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With a headache like this, I’m considering decapitation

I feel like someone has stolen one of my most valuable possessions: my health. Either that, or I have been kidnapped and replaced by someone who looks like me but does a very bad impression of myself. My doppelganger doesn’t run or lift weights, she doesn’t feel like blogging, and she sits around watching mediocre television all evening. Wait, she’s not my doppelganger! She’s me from 4 years ago! I’ve worked so hard these past years to become a better version of myself, yet all it takes is one headache from hell to instantly rewind all my work.

I’ve been hanging out with Mr. Headache for four days now. I’ve dropped some subtle hints that he should go home now (Advil and Tylenol). I’ve dropped some less subtle hints too (a shot and some prescription meds from my doctor), but it still hasn’t gotten the message. So, it’s just me and the pressure in my head until my skull explodes or it finally decides to piss off. Thankfully, my headache has dialed down its intensity from about a 6 to a 2, but it’s still there. My doctor said it might be the flu, a theory I’m rooting for since the flu eventually goes away. My paranoid imagination was fueled by a season four marathon of House this weekend (a medical show where they diagnose rare diseases) and has been trying to convince me that I have a horrible, undiagnosed disease. I’ve also had a book checked out from the library for months called All In My Head about a woman who’s had a headache for fifteen years. And she gained 70 pounds. So, when I’m not imagining scenarios where I have a strange, tropical, illness, I’m imagining scenarios where my life is forever split into two sections: pre-headache and post-headache. All of this while I’m avoiding caffeine and artificial sweeteners, two substances that have always made my life more enjoyable, but might be causing my head pain.

I’m being ridiculous, I know. My headache will eventually go away. It’s probably the flu like my doctor said. I got the runs after I went running yesterday, and I’d never been so happy to get diarrhea in my life. It didn’t literally make me feel better, but it made me feel better about feeling ill because it’s a symptom of the flu, and if I have the flu that means the headache will end some day. The reason I freak out about any symptom of illness is because I value my health more than almost anything in my life. I didn’t used to take good care of my body. It was about ready to break down, but I repaired it from the frame up and I work hard to keep it in good, running condition (and in good running shoes).

I take my health for granted most days because most days it is granted. I wake up and go to work and come home and my good health is just there. But then I suddenly get a headache for four days and my good health isn’t there anymore. I miss it like someone turned off gravity and I can’t find the remote control because it floated behind the ceiling fan. You don’t miss gravity until it’s gone, and I don’t appreciate my health it suddenly vanishes. It’s scary that you can do everything right, take excellent care of your body, and things can still go wrong. You can get headaches for no explainable reason or you could get hit by a car while crossing the street. That’s why I freak out when I’m suddenly not feeling 100%. I want to feel good all the time. It’s greedy, I know, but I don’t want to get sick or have to live in pain or fight disease and illness. I want to be healthy and happy forever. Yet, it’s not something I can completely control. No matter how much I exercise or how many salads I eat or how many multi-vitamins I chomp, I could still get sick. My headache will not go away. It’s not even a horrible headache, just bad enough to be noticeable while letting me wonder through life at 80% power. It’s not fair that I have no control over it.

It’s crazy how quickly my life can go topsy turvy because of a virus invading my body. It starts affecting my whole life. My laundry piles up and my apartment gets cluttered and I don’t floss my teeth every night. When I finally attacked my dirty dishes last night, I got to a bowl on the bottom caked in the remains of oatmeal and accented with black mold. Mold! In my sink! This will not do. Sickness steals my sense of self. It make me feel like someone I’m not. I like being the girl who enjoys running and likes writing in her blog and comes home feeling motivated to get things done. I don’t like being the girl with mold in her sink.

So hopefully my headache will go away and I can go back to being the girl I’ve worked so hard to be. If not, a life addicted to painkillers is starting to look a lot more attractive than it did last week. And how about that medicinal marijuana, eh?

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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43 Comments

VerseFameBeauty • February 21, 2008 at 7:35 am

I’m so sorry about your headache. I totally understand it saps away all will to live. :-P

Have you ever been to a chiropractor? I get migraines, and literally the only thing that can make them stop is an adjustment from my chiropractor. It’s good for you in many other ways too, especially if you’re being tough on your body like you are, running so much. Don’t think I’m a kook, ’cause I’m not – it really works (and it’s worked wonders for friends of mine, too). Hope you feel better!

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LA • February 21, 2008 at 8:06 am

Hey PQ!

You may be right about having the flu, but you may have a caffeine withdrawal headache on top of that. When I’m trying to cut down on caffeine I drink decaffeinated coffee. There’s still a little caffeine in decaf, and for me it’s just enough to keep the withdrawal headache away.

Hope you feel better soon! :-)

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Pam • February 21, 2008 at 8:09 am

Are you sleeping enough? Too much? Stopping caffeine suddenly can cause a headache, although after 4 days w/o caffeine it should be out of your system. Also, using painkillers too often (tylenol and aspirin included) can cause rebound headaches. Sometimes I think it’s the weather. (My sister and I get headaches often and that seems a good excuse.) It sucks. I just got a Neti pot to clean out my sinuses and I think that helps. Feel better.

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psychsarah • February 21, 2008 at 8:16 am

First of all, I hope you feel better really soon. It sucks to be sick!

Secondly, I think you make excellent points about valuing health. I finally got moving and taking care of myself after doing part of my clinical training with a chronic pain program. The people I was treating wanted to be able to exercise, do things with their friends/family, work, even sleep, but couldn’t do any of these things easily. Something finally clicked in my head that I had been taking my health for granted. I had the ability to do all of these things, and it was my responsibility to myself to take the best care of myself possible.

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vivi • February 21, 2008 at 8:17 am

Oh dear! A four day long headache! I am sorry! I suffer from migraines and I know how terrible a headache can be! What I use to do is take my migraine painkillers, a lot of water and have a long sleep in my dark, silent bedroom… The headache usually vanishes while I sleep (if I manage to fall asleep, not to throw up and not to start crying).

Don’t worry, if it’s flu it will only last for 4 more days!! :)

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Lesley • February 21, 2008 at 8:32 am

It’s amazing to think back to our former selves and reflect on how we put up with feeling crap nearly the whole time. I was tired, sore and achy for years when I was fat. Now, I resent every sickly moment!!

I hope you feel better very soon.

Lesley x

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G.G. • February 21, 2008 at 8:37 am

I know you’re probably tired of getting advice by now, but you may consider getting a massage (if you get to a point where you think it’s not the flu). It sounds like you’ve had a lot of changes over the past couple of months in other areas of your life, and all change, good or bad, can be stressful–especially if you’re having to settle into a new work environment after a long period of being in a familiar one. (It could be something as simple as HVAC issues in a new building that you’re just not used to). Stress could be a factor, especially if the headache itself is stressing you out.

I had a headache that lasted over a week–it was related to a new medication I’d started taking. (Needless to say, I got off of it.)

It is scary to feel pain and think you could be stuck with it for who knows how long. The good thing is that the percentages for the pain passing eventually are most likely in your favor. Hang in there!

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Marla • February 21, 2008 at 8:37 am

“…strange tropical illness.” Hmm. You know, a tropical illness is probably best treated in a tropical climate. I prescribe a 10-day Bahamas cruise. That will be $100, thank you please come again.

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G.G. • February 21, 2008 at 8:37 am

I know you’re probably tired of getting advice by now, but you may consider getting a massage (if you get to a point where you think it’s not the flu). It sounds like you’ve had a lot of changes over the past couple of months in other areas of your life, and all change, good or bad, can be stressful–especially if you’re having to settle into a new work environment after a long period of being in a familiar one. (It could be something as simple as HVAC issues in a new building that you’re just not used to). Stress could be a factor, especially if the headache itself is stressing you out.

I had a headache that lasted over a week–it was related to a new medication I’d started taking. (Needless to say, I got off of it.)

It is scary to feel pain and think you could be stuck with it for who knows how long. The good thing is that the percentages for the pain passing eventually are most likely in your favor. Hang in there!

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Jenny • February 21, 2008 at 8:38 am

Hey PQ, I can sympathize because I’ve been in the same situation. I have had a headache for about a week, but it was really bad for about 4 days. I also spent days trying to figure it out… is it meaning I’m getting sick (a cold, the flu, brain cancer… not really), or is it allergies, was it caffeine withdrawal etc etc. I hate the constant questioning and not knowing. I want to be able to take something and have it go away. None of the pain relievers helped, they dulled the pain but it never went away. I tried lots of advil, tylenol, and aleve… not at the same time, btw. Its finally almost gone, but the sore throat is here. So I am going to call it a cold or the flu and keep my fingers crossed that it goes away.

I hope you feel better. It sucks feeling like you can’t get anything done or that your head is totally out of it. Take care of yourself.

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Michelle • February 21, 2008 at 8:55 am

At this point I’d just make sure you are hydrated. Since you’re used to drinking diet soda, maybe you’re not drinking enough water due to the lack of flavor? You might go so far as to drink Gatorade or the like, it doesn’t have as many calories as I originally thought (200 calories in 32 ounces; i.e. 4 servings). I’ve had the flu all week and switched to that since I could barely eat.

Also, are you eating enough? I know you know how to eat, but headaches can affect your appetite. If you’re not getting enough fuel, you could get a headache. I know I do (yet another reason I drink Gatorade when I’m sick).

I hope you feel better!

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Melsky • February 21, 2008 at 8:57 am

That just sucks! I get sinus headaches a lot in the winter and it’s really painful and just drives me crazy. I hope your flu will run it’s course really soon.

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J • February 21, 2008 at 9:30 am

My life is going the same way!

I’ve lost about 100 pounds in the last couple of years. Lot and lots of hard work, but trying to get the last 10-20 off is turning out to be harder than the first 100!

I was about to take my work-outs up a notch when Bam! got some stinking virus. One month later I still don’t have the energy to work out the way I normally could. Stinks big time.

I just have to keep in mind that I will get back on track. I will.

I recommend Healing Touch Therapy. Kind of like acupunture without the needles. Totally changed my life and got me on the healthy track.

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Mary • February 21, 2008 at 10:01 am

I wish I had something helpful to recommend. All I can say is I hope you feel better soon. It’s interesting that the laundry piles up and the dishes get mold, but even so you keep on running. That’s dedication!

Tell me — did the woman ever find a way to make her headache go away?

PQ – I haven’t read the book yet, but I don’t think she did. That’s why I’m scared to read it :)

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Erica • February 21, 2008 at 11:39 am

PQ, you described that feeling so perfectly. I’ve never had such an enduring headache (knock on wood!), but this winter I’ve had this reoccurring cold (that finally seems to be gone, knock on wood again!) – and it is the most frustrating thing, to feel like you’ve worked hard to be healthy and then have something unexpected pop up and drive you out of the gym and on to the couch. I kept questioning if I could be doing something different to keep myself from getting sick, it drove me crazy!

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scone • February 21, 2008 at 11:57 am

Poor thing! Feel better soon, PQ!

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Bella • February 21, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Last week I had a headache for 3 days in a row, and it almost drove me crazy, so I can totally relate. Mine was due to stress, not illness, but in either case, having a headache is awful. I love that in the midst of so much pain you were able to write a compelling post about how we sometimes take our health for granted.

I hope you feel better soon!!!

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Happy • February 21, 2008 at 12:14 pm

I’m very sorry to hear that your brain is broken. That sucks.

My hope is that the pain will go away sans painkiller addictions and medicinal marijuana.

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JEM • February 21, 2008 at 12:14 pm

I love that even with a headache you are funny.

It sound like the headache from hell.

Hoping you feel better soon!!!! :-(

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susan • February 21, 2008 at 12:24 pm

I can so-o-o-o relate to the days long headaches. Try laying down with an ice pack on your forehead/eyes area. Works every time!

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laney • February 21, 2008 at 12:52 pm

PQ, my sister in law had a debilitating headache for a year. She wound up getting off on disability. In the end, she went to the dentist. She found that it was something about her jaw. Dentist, chiropractor, accupuncture, massage… do one of those things.

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Jill • February 21, 2008 at 12:55 pm

My only advice would be to avoid decapitation – it’s messy and will create a whole other world of problems.

Aside from that, take care and I really do hope your headache will get the heck outta Dodge soon.

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erin • February 21, 2008 at 2:24 pm

Stress and tension can cause major major headaches. Does it feel like your head is in a vice? If that’s the case, it could be stress. A few years ago, I had a headache almost constantly for over a month, and then it just went away. It was NOT FUN. There is nothing worse than a bad headache.

Hopefully you feel better soon!

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Emily • February 21, 2008 at 3:13 pm

I’ll second the recommendation to find a good chiropractor. You would not believe how helpful they can be. I get headaches a lot when I’m pregnant, and the best thing to get rid of them is to get adjusted. Honest!

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Comrade GoGo • February 21, 2008 at 3:34 pm

Oh no, poor PQ! I hope you feel better very, very soon.

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MB • February 21, 2008 at 3:59 pm

I recommend the tropical vacation with a prescription of medicinal ganja. A little caffeine might actually help but I’m no expert. I’m sorry I don’t have any miracle headache cure for you. Isn’t it funny how we take our good health for granted until a cold/headache/flu/injury smacks us upside the head? Whenever I’m sick and congested I always tell myself I’ll never take breathing for granted again but I always do. Hope you are successful in evicting Mr. Headache soon.

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Judith in NYC • February 21, 2008 at 4:07 pm

Oh, no. I hope you feel better by the time you read this. I used to suffer terrible headaches and know how incapacitating the pain can be. I feel very lucky–the headaches disappeared with menopause, so I guess the headaches had a hormonal component. Maybe you could check to see if this is the case with you. There are some dietary adjustments that could help.

Feel better, J.

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jae • February 21, 2008 at 4:17 pm

I hope you feel better soon and whatever has attacked you head leaves soon. This year has been crazy with sickness. At the Urgent Care I work at we’ve had horribly sick people come in with the strangest symptoms, no one has been the same. Get well soon, PQ! ~j

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hanlie • February 21, 2008 at 4:18 pm

The medicinal marijuana will only give you the munchies, causing you to gain 70 pounds! Hope it gets better soon!

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jae • February 21, 2008 at 4:34 pm

Get well soon! ~j

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zelda • February 21, 2008 at 5:52 pm

When I hit thirty, I started getting 72 hour headaches around that TOM – up to a week before. It took me a couple months to figure it out. I never had them before! All my life I only had cramps, etc. But they’re brutal – it feels like a hangover.

Could yours be hormonal? I guess you’ll know if it happens again next month? Anyway, I’d track it.

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AJ • February 21, 2008 at 6:34 pm

This might sound awful given how you feel right now, but I don’t mind the odd bug or headache (provided it’s a short term guest). Becuase it’s just so wonderful to feel healthy in the days afterward; to truly appreciate your good health. Mind you, as I type this I’m feeling just dandy, so perhaps have a different perspective to you right now…

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Sarah • February 21, 2008 at 7:32 pm

Hi PQ,

I discovered your blog a couple months ago, so I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get around to posting a comment. (Love the blog, of course.)

I’m a migraine sufferer, and I can tell you that your headache could very well be related to the type of weather we’ve been experiencing here in the lovely Midwest. (I live in Chicago, so I imagine you and I are dealing with pretty much the same thing.) Snow, rain, or a basically overcast sky generally contributes to headaches.

Also – and I’m sorry to be another in yet a long line of advice givers – but try laying off chocolate, caffeine, and SALT. You’d be surprised how much sodium all of our food contains. I didn’t realize it myself until I started checking the nutrition labels – even foods you imagine are healthy often are salt laden.

On the caffeine note, I meant to respond to one of your previous blog entries. I’m a barista at Starbucks, and I can assure you that you should stay away from those skinny lattes! The skinny mocha is a particular breed of nasty. My manager was putting a pump into the bottle of sugar-free mocha syrup one day, and the liquid left an actual stain on her hand that looked like henna. That type of chemical can’t be good for you.

Wow, I just realized that this blog comment sounds like a complete lecture. I just wanted to offer a few friendly words of advice. I understand what you’re going through and know how much it SUCKS. I really hope you feel better soon. I’ve been especially impressed with all of your stories about your running progress. I can’t run to save my life! You kick ass.

Best,

Sarah

PQ – I was worried your were going to tell me the Starbucks people make the skinny lattes with full-fat milk. So I’m almost glad to hear the chemicals just leave a stain. As for the weather, my doctor said February is the worst month for her patients because it’s the end of the winter and people get so run down without the sunlight. I’m soooo ready for March.

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Laura • February 21, 2008 at 8:14 pm

Hope you feel better soon. I’m sure you’ve gotten all the advice you need, =), so I’ll keep mine to myself and just wish you feel good vibes.

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Amanda • February 21, 2008 at 9:09 pm

Ugh! Hopefully it is the weather or the flu. Like everyone else is saying, this cold dry air tends to give me a few month long headache.

A humidifier and some of that medical marijuana may be just the ticket! Or at least the start to a memorable weekend.

I hope you are feeling well again soon PQ!

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Cindy • February 21, 2008 at 9:20 pm

Hope you are feeling better soon. Headaches are the worst—they are so draining and require so much focus just to breathe and get through the day. If you find something that works, let us know. I am better at avoiding getting sick than curing the ills once they strike… so any advice would be welcome.

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Juliet • February 21, 2008 at 9:32 pm

I used to get days-long headaches, mostly on one side of my head — surprisingly NOT migraines! Instead simple muscle tension. Not because I was noticeably stressed, but because of my posture, my computer use, and the fact that I carried an extraordinarily heavy bag on one shoulder (forcing my neck, back, and shoulders to compensate). We only figured it out when my hand started going numb as well, and my doctors and I put together that I was getting pinched nerves thanks to the bag and the tension in my neck/shoulders. Stopped carrying the bag, did PT exercises, got occasional massages — headaches went away. No one had realized until then, particularly because they were on one side, that the headaches were muscle related.

I seriously used to have medium to downright awful headaches every week. Now, maybe once every few months. Usually if I forget to have any caffeine in the morning, forget to drink enough water, or forget not to be stupid and throw my bag over my shoulder for a couple of days in a row. So, there’s that, for my part in the advice chorus. I hope you feel better soon!

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fatbridesmaid • February 21, 2008 at 9:51 pm

That’s the thing that, for me anyway, is the hardest thing about changing to a healthy lifestyle. One kink in the routine and BAM! it’s an even bigger struggle to manage everything. I’m keeping my fingers crossed you don’t end up being the inspiration for an episode of “House” but if you do, just think of the blog posting possibilities!

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DDWT • February 21, 2008 at 10:54 pm

So sorry you aren’t feeling well! I have similar thoughts everytime I get sick or injured (“Gee, I never really appreciated everything my lower back was doing for me!”)

But know that 4 days of illness and a moldy oatmeal bowl can’t undo the amazing progress you’ve made.

I hope it’s gone when you wake up tomorrow!

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n.b. • February 21, 2008 at 10:59 pm

That prolonged intense headache might also be a sign of a sinus infection. Those are nasty and antibiotics really help. But I assume if you saw your doctor she’d have checked for that?

PQ – Yeah. I don’t have any post-nasal drip, fever, scratchy throat or any of that. If I have to see her again I’ll ask about it though.

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PurpleGirl • February 21, 2008 at 11:16 pm

I’m right there with you, PQ. I had the horrible nagging headache for days … then I puked for a couple of days and was fine. Stupid flu. Here’s hoping yours goes away without you worshipping the porcelain god!

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Melinda • February 21, 2008 at 11:27 pm

Hi PQ,

Others have said this, but I’ll mention it again — headaches that last days and days, that can’t be helped by normal pain relievers, can be caused by muscle tension due to stress of various kinds (including jaw problems.)

I once had a headache that lasted for months, and I got depressed, and desperate, and more and more upset by it. The desperation only caused more tension, so it went on and on. Finally my doctor prescribed a muscle relaxer, and it went away immediately — I discovered that my headache was caused by muscle tension in my head. I could not keep taking the pills, so I had to learn how to relax. It took a while, but now I know how to recognize that type of tension, and I find a way to relax before it gets extreme.

Ironically, my facial muscles become very tense from too much smiling! Have you found yourself in a situation where you felt compelled to smile more than usual? That’s enough to do it for me.

Relaxation is probably a good remedy for just about any kind of headache, so it won’t hurt to try it. I hope you find a way to relax and make yourself better soon.

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Stephanie Quilao • February 22, 2008 at 1:50 am

So sorry to hear that your headache is still around. I’ll throw an idea out. How about eliminating all foods with an artificial sweetener in it for a few days and see if that helps at all. I’m no doc, but I know the aspartames and splendas used to give me headaches…I hear ya on House. I can’t watch that show too much because I start getting hypochondriatic. (is that a word??)

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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