Yesterday I awoke already exhausted, which is not the best way to start a work day. I barely moved quickly enough to get out the door in time to get the kids to school and catch my train. I made it, but feeling very out of sorts.
I wasn’t sure if the stress level of the previous week had worn me out or if I was coming down with something, but I tried to ignore it and focus upon getting in to work. Unlike a couple of days ago I really didn’t care what anyone else on the train thought about me as I boarded. I was annoyed by the many rude people who had positioned themselves and their bags in such a way as to deny the seat next to them to anyone else. But I didn’t have the energy to make an issue of it so I just plopped down in the nearest empty seat I saw, staring straight ahead barely aware of my surroundings.
By the time I got off the train to transfer to the light rail the vision around the corners of my eyes had started swimming. This concerned me a little bit. But not nearly as much as the wind which was whipping my hair around, making it almost impossible to keep it from the front of my face. When the light rail pulled up, I was the first one into the car, grabbing a window seat and trying to use my reflection to put my hair back into some semblance of presentability. And that’s when I noticed the sparkly zig-zag lights popping up in the center of my field of vision and slowly migrating out to the edges where the world now looked as if it was made of water.
I walked from my station to my office beginning to really worry that something was wrong to me. I tried to remember the early warning signs of pulmonary thrombosis my doctor had warned me about as a potential risk of my estrogen supplements. This visual stuff didn’t seem to fit, but I wasn’t convinced. Something was definitely wrong. Between the lights and the swimming one of my eyes could now barely see at all, and the other seemed to be headed in that direction. I felt trapped by my commuting choice. Had I driven into work I would have turned around and gone home before I came to this point. But by now I realized I couldn’t trust myself to drive in any case until the vision cleared up, so it was all the same.
I made it to my desk without incident. I paused to check e-mail briefly willing my vision to clear. Slowly it started to do so. I grabbed a cup of coffee and pulled up some relevant documents in preparation for an upcoming call from our offshore testing team. In near perfect synchronization with the beginning of the call I felt the throbbing behind my right eye pulsing and growing. Before we were fifteen minutes in, I was in the full throes of a staggering migraine – the worst I’ve experienced in a long time. You know the descriptions of migraine pain as an ice pick being stabbed into your temple behind your eye? It was like that, only the ice pick was covered with bees and accompanied by waves of nausea and near blindness.
By the end of the call I wanted to curl up in a corner under my desk. I pressed my temples as if trying to shove the migraine back into some imaginary box inside my head, with all the effect of shooting a squirt gun into a raging inferno.
I tried to consult the bus schedule to find a way home. The trains wouldn’t run that direction until the evening commute, but busses ran all day. I tried to enter the address of my office as the “from” location in the metro transit website. The system couldn’t find anything close. I knew I’d done something wrong, as that address is right in the heart of downtown Minneapolis near every bus major bus stop. The problem was I couldn’t focus well enough to figure out what I’d done wrong. My brain was full of searing pain rather than coherent thoughts. I gave up and wondered what I might do.
I became torn between asking my supervisor for help – which I needed – and trying to tough it out hoping it would pass shortly. I really didn’t want to leave my first week post-transition with the impression that now I was going to be fragile and prone to illness. No, let me restate that, I was SURE that if I left that would be the general impression I’d embedded. All the good will of the first week squandered by my sudden need for a quiet, dark room and rest.
I went back and forth on this idea throughout the day, as I maxed out the daily amounts allowed without consulting a physician for over the counter pain meds. The pain did lessen ever so slightly with the meds in me. But as for the migraine going away, it never really came close.
Somehow I successfully struggled through the day, engaging in conversation only when necessary and trying my hardest NOT to seem like I was suffering. I was out the door at 4 o’clock, willing myself to fly home but settling for another round of mass transit.
At home I found stronger pain medication, a dark room, and sleep. By the time I awoke the migraine had finally passed, but I was left with a pretty strong dose of migraine-aftermath, which consists of having all my energy drained, a serious intolerance for loud noise or bright lights, and a dull, bruised feeling behind my right temple which lends my thinking a “fuzzy” feeling.
And so my first week of on the job gender transitioning was capped by a inner battle with a migraine too distracting to allow me to assess the previous days. Instead I found myself with serious medical worries. Are these migraines going to be more frequent going forward? I know two major contributing factors – estrogen and stress – are part of my life in major doses for the foreseeable future.
I suppose it was about time to see my doctor again anyway. There are some kinds of pain transition can’t cure.