My Story – Living With Migraines and Headaches: “Friends Thought I was Bewitched”

September 9, 2019

Khalida Jumaan has been battling chronic migraines for six years. By the time she received a proper diagnosis, a nerve in her head had been damaged.

Here’s her story, courtesy of Sunday Magazine:

I have been battling excruciating pain in my head and neck for six years now. Anything I did would ignite a severe throbbing at the back of my head and in the nerves in my neck. The pain wouldn’t go away even when I took strong painkillers. The headache was especially propelled by instances of excitement, sadness, stress and whenever I was in very noisy places. I also battled insomnia and I would stay up for hours at night and drag myself through the day because of exhaustion. The most I slept was two hours every night. And I was always nauseous.

A hospital in Mombasa once referred me to an eye specialist who concluded that my headache was caused by a problem in my eyes. I was fitted with spectacles that did little to help. In another hospital, doctors hinted that I just had a stubborn headache and suggested an MRI to get to the root of my problem. It was only in March this year that a neurologist at Coast Neurology Centre ran a number of tests on my blood sample and concluded I was suffering from migraines.

I wasn’t so shocked since my mother had been diagnosed with the condition a few months earlier. I had seen her health improve after she was put on medication and I knew that I too would be okay. In fact, I was happy that I had someone who understood what I was suffering from.]According to the medic, I had harbored the condition for a very long time that it had destroyed a nerve at the back of my head. He gave me a jab on the affected area and discharged me with instructions to monitor my condition and report back to him after a week. The jab eased the pain significantly. For the first time in years, I was able to concentrate on my job as a customer service assistant at a company in Mombasa. Before, I had battled mood swings that emanated from exhaustion, pangs of pain and lack of sleep. But insomnia didn’t go away.

When I visited the doctor the following week, he prescribed painkillers, specific medication to my migraines and sleep-inducing medicine. I take the medicines twice every day now and the  sleep-inducing ones a few minutes before bed at 7.30pm. Whenever I take them, I sleep soundly till the following day.

It hasn’t been easy coping in a large Swahili family where there is a lot of talking in the house. My family would find it strange when I told them to speak in low tones as the noise would make me uncomfortable. Unable to understand my abnormal headache, my friends and some family members concluded that I was bewitched. The headache would be so intense that I thought I was going crazy. Sometimes, I cried and talked to myself, asking myself why I was always in so much pain. This only gave credence to the opinion that I was indeed going crazy.

My headache is usually accompanied with drowsiness that makes my head feel heavier than it really is. Whenever I lie down, I usually calculate my moves when rising so that I don’t just make sudden head movements. This usually ignites a throbbing that I feel inside my skull. Sometimes, I hold my head to minimise sudden movements and to reduce the throbbing in the nerves on my neck. I sometimes feel like the nerves are being stretched apart.

At work, I have reduced the brightness of my computer to minimise the effects of too much light. And when stepping out of the office, I walk slowly with my eyes fixed on the ground to avoid immediate eye contact with light as this can cause a severe headache.  I am also using a tinted phone protector to avoid too much light. The disease has also affected my social life since I can’t go to social gatherings where there is a lot of noise and excitement. In fact, I can’t keep up with my friends as conversations translate to noise for me. For me, it’s just work and sleep now that I have medicine to get me to sleep for long hours.

I have been practicing yoga for a while now as an alternative to sleep-inducing medicines. Yoga is immensely relaxing and is working out very well for me.

My advice to anyone who has an abnormal headache is to consult a specialist and not depend on self-medication. Doing this only puts unnecessary strain on your nerves.

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