Are You Having a Stroke??!?
“No, I’ll be fine.” has become my standard answer when asked if I am having a stroke.
I have an unusual neurological condition that is more often than not diagnosed by process of elimination methods, called hemiplegic migraine. I can describe it to you in two words… IT SUCKS!!!
The best visual aid I have found to help describe hemiplegic migraines comes from migraines.com. Before you ask, yes I have experience many of these symptoms.
I started having migraines at the age of 15, shortly after going into anaphylactic shock and nearly dying from a antibiotic drug allergy. My migraines flexed and wanned over the years. They disappeared between the birth of my sons, returned after the birth of the second and increased greatly around the age of 30. in February 2012 I woke up and looked like I was having a stroke. A few weeks later I was diagnosed with hemiplegic migraines. Now, saying I was diagnosed might be a bit of a stretch as it was a diagnosis by elimination. They tested me for everything. Scanned me for everything. Finally the doctor said it is either this or that. The treatment for this would kill me. (OK I’m sure there was a controlled way to give me medication I am highly allergic too, but that doesn’t sound quite as dramatic now does it?) The “that” was hemiplegic migraines.
I am still getting used to my symptoms and triggers. I had minor surgery for a female issue in March and since have developed new and terrifying experiences with my disorder. It seems anything neurological in a female is influenced by hormones and evidentally my surgery played with mine. I am fortunate, in my case. Normally, I suffer 1-3 days per month. (The last few month are an exception since I’ve had multiple episodes.) If I am cautious I can keep suffering to a minimum through hydration, watching my triggers and taking my meds. Others are not so fortunate.
A bad episode has the visual presentation of a stroke. The right side of my face goes slack, my eye droops. It has been a long while since I had true numbness in my left hand but it does occur. I get dizzy, violently nauseous and a recent development of actually getting sick on my stomach. The head pain varies, sometimes it is debilitating, no medication brings relief. (I had a 9 and half pound baby and my head hurt worse than child birth, just to give reference.) Other times, the head pain is mild, but there is radiating pain in my neck, jaw and frankly my hair and teeth hurt. (Technically it’s not the hair itself, but when you move the hair, it hurts at the follicles.) My eyes almost always water. Things appear to have a haze or halo around them. My ears occasionally feel hot, that usually accompanies the chills – almost like I am running a fever. I have had episodes where I thought I was getting ill with a flu and it turned out to be a hemiplegic episode. The jaw, neck and very rare shoulder pain are frightening. Symptoms of both stroke and heart attack present and often dissipate. I fear I could have a true medical emergency and blow it off, thinking it is a hemiplegic episode. I have gone to the emergency room because of intense pain and a random new symptom, only to be given a shot in the hip and an I’VE. I am terrified I’ll have an ayurism thinking it’s just an episode.
My new symptom is Alice in Wonderland syndrome. Many people have hallucinations with this, mine is more of an out of body perception and a strange perception of my reality. My son can say “hi” and offer to get me some water and I get angry for no good reason. I tend to retreat to my room when this happens. I can tell that something is off, but I react before I process. (My head pain is usually about an 8 during this event…which is blessedly short)
As I stated, I am fortunate. My episodes are roughly once a month. At one point I had them controlled far better, but I was eating far cleaner. That is the challenge. I can improve my health in terms of my neurological condition, my knee injury, and my weight by eating clean. I started off well on Saturday by working out and eating rather sensible. Then we went to the river on Monday, again eating better than usual. The combination of exercise and better food felt good, then the episode hit. Once I have an attack just eating is an accomplishment.
I did better this time. Tuesday and Wednesday were a blur but by Thursday I was doing better and I made Honey Lime Salmon over a Corn and Black Bean salad.
I needed more spinach in the dish but it came out well. The family loved the taste. The leftover corn and black bean mix I combined with salsa for a snack.
Friday, after a strong cup of coffee I was completely pain free and decided to try a vegetarian dish. (Do vegetarians eat cheese, if not I apologize.)
It’s sort of a play on eggplant parmesean. The “pasta” is zucchini and butternut squash with sun dried tomatoes tossed in a garlic olive oil. On the eggplant is a little pinko, with a ricotta and marscapone blend, balsamic reduction and fire roasted tomato sauce. This was really good. Even my son, who doesn’t like eggplant parmesean liked the dish. (Mama is proud of herself.)
Cooking perked me up a bit. More importantly it reminded me I can help control this disease by doing something I love….cooking. I can’t stop every episode, but eating cleaner will decrease the severity and hopefully the frequency.
After all, we are what we eat.