An interesting thing happened last week after my post Quantified Self and False Pattern Recognition. In that post, I mentioned the benefit I have received from ending the daily tracking.
I don’t think I’ve had a single headache this entire year that has woke me up in the middle of the night that was intense enough to prevent me from returning to sleep. During the 2.5 year Quantified Self experiment, I averaged 7.5 bad headaches a month.
Guess what happened next? I started getting headaches. Just a few nights, but they seemed to come out of the blue. The last time that happened was in November. From the post Life After Quantified Self.
For three weeks after I ended the daily data collection, I didn’t get a single headache. That is a record. Even in my month with no coffee that never happened. In fact I didn’t even get my first headache of the month until someone asked how it was going and then I became aware that I was having a record month.
Stress is likely the cause of the headaches. Posting about headaches is stressful. Responding to comments about headaches is stressful. Talking about headaches is as well. So I am done. This is the last post I will be doing on my headaches. I will also be closing out the comments on all the older headache posts.
Perception of Pain
Right now I am reading the book Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It by Gabor Mate M.D. If that name sounds familiar it is because he also wrote the book The Stress Disease Connection, which I blogged about in December 2012.
In Scattered there is a passage describing how we perceive pain varies depending upon the environment. In situations where you aren’t alone, pain can be more intense. The book uses the example of a skier who breaks her leg. If the break happens when the person is with someone the pain will likely be higher than if the person is alone. If the hiker is alone, the risk of freezing to death could dampen the pain enough to mobilize the skier to move.
Although my headaches were never an emergency situation, the passage stuck with me. This blog and the data I exposed publicly via Quantified Self created a situation where I was never alone with my pain. Daily quantification of pain makes one hyper-focused on pain. Only when I stopped Quantified Self, stopped blogging about headaches, and stopped talking about headaches did the pain go away.
Stress As a Cause or a Symptom?
I hesitate to say that stress was the absolute cause of the headaches. I don’t know, nor do I think I ever will. And that is OK. I do know the headaches were unrelated to diet and weather. Focusing on reducing stress and improving my response to stress is the way forward and that can’t be quantified.
So this is the last post I will be doing on headaches. I will no longer be responding to any ideas or suggestions related to headaches. Thank you for following this journey. Maybe you got something of value from it.