Wednesday, 12 December 2012

How a Christmas Tree gave me a Migraine…

“You did what?” snapped my Mother over the phone.

“Wait till you see it. It’s so shiny.”

“Oh God, sometimes you’re so stupid it’s astonishing. Where are you now?”


I debated telling Mother the truth. I was, at the moment, lying prostrate on the floor in our sitting room, strapped in a neck brace, slipping into a rather comforting medication induced haze, staring up at the twinkly fairy lights I had painstainkingly wrapped around the 6 foot 1 Christmas tree that had nearly broken my back.

“Um, I’m just in the kitchen making myself some food!”

“Liar. Are you getting a migraine?”



“Do I need to come home?”

“Mum, I’m absolutely fine, this is going to be the best bloody Christmas tree we’ve ever had! You’ll be home tomorrow anyway, you’ll simply love what I’ve done with the place.”

And with that I hung up with the phone before Mum could cross-question me further. The packaging of the Zomig nasal spray I had just taken for the “non existent” migraine was digging into my hand, which was, incidentally, riddled with pins and needles. I lay on the floor, staring at my beautiful for creation for about another half an hour before forcing myself to walk/roll into bed. Despite my discomfort (I refuse to use the word agony in this context) I was ever so pleased with myself. Three days later, however, I was beginning to see the folly in my festive fervor.

It all began with an ill-fated trip to HomeBase (our local Gardening/DIY center) to buy a bargain Christmas tree. Before you judge me too harshly you must know that I am obsessed with Christmas. I nearly cried, aged 24, when my family made the Christmas cake without me one year (my sister claimed it was because it was convenient for her 3 young children – puh!) I am still obsessed with finding the perfect recipe for Mulled Wine (by the way I still don’t understand why regular red wine triggers a migraine but I’m fine with Mulled Wine? Probably sweeter and less alcohol?) And mainly I’m obsessed with Christmas trees and decoration of said Christmas trees. They must, absolutely must, touch the ceiling. Else I cry.

Last year, when my migraines were basically back to chronic state, my parents had gone away to France for a few days, so I decided to surprise them by decorating our flat and putting up the tree. All by myself. Now just to remind you I have a bit of a buggered up neck and last December I was fresh from two out-patient procedures where you to get watch a lovely needle being stuck into your spine under live X-ray (to treat torn discs and Cervical Radiculopathy amongst other things.) Here’s a picture! 

I stupidly watched this happen live! Don't my filling's look lovely...

At this point I wasn’t even on Topamax yet and hadn’t started the bi-monthly nerve blocks that have started to also make a real difference to my migraines. I was also working with a physio getting my neck ready to start a course of Prolotherapy Injections (which it’s hoped will toughed up the ligaments in my silly neck, to stop it frequently going into spasm which always send my migraines through the roof.)

Forgetting all of this, I sauntered off to HomeBase to find the biggest Christmas tree I could find. I shoved caroling children and arguing couples aside to make sure I got to the front of the line. This appeared to be the last place in London that was still selling decent trees. By this point I was already beginning to feel a bit dizzy, but I didn’t care that my blood sugar levels were dropping, I wanted a tree that would touch the ceiling. However, when my turn came, I simply pointed to the tallest one I could see and smiled my sweetest smiled and begged the salesman to put it in the back of my car. I remember thinking Mum would be so proud of me.

“It’s not gonna fit, luv” grunted the guy.

“Yes, yes it will, young man, just push!” This young man was clearly an amateur – my giant Christmas tree did not, obviously, fit into the boot of my car but if one left the boot open and did clever maneuvering only about a foot would be poking out. Obviously.

I drove home at a snail’s pace but am pretty sure most of Mum’s golf balls rolled out of the back of the car as I went round a few roundabouts. I ignored the honks and screeches. It’s a small price to pay. I told myself I’d put some replacements in her stocking.

Once safely home, I got out of the car and looked up the flight of stone steps which lead to our front door and which I had, conveniently, forgot exist. Ah. No matter. I would simply drag the tree up said steps. Dragging was not lifting. I was forbidden to lift anything heavy by my physio and Doctors, but I was sure dragging items smoothly along floors and stone steps would be fine. Just fine. It was Christmas, I wanted to surprise my parents after all with a beautifully decorated tree and flat.

So, I took a deep breath and holding the stump lent back and eased it out, as if I was pulling a calf out of its mother’s womb, and the tree plopped out of the back of the car. So far so good. Nothing appeared to be broken, on either myself or the tree. All I had to do now was mount the steps, which seemed to have doubled in length. I realized I’d have to lift the tree a little, so I turned on my abs, clenched my buttocks and went for it. Glide, I told myself, you’re simply gliding uphill. The bloody tree left a green wake of needles behind it. Traitor. If I was writing a film script of this moment you’d see me laboriously clamber to the top of the steps, precariously balance the tree on the top step, only to realize I’d left my house keys in the car, drop the tree down the steps and have to repeat the whole procedure all over again. But that didn’t happen….. ahem.

Once safely inside with a now half bare tree, I realized the battle was only half won and why Mum always had Dad, or whoever else was around, help her right the tree in its stand. They’re bloody heavy and bloody tall. But I was not one to be daunted by such antiquated gender stereotypes; I did not need a man to help me put up a Christmas tree. Oh no.

I knew I could not physically lift the thing up any more, my back was nearly gone and it was just too heavy. What to do? Well, dear reader, cleverly maneuver it onto a chair, putting the stand in just the right place so that you can stand on the stump and, in essence lever it into position! Genius! Yes! That is until it topples over in the wrong direction nearly smashing into smithereens your families antiques -  meaning you have to catch it, hear something go crack and you’re pretty sure the crack is something in your back/neck.

Anyway, to get to the pine needle point: I got the bastard tree up. The stump hadn’t been cut smooth so I had all our kitchen chairs wedging it up while I screwed it in...needless to say I was in tears by the end. Yes, I am quite stupidly stubborn. And then, to make matters worse, once I took off the netting, it appeared to be missing a layer of branches, have two heads and a twisted spine!!! So I decided to make myself a batch of mulled wine and take some pain meds (NO THIS IS NOT WHAT I ADVISE YOU TO DO!!!! THIS WAS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY!)

Bugger tree's best angle! 

I could feel my back and poor neck beginning to seize up but for some ungodly reason I wasn’t going to let the tree beat me. I was going to decorate it. So I dutifully clambered up a ladder and put up the fairy lights. I knew this would cheer me up. I turned on the power. And nothing. Black. Like my mood.

I wept anew.

Still, undeterred, I decided to continue. I think I was now in some kind of trance. In place of branches I put some fake poinsettia’s and managed, even though I say so myself, to make the bastard tree look pretty damn good. I couldn’t feel my hands and my head was beginning to thump but I had managed to save Christmas! Or so I told myself. And then I collapsed on the floor and Mum rang.

Dodgy Photo - but you can see wonky/missing branch

My physio recently reminded me of this festive escapade. She said she had a whole page of notes about ‘the Christmas tree incident’ in my folder. She advised I get a fake, mini tree from Marks and Spenser. I told her I’d rather die. However, much to my horror when I returned from my appointment yesterday, in the corner of our sitting room was a LITTLE Christmas tree. Already in its stand.

“It doesn’t touch the ceiling, Mum”

“It cost £42 and it’s rather lovely.”

“Hmmm.” I sat down and eyed it suspiciously while Mum got out the decorations. This morning I can report that I have no migraine a very cute little tree.


Next Week:
How to Avoid Christmas Migraine Triggers:
Last Christmas I spent Most of the day in bed – How I hope to Avoid triggers this year…..


  1. Haha, where is a picture of this years tree? Also, does your mum read this blog? :-D

    Dropped you a quick email about friday.

    1. Hey lady! Mum realised my foolish ways when she got home and found me imobile in bed for 3 days but grinning at my 'genius'!!??? And yes, she occasionally reads this. Just writing back to you!!! Will be thinking of you tomorrow!!!! xx

  2. thats homebase for you!! if you go to john lewis they give you the migraine free treatment and install it for you!!

    1. Good old John Lewis, never knowing undersold.... maybe they can sponsor me next year...!

  3. Oh lordy, my husband is just like you and your epic quest for huge trees and your love of Christmas. We normally go together to get our Xmas tree, but last year I was in bed with a killer migraine. After he came home he came upstairs to wake me up so I could behold the wonder of the tree and all his manly work. After he woke me up he said, "I just want to say...I'm sorry about the ceiling."

    I didn't even bother to patch the ceiling because he does this every year. I just keep the lights in the living room dim and my guests drunk. Works like a charm.


    1. I think your husband and I would get on very well! Hope you're well today!


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