I mentioned in my birthday post that it has been a rough year, in more than one way. Yes, it started out bad with the miscarriage, but then it seemed to carry over in the following months. For the past year and a half, I’ve been experiencing something called ocular migraines. Basically, on random occasions, I get a blind spot in my vision for about 10 minutes, followed by flashing lights and flickering images in my vision for about 20 minutes. Then I sometimes get a headache afterward. These types of things run in my family. However, I worked really hard to eliminate certain things from my diet, get regular sleep, stay hydrated and do all the other things they recommend to stop triggering migraines. I couldn’t make sense of it. It seemed that I couldn’t pinpoint any particular cause or any way to prevent them. At first they were occurring in groups of two, every 6-8 weeks. Then in May, something changed. Yes, I was still getting them on occasion, but I started feeling extremely anxious afterward. They are usually somewhat disturbing (I lose parts of my visual field, for crying out loud!), but this was different. My mind started to escape me … I became paralyzed with fear that something major was wrong with me. I spent weekends in bed, nauseated, consumed with the worst case scenario. At moments, I knew how crazy it seemed and I had little bits of clarity but overall I couldn’t shake the dread. I knew it wasn’t rational but I couldn’t control the anxiety.
I pressed on, seemed to put the thoughts aside and thought it was momentary. But, the manifestations of stress and anxiety taking its toll on me showed up physically. I wound up in the ER, muscles shaking uncontrollably, driest mouth I’ve ever experienced, completely convinced something was very wrong. They ran a few tests only to tell me that everything I was experiencing was the result of anxiety/stress. They instructed me to seek counseling. So I did. I saw her for a few visits and when she saw how rational I was and how well I was coping, it was very difficult for her to help me. I took away a few coping skills and thought things were improving.
Then a few weeks later, the migraines ratcheted up a notch. I was having them every 3-4 days. And the visual phenomena continued for several days after the migraines. Again, panicked, I went to my doctor. Not only was I looking for answers about the migraines, but I knew that I could no longer stay in the anxiety. I was hoping so badly that it would go away on its own. After all, it wasn’t who I am. I had never felt this way before, so out of control of my thoughts. But I finally was convinced that it was not going to get better. The doctor immediately prescribed medication to get the anxiety under control. Relief. He also prescribed medication that is known to prevent migraines–an antidepressant in a very low dose. It would take 3-4 weeks to really kick in but he noted that the side benefit of taking this to prevent migraines would be that it could possibly help with the anxiety. I started the medications and for the first couple of weeks, the migraines continued. After about 3 weeks, they disappeared and have not returned yet. I don’t know if this will be the cure for me but it’s a great start to be migraine-free for close to two months now.
I write all this to say that anxiety is nothing to mess around with. I thought that praying and trusting and believing God’s promises would make it go away. But it didn’t. I learned that anxiety is not the same as worrying. And I’m so glad that I got help as quickly as I did. I look back on those moments when I was so consumed and am so thankful that I did not allow myself to stay in that place for very long. There’s no shame in getting help. I didn’t know who I was for a brief period of time and as scary as that was, the thought of staying that way is what motivated me to get things figured out. I’m starting to see a connection between what I believe was a chemical imbalance, and both the anxiety and migraines. Praise God for medicine and doctors who can help us get these things figured out. I’m praying this means I’ve officially turned a corner.