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Category Archives: vestibular migraine

Where am I

Well, mostly house-bound due to the migraines and related symptoms and episodes. I go to see my therapist and to doctor’s appointments (too many), but otherwise I go nowhere right now. I missed all the winter holidays with my family (who are almost next door) because noise and light and visual stimulation would just make the migraines worse. I also did not go to mother’s day at Hub’s mom’s house, but for more reasons than the migraine shit.

I completely changed my diet for 5 months, eating no grains, no sugar, no dairy, no gluten (well, I’ve been that way), no nightshades. I’ve lost 45 pounds (that I could afford to lose, but I lost it over 3 months which is too fast) and my food anxiety is still here. I eat the same basic foods over and over again, and I don’t eat any snacks or drink anything other than water. At the moment, I continue on this very restricted diet because I’m afraid to add anything back in because it might trigger an episode of vertigo or nystagmus.

I thought I was doing better (see my last post) but then I had multiple episodes of vertigo and nystagmus again, even when I didn’t change a thing I was doing or eating. Horribly depressed, we squeezed onto the specialist’s schedule again and made the trip to see him. One of the things he had given me initially was a prescription for klonopin and zofran. He told me to take both for the drive to his office about 40 minutes away in the city. I did, and had a very disassociated conversation with myself while we were driving and waiting for the doctor. Needless to say, if I have to use the klonopin again (it’s a vestibular suppressant), I will only take half a pill.

The specialist told me I had done all I could with diet, so he wanted to put me on a preventative medication. Unfortunately, there’s no targeted migraine medication (yet), so everything is off-label for other issues. After talking about my sleep issues, he offered me a tricyclic anti-depressant at very low doses. I have medication anxiety due to my incredible sensitivity to medications of all kinds. The first two weeks I had to wait until Hub was upstairs with me and he had to literally hand me the pills. After that (and talking to my therapist a lot in therapy), I tried to just consider the pills with indifference rather than with fear or hope. I take them okay now, but…they have side effects of course (including incredibly vivid horror nightmares that I’ve woken Hub up in the middle of the night because I’m screaming in my sleep). Even at low doses, I am sensitive. And in fact, I had started making the rounds of testing and other doctors because my hands and feet started feeling incredibly cold and both fingers, toes, and feet started turning blue-purple. Talk about anxiety! I tried to reduce my dosage of the medication, but my migraine symptoms started coming back the very next morning. So after five days of that I went back up to the higher dose I’d been on for 3 weeks and I went for ultrasounds of my legs and the arteries in my legs (two different tests). I also saw a rheumatologist and then a vascular surgeon because one of the ultrasounds came back showing that I might have an issue with an artery in my ankle or something? In the end (and this is from Monday of this week) both the rheumatologist and the vascular surgeon said this is Raynauds due to the medication. It’s been suggested I wean off the meds and try something else, although Raynauds is generally not dangerous just inconvenient and annoying. At the moment, though, the meds are helping me to some extent so I need to decide which is better, stay on with side effects or go off and feel like absolute shit while trying another med that may or may not work.

So for the moment, I’m holding on the current medication at the current dosage (MAV specialist wanted me at a slightly higher dose than I am now) until after I see the cardiologist tomorrow because the meds I’m taking could have (or be having) heart implications for me. Another reason I might need to consider switching to a different preventative.

I’m tired all the time, more from anxiety and stress than anything else. Hub is still taking care of so much, and I worry about him. We have someone coming in once a month to do a heavy cleaning of the house, but Hub tries to keep up with everything in between. I barely see my family, I don’t go to any gatherings because the noise and visual stimulation is too much. I don’t see or talk to any of the few friends that I have. I don’t crochet, I don’t read, I don’t use the computer. This is the first time I’ve been on the laptop since my last post in January. I mostly use my iPad and phone, and even then not that much and it does bother my eyes and head.

Meanwhile, I need to find a new neurologist because the MAV specialist said if I’m going to change medications he doesn’t want to deal with it. Which was disappointing and frustrating. He said if his first line of medications doesn’t work with a patient, he then suggests they have their primary doctor manage other medication trials…but I don’t want migraines managed by a primary. And plus, I have to find a new primary because during this round of *shit* hitting the fan (blue fingers, blue toes, was it a blood clot or peripheral artery disease or…) she ordered two tests but MIS-ordered one of them. So I had to go to two different testing locations when I could have gone to one, and I had to pay for two tests when it should have been done in one. AND THEN when one of the tests came back she sent me a note in my portal saying everything looked fine, only I pointed out that the radiologist’s note said one of the results noted “diffuse disease.” And she wrote back, “Oh, I must have been looking at the wrong test results, thanks for pointing that out” and then she sent me referrals for the rheumy and vascular doctor. WTF. How do I trust anything she’s done or said over the 12 years I’ve been going to her? She isn’t reading the reports or paying attention to the results or whose test is whose? W.T.F. So yeah now I gotta find a new primary and start all over again with my complicated medical history. Sigh.

I hope the meds continue to make me feel less awful and that I can keep taking them. Meanwhile, I muddle along. Maybe next week I’ll be able to crochet more, or do more with the dogs, or read a few pages in a book. Or maybe I’ll feel better for a day or two. I seriously don’t even know what to hope for at this point.

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Sick and fragile

I’ve been MIA, but not because I wanted a blogging break. Not because I wanted to stop reading social media, or reading books, or crocheting, or using my laptop or iPad or phone.

I’ve been sick. Sick to the point that I was initially bed-ridden, mostly house-bound, and unable to function. It has been close to hell-on-earth. It’s an experience I had hoped to never have again, but the universe doesn’t seem to give a shit about my hopes.

In mid-October on a Saturday, I went to the local Renaissance Faire with Hub, Brother#2 (B2), my MIL, and Hub’s aunt. We were there for most of the day…it was overcast and mostly mild, though I went prepared with a mini-fan hanging around my neck. I haven’t been to the RenFaire in years, mostly because it’s the same acts and shops year after year. Hub likes to go and it’s one of the few times he gets to spend time alone with his mother, so I encourage him/them to go on their own. This year, though, B2 was in town and he expressed interest in going. I didn’t want him to have to go “alone” and I didn’t want him to feel obligated to follow Hub and his mom & aunt around, so I went.

By the time we were ready to leave, I was exhausted from walking around. I’d eaten very little, drunk nothing, and once in the car realized that not only was my body painful and weary, but I had a huge headache. On the car home, the headache turned to migraine (which I seldom get actual migraine headaches), with the fun of light and sound sensitivity. When we finally got home, I took two Tylenol (I never takes meds), drank almost an entire bottle of water, then went to bed. The next day I felt okay, but Monday I started feeling worse. The headache was back, the light and sound sensitivity were back, and I was nauseated. Again I took two Tylenol and went to bed…for most of the day. Then Tuesday I had a vertigo attack that included nystagmus. If you are not familiar…nystagmus definition. This is a factual definition. Emotionally, nystagmus is hellatious, makes you feel sick, keeps you from being able to stand, move, or even see properly. It’s terrifying. TERRIFYING. Add that to the spinning of vertigo and…I can’t even.

For the next six weeks, I had periods of vertigo and nystagmus added in with the nausea, light and sound sensitivity, headaches, increased tinnitus, and major imbalance. Imbalance to the point that I wasn’t walking on my own…if Hub wasn’t around I had to use a walker or cane. The vertigo and nystagmus came and went without provocation, and there was nothing I could do to stop them, either. I had to wait it out. Sometimes it was just a few minutes worth, sometimes with the nystagmus it went on for hours…once it stayed over 18 hours, through my sleep. I was extremely fatigued, so I basically went to sleep at 8pm and woke at 7am most days. Even when I was awake I was exhausted. I was barely eating anything (and not very balanced foods), and in 3 weeks I lost 20 pounds.

Hub made doctors appointments for me because I couldn’t do anything for myself, including talking on the phone. I went to my primary doctor who said it was a sinus infection and tried to put me on antibiotics. I didn’t believe her so I went to an ENT who said it was migraine and tried to give me a migraine medication. I took half of a pill and within half an hour got nystagmus that lasted for ninety minutes, so I didn’t take it again. Then Hub called the doctor that I had seen in 2004 for what was then diagnosed as Migraine Associated Vertigo (MAV), later the term was changed to Migraine Associated Dizziness. The doctor is one of the few who specializes in neuro-vestibular disorders in the country…his office was scheduling appointments into 2019. Hub pleaded and cajoled with the scheduling office, who contacted the doctor’s staff to indicate that I was a previous patient who was having a bad relapse. Bless Hub, he was one squeaky-ass wheel and he got me in for testing the following week, and then in to see the doctor the week after the tests. Meanwhile, I found a physical therapist who specializes in migraine associated vertigo and we set up appointments for balance retraining therapy.

After the testing (some of which I refused to do because I’d had it before, it was HORRIBLE to go through, and it had been inconclusive in the past — specifically the caloric testing) was completed, I started on the migraine diet (in other words, I stopped eating pretty much anything other than plain homemade protein, plain broccoli and cauliflower, and sweet or white potatoes plain) and began seeing some relief from the vertigo and nystagmus. It was slow, but progressively moving in the right direction. My balance remained bad, but that I could deal with…the nystagmus and vertigo were almost too much to bear. I was horribly depressed, crying a lot, unable to get out of the house, and living in darkness because of the light sensitivity. And every sound made me cringe in pain.

I saw the physical therapist for evaluation. She did a lot more testing than I expected, provoked nystagmus and vertigo, and asked me so many questions. The appointment was almost 90 minutes long…it was crazy. She said it was clear I had a history of motion sickness and balance issues, that my vestibular system was highly sensitive, and that combining that with the potential migraine issues, she couldn’t really pinpoint one reason for my issues. But she thought she could help me with balance retraining for my brain and vestibular system. We set up appointments for the following few weeks and went home. I was beyond exhausted.

Then I went to see the specialist who went through a few more tests, took recent history, and did his exam. He felt confidant that I was experiencing a relapse of the MAV, now called Vestibular Migraine (VM). He gave me printed information, recommended a book (that I’d heard of but never owned) on the migraine and headache diet, then recommended several OTC vitamins. He said if I didn’t see positive progress in 6-8 weeks, we could discuss prescription medications. But he said that since I’d been majorly symptom free for many years, he felt I could get there again with the diet and the vitamins.

I was depressed and exhausted. I was struggling to eat anything because I was afraid it would provoke the vertigo and nystagmus. I began (and am still) over-analyzing every food and food additive…so I basically only eat whole food that we make at home. And I’ve hardly varied yet outside my standard “safe” foods. I had stopped eating salt (in case I had Meniere’s which is salt-induced), and only added that back into my food in the last two weeks. I had stopped eating mayonnaise (which I love) because of all the additives, so we tried to make our own at home with limited ingredients, but it was kind of a disappointment. And I found I didn’t want to put it on much of what I’m eating at the moment, so we haven’t made it again. I tried the magnesium that the doctor recommended, but instead of helping to relax my muscles it actually gave me muscle aches and cramps…so I stopped taking it.

I started using my iPad to check email a few times a day in December. Around the same time I tried crocheting a little at a time. Both provoked my imbalance and rocking/swaying feelings, and made me tired. Only in the last week have I been able to turn on my laptop and use it briefly. Hub has been doing everything, including taking care of the dogs, hiring a dog-walker to handle the dogs when he isn’t home (at work) because I couldn’t, paying all the bills, doing all the shopping…everything. He finally caught a cold and slowed down…so I started trying to do more. Then I caught his cold and I’m still sick now. My brothers have tried to help out here and there. I stayed home for Thanksgiving (Hub made us a turkey breast) and I stayed home while Hub went to his Mom’s for Christmas. I only started wearing my glasses again yesterday, as I was afraid they would make my imbalance worse. Fortunately, my glasses don’t seem to bother me…important because I gotta go get my driver’s license renewed in the next two weeks and I need my glasses for that.

So, here I am, trying to get my life back. And I’ve added in this new fear of food. There have been some issues I won’t talk about, and then on Friday a health incident with my father, which I WILL blog about in a day or two. As for now, I need to get off the laptop because I’m starting to feel rocking/swaying from the screen.

 

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