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 🙂

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Comments

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  • Lori Summer
    5 years ago

    Wow! What a harrowing story! I too would like that skiddish neurologist to go through what he put you through, and with a killer headache as well! Your bravery is inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Please follow up with getting disability. It’s obvious your migraines are severe, distressing, and disabling. At least apply (online) and worry about the rest later. You can work on it a little at a time and save what you have on their site and come back to it later. It’s made to be doable for a disabled person.

    99% of the time people are rejected on the first go round. Expect it. Then just re-apply. When you are approved you will be awarded money from the first time you applied. There’s no point in putting it off, it takes forever to get approved. I had lots of medical documentation of visits and treatments tried, and that’s what you need. It sounds like you have years and years of medical history. Ask your primary doc to make the recommendation. She fills out a form. I believe you can print it from the site. List your past doctors and the gov. requests your records. That psycho/neuro didn’t treat you, so his records won’t be important.

    You don’t really need a lawyer to appeal. I’ve learned that lawyers sometimes wait and wait to take any action because the more time that goes by, the greater your “back pay” award will be, hence the more money they get when they take their percentage. It’s just wrong. You won’t need a lawyer with the medical records you must have. Do it girl! The relief you will feel once you’re approved will probably reduce your migraines!

    Another note, I don’t know what state you’re in, but here in California medical marijuana is legal. I was skeptical about it, assumed it was just a bunch of pot heads trying to legalize the drug, but it truly and totally relieves migraines (for me and others I know suffering from migraines). There are some strains that supposedly work better than others, do a little research to find the right one for you. I was lucky, the first thing I tried worked, with a capital “W”. I likely wouldn’t have tried it again had it not. You deserve relief for your pain. I dearly hope you get it and wish you the very best.

    Keep us posted!

  • Lori Summer
    5 years ago

    Oh yeah, and those little vitamin B energy drinks help a lot too.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    6 years ago

    To say that is shocking is to put it mildly. You clearly said you were NOT suicidal, although I understand him be cautious, in my opinion he handled your situation wrong. Instead of talking with you for a while longer, to really understand how you were feeling, it sounds like he got spooked about something and rushed to an inaccurate conclusion, which you paid the price for. I’m sorry you went through that, and in pain no less.
    Many of us wake each morning in pain feeling overwhelmed, does that mean we all need to be committed. Hardly. Just expressing that it is difficult to live in chronic pain.
    This brings me to a point I make often – not enough doctors teach us how to cope with chronic illness. It needs to be the first things we learn, rather than taking pills, how to live being chronically ill.

  • Catlazz author
    6 years ago

    Hi Nancy. You make a good point about docs teaching us how to cope with chronic illness. For my part I have tried various holistic coping methods, with little success, but I’m still hopeful:) Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

  • tucker
    6 years ago

    Wow, I was expecting to see something about an aura causing you to drive crazy or something, but that was not the direction I would have thought a rational doc would have gone. Perhaps a gentle question about seeing a psychiatrist or therapist would have been in order. And why didn’t your PCP suggest this?

    You have to know that so many of us feel at the end of our rope when we’re in a vicious cycle of migraines. This is truly a condition of “walk a mile in my shoes” (or even a month- but a year will give you the REAL picture!). I generally have a great sense of humor, but the past 2 1/2 years have been trial after trial of one health problem after another added on to the chronic migraines. When you add kids fighting, household breakdowns, work stresses, and any other little bombshells that happen to come along – deep breathing just leads to hyperventilation which can lead to passing out which is a good thing! Wahoo-I’m sleeping for a few seconds! (see, there is still some humor left….)

    I am glad the pain specialist seems to be helping. We are such a desperate crowd but I wouldn’t blame you if you never trusted the medical world again. I would agree with Julie and say that if you do need the help of a therapist, ask for one who specializes in pain management or chronic health problems. There was a note about that on this board about 3 months ago when I was going thru a really tough time. I called my PCP office and got the name of someone. Granted, I’ll say with hypocrisy that I’ve never made an appt yet, but I did email her. No reply, which annoyed me, but at the time, the power I felt from taking that step in my life was energy altering. I also dropped one of the huge tasks from my list that was weighing down on my shoulders, so that helped too.

    Good luck to you. We wish less pain for all of us!

  • Catlazz author
    6 years ago

    Hi Tucker. I’m so sorry you are dealing with so many stressors in life, and that you have migraines on top of everything. I just recently started seeing a therapist and she’s pretty cool — has helped a bit. And it’s so true that some (or maybe many) of us feel good after taking the first step towards a new doc/therapist/etc., because in my experience it’s difficult to sometimes get up the energy to get involved in the medical merry-go-round process(again)! Hang in there Tucker, and good luck if you decide to talk with the therapist:)

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    6 years ago

    Hi Tucker

    As I said above, learning how to cope with being chronically ill is one of the first things we should learn when diagnosed with migraine or any other chronic illness for that matter.
    I think many people would be amazed what can be learned from talking to a chronic pain specialist in a therapeutic manner.

  • Julie
    6 years ago

    Catlazz
    OMG. I am so very, very sorry for the abuse you suffered at the hands of that cad of a neurologist, who ignored your MD’s advice, and called the police and had you committed against your will! No wonder your reluctant to trust the medical profession and are reluctant to take your pain medication-you self medicate instead.
    This just goes to show that yet again there are quack doctors out there that just do not deserve to have a license to practice medicine. They abuse their power and abuse the patients that come to them for help. And further add to the stigma of migraine. He should have his license revoked. Better yet march him out of his office in handcuffs and frisk him down and lock him up for a few days. Show him how it feels. What a cad!
    I really hope and pray you can find healing and learn to trust doctors again. Maybe with the healp of a therapist. There are some good therapists out there and some of them can be your best allies. My therapist has been my best allie and when I have run into a brick wall and could get no where she was able to open some doors for me. She referred me to the great neurologist I have now. He has suffered from migraines and he specializes in migraines. He has been great. I am so thankful to have a great therapist and neurologist as part of my medical team. And she’s helped me through some pretty emotional issues as well. It’s worth looking into. And she also has helped me with pain managment-how to try to stay focused and look on the positive and keep away from the negative. They’re not all out to blame everything on you. I’d look into it and give it a try. What have you got to lose?
    And do NOT keep secrets from your therapist. They are there to help you. And if you filed for SSD that will be another plus in your favor. Trust me. They will NOT commit you for it unless you do present a clear and present danger to yourself, but it will add to the claim on your SSD status that your not able to work and if you get denied, trust me they deny you the 1st time, still continue to see the therapist and hold back NOTHING and the therapist files will go to SSD and it will prove you CANNOT work and you will win your appeal. So if your denied you MUST appeal. Get an SSD appeal attorney that will not charge a fee until you win and he will gather up all your medical records including your records from your therapist. But if you feel despondant tell your therapist so. That needs to be documented and it needs to be addressed and it needs to be fixed. NO MORE HIDING.
    This is what I went thru. This is how I felt. This is what I disclosed. I appealed my denial from SSD. My SSD appeals attorney got all my medical reacords and my therapists records. I won my SSD appeals hearing. They will make you wait. Be prepared. I filed for SSD Oct 2010. I was denied May 2011. I filed my appeal thru my attorney May 2011. My hearing was April 13 2012 and I won. So be prepared to wait, to be denied, to appeal and wait for your hearing. but in the meantime get a good therapist and unload. They will NOT hurt you. But it will hurt you to keep it bottled up. Trust me. Been there, done that.
    Sending you prayers and best wishes and good luck.

  • Catlazz author
    6 years ago

    Julie I LOVE your comments! You made me laugh at the thought of my (former!) neurologist having to be frisked and put in a police car! Thank you for that. I am seeing a therapist now and she has helped a bit. I especially appreciate your advice on how to go about handling an SSD claim and appeal. I’ve honestly just held off because it means I have to contact the old neurolgist’s office to get my records and I have a mental block about even calling them. But I’ll get past it. I’m so glad for you that you won your SSD appeal; that has to take a bit of worry off your shoulders, hopefully.
    Please take good care, and thanks again for the laugh and the great advice:)

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    6 years ago

    Thanks for the uplifting words, Julie.

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