Looking into Your Past & Struggles In Life
When I had my first migraine, I was 11 years old. I didn’t know back then that it was a migraine, especially for someone so young. As I have gotten older, and somewhat wiser, I did try to look into my family’s medical history to find answers.
Now, as many of you know, this is easily said and MUCH MUCH harder to do. I started asking my mom about family medical histories long before I ever became a nurse. I was only in my teens when the questions started stirring in my mind. I didn’t understand why I would suffer from these debilitating “headaches”, since no one would use the “M” word for them.
I found that there was not much history at all to tell me anything about my family history at this point in time, other than some members of my family on both sides suffered from “headaches” that were quite debilitating.
As I started nursing school, my medical knowledge blossomed into more and more of an understanding that what I had inherited from my family was migraines, and not simple headaches. Of course, I discussed this with doctors. And if some of you may have guessed, a LOT of doctors (no disrespect to doctors) just blew me off and said it was more than likely just a plain old headache. Some even took it a little farther and said it was just because I was hormonal. Cue me getting a little grumpy over this. I was studying to help people when they are sick and to help them get better, but when it comes to a disease or illness that is not visible (especially it seems in my experience, if you are female) that you are just exaggerating or being a hypochondriac. This should have been my first clue to how the majority of the medical field is centered. And by no means do I mean that the ENTIRE medical field is this way. This is just my experience from both a medical professional as well as a patient.
Well, the years go on and my migraines continue to get worse with each passing year. Do I know what triggers them? No. I can’t pinpoint anything other than weather change. Do I understand what is making the migraines get worse? No. And no medical professional, even up to this point in my life, can tell me why either. Do I even feel that my fellow medical professionals even care what I am going through when I have to stay home from work because the sun is too bright to drive all over the county (I was a home health nurse, so I drove to people’s homes to care for them, seeing up to 10 people a day and going over 100 miles a day) and I can’t handle all of the different elements of entering someone’s house with the different smells/scents/etc, let alone the terrible pain in my head? No. All the time I was dealing with the migraines, I also found that I have fibromyalgia. Great, now another major pain issue that isn’t going to help anything. Does my boss care? No. They want you to be present all the time and you don’t have time to be sick (ironic for someone who takes care of the sick). Not only do you have stresses from the pressures that you face with your own health being crappy, I had a VERY ill husband who was extremely sick. So of course, I am depressed. Cue more meds. Yeah! Now I have enough meds to make a meal! UGH! Then as they delve deeper into my depression…..they figure out that I am not only depressed, but I am bipolar. **sigh** Now I felt I have somehow wronged someone somewhere to have all of this dumped on me and it seemed to me like I was drowning.
Then the year that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. 2012. My husband lost his battle with his rare genetic condition and passed away 3 weeks before my birthday. I take time off of work to grieve, but I only get a short time to do this because it comes down to the bottom line. Either you work to pay the bills or someone else is going to take your job since there is always someone who is healthier and more stable than you are with all of these health issues that seem to keep piling up. I went back to work. This was BAD. I wasn’t coping with my husband’s death very well, nor did I feel that my so-called friends were even there to listen or help me work through this. Then here comes the boss…stating that I miss too much work due to my health issues and that I have been “withdrawn”, probably because of my “loss”. So, as a result, I had to find another job. Since nurses are needed very badly, it wasn’t too hard to find another job. I explained very honestly about my health issues and what they could mean to my employment. The agency offered me the job and said they would work with me as far as my health issues. Yeah, that didn’t happen. The past job’s prior statements were starting to be repeated. You miss too much work. I would state, that is why I am only part time. I didn’t have a set schedule. They forced me into one. I missed 6 days in 6 months. Which for me is exceptional. That wasn’t too bad for having daily severe migraines that I pushed through no matter the consequences. Then came the ultimatum. We will give you an option. Either you quit or we will just call you if we need you but you have to be available to take our phone call at 6:30 am every morning. I finally had enough. I ended up in the ER where there was ONE doctor that knew me and my struggles worked his heart out to get my symptoms to a “livable” level so I could go home and rest. I made the decision to tell my job to take this job and Sh**e it, as the song goes. I FINALLY followed my primary care physician’s advice and applied for disability, since I do not live one day without these crippling migraines and severe pain from the fibromyalgia. My depression was getting worse and my bipolar, despite taking my medications faithfully, was starting to become a problem. Especially since I felt I was treated unfairly by two different places of business where we would take care of sick people and you are not allowed to be sick yourself. (I will also add in that there were several other nurses that I worked with that called in “sick” more than I did, yet they were not treated the way I was. Which is why I feel I was treated unfairly.)
Eventually, I was accepted into disability. It was a long hard road and it seemed that there was nothing that was going to go right in my life, no matter how hard I tried to do the right thing and follow all the rules. Then another kicker.
My late husband’s brother decided that he would tell the world that I was the worst human being on Earth. Supposedly I put myself first before my husband, which I KNOW was untrue and also made up some nasty lies about me, that ended up poisoning my relationship with all of my supposed friends, including a woman I thought was my best friend. It seemed as though nothing I did, no matter how much I tried, would ever be right. With my ex brother-in-law’s slander, I ended up having to move to another state to get away from the torture and never ending mental abuse that he caused. Right before I moved, my husband’s mother also passed away suddenly. I wasn’t even allowed to attend her funeral or anything and this woman was a second mom to me.
This brought me to revisit my discussion with my mom about my family’s history. By this time, a couple of decades have passed since I first breached the subject with her. I have now found out that several people, on both sides of my family have been diagnosed with not only severe migraines, but also fibromyalgia, bipolar disorder, and depression. It took all of this living through what seemed like a living hell to finally find out that what I was suffering through was something that others in my family had also been suffering through. My family members have varying degrees of these issues, but it is definitely something that all people need to learn, is to definitely look into your past to better understand your past health concerns as well as your present ones and future ones.
I am a headstrong person that usually doesn’t ask for help and I am pretty stubborn about that. Which is something that I am working on every day of my life. Hopefully, someone out there will read this story and know that you are not alone in your own “living hell”. A lot of us sufferers have been through varying degrees of torture by our health concerns and we need to be better at communicating them. Don’t suffer alone, as I had to learn the obvious hard way. I only share this story of my life to better help those who are going through this terrible torture, not any other reason. I hope I will at least reach one person out there that may find a bit of hope in what I have been through and know that it can get better. I have become more open in sharing my life story than ever before in my life. If it helps that person to know that they are not the only one suffering. I do not do this to get sympathy or for any rewards other than to help others. I am a stronger person for this. I have always wanted to help others. That is why I wanted to be a nurse. I have been through the doctors that say that my “headaches” are not as bad as they seem. I have been through the tortures of feeling alone and isolated. I have been through losing friends over various reasons because I refused to talk about my own struggles in life.
Just know, this community, we are here to help. We understand. Do not do this alone. It does get better.