Monday, August 16, 2010

Is This A Headache Or A Stroke?

Oh last night I gave myself a wallop of a fright! I was just released from 6 days in the hospital on August 2nd due to 2 strokes caused by a rare & mysterious brain blood-vessel freak out (enough with the rare & mysterious already!). Luckily this condition was quickly diagnosed in 2 days and there is successful treatment if caught early, steroids & calcium-channel blockers. Off work for a month, I have been home trying to digest this new status of "Stroke Survivor" and figure out yet again how to proceed with my life. I have also been flying high on Prednisone and alternately enjoying and spazzing out on its many side-effects. The energy is unprecedented, and the Fibromyalgia pain is gone (glory, glory, hallelujah!)! I have not felt this alive or capable in years. I have no inflammation in my body and can snap, crackle & pop my limber bones and joints into place with easy twists and turns. I am loosing weight and have lost the "puffiness" in my face starting and stopping Lyrica induced over the last few years. This forced type-B is resuming her overdrive-A ways as I am on a major productivity high, setting out to "fix" all the broken pieces of my life that keep coming in the form of life-threatening illness. 

But I am like a speed-freak, racing around at top speed, talking a mile a minute, hands shaking and fits of 'roid rage coming in waves. I can feel the pressure mounting in my brain and usually by mid-afternoon have a mild headache that warrants a Tramadol to soothe this aching reminder that I spent my 34th birthday in the ICU, just seconds, minutes, days away from death. Every evening just to sit down and watch TV and eventually fall asleep I am popping Xanax to bring down the steroid high, once again relying on massive amounts of prescription drugs to survive and playing puppet to their many repercussions. So yesterday when my husband, fur-babies and I spent the afternoon sheltered in the Starbucks outdoor mist-and-shade respite of the 108 degree Arizona heat, I thought nothing of it. Nor of the tightly bound ponytail that got me out the door to church on time earlier in the morning, pulling taught on my scalp all day. The mid-afternoon headache kicks in, with Tramadol offering no avail. It keeps mounting into dinner and by 7PM I am beginning to become quite concerned. Another Tramadol and some Xanax, and an hour later it is still there, slowly building into what my paranoia imagines is another climax of a stroke.

Thus begins the panic, fear, inquiry and concern into the type of headache (nowhere near the "thunderclap" that precipitated my strokes) the meds are doing nothing to soothe the throb of. I pulse with down-right terror as I vividly recall what I have just been through, needing to do anything and everything from allowing that nightmare to repeat itself. My poor husband immediately tail-spins into a bumbling mess, the acute fear of my death and his subsequent solitude that consumed him during my hospital stay flooding back to reality. Do I go to the ER? Is this related to the slight decrease in Prednisone my treatment plan mandated on Friday? Am I over-reacting, having just over-done it with the heat and scalp pressure and frenzied, steroid-induced excitement? I settle on the responsible yet not overwhelmingly expensive or dramatic option of paging the on-call neurologist to obtain advice. She instructs me to take the missing dosage of Prednisone (what's keeping the blood vessels in my brain open from stroking again) and I relent to taking a Percocet that dulls the pain to a slow and easy thud. But I can't sleep, and as I lie next to my terrified half-awake husband I feel so guilty, so scared and so paranoid. I want so badly to live, have fought through Fibromyalgia hell to reach a balance of life worth living and simply cannot be taken down by 1 single more thing!

So for today, at least right now, this girl is resting with an ice-pack strapped to my head, heeding my neurologists advice to increase the calcium-channel blockers, not the steroids (thank God). I am under constant supervision of my family & friends and promising myself to slow down, let my body heal and stop racing back to normal activity the steroids have given me a false sense of owning.

Thanks for joining,

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