How My (Near) Lifetime of Migraines Earned Me a Trip in a Police Car
As my youngest daughter likes to tell me, I may be little but I can be fierce! Although I promise my fierceness had nothing to do with being taken away in a police car because of relentless migraine pain.
I'm 55 years old and can vividly recall my first migraine at the age of 12; flashes of light in my left eye, vomiting and a blinding "headache". Since that day I've had migraines continually, but in the last 6 years they have become daily, and while I could treat the migraines that came 4 - 5 times a month the daily headaches have gotten what's left of the best of me.
I began in earnest seeking a "cure" for my migraines when I was 18 and had full medical insurance. Since that time some of my treatment has included biofeedback sessions, physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, yoga, running, diet changes, botox injections, sleep disorder studies, cardiac work-ups (to rule out holes in the heart), and myriad medications including Topamax (which, in my experience, is nicknamed Stupidmax for a reason), Bultalbital, various ergotamines, Hydrocodone, Fioricet, Midrin, Imitrex injectable and tablets, Relpax, Maxalt, Cymbalta, Tramadol and Reglan, plus various over-the-counter medications. I have taken countless trips to hospital emergency rooms for a shot when the pain and nausea were completely overwhelming. I have backed off medications wary of rebound headaches, but I also know what it is to become dependent on a painkiller and as such have had to be weaned off Fioricet.
All in all, I was chugging along until the headaches became daily, at which time I sought treatment from a neurologist recommended by my general practitioner. My treatment with him started off normally enough; a few different medications, some Botox. However, at the start of one particular appointment about 3 months after I'd begun seeing him, I expressed how really overwhelmed I was from waking with a migraine EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING. I told him I felt distraught from the endless pain (an emotion I assumed he heard from many patients given that he bills himself as a migraine specialist), to which he asked if I felt suicidal. Feeling confident that he knew me well after 3 months of appointments I told him it crossed my mind but that I would never act on the thought. I was trying to convey to a non-migraine sufferer how intense daily migraines can be -- big mistake. At that point he excused himself from the exam room, but unknown to me he went out and called my general practitioner (who knows me very well) and asked her to commit me to a mental hospital; she refused because she was not there with me and didn't have a read on my condition. So he then called 911 and within 10 minutes a police car arrived at the medical complex where his office was. I didn't know what was happening until he and his nurse came back in the room, told me they'd called the police, and said I could wait in their waiting room for my "ride". I was in pain, shocked, scared, embarrased, and mad. But not fierce!
When the police arrived they asked me to come downstairs and outside with them, they asked for my purse, searched it and placed it in their trunk, frisked me and then put me in the back seat of the police car. I was then taken to a local mental hospital where I stayed for 3 days while the psychiatrists tried to ascertain if I was a threat to myself. To be fair to the neurologist I do have a significant history of clinical depression, but never, ever in my life had I felt a need to be, literally, locked up. My stay at the mental hospital was beyond frightening, and the worst part (almost) was that I couldn't take anything for my migraines while I was a patient there! Needless to say I did not go back to that neurolgist ever again; at that point I became extremely wary of doctors and began to self-treat with painkillers, hence the need for weaning a few years later. Today my migraines continue to be brutal, but I am now seeing a pain specialist and have just had a left side occipital ablation as he suspects occipital neuralgia. The only relief I get is from Imitrex tablets, which I break in half in order to try and reduce the migraine using as little medication as possible. Usually about 5 days out of each week are spent rearranging my day/obligations when the pain is too much to handle, and I recently decided to file for permanent disability because of the impact migraines continue to have on my life. I do not, however, ever, ever, plan to answer a question about the extent of my frustration with my migraine pain by saying that suicide has crossed my mind. Lesson learned :)
When it comes to planning vacations or other events where travel is required, how much does migraine factor into your decision-making?