know what it feels like. If you haven’t, it is pretty tricky to describe. Imagine a headache. Only this headache never goes away. It feels like it is expanding your skull – only your skull can’t expand because it’s solid bone. The best ‘every day’ analogy, would be when you land at an airport, and your ears feel blocked. After a few minutes, the air pushes out of you like a deflating balloon, with that ever so satisfying ‘psssssscht’: it feels quite good, because your ears are not blocked any more. Sinusitis feels a bit like that. Only the pressure is in your forehead. And there is no satisfying ‘psssssscht’.

Another way of describing it would be to drill into my forehead to release the pressure. And it would be just lovely.

Sinusitis is caused by something in, or around the sinus cavities. Some cavities can be blocked full of mucus (or snot). Other cavities can get irritated by dust, pollen, or even over sensitive nerves. These are generally dealt with by drops, sprays, or antibiotics, sometimes resulting in a somewhat unexpected sudden discharge of mucus (snot). For such a severe, chronic pain, I imagined all my sinus cavities to be blocked. For strange shaped cavities to be pressing here, or obscuring that. Sadly, there was nothing spectacular about the cause of my sinusitis. In fact, it was caused by a rather pathetic looking, extremely small blob at the bottom of one of my sinus cavities.

This is my head. That small gloop has caused tremendous pressure in me head for the last 16 months.

This is my head. The red arrow points to where a small blob of gloop has caused the pain.

That small gloop has caused tremendous pressure in my head for the last 16 months.

Every day.

For 16 months.

It doesn’t keep me bed bound all the time. It is just there. Throbbing. Pain. Sometimes it does get very bad. So bad my eyeball hurts. My eyeball!!

After shoving several small tubes of sprays and drops up my nostrils, and a myriad of antibiotics and steroids, I finally got an operation booked in. I was to have a balloon sinoplasty. A simple operation where the surgeon drills up my nostril, and inflates a small balloon to expand the sinus cavity. My surgeon (who also, somewhat terrifyingly,  happens to be an expert on Jack the Ripper) peered up my nostrils for the first time and said that they are the worst nasal passages he has ever seen. That’s always lovely to hear. Now the surgeon will be drilling up both nostrils to expand both cavities, and making my nasal passages a little less tight.

(For those who haven’t heard me talk, I sound uncannily like Mr Snuffleupagus. My voice is super nasally. I talk like I have a permanent blocked nose. And because of that I often mumble. I am a little intrigued if this will help me sound a little less like a giant puppet mammoth.)


I have just had the surgery, and I am now home. I woke up after the surgery feeling a little bit drunk. I don’t know what I said to the poor post-theatre staff, but they were giggling. I am sure I mentioned dinosaurs. And Star Wars. And Game of Thrones. I looked in the mirror, and I am strangely unscarred: I thought I would wake looking like Darkman, but there were no bandages and no bruises. I am a little terrified of seeing gallons of mucus (snot) fall uncontrollably from my face. I am told it won’t happen. Lets see.

The staff were all amazing – I was in and out in 6 hours. I saw half a dozens different staff, each unbelievably kind, friendly and caring. And it was free. FREE. For everyone’s moaning about the NHS, the service, and staff, do an incredible job. They were all fantastic.

So now, home, I lie here and wait. That’s the hardest part. I am never ill. I get bored if I am not doing something. This is actually my first day off work sick. Ever. In 10 years of working at the museum, I have never had a sick day. And I am annoyed that that ridiculously, almost verging on comical, small bit of gloop forced me to take a few days off.

I normally don’t write about myself. I am terrible with sympathy: I honestly don’t know what to say if it is offered to me. I start to get flushed. Nervous. I rapidly change the subject. The same thing happens when I am complimented on something: I have literally no idea how to react. In person, when someone can see my face, I am a mess. I avoid eye contact. I do a ridiculous smile which clearly shows my discomfort. Sometimes my eye twitches. Being conscious of this, I feel my face starting to twitch. I then waffle about something incomprehensible before passing the compliment back onto that person. It is not pretty.

Except for family and a few close friends, I haven’t shared my daily headaches on Facebook or Twitter. Personally, I don’t see the point, or the need to. There are much, much worse things happening all over the world than my head pains. Much worse.

So why write this post. It is not for sympathy (or compliments). I think a lot of us go through problems in our lives every day. Some people may share health issues on social media. Other, like myself, do not want to worry people. A headache every day for 16 months is bad (real bad). If I mentioned it on social media every single day for 16 months, it would drive people crazy! I can’t lie in bed moaning. Life goes on, and it is what we make it. Some people have really serious, lifelong issues. I don’t want those to feel smaller because of a headache. (It is really interesting to discuss, and could be a really long blog post, because the pain anyone has affects them. Everyone deals with it differently. This is how I deal with it – it is not the right way, or the wrong way. It’s my way.)

I know some friends who have been through really terrible things. One good friend has sinusitis so bad, they get flu-like symptoms at least twice a month. Every day she has the sinus pain, but no one would ever know. Another friend has had the most horrendous chronic pain in his back and insides. He has had numerous appointments, and operations, and at one point it was close to life threatening. No one would know because he carries on.

I guess the reason for me writing this post is that people are going through something every day. They may be caring for a family member, or themselves. If you are reading this, you know you are no alone. You only have to share what you are comfortable sharing. If you have a bad day and have not been as productive as you wanted, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes the pressures of social media can add an extra strain. The truth is, it doesn’t matter: Twitter will still be there with the awesome science; Facebook isn’t really going anywhere; your blog post can wait.

What is important is you. Your health – mental and physical. If you feel crap, rest. Rest, and know you are not alone.


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