One of my biggest fears in going to the doctor’s surgery. I’m not scared of doctors, I’m not scared of dentists, I’m not scared of hospitals, but I am scared of wasting their time. I’m scared they’ll say it’s all in my head, or there isn’t a problem, or I didn’t need to come and see them. Most of the time, I’ll stay away unless I’m really struggling – and my headaches have gotten to that point. Last year, my headaches were crippling, but they seemed to tone down after I got new glasses. I thought it was all sorted but, in February, they started coming back with a vengeance. Not being able to walk up a hill in Edinburgh due to a pounding headache was the final straw. I bit the bullet, and I made an appointment.
That’s a big deal for me!
I went to the doctor with the following symptoms:
Throbbing headaches – The biggest symptom! I’ve had some form of headache or head pain every day for the past four months. Sometimes it simply nags at me, other times it stops me completing the simplest of activity. twice a week if not more, it will turn into a fully blown migraine.
Light sensitivity – my headaches are mainly triggered by natural light, or bright light in a dark surrounding (usually in work)
Blobby vision – when the headaches have kicked in, my left eye doesn’t seem to fully focus
Nosebleeds – I haven’t had a daytime nosebleed, but I will wake up about once every three weeks to find I’ve had a nosebleed in the night
Headrush – any kind of activity gives me head rush
Pressure in ears – when I put my head down, my ears feel like they’re imploding. They never pop, and there’s no pain but it’s very uncomfortable
Motion Sickness – I can’t get on any form of transport now without getting severely motion sick. I also can’t play any kind of video game without sickness, whereas I used to be able to play 3rd person views with no issue
Forgetfulness – I don’t forget situations, or events, but I’ve found myself regularly forgetting the easiest of words. As I was talking to the doctor, I forgot the word ‘vengeance’ and just froze
The nosebleeds, the forgetfulness and the consistency of the headaches were the things that were worrying me. I told this to doctor, and asked her what she thought it could be. She did some simple tests to check I could see and feel things on my face properly, which I could. She had a quick peek in my eyes and ears, which were fine, and then she checked my blood pressure. 7 times.
The first time, it was very high, so she told me to not speak, put on my sunglasses and breathe deeply so she could test it again, and my pressure went down. It kept going down to a level she was happy with, but it was then clear that my blood pressure can rise very quickly, and very intensely when I’m stressed or in pain. This explains the headrush and the pressure in my ears – because I’m always stressed or in pain. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s true!
She ruled out the forgetfulness and nosebleeds as ‘one of those things’, and in hindsight, I had nosebleeds a lot as a child. I just forgot. Because I don’t get motion sickness while walking, she ruled out Vertigo. I’m just unfortunate that my motion sickness is getting worse as I get older, rather than better. She asked me some personal questions, about work, about my home life, about my relationship and about how I deal with my headaches in work. I explained to her that I’m not really able to take time off, so I just have to work through them. When I told her about how my headaches are most painful when I’m standing in direct light in work, she looked confused.
“Which hospital do you work in?!” she asked, and then she realised. “Oh! An acting kind of theatre, not an operating theatre! Well this makes sense!”
Then, the doctor diagnosed me with chronic migraines and mild photophobia – which it turns out is a sensitivity to light that affects the eyes, not a fear of light! The photophobia is very mild on it’s own, and would just cause me to squint a bit, but alongside the migraines, and the fact I can’t escape bright light in work, it has turned into a recurring problem. She gave me some tablets to try, which I’m to take when I feel a migraine coming on. If they don’t work, I’ll be given a different tablet which should stop them occurring altogether. If they don’t work, I’ll be sent to the headache clinic for further examinations. However, she did let me know that there are two conditions to being sent there.
The first is that you don’t take painkillers for every headache. That’s fine, because I try to avoid painkillers unless my headache is going to affect my ability to work. I don’t like the idea that your body is trying to tell you something is wrong, and you can just take a tablet to stop the signal without knowing what the cause is.
The second is that you don’t drink caffeine. Tea, coffee, fizzy drinks and energy drinks are all out of question. Now I love a good cup of tea, and while I certainly don’t drink tea every second of the day, I do like a cuppa in the evening with a few biscuits for dunking. Obviously, if it means I’ll get more help with my headaches I’m happy to swap to decaf, or herbal teas as Tara suggested, but I’ll miss my cuppas!
So, I have my tablets, I have my dark glasses and I have the knowledge that there’s nothing to worry about so my blood pressure will stay down! I’m hugely relieved, though I do feel a little silly for going the doctor over something as simple as a migraine….oh well!
Do you have any tips for migraine sufferers?