Friday, May 22, 2009

can I have my brain back please?

For the last few years I have been fighting a losing battle against migraines. I find the whole thing terribly frustrating, particularly since up until I started getting them, I didn't believe in them. I thought they were just a word used by people who had a bad headache when they wanted the world to feel sorry for them. So when I started getting these 'headaches' that wouldn't let up for 3 days at a time, accompanied by nausea and extreme sensitivity to light and noise, and leave me feeling like I'd swum the English Channel or something afterwards, I was rather annoyed when I was diagnosed with the word "Migraine".
The worst part about these things is that no painkillers help. Some of them manage to dull the pain slightly, but most just make me sleepy. And considering that one of the symptoms is extreme 'grogginess' (for want of a better term), this is Just Not Cool.
I have tried a number of things in an attempt to bring them under control. I cut out caffeine, for one thing. This did help, to a degree; it brought the frequency of the attacks down to about once a month. But they have still been getting steadily worse and it is getting to a point where I just want to sit in a corner and cry when I get them, now. I am losing the will to fight.

I think my GP finally got the message because he referred me to a Neurologist, whom I went to see a couple of weeks back.
It turns out there's hope.
He asked me a bunch of questions, made me touch my nose with my fingertip and walk in a straight line and checked my hearing and reflexes. He then sent me for an MRI scan, and put me on medication, which I should apparently take for up to a year, after which, if all goes according to plan, the migraines should disappear. Hallelujah!!!
(They couldn't have tried this a few years back...?!!)
The MRI is a just-in-case thing, to be 100% sure that there isn't a cabbage growing in my head or something, but he seemed pretty confident they wouldn't find anything. The cool thing about that is that I now have pictures of my brain. The not-so-cool thing about it is that halfway through the scan I discovered I am, in fact, quite claustrophobic. Not the greatest timing in the world, and it wasn't an experience I would be in a hurry to repeat; I soon forgot the giggles I had when I initially went into the machine (eyes closed) and the weird mechanical noises started and the thought crossed my mind that this must be what it feels like to be abducted by aliens. Just a hint: If you ever have an MRI, KEEP YOUR EYES CLOSED. Pretend you're in a field of daisies or something. It's much better than the reality which is that you're in a Very Confined Space where Nobody Can Hear You.

That aside, this whole post is not actually to give you a guide on how to behave when getting an MRI, nor a complete medical history on Yours Truly. What I actually wanted to share was something of an epiphany.

You see, two days after I started on these tablets the Doc gave me, something truly weird happened. It took me a while to figure out what was going on. I just felt strange; but in an entirely good way. My mood lifted quite suddenly and it was as if I was really there, in my skin, instead of slightly disconnected from the world; as if a veil had been lifted. I felt focused - my thoughts, my vision, my feelings and even sensation. The word that popped into my head was "Clarity".
It felt bloody wonderful, let me tell you!
I find this extremely difficult to explain, but I want to try because it is a really big deal to me. It has been a difficult few years for me; apart from the migraines I also went through quite a bad depression that involved medication and therapy - all of these are things that I never thought would happen to me, but never mind that now. Somewhere in the midst of struggling through all of this I lost my mental sharpness. This is the part that is hard to explain and I fear I may end up sounding somewhat condescending or uppity or ... oh what the hell, this is my blog so if you don't like it, don't read it. Throughout my whole life the one thing I never had to worry about was my intelligence. I'm a very bright girl and I don't think I have ever been confronted with anything that I thought was too difficult for me to do, or to figure out. It was kind of comforting to know that I could always count on my brain. But somewhere in the last few years that changed. I started finding it difficult to concentrate at work, and battled to work through problems. The last course I went on was almost frightening in the way I just wasn't able to keep up. And then the unthinkable happened: I actually failed an exam.
Needless to say this hasn't done my self-esteem much good, but that, too, is another topic entirely.
When all this went on, I just accepted it as part of getting older; I figured I was now over 35, and they say the mind is the first to go and this was obviously what was happening to me. Best I just learn to accept my new limitations because there's nothing that can be done about it.

Except... then the Clarity came. And I was able to do my work and know when I was done that I hadn't made any mistakes, that I had remembered to check everything, and that it wasn't necessary to go over everything again. I did, anyway, almost unable to believe it, and I was right. There were no mistakes. I was able to hold my focus all the way through the task at hand. I was also able to hold conversations without losing the thread of what I was saying. I was.... Lucid!
It even showed when we went out over the weekend and I played a game of pool. When I put my mind to it I was able to willingly focus on what I was doing. I haven't been able to do that in such a long time... and I had thought I wouldn't be able to do that again.
And I never said anything to anyone, because I thought they'd think I was just mad.
Perhaps I thought I was a little mad.

All of which leads me to suspect that these migraine things are worse than I thought; One of the symptoms, as I told the Neurologist, is a sensation of being 'disconnected' from myself and the world. But what I didn't realise, because it's been that way for so long, is that even between the episodes where the headaches attack so violently, I think I have still had some of the other symptoms lingering; this constant mental noise or fog being one of them. (A need for afternoon naps is another - I made it through last weekend without even considering a nap!)

Now I'm not a medical expert by any means and perhaps I should spend some more time on Google with this thing. Or perhaps I'll just mention it the next time I see the man.
But right now I am just holding out hope that perhaps I'm not crazy... and perhaps I will get my brain back after all.


BazL said...

Wow little sis, I don't think 4 days in June is going to be long enough. it's so early on Monday morning and now I want to cry - thanks a lot. Love u.xx

angel said...

Holy crap... I had no idea migraines had such a huge effect on a person's life!
I'm REALLY glad its going better for you now, and I hope it continues as such.

Jax said...

Hey sis, if I was granted one wish it would be to lift your cloud and replace it with sunlight. Love you loads xx

Terri said...

BazL - Don't cry for me Argentina... ;) Seriously. a) I probably do enough crying for the both of us a b) I'm sure you have enough of your own stuff to cry about and c) it's no use crying over spilt milk. Not that there's any spilt milk here, but I'd much rather you make me laugh than cry. But thanks for the sympathy, I appreciate it xx

Angel - Thanks Sweetie, yes let's all hope this fancy head-doctor knows what he's doing. I'll let you know in 3-6 months, LOL!

Jax - Ditto xxx And thank you.