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?


21 thoughts on “Brains!

  1. Andie, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. As someone with a history of brain problems (seizures and migraines) I know it’s scary. A neurologist is totally the right place to be. If you ever need someone to talk about wacky brain wiring with, I’m your gal. I know you’ve been struggling with sleep recently. Does the increase in these episodes correspond at all with the lack of sleep? Hopefully your neuro will order an EEG.

  2. That faint, dizzy feeling is the worst. I had that for about 10 years, but it turned out I was a) anemic and b) had extremely low blood pressure, neither of which sounds like what you have (also neither of which any of the doctors I saw about it caught, go fig). You’re taking the right steps in going to the neurologist. Hopefully it’s something benign and easy to fix. ❤

  3. This all must be so stressful and scary 😯 I’m sorry you’re going through this and I really hope that you get some answers and some reassurance tomorrow. I’m thinking about you!!

  4. Look up orthostatic hypotension and see if that sounds like what is going on. When I get hit with it, I usually make it halfway across a room or whatever when I realize I’m about to black out, and I sit down abruptly. It’s been happening since my migraines got dramatically worse when I was 11. It has evened out since realizing I have celiac and picked up again when I started having more AI symptoms. I was diagnosed with orthostatic hypotension in the ER after almost passing out at work. It was lots of standing up and sitting down and blood pressure being taken. It’s a symptom with many causes.

    • I think the other issue is that it’s happening so frequently. I looked it up again and reread. It sounds like orthostatic hypotension usually has an underlying cause – dehydration, low blood sugar, thyroid issues, diabetes, anemia. . . Things that are interrupting the usual process of regulating blood flow to the brain upon standing. The fact that this is happening frequently, regardless of my hydration, when I’ve eaten, and with my iron, thyroid, blood sugar, etc all normal, seems to point to something else.

      • All of those things were clear for me as well. Sometimes it happened a lot, sometimes rarely. But it never happened when I was sitting still, only shortly after standing up. There is something called dysautonomia that I learned about recently that can cause this kind of thing as well. I haven’t been diagnosed with that collection of symptoms but know many with AI issues who have. I really hope that you get some answers and you start feeling better. It is scary and no one should have to get used to catching themselves before passing out.

  5. Friend, I’m thinking about you and hoping all goes well at the appointment. I can imagine how scary and I dunno, weird?! that can be! I hope they are able to find out what’s going on. In the interim, prayers and hug and love and all that good ish sent your way!

  6. Andie, it really could be your blood pressure! My heart meds had me going dangerously low on no- if i stood up without being deliberately slow about it, bam. Id hit the floor. Its not instant, id say I could walk down the hallway before I start getting tunnel vision and the shakes. Sitting down the minute I feel it coming on stops it pretty quickly. My BP while normally moving around would be 100/60, but at rest would get as low as 80/54- so standing from a rest position and going even lower does it! Worth checking out….

    Sending love and light and prayers that the neurology appt tomorrow shows a healthy happy brain!!

    • Also- my husband’s migraines are directly BP related. If you have an underlying bp issue that’s escalated with the stress of the last few months- that could be why you’re getting those more often too?

      Dont you love how health probs bring out the internet docs in all of us?! Lol

  7. Yikes! Glad you were able to get in quickly so can get more information soon. No wonder you’re anxious, given your family history and recent events. Will be thinking of you today, and hoping you get some answers that relieve your worries.

  8. This doesn’t sound like orthostatic hypotension to me at all. I’ve had that bunches of times, and of course it might manifest differently in different people, but this just doesn’t smell right. I wonder if they’ll check blood sugars and a full thyroid panel (not just TSH)? I’ll stop being an armchair doctor, but I really hope you get some clarity from the neurologist!!

  9. Shit. That sounds really scary! I’m glad you got a quick appointment, though! I commend you for being so proactive about your health.

  10. Sigh. This was me 18 months ago when my degenerative disk and medical uncertainty gave me full blown crazy neurological symptoms. My medical anxiety coupled with my desire to internet search left me a mess. Almost every symptom I had was brought on by anxiety and I’m hoping this is the case for you as well. It’s a much easier fix! 🙂

    Either way, I’m glad you are able to get in and see someone quickly (the waiting is always the worst) and I hope they can give you some answers soon. Thinking of you and your family.

  11. I’m reading your posts in the wrong order tonight, so I already know how today’s appointment went. But I do want to add I spent a number of years seeing a neurologist for my migraines, and eventually learned that mine are very much triggered by food. In the end, I ended up learning to manage my diet and completely avoid trigger foods and my migraines are way less frequent (1 ever few months compared to almost daily at their worst). Anyways, I hope you can control what your experience with something like diet, but I am really glad you are checking out everything!

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