The pain in my head

For six years, Khalida Jumaan has been battling migraines; the neurological disease likened to a throbbing headache. But by the time she received a proper diagnosis, a nerve in her head had been destroyed.

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 the 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.

Watch my moves

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.