Routine Check-Up: Seeing Improvement After a Bad Spell
My migraine doctor is someone I look forward to seeing, though sometimes the visits can be a little bit of a bummer if I haven’t been doing well and I have to face the truth with her. (There’s no point in sugarcoating things for a medical professional whose job it is to help your health improve, which means my guard is down and I’m vulnerable and honest in her presence.)
COVID-19 has skewed all sense of time
I had a check-up with my neurologist this week; my last check-up appointment was three months prior to the day, yet it felt like just yesterday. The pandemic has altered so many people’s sense of time, and I am certainly no exception to that.
Feeling more present than before
Happily, I had some good news to share with her this time, a marked change from the other 2020 appointments I’d had earlier in the year. I was—and am—feeling more energetic and clear-headed than I have been in a while. I’m experiencing less daytime fatigue and feel physically alert and present.
Going to the neurologist during COVID-19
The experience of going to the neurological center gave me some Groundhog Day-esque déjà vu. As always, I parked my car and walked toward the hulking medical office building that houses her practice. As with my last two appointments, both of which were scheduled once COVID-19 was a daily presence, I was armed with a face mask.
Arriving at the neurologist's office
This visit, it was raining and I had neglected to put the mask on in the car. This means I ended up awkwardly balancing my umbrella on my shoulder while I looped the elastic bands of the mask around my ears, careful not to drop the umbrella, the mask, or my purse on the wet ground. I felt like I was passing a low-stakes test when I was allowed to proceed past the temperature check station in the lobby. Score! It really felt like I had had my temperature taken in that same lobby just days before—but really it was 90 days prior. Where did the time go?
Increased migraine attacks
After checking in with the nurse, my doctor entered almost immediately. (I’m so thankful when appointments start on time, aren’t you?) Dr. M. asked how many migraine and/or headache days I’d had since my last appointment — her face fell when I responded, as the answer was a number much higher than she had hoped.
A silver lining
However, I had a silver lining to share that made her eyes crinkle with a smile (I couldn’t see her face due to her mask, but the eyes were a dead giveaway). Though early August was really rough, I had only had one migraine attack in the five weeks since that flare, and that attack was stopped in its tracks within an hour of my popping a Ubrelvy tablet. Success!
Tapering off of migraine medications
We decided I would taper off one of my medications but keep the other ones consistent for now. Once I taper off Zoloft, an antidepressant that can also help with migraine in some patients, I am allowed to experiment with lowering my dosage of nightly muscle relaxer to see if my TMJ dysfunction-related pain (which can trigger migraine attacks) starts to let up a little. I was encouraged to hear that she thought I could safely start reducing medications to see what would result—she said, “I always prefer to lower the number of medications my patients are taking if it’s possible.” Me, too, doc. Me, too.
On the upside of migraine right now
In a time when so many things are going wrong in the world and in our country, it was heartening to have a smooth visit characterized by surprisingly good health news. Migraine is a chronic illness, and I know that the degree to which I am affected by it ebbs and flows as time passes. But, as of right now, I am doing well, and that’s something to be grateful for.
How have your pandemic-era doctor appointments been for you?
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?