You may recall that after years of getting migraines very ‘seasonally’ (ie: like 3-4 times a year on ‘special occassions’) I started getting them 2-3 times a month this past summer. I attributed this to the move from Denver to Seattle, although in retrospect, the increase actually started before we moved. I went to the doctor in September and was given a prescription for sumatriptan (Imi.trex) which works, insofar as it stops the migraine pain (mostly) but also sucks because I get weird hot flashes and a general warmed-over shit feeling which is at least a more functional misery than a migraine but still mostly blows.
So, with the imi.trex, I’ve been able to handle the migraines, which still happen between 1-3 times a month now. I’ve found if I take a half a pill with a bunch of water, then some ibuprofen, then the other half about an hour later, I can kind of ease out of the migraine/ease into the imi.trex barfo feeling, which is generally more palatable than the alternative. So, it’s managed but not, like, “good” or anything.
About 5 weeks ago, I was walking from my desk in the middle of cubeville to the kitchen to wash my spoon, I think. (Details are hazy) I got back there and started feeling a little funny . . .light headed, my vision got a little dark and blurry, my head was throbby. Someone said something to me – I think maybe there was something caught on my skirt? – and I could barely respond because I felt so crazy and I knew I needed to sit down but for whatever reason felt like I needed to go back to my desk to do that? I was walking back to my desk and I knew I was going to pass out but, again, I stayed focused on getting back to my chair, and right before my legs started buckling I made eye contact with one of the (many, many) nurses I work with who said, “Are you ok?” I got out, “uh, no” before I abruptly sat down, probably just seconds before I would have hit the ground anyway. She ran to get the (nurse) supervisor, who asked me if I was ok. I took a few minutes to sit on the group , then stood up and felt . . .well, mostly fine. I went back to my desk and sat a bit more and, aside from a throbbing headache, I was ok.
I figured I was probably dehydrated and didn’t think much of it. I have had the occasional dizzy spell and even full on fainted in college while smoking on my RA’s balcony, so it didn’t feel that out of the ordinary. I pushed the water that night and the next day.
The next day, I got out of my car to walk into Staples, made it all the way into the store from the parking lot and it started again, the darkness closing in and weak legs and swimming head. This time, at least, I had the sense to just sit down where I was (right there in the printer aisle!) and avoid actually falling. I waited a few minutes, it passed, I stood up and went about my office supply shopping.
But now I was a little worried. So, I made a point to really focus on drinking water and to start splitting my snacks and lunch up better so I was eating every couple of hours. I googled a little bit, and mostly I found two explanations for the kind of fainting spells I was experiencing. Vasovagal – which is almost always triggered by something like standing, heat, anxiety, fear, blood, needles . . .not, you know, walking. Or from orthostatic hypotension – where your blood pressure drops from standing up too fast. But, this fainting seems to happen almost immediately after standing and is usually associated with dehydration. So, I was doing what I could.
Since then, these dizzy/fainting spells have happened between 2-4 times a week. And yes, now I’m starting to get scared.
I mean, for one . . .losing (or almost losing) consciousness is scary once, let alone multiple times in a month. Second, there doesn’t seem to be a connection to anything – they’ve happened before eating, after eating, in the morning and in the evening, at work (mostly) and at home, and a few times at public places. Now that I know what’s happening, I can sit down when they come on. It’s always soon after standing, but not immediately upon standing. Sometimes it’s after sitting for an hour or more, sometimes after just a little while. I’ve tried stretching my legs and standing in place before walking, getting up every half hour, and none of it seems to matter.
But whenever something related to my head happens, I get a little extra freaked because weird brain shit runs in my family. My maternal grandmother had a brain aneurysm which doctors tried to surgically repair. During the surgery, something happened (my mom says “she didn’t have a back up blood supply” which doesn’t make sense to me but, you know, not a doctor) which caused her to have a stroke on the table. The stroke cause paralysis on the right side of her body, which she lived with for the last 25+ years of her life. She was bitter and mean and while she was like that before her stroke, she was resentful that they hadn’t just left the aneurysm alone to let her die rather than be paralyzed.
When I was a junior in high school, my uncle (my mom’s brother, aka the above named grandmother’s son) – who had been estranged from our family for most of my life, just weird side note – was rushed to the hospital where they discovered he had a bleed in one of the carotid arteries, and a blockage in the other – at the same fucking time. This is particularly bad because the treatment for one is the worst possible thing for the other, and vice versa. In this case, they did leave him alone and he ultimately ‘recovered’, albeit after weeks in the ICU and months in a trauma rehab center. He also never worked again and can’t remember chunks of his life so . . .recover is, you know, relative.
Basically, as my aunt says, “bad shit happens in our brains.” My aunt who also suffers from migraines. My aunt who did not undergo the recommended testing after her mother’s brain aneurysm and subsequent stroke. (my mom did and was assured she’s ok as far as the ‘back up blood’ thing goes and then said, “you’re MY daughter so I’m sure you’re fine too”, because her understanding of genetics is, you know, lacking.)
ALL of this + knowing someone my age who recently died from a fluke brain thing coming out of nowhere has me feeling . . .uh . . .nervous.
I went to my doctor yesterday and told her about all of this. She didn’t seem worried, but she did seem confused and a little concerned. She decided to run a bunch of tests – mostly looking for deficiencies, metabolic issues, etc. I thought – YES! B12 or magnesium or something must be lacking . . .hell, I’d even take a diabetes/pre-diabetes dx!
But the blood work came back this morning – all normal. Nothing even borderline. “I’m making a referral to neurology.” She wrote in my chart.
So, this morning I called the neurologist and somehow managed to score an appointment tomorrow (thanks to a cancellation!) rather than having to wait another 6-8 weeks.
Guess it’s time to walk forward, right on into that fear, huh?