Perpetual cycle of Migraines, Depression, and Anxiety
Up until last year, I thought headaches were a normal part of life. I didn’t realize it until I was formally diagnosed, but I think I might have been dealing with migraines since I was a teenager. At first, they were just bad headaches and fatigue that would last a few hours up to a few days that occurred 4 -12 times a year. When I started college, I was getting them once or twice a month. This continued until I reached my 30s and I would get an occasional prescription for a mild narcotic or prescription strength Ibuprofen and that usually did the trick.
About 6 years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night to the smell of smoke. I wake my wife and she doesn’t smell anything. Suddenly, I feel this strange rush going through my head, then numbness and tingling all throughout the left side of my body, and then a headache sets in. I initially thought I had suffered a TIA (transient ischemic attack) and my PCP referred me to a neurologist for evaluation. All the tests came back negative or normal and the neurologist had no explanation for what caused it and just told me to come back if the symptoms worsen or persist. 3 years pass and none of the symptoms I experienced that night had returned, but then I started getting headaches and fatigue 2 to 3 times a week. By this time, work and family life was hectic and stressful, so I just figured they were normal headaches that everyone experiences from stress. My chronic insomnia was also at an all time high. I tried sleep aids from the doc, but the side effects were too much for me to be able function properly the next day, so I started using medical cannabis and that did wonders for my insomnia and headaches. Life felt good for awhile and I thought I had a better grasp on things.
A couple of years pass and the headaches come back but they are now occurring daily with occasional numbness and tingling on the left side, transient aphasia, blurred vision, with light and noise sensitivity. I had not been formally diagnosed with migraines and start to think I might have a brain tumor or something. I immediately ask to be referred to a neurologist and that is when I am finally diagnosed with migraine with aura and complicated migraines. This is when everything starts to come crashing down on me. I was prescribed Maxalt and Topomax. When I picked up the prescriptions, Topomax wasn’t available, so I went home with Maxalt to be taken as needed at the onset of a migraine. I start to take it whenever a migraine starts and didn’t really notice much relief. Then one morning as I am getting ready for work, I experience the same symptoms I normally get with complicated migraines but I also experience tremors and paralysis. Now, I’m thinking this could be an actual stroke and I end up in the ER and go through a bunch of test that shows no evidence of a stroke and was told to follow up with the neurologist. Apparently, I had experienced another form of a migraine, possibly a hemiplegic migraine. After several similar visits to the ER, I end up getting admitted to the hospital for 5 days. It turns out that the type of migraines that I was experiencing was so painful and stressful for me that I developed a conversion disorder and was experiencing psychogenic seizures every hour sometime every 5 minutes. I ended up going on a medical leave of absence and made major lifestyle and diet changes. I was taking Topomax and Prozac. The side effects were horrible for me, especially on Topomax, but I continued to take them because I was told the side effects usually subside after a few weeks when the medication is supposed to be effective.
A few months pass, I’m still getting migraines, but they’re not as bad, so I attempted to go back to work. After a few days, the migraines worsen and the psychogenic seizures are back. I end up going back on a medical leave and was prescribed Verapamil to try and treat the migraines. The first night I took it, I experienced a near death experience. I felt dizzy, lightheaded, and collapsed. It’s hard to describe what I experienced next but in the end I felt like my soul was leaving my body and I floated into a bright light. Suddenly, I wake up and my wife is on the phone with 911 trying to get an ambulance to come, but I actually felt better and told her to cancel it. For the next few days, I start to experience weird moments of deja vu and mental visions of events. My senses seems heightened, colors were more vivid and my hearing was super sensitive. After a week of taking Verapamil, I went into a medically induced psychosis and was involuntarily hospitalized in a mental ward for over 2 weeks experiencing, paranoia, schizophrenia, delusions, hallucinations, and also hearing voices with suicidal thoughts. The episode lasted for about a month.
That whole experience was extremely traumatic for me and my family and as soon I was well enough, with the help of my doctors, I weaned off all meds. I am now doing what I can to try and treat this through alternative treatments and no meds, but it’s been difficult. Even though the psychosis happened 8 months ago, I’m still having a difficult time getting over it. I now have severe major depression and anxiety. The migraines are not under control and the psychogenic seizures still occur from time to time. I am now in this perpetual cycle of migraines, depression and anxiety. The doctors keep recommending more meds, but my family and I are so fearful of another episode of psychosis. We are just not willing to take a risk with any new meds yet. I’m thankful to have a strong supportive wife. She has been doing almost everything in our household, including all the driving since my licensed has been suspended. I also have a strong support system of close friends and family and they all have been a huge help. At this point, I just want to get better and be happy again, but I don’t know how and all my doctors are at a loss since I won’t take anymore meds.