October 15, 2010 5:49 AM   Subscribe

Did I have a mini-stroke in my sleep? Should I go to the ER or a walk-in clinic for temporary vision loss in mainly one eye even though my vision is back? Will the doctors think I'm wasting their time?

First of all, I apologize in advance if this post is inappropriate in any way or if I post too much information. I'm not thinking rationally or coherently at the moment. I'm scared.

I hate having to do this but I'm linking this post so I don't have to explain these unrelated details any more than I have to. Hopefully it gives you enough background information to know why I can't simply make a doctors appointment and why I need to figure out if going to the ER is really necessary before actually going. That's assuming I can go...

Below are excerpts from my journal attempting to explain in detail what happened that morning:

October 14, 2010

I’ve been having blurry vision in my right eye since waking up this morning. I was unable to read the clock from my bed but I managed to calm down and semi-convince myself that maybe blurriness is common when you first wake up. I then tested both eyes to see if I could read the closed captioning on my TV and I was unable to read the text at all with my right eye. I could see my way to the bathroom but I could barely focus my eyes. I went back to my room, tested my eyes again with the TV and a book, and the fear slowly began to intensify as I was starting to realize I’ve been up long enough (about 20 minutes) and I’ve never not been able to read a book with my right eye before. As a matter of fact, I tested both eyes yesterday for no real reason except that I’m random and weird (I like to watch objects shift left to right when I open and close each eye). Both eyes were fine. I am near-sighted but I’ve always been able to read a digital clock 4 feet away. I also don’t remember ever waking up in the past and not being able to read my clock immediately*.

The blurriness in my one good eye appears to be subsiding as I’m typing this. It’s not as bad now.

I keep hoping all of this is a coincidence and I just slept on my right eye or something.

There’s some good news though. The whooshing, heartbeat sound in my left ear is less intense and not as consistently disruptive as it was yesterday. There’s also a lot less “pressure” in my head and ears this morning much to my relief**. I don’t know what that means. But the silence is nice. The reduced vision, not so much.

*Update (October 15): I was able to read the clock as soon as I got up this morning.

**Update (October 15): The “pressure” was back shortly after writing that entry. My ears and head feel sort of like I’m standing upside down and the blood is rushing to my head in a heartbeat-like rhythm. Sometimes I can “hear” a high frequency heartbeat-like rhythm in my ears not like the lower frequency pulsatile tinnitus I've been experiencing these last 2 or so months.


October 14, 2010

It’s been over an hour since my last entry. I can see more clearly now with both eyes open. The right eye, while still obviously blurrier than the other, isn’t as bad as it was initially. I’m able to comfortably read the clock and read a book with my left eye, so that’s a relief. I think it’s almost back to normal.


October 15, 2010

Thanks to searching Metafilter AskMe and more googling, I found out sudden temporary vision loss could be a sign of a mini-stroke. I talked to my mother about this yesterday for three or so minutes and she suggested (after I mentioned high blood pressure as one of the possible reasons for the pulsatile tinnitus) the vision loss could be weight-related high blood pressure and it should go away if I continue to exercise and eat less. She didn’t seem concerned at all once I mentioned it could have been a mini-stroke. As I continued to explain my symptoms I noticed she was no longer paying attention to me and was checking for Farmville items on her Facebook.

I’m surprised she didn’t yell at me about bringing it up less than 24 hours before her trip. Whether she yells at me or ignores me, either way, I still feel immensely guilty about bringing it up, as well as disgusted and angry and hurt that both my parents don’t seem to care at all. Saying “I don’t believe what you’re describing is serious or real. I’m sorry you’re scared and I love you.” would have been better than this.

What's disappointing is my father was right at the table with me during our conversation and he didn’t say anything. Was he avoiding me too? I wasn’t talking directly to him, so I can only hope he never paid attention to what was being said to know it was a serious conversation. Maybe he really was zoned out or watching TV. I don’t know.

I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. Should I not take it seriously and call myself a hypochondriac? Talk to my father about it while my mother is out of town and hope he takes it seriously enough to take me to a walk-in clinic? Should I go to the ER?

He may not take it seriously because my vision is fine now. Also, money is an issue.

It’s always an issue.

Then they immediately buy replacement TVs and my mother either uses her credit cards, our grocery money, and/or nags my father for money so she can go to her 25th (not exaggerating) rock concert to see the same sub-par band because she has a crush on the lead singer.

And yet I feel guilty.
posted by Faraday Cage to Health & Fitness (101 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Immediately. as in now.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:01 AM on October 15, 2010 [6 favorites]

I'm guessing you're pretty young? Any other reason to suspect you had a stroke besides blurry vision? I woke up with blurry vision a few days ago and it never crossed my mind that I might have had a stroke.

You sound pretty anxious, and honestly anxiety can cause all kinds of symptoms. All kinds. A few years ago I experience some rapid heartbeats, so I googled myself into a frenzy, making myself more anxious because I was convinced I was going to drop dead of a heart attack any second based on the symptoms. The more anxious I became the more "symptoms" I developed. Well, I got it checked out, several times, and there was nothing wrong with my heart.

I do think it may help you to see a doctor, if for your own piece of mind, and maybe see if you can talk to a therapist too.
posted by bearette at 6:03 AM on October 15, 2010

Further options: detaching retina (a friend of mine has this, I don't know much about it, but she describes similar symptoms); phlegm in your sinuses pressing on your optic nerve. (Once I had an MRI to find out if it was a tumor giving me double, blurry vision and the doctor was like, "Good news! Just boogers!")

But, yes, at least TALK TO a doctor. Does your pediatrician or general practitioner have a nurse triage line you can call? When I am unsure whether I have an emergency, they are usually able to tell me whether I need to take my butt to the ER or whether I should come see them or whether I should wait it out. If you don't have a doctor, a large local hospital may have a nurse line you can call for advice. Another option is urgent care, those storefront clinics where you can go when you're sick and don't have or can't see your doctor, or for things like sprained ankles. If they think it's serious enough, they will simply send you to the ER. But you can get quickly seen and evaluated and if it's NOT ER-worthy, it'll be a lot cheaper. And if it IS ER-worthy, you'll have an actual doctor tell you that and they'll even send you via ambulance if necessary.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:13 AM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I suggest that you see a medical professional as soon as possible.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:13 AM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: True story: two days ago I went to the ER because I had a weird feeling in my chest and was convinced it was some sort of mini-heart attack. I ended up with two perfectly normal EKGs, a teaspoon of Maalox, relative peace of mind, and a sticker saying "SUPER!" because I did "exactly the right thing" in coming to the ER, according to my nurse.

Worry about your life before worrying about the money or what others think. Go see a doctor now.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:25 AM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Any time you're having trouble with your eyes it's reasonable to go to the hospital.

If you look at a light coloured wall and see a darker after image (like after looking at a bright light) it might be a case of CSR like I had. It was stress related and went away without treatment.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:25 AM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: You can't be too careful with your eyes. Just go.
posted by tel3path at 6:39 AM on October 15, 2010

Go to the doctor asap. +1 to the possibility of a detached retina. I had this about 10 years ago. It's repairable, but only when the detachment doesn't get beyond a certain point.
posted by thatguyjeff at 6:47 AM on October 15, 2010

Response by poster: I'm guessing you're pretty young? Any other reason to suspect you had a stroke besides blurry vision? I woke up with blurry vision a few days ago and it never crossed my mind that I might have had a stroke.

When something like this happens and you're overweight, you can't help but wonder if these type of symptoms are stroke or heart-related. I'm 23, female, physically inactive, and obese. I'm about 220-230 lbs. I also experience the pulsatile tinnitus getting louder even when I'm not anxious. I have to tilt my head a certain way to stop it. Also, pressing down on my neck makes the whooshing and beating stop as well until I let go. I noticed it was getting louder and becoming more frequent even before the "mini-stroke".

Have you experienced blurry vision in the past? And for over an hour after waking up? I ask because this is the first time anything like that has ever happened to me.

I don't want to go to the ER and waste everyone's time and money if it's just anxiety. That's why I posted here first. I don't completely trust my judgment for the reasons you mentioned.

Question for everyone: I haven't been to a doctor since I was 8 or 9 years old. If I go to the ER or a walk-in clinic and tell them all this, what should I expect? Maybe I won't be as terrified if I know what to expect before going.

Thanks for the responses so far.
posted by Faraday Cage at 6:47 AM on October 15, 2010

Will the doctors think I'm wasting their time?
Absolutely not.
posted by coupdefoudre at 6:52 AM on October 15, 2010

One of my friends had ocular herpes (eye herpes) and his symptoms (minus the [nervous?]) heart issues. ) sounded similar to yours.

here are some people discussing it
posted by KogeLiz at 6:52 AM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: Go to the ER. Present them with the blurry vision (in one eye only) as the primary symptom. Once you are talking to a doctor, feel free to mention the other things, but be clear that the vision is the main and most dramatic thing.

I had symptoms not entirely identical to yours but somewhat similar and it turned out that I had a spontaneous retinal detachment. I had to have open eye surgery and my vision will never again be perfect, but if I had waited much longer to go to the ER, I would have gone irreparably blind in my left eye. If I had noticed the symptoms earlier and gone to a doctor sooner, I might have not needed the surgery. There are non-invasive treatments, but they only worl if the detachment is caught early.

I am NOT diagnosing you. It might be something else entirely and it might be nothing. But the possibility that it might be a detached retina is enough that you should be at the ER immediately. If you stick around at your computer long enough to type "Thanks for the help" in reply to this comment then you are not taking this seriously enough.
posted by 256 at 6:58 AM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: Faraday Cage, the AskMe question you linked to broke my heart back when you posted it. At the time you were looking for ways to help your sibling get medical attention and people suggested resources like social services and nearby churches. Can you avail yourself of this help now? Can your sibling help you? You're in my thoughts.
posted by carmicha at 7:08 AM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: Put aside all family issues and just concentrate on the medical issue. You've had a medical symptom that's seriously concerning you; therefore, it's time to go to a doctor. And that's all there is to it. This is not about your family. You are a separate individual from your family. (I don't know how many people commenting here are familiar with the OP's previous question.)
posted by John Cohen at 7:09 AM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: Don't go to the ER. This isn't an *emergency.* A walk-in clinic would be better suited, but you really need a primary care doctor on this.

I haven't been to a doctor since I was 8 or 9 years old. If I go to the ER or a walk-in clinic and tell them all this, what should I expect? Maybe I won't be as terrified if I know what to expect before going.

What you need to do is call your local hospital's switchboard number (easily found via the yellow pages or the google) and ask for a referral for a primary care physician. They'll ask you a few simple questions: Do you care if it's a male or a female doctor? Do you have a specific practice in mind? Just ask for the first person available and make an appointment.

When you get there, mention your specific problem and what's bothering you. Then you can get into your history. You will probably need a complete physical, which isn't as horrible as it sounds: the doctor will listen to your heart and lungs, examine your eyes, look at your throat, look in your ears, check your belly for rigidness/tenderness, and check your reflexes. Being that you're female, you may want to also schedule a PAP - but that can wait until you're more comfortable with your doctor if you prefer. You really should have yearly physicals, and there's no better time to start than the present!

Your primary care doctor will absolutely be able to help you navigate what's going on with your vision and whether it's a huge problem or a minor one. S/he will be able to refer you to a specialist if needed. Also, any other health concerns can be brought up with a primary care physician much, much easier than with an ER or walk-in clinic.

Everybody should have a PCP to check in with when needed. It not only saves the ER staff's time, but saves YOU a lot of money as it's a hell of a lot cheaper than the ER, even when you have insurance. My copay is $20, which is more than worth it to get checked out when something about my health seems wonky. My own doctor's office is very accommodating at getting me in on the same day if I call with a health issue - even if I can't see *my* doctor, I can see someone in the practice and get what I need taken care of. Most primary care offices work this way and they're a tremendous resource to have - especially since they're better equipped than the ER to follow your own medical history over time.

TL;DR: Go to a walk-in clinic if you feel this needs to be taken care of *right now* but what you really need to do is find a primary care doctor you can discuss this issue with to fix it over time. A walk-in clinic can give you a referral, as can your local hospital.
posted by sonika at 7:12 AM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Go to the doctor's RIGHT NOW. There are, as mentioned upthread, lots of non-scary causes for vision issues - but if it's one of the scary ones, it needs treating as soon as possible.

If you need scaring into getting your arse to the doctors - the whooshing in the ears, feeling of pressure and the blurred vision could be signs of raised intracranial pressure, which may be causing neurological damage as we speak. Of course, they could be something benign. But you are not going to know until you are looked at by a professional.

As 256 says, if you reply to this you are not taking this seriously enough. GO NOW!
posted by Coobeastie at 7:14 AM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: Re:sonika's post: I don't know about the cost situation for you, but here in the UK if you ring the phone triage for the NHS with vision issues they will almost always send you to straight to A&E (ER).

Your eyes are directly and closely linked to your brain; serious neurological issues can often first manifest as vision problems. That's to say nothing of the possibilities of 'straightforward' disorders of the eye leading to permanent vision loss. There is every possibility that this is an emergency and it should be treated as such.
posted by Coobeastie at 7:19 AM on October 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Sounds like the sort of thing that a doc should really take a look at. Simplest way to do that is to go down to the ER and tell them you woke up with blurriness in one eye and a rushing in your ears that didn't subside for over an hour. While you are there, you could ask if you could talk to their social worker while you wait. Based on your other thread, maybe they can give you some advice on your options about your home situation, you know?
posted by Iteki at 7:24 AM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Faraday - I've mefimailed you anyway, but just to reassure you about the doctor experience. When you see one, they should be professional but also caring, and listen to everything you have to tell them. Your experience will, or should, be positive and reassuring - there is someone whose job it is to look after you and your health = awesome!

If it doesn't turn out this way, try another doctor as there are bad ones out there, like with teachers, therapists etc. But if you get a good, well-trained doctor, you should find the experience a positive one and come out of it healther, better informed, or ideally both!
posted by greenish at 7:26 AM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is meant for children, but we're starting to talk to my little one about what happens at the doctor, so it jumped to mind: Going to the Doctor

Probably they'd just do the vital signs and then exams relating to your head and chest, and obviously not the "growth-and-development" checks.

I recently went to the ER for a corneal scratch. I checked in at the front desk, gave various intake information to the triage nurse (what was wrong, how long, etc.). Mine was obviously not-very-emergent (if it hadn't been after-hours, I would have gone to urgent care; as it was, I went to the low-level ER instead of the one with the Level I Trauma Center). They took me back to a room, with a TV to keep me entertained, and a nurse took my vitals (pulse, respiration, blood pressure, temperature) and took a fairly brief history. Before too long the doctor and another nurse came in with an eye-looking-at machine and put drops in my eye to numb it and dilate it. (I don't cope well with eyeballs so I accidentally said in my out-loud voice, "I hate you both so much right now" as they put the drops in, having to hold my head still because I kept flinching. I apologized, and they thought it was pretty hilarious.) Then they looked in my eye with the eye-looking-at machine, found the scratch, and prescribed various medicine and a tetanus shot. Then I had to kinda wait around for a long time for the shot and the meds to show up. But it was only around 90 minutes total before I went home.

No clothes were removed and everyone was very, very nice. Being patient and polite helps, since lots of people in the ER are impatient, freaking out, in a lot of pain, etc. But I certainly pushed my call button when I needed a blanket because the ER was FREEZING.

If your eyes will let you read, take a book. The most annoying part is just the waiting. When the take your history, they ask a lot of questions off a standardized form, some of which seem repetitive. Just keep answering, the nurse doesn't like the repetitive questions either. And feel free to embellish if you feel like the question doesn't quite get at your answer properly -- "Are you having chest pain?" "Yes, but I've been very anxious, so I don't know if I should take it seriously or if it's just anxiety." And when they ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 1-10, don't underestimate it; I apparently always underreport my pain compared to the general population, who are all apparently giant babies about stubbed toes. But often there's a threshhold they want you to self-report, like "four," before they will give pain relief. Or whatever, I don't know the actual threshhold.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:40 AM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: Our experience: My partner had a couple TIAs earlier this year. Once was in the car while we were on the way to get an MRI requested by his neurologist. He had severe visual disturbances, slurred speech, memory problems... Because he was under medical care, we did not go to the ER. The symptoms abated, although there are ongoing issues and we are pursuing treatment and possible rehabilitative measures.

You ask: "Will the doctors think I'm wasting their time?" My answer: Absolutely not. Vision loss is a serious matter, and you need medical attention.

Based on our experience: If you are not experiencing these symptoms right now, the best option would to seek primary care. I see from your linked post that you have issues with "going to the doctor." In spite of that, I urge you very strongly to seek out a primary care physician with whom you can establish an ongoing relationship for your care, for all your care. If that is not possible or practical, or if you cannot obtain an appointment within a day or so, the next best option would be a walk-in clinic. Where we live, several supermarkets and drug stores have these clinics, and there are also free-standing neighborhood clinics.
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:51 AM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. Should I not take it seriously and call myself a hypochondriac? Talk to my father about it while my mother is out of town and hope he takes it seriously enough to take me to a walk-in clinic? Should I go to the ER?

You are not a hypochondriac. Sorry if this is harsh, but your parents are crazy, and specifically they for whatever reason make terrible (probably criminally terrible) decisions about taking you and your sister to the doctor. Yes, you need to go to the doctor right now to get checked out. It may not be something serious, but sudden vision problems are a huge red flag and you need to go now.

Do NOT talk to your parents about this and expect them to say "Yes, you should go to the doctor, here, I'll drive you." This is what normal parents would say, but I'm sorry your parents are not normal. You have to do this yourself. Again, I'm really sorry that it is like this and I hope you move out and get into a situation where you are more free to take care of yourself, but seriously you have look out for yourself because your parents are not capable of doing so. Hell, if I lived near you I would not hesitate to take the day off of work and drive you to the hospital myself. Do not talk to your parents about health problems and expect them to make a good decision or respond in a non-crazy way, because they are never going to.

I haven't been to a doctor since I was 8 or 9 years old. If I go to the ER or a walk-in clinic and tell them all this, what should I expect? Maybe I won't be as terrified if I know what to expect before going.

You should expect to get the medical diagnosis and treatment you need from a professional. Seriously, these are people whose job it is to make sure you are okay, and they will walk you through everything. Just say "I haven't been to the doctor since I was 8 or 9 so I'm not sure what to do" and they will tell you exactly what you need to do. It is not scary or bad. Having symptoms of what could be a serious brain injury and not getting any help for it is scary and bad.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:52 AM on October 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I haven't been to a doctor since I was 8 or 9 years old. If I go to the ER or a walk-in clinic and tell them all this, what should I expect? Maybe I won't be as terrified if I know what to expect before going.

They will listen to everything you say and write it down, and then examine you. It's nothing to be afraid of. Here's what they will not do: laugh at you, scream at you, or beat you.

If they find that it's "only" anxiety, then you will be able to talk to a psychiatrist and maybe even get medication on the spot. As far as I'm concerned this is killing two birds with one stone regardless of whether it's anxiety or not.

When you are in the ER, before or after you are examined you can also request to talk to a social worker or a priest so you can talk about the situation in your home. This person will also not laugh at you, scream at you, or beat you. They'll just listen and hopefully do something helpful. And remember that if you are scared of wasting their time or looking like a wacko, the entire reason they chose their professions was to help people with their issues, and there's very little chance you have the most or fewest issues out of the thousands of people they've dealt with. So it's actually 3 birds with one stone.

This is how you take a taxi:
1. Call the taxi service and tell them your address, or any other address where you want them to meet you if you don't want your parents to know what you are doing. It doesn't have to be your house, it can be anywhere at all.
2. Tell the taxi service the address of the hospital.
3. Ask the taxi service how much the trip will cost and have that amount on hand in cash.
4. Wait for the taxi, usually takes about 15-20 minutes.
5. When the taxi arrives confirm the cost of the trip with the driver.
6. When the taxi pulls up to the hospital give them your cash plus a couple dollars for a tip (say 15%).
7. Exit taxi.
posted by Ashley801 at 8:13 AM on October 15, 2010 [8 favorites]

Do you have a service like NHS Direct where you live - a medical advice phone-line? It may be free and you can explain your situation regarding actually seeing a doctor to someone there.
posted by mippy at 8:18 AM on October 15, 2010

Go to an urgent care clinic. They are meant to treat issues that are not emergencies but cannot wait for an appointment. A visit to the ER now would be a waste of your time and money. It is reassuring that your vision came back to normal.
posted by Spurious at 8:20 AM on October 15, 2010

Response by poster: I know I'm not supposed to be here. Anxiety makes people do really stupid, self-neglectful things. I've decided to risk my health for a few more hours (my father should be home in an hour or so now) so I can talk to my him about all this before making any expensive, dramatic decisions like calling the ambulance. If all this ends up being nothing, the ambulance ride would piss him off even more because he would end up being the one to pay those bills.

I know I'm stupid for waiting. However, a few hours delay is better than not going at all.

I just recently made a Facebook about a month ago and added a few old friends from elementary school. I contacted one of them fifteen minutes ago, explained the situation, and asked her if she would be willing to drive me to the ER if my father refuses to take me to a walk-in clinic. She said yes. I'm not sure how reliable this person is... and she has to wait until her sister gets home to ask to borrow her car... but... I needed a backup plan in case he isn't willing to help and before I call the ambulance.

I have a throbbing headache still, especially when I sit down after standing up. I feel sort of like I have a fever... but my temperature is only 99.1 degrees at the moment.
posted by Faraday Cage at 11:52 AM on October 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

Faraday Cage, I understand why you're delaying, and it's great that you've got a backup plan - I'd prefer you to be seeing a doctor right now even so. You can get a taxi to the hospital if all else fails - I don't know about your neighbourhood, but if my neighbour knocked on my door in obvious pain and asked for the taxi fare to the hospital I would give it to them without a second thought.
posted by Coobeastie at 12:22 PM on October 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

If past behavior is any judge -- and it should be, especially in your case -- your father is going to tell you you're exaggerating or being overly sensitive or whatever it is he wants to say to minimize your problems and also to prevent you from having contact with the outside world, especially medical contact. I don't know why you think he would suddenly change his behavior or attitude now. He and your mother fear being exposed for their years-long undeniable abuse of you and your sibling. Even if he did think you were really sick, like you were gushing blood, he purposely may not take you to the ER because he fears getting in trouble for what he's done. Look what happened to your sibling's arm! After repeated seizures!

So, you can see that waiting to ask his permission to get treated for a life-threatening medical emergency is, well, very likely pointless. He will make you doubt yourself, and the opinion of everyone who has responded here.

You are an adult, and he is an abuser who should be in jail. You do not need his permission for anything, and right now you are basically holding out to ask him if you have permission to survive.

Please, please go to the hospital. Don't ask, don't wait, just go!
posted by Asparagirl at 1:00 PM on October 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

Another thought -- where are you in the world? I mean, what city? I'm sure we could find a friendly MeFite who would pick you up at your house and drive you the hospital, since we are legion. Please write back?
posted by Asparagirl at 1:04 PM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: I'd suggest ER instead urgent care. Because in order to evaluate your symptoms the doctor will need to order things like Head CT or other procedures, which urgent care places just don't have.

Is there a difference in your headache lying down or sitting up? Any double vision?
posted by Pantalaimon at 1:08 PM on October 15, 2010

Response by poster: Quick update. I had him read a condensed version of my symptoms on an index card and he's now digesting the information. He seems sort of doubtful... and unemotional... but he's not being argumentative. All he said was: "I thought one side of your arm or body or something is supposed to go limp or numb during a stroke." He doesn't have any money and I don't have insurance. My only option is the ER at Shands and apparently that's not the best place to go. We're also going to have to take the bus if we do go because he doesn't have a license, and he's irritated about that.

It's been 10-15 minutes since I told him. He hasn't approached me since then with a decision. I don't know what he's thinking.

Pantalaimon: The headache throbs more if I sit down or lay down right after standing up. It sometimes throbs when I stand up as well. No double vision.
posted by Faraday Cage at 1:20 PM on October 15, 2010

Faraday Cage-- If it would help, MeMail me and I will PayPal you cab fare.
posted by carmicha at 1:25 PM on October 15, 2010

Jesus Christ I'll paypal you money for a fucking taxi - GO!!
posted by tristeza at 1:26 PM on October 15, 2010

posted by Asparagirl at 1:29 PM on October 15, 2010

ACK! He's describing a heart attack! Not a stroke!

Please let him know that he's not a doctor, and it'll be cheap - IF there's nothing wrong. There's no harm in getting checked out. PLEASE GO!
posted by Citrus at 1:29 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are you near Gainesville or Jacksonville, Florida? That's where Shands seems to be.
posted by Asparagirl at 1:31 PM on October 15, 2010

My only option is the ER at Shands and apparently that's not the best place to go.

You haven't seen a doctor since you were 9 and you have serious and scary symptoms. Any place where doctors are is a good place to go.

It's been 10-15 minutes since I told him. He hasn't approached me since then with a decision.

I would highly suggest not trusting either of your parents on this issue, based on their track record on this. I know it's difficult but please figure out some way of getting to a hospital.

Are you near Gainesville or Jacksonville, Florida? That's where Shands seems to be.

The older anonymous question said they were in Florida, so I'm guessing that's correct.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:35 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Tell him if it's a neurological problem (like a mini-stroke) or detached retina etc, it could get a lot worse -- which means it would be much cheaper to treat it now than later.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:39 PM on October 15, 2010

Response by poster: He still hasn't approached me about it. Also, the Facebook friend just IMed me to let me know she can't help because no one is willing to watch her kid or let her borrow their car.

posted by Faraday Cage at 1:46 PM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: Tell him if it's a neurological problem (like a mini-stroke) or detached retina etc, it could get a lot worse -- which means it would be much cheaper to treat it now than later.

This is from the earlier anonymous question:

Apparently, not even a "real problem" like a physical injury/health problem is enough to take us to a doctor. For example, my sibling injured their arm six years ago from slamming their arm against the wall during a seizure in their sleep. Their arm is getting worse and they're starting to have more seizures, more often. Their arm randomly falls out of the socket, whereas in the past it only fell out when they used it a certain way. When I confront my parents about this, they tell me they don't have enough money. They ignore me. They change the subject.

What are the chances that after years of neglect, her father is suddenly going to come around to the idea that getting medical treatment is cheaper in the long run than ignoring serious medical issues?

Faraday Cage: You need to call a cab or get on a bus yourself, or do something to get to a hospital this time. I know it's hard and it seems like it would be much better if you could just stay and home and have your problems magically go away. I have been there, anxiety makes you think those sorts of things. But they are not going to go away. Even if it's not today, sooner or later it's going to come down to either you going to the hospital or something really bad happening. You need to be able to go to the hospital when you think there is something wrong with you. This is one of those times. If you need help with the specifics of stuff like calling a cab or figuring out what bus to take please ask here and hopefully someone can answer any questions you have.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:53 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Faraday, there are tens of thousands of MeFites, more than tens of thousands of lurkers, and we have networks of friends and family and good people around the planet. I know somebody here can help you get to the hospital. We could PayPal you the cabfare, or call a cab for you and have it charged to our credit card so you don't have to handle it (seriously, I volunteer), or I bet we could even find someone to pick you up at your house and drive you the hospital. But first you have to tell us where you are. Just say the word, and the BatSignal goes up. Where do you live?

You can't stay stuck in this perpetual holding pattern where you think you need your abuser's permission to leave -- or to live. Why do you care if he "approaches you" or not -- the route to your freedom, whether literal or metaphorical, does not lie through another person's understanding or recognizance or yes or no. Believe me, I know, I have been there too.

He is not a doctor, he is not God, he is the man who kept you and your sibling prisoner in your own house since you were young kids. He has denied you education and medical care. You do not need him to say "okay". Because he won't.

posted by Asparagirl at 1:57 PM on October 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

Can you call Alachua County Social Services at (352) 264-6750 and tell them you need emergency help?
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:58 PM on October 15, 2010

Response by poster: I'm afraid if I involve a MeFite they'll confront my father or report abuse/neglect of a "vulnerable adult".

How can I call 911 while my father is drinking a beer and watching Cash Cab? I don't think I can do it.
posted by Faraday Cage at 2:05 PM on October 15, 2010

Memail me your address and I will make the call on your behalf. I will not make any attempt to confront anyone or report anything. I will just call 911 and tell them where you are and what symptoms you're experiencing.
posted by prefpara at 2:09 PM on October 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm afraid if I involve a MeFite they'll confront my father or report abuse/neglect of a "vulnerable adult"

I can't speak for anyone else directly, but if you need me to do something like call you a cab I don't need to know your name or actual address or anything. I would not report anything or confront anyone. Based on mefites I've met I'm guessing there are a lot of people who would also make you this promise.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:12 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You are not being stupid (please believe me and everybody else on that one). Your thinking is muddled because you are legitimately and justifiably scared, and because your family seems to have a history of not dealing with medical problems, but you are not being stupid.

Your symptoms are unusual and could be due to a number of serious, health- or life-threatening conditions. Please, call an ambulance.
posted by Lexica at 2:13 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you are uncomfortable with the ambulance thing, I will call you a cab and pay the cab company to take you to the ER. I give you my word that I will do nothing but give the cab company your address.
posted by prefpara at 2:15 PM on October 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

Also I know from reading your previous comments that just being able to have this conversation with us is a big deal. I hope you can find the courage to make the step of getting to the hospital this time.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:15 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: People call 911 all the time for the stupidest stuff, like a twisted ankle or ringing in their ears. They still get an ambulance sent to take them to the hospital. Some elderly people actually call a couple times a week for real or imagined shortness of breath, or things like that. The ambulance still comes.

Now, unlike a twisted ankle, your situation certainly qualifies as a real medical emergency, something valid that you can call for. You have a terrible multi-day headache with notable changes in your vision and possible blood pressure issues -- you may have had a mini-stroke -- and you have no way to get to the hospital. That's all the 911 dispatcher needs to know. The fact that there is someone else in the house at the moment is irrelevant, especially since he can't drive you there. If the 911 dispatcher asks if you have another way to get the hospital, all you have to say is no, I don't drive, and the other person in the house can't drive either. That's all you have to say.

Please call.
posted by Asparagirl at 2:16 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you take a cab to the hospital, here is what will happen when you get there:

1. The cab will let you out in front of some doors. (Or just on a sidewalk and you will look around for some doors that seem promising.) Anybody you see on the sidewalk should be able to tell you where to go for the Emergency Room check-in area.

2. You will walk in. Probably there will be a big waiting area with people sitting around waiting to be seen. There will be a main desk with a receptionist behind it. You will walk up to the main desk.

3. You will say to the person at the desk "I need to see a doctor. I had vision loss in one eye this morning, and I have a terrible headache right now." They will ask you to fill out a form with your name, address, etc. You can leave things blank if you don't know the answer. If there is a space for "do you need to see a social worker?" say yes!

4. Then you may have to wait for a while; this is normal. There should be magazines etc in the waiting area, or a tv, or you can just watch cars going by outside the window. You don't need to talk to anybody in the waiting area, since everybody there is usually very involved in their own problems.

5. When they call your name, a nurse will lead you into another area - it may be a room with a door, or it may be just a "room" enclosed by curtains all around. They will probably take your temperature, take your blood pressure with the velcro cuff that goes around your upper arm, look into your eyes with a special device (it doesn't touch you, so it doesn't hurt). After taking your initial information, the nurse will then go back out to the desk to record your info and he or she will go do the same tests on other patients. You will sit in your little room, waiting, for a while. This is normal. There is a lot of waiting in the ER, so it can be a good idea to bring a book or notepad and pen, to entertain yourself. If you feel like it's been too long you can poke your head out of the room and get the attention of someone to ask when the doctor will see you. If your symptoms change, you can call for help. If you need a cup of water they can usually help with that. They may give you a button to press if you need to summon help. In the hospital, remember you can ask for help when you need it.

6. Eventually a doctor will see you. Tell them all your symptoms. They will then start thinking about what tests to run, to check what caused the vision problem and headache. They may decide to start you on medicines such as blood-thinners, which can prevent a future stroke.

If you can, explain that you have been shut in at home with parents who refuse to help you (and your brother) get medical care. Ask if there is anything the hospital can do to connect you with help -- do they have social workers? Once you are in the hospital, you're in a place with a lot of connections to people who can help, so take advantage of it! You can do it! Bring a pen and paper if you think it will be easier to communicate by writing all this down rather than saying it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:18 PM on October 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

I have to get offline. Please call (352) 284-6205 and ask for a cab to come to your home and take you to Shands. If you don't have money for a cab, please call 911.
posted by prefpara at 3:52 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Your eyes are not just connected to your brain, they're little parts of your brain that happen to be on the outside. Sudden vision issues often have a neurological basis. Ignore what your parents say, just go.

Don't forget that your doctors/nurses are your advocates. They cannot tell anyone -- including your parents, the police, etc -- anything about you or your condition without your consent. You can be completely honest with them.
posted by phliar at 3:55 PM on October 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: He finally made a decision for us to go to the ER tomorrow morning. His reasoning is that if we go tonight we won't be able to get back home.

He kept saying stuff like, "You know that internet will convince people they have conditions they don't actually have. Don't get so worked up over it."

When I told all I did was explain my symptoms here and got over 30 responses telling me to go to the ER or see a doctor, he said "Come on, they're not doctors! Your vision is fine now. If you go to the ER with no symptoms they're not going to do anything. You didn't have a stroke. You didn't experience numbness on one side of your body." You get the picture.

He's doubtful... but... he's looking at the bus schedule right now and making plans for tomorrow, which is more than I expected.

Thank you everyone for telling me I wasn't making mountains out of molehills. I wouldn't have been able to get this far without your support and guidance. For those of you who offered assistance, I very much appreciate it, but I'm not comfortable having people spend money on me. I will try to contact one of you tomorrow as a last resort though if my father changes his mind or forgets about the ER.

I begged him not to tell my mother what's going on until she gets back from her trip. God, I hope he remembers not to tell her. I felt like puking when I thought he already did. The last thing I need is to be blamed for "ruining her trip".

I'm going to go to sleep now.
posted by Faraday Cage at 4:00 PM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: Check your MeMail; I sent you additional contact info and suspect others have too. Take care of yourself... by going to the ER even though it is the more difficult choice and may cause friction with your parents. People here are rooting for you. Readers of this thread appreciate how difficult it is for you to reach out and how insurmountable the challenge of getting yourself medical attention seems.

Seeking medical care could be the first step you take towards ensuring a better life for yourself. Conversely, if anything is seriously wrong, waiting too long could put you in a position of greater dependency.

Now for a sad story. Long ago, when I was a high school freshman, a friend contracted pneumonia. He realized he was ill and skipped school to visit the ER where they gave him a diagnosis and medicine. Unfortunately, his parents' religion led them to take his prescription away and confine him to home while they prayed over him. My friend died, despite having made the decision, at 14, to defy his parents and take charge of his health.

Don't let tragedy happen to you.
posted by carmicha at 4:56 PM on October 15, 2010 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I sincerely hope that you'll be able to get some medical help tomorrow, though I have a feeling that your father will do his little dance again and try to dissuade you from going. Tomorrow your symptoms may be less acute and so your resolve to go seek help may be weakened. Please remember that even if the symptoms resolve for now, it doesn't mean the underlying condition has gone away. You NEED medical attention. That's not negotiable.

One last thing, if you do get to the ER or another medical office, know that you are not obligated to have your father stay in the exam room when the doctor interview you. All you have to do is say to the nurse, at any point, "I prefer to speak to the doctor alone."

Please update us when you feel up to it.
posted by Pantalaimon at 5:53 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

One last thing: if you end up having to go on your own, take a taxi rather than an ambulance if at all possible. It might seem less intimidating to take the ambulance (since you just call 911, people show up at your house, and take over from there), but it costs a LOT more money. It's worth it if you can't get up the courage to go any other way, but if you think you can handle taking a taxi, take the taxi for sure.
posted by Ashley801 at 7:42 PM on October 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Even if it's not a stroke (or a Transient Ischemic Attack, "T.I.A.", which is like a pre-stroke), it could be a migraine (which they can give you medicines to help with) or something else. Sudden vision changes are a reason to see the doctor right away, period.

It is not okay for him to decide that you can't have medical care.
I hope you'll be able to connect with a social worker at the hospital or else call the social services agency for your city/county soon and get some real help for the larger problem (that your living situation is not safe).
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:56 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I woke up three hours later and the head throbbing was gone for what seemed like 10 minutes. Then it started again. It's not as bad as it was though.

I'm starting to doubt it's related or relevant to the vision loss I experienced yesterday (the 14th). I'm starting to doubt a lot of things now.

Please remember that even if the symptoms resolve for now, it doesn't mean the underlying condition has gone away.

I needed to hear that. Thank you.

They cannot tell anyone -- including your parents, the police, etc -- anything about you or your condition without your consent. You can be completely honest with them.

Is this true?

I've been trying to write down a watered down version of what's going on with me and my brother without demonizing my parents. So far my "introduction" to the doctor/nurse/whoever is on an index card. It says: I'm handing you these cards because I may be too nervous to talk or remember/articulate my symptoms. Getting here was difficult because I have debilitating social anxiety and I've been homebound for over 5 years (I purposely underestimated the years). I considered waiting "a while" because I don't have money or insurance and wasn't sure if this was enough of an "emergency" to go to the ER. But my online friends urged me to go to the ER because "temporary vision changes could indicate a mini-stroke or intracranial pressure". I haven't been to the doctor since I was 8 or 9 years old (Should I really mention this?!). I don't know my medical history.


I would like to speak with a social worker about my anxiety/depression and lack of insurance.

Is that too much? Is that too little?

I'm worried if I tell them the bare minimum, they'll ask me questions I can't answer. I'm also worried I'll say something stupid and someone will come out and confront my father, or my parents will get in trouble. I doubt most of you are here now, but if you are, and you have any suggestions on how I can tell them without raising too much suspicion, please help me. I want to take advantage of this situation and find out what my brother's options are for his seizures and his arm, as well as get psychiatric help if at all possible.
posted by Faraday Cage at 11:19 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Taking this question at face value: you already know you should go directly to the ER without wasting another moment. That being said, it is possible your vision loss could be optical neuritis which is often the main presenting symptom of Multiple Sclerosis, which is basically a neurological condition involving the myelin sheath of the nerves (or is it muscles?) being eaten away by the body. It can actually be fairly benign but treatment must be started asap to prevent it from becoming a debilitating condition. And you definitely would want treatment (usually a simple IV treatment of steroids) to stop the eye symptoms before they become permanent.

But I'm not a doctor and I really, sincerely think you should see a doctor (preferably in an ER) IMMEDIATELY.
posted by 1000monkeys at 11:54 PM on October 15, 2010

Best answer: There is a law called HIPAA (Health Information and Privacy Act) which governs what information doctors and nurses can share about you. Here is a PDF that explains HIPAA rules about when doctors can tell family members your medical information.

The short version is that you should tell the nurse/doctor that you want to speak to them alone, and say that you don't want them to share information with your father. It is your right to not share the information. (But you'll probably need at some point to say this to them or hand them a card saying it, so they don't just assume you are ok with sharing the info with your dad. Your card can say "I want to see the doctor alone. Please do not discuss my case with my father.") They see patients all the time who don't want to share info with the person who came to the hospital with them, so they should be quick to understand once you say something/give them the card.

When you check in to the hospital, they will probably have you sign a form that relates to HIPAA - it might have a space where it asks "Is it okay if we discuss your case with your family member?" - you can say "no".

As to the message in your cards, I think you should be even more blunt. Be clear that your situation is one of real need. Do not downplay it. You need to be a good advocate for yourself here, and you can do that by being honest.
I'm handing you these cards because I may be too nervous to talk or remember/articulate my symptoms. [List symptoms]

I also need to speak to a social worker.

I and my brother have been homebound since we were children, and have not had medical care since that time. We both have severe social anxiety and have been unable to seek help until now.

This is my first trip outside the house in [however long - be honest] and it is very difficult for me to get out, so it's important for me to get help today.

We both have medical problems that require outside help -- my brother has seizures and a dislocated arm, I have depression, and we both need psychiatric help for our social anxiety.

We do not have insurance. We do not have incomes.

Please help me -- TODAY -- to find the right resources to help myself and my brother.
This version leaves out your parents entirely. You could add a line saying "Our home situation is not stable and we want to find a way to move out."

I am no social worker so I don't know what they'll do, but I would imagine that they can stall and say they are running tests that involve you sitting quietly alone for a while or whatever, to keep your dad in the waiting area while you have time to talk to a social worker or whoever they can find that can help.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:19 AM on October 16, 2010 [15 favorites]

Best answer: If your father tries to put you off tomorrow, remind yourself that you are worth caring about. Tomorrow that may mean that you have to do a lot of caring about yourself for yourself, and it may be hard to keep that up. It can feel exhausting when it's a new practice. If it helps, think of what brought you to AskMe the first time--care and concern not just for yourself but your love and concern for your brother. You challenged serious anxiety and a lot of awful situational issues to ask about how to get help and how to work on getting out and being safe.

You deserve to be cared about and looked out for the same way. Getting to the ER is a part of that care, both because of your health and because it might open some avenues to addressing the larger issues in your living situation. When you've been posting here, you've been practicing how to assert yourself to get the help you need. You've been exercising those skills and thoughts like muscles. Keep using them tomorrow. It might make those 'muscles' tired. It's probably going to be scary in that respect. You are 'walking' on very fresh legs. It might not go perfectly. As long as you get the medical issue thoroughly evaluated by a professional, the rest doesn't have to go perfectly.

That's scary and feels risky and tiring and new, and new things and experiences aren't always perfect. But just following this through as far as you can and holding on will make you stronger for the next time. And if your father becomes angry about whatever happens, for whatever reason, I would bet you a good sum that part of what he'll be reacting to is the realization that you are getting stronger. You are. Even just since July. Every time you stand up for yourself, even in small ways, you get stronger.

What I want you to take to heart is that your priority here must be you. This is the hardest and most painful muscle to exercise. Your safety and health need to come first. No one wants to demonize your parents. LobsterMitten wrote up a great example card. The people at the hospital will want you to be safe, and for your brother to be safe as well.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 12:31 AM on October 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I rewrote card 1 to say:

I'm handing you these cards because I have severe social anxiety and may be too nervous to talk or remember/articulate my symptoms: temporary vision loss, pulsatile tinnitus, and a throbbing headache mainly when I just sit or stand. (See card 2 for symptom details)
I also need to talk to a social worker. My brother and I have been homebound for over 5 years (I feel more comfortable underestimating). We both have severe social anxiety, and have been unable to seek help until now. We do not have insurance, income, or the social skills to get psychiatric help.

[Do not discuss my anxiety/depression with my father or any other family member!] (Can I be specific like that?)

(I'd also like to talk to the social worker about my brother's medical problems and get resources.)

posted by Faraday Cage at 2:27 AM on October 16, 2010

That card is perfectly fine. You can absolutely be specific like that (and you should!) As mentioned above, the doctors and nurses can't share with your father if you ask them not to. That sentence gets the point across very clearly.

It's now morning (on the east coast, at least) - are you still going to the hospital?
posted by coupdefoudre at 5:21 AM on October 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your card is good. As Uniformitarianism says, every time you stand up for yourself you are getting stronger.

If you still haven't gone, it occurs to me that your county/city might have a free transportation (bus) for senior citizens or adults with various needs. If you call the social services number listed above, you might be able to arrange for a free or low-cost bus ride directly to the hospital.

Gainesville bus services - the "Dial A Ride" service sounds like it would be what you need. You call them and tell them where you are and where you need to go. It would be $2 per trip (might be more if you live outside of the city).

Gainesville Community Service Center is another place you can call to see if they can help you find resources. If you feel like you cannot call directly, they list an email of the director of the center - you can email her and ask her how to get help by email.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:09 AM on October 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Please give us an update when you can.
posted by Houstonian at 1:44 PM on October 16, 2010 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Faraday Cage, please, please go. Call a taxi, call 911 if you have to.

Look, I'm in a similar situation. I have no health insurance and 2 weeks ago I went to the ER for heart attack symptoms (heavy chest pressure on the left, a shooting pain up through my neck, and an aching jaw). I went even though I knew it would be expensive. Now I owe the hospital about $6,000. That is over a year's wages for me with my current job. But you know what? I'm still alive and it's probably cheaper than a funeral. Do I feel silly that I thought I was having a heart attack and went? Not at all. Did the docs, nurses, and other staff pshaw at my symptoms and tell me I was being stupid? Not once. They took care of me very professionally.

If you are over 18 I don't know why your dad is worried about paying these bills. They *should* be in your name and if you fail to pay them, it's your credit it will ruin, not his. I'm not trying to be mean, I'm just saying that your dad having to pay is no excuse.

This may make you feel a bit better. When I got my first mirgraine at 19, it was the worst headache I'd ever had, I had trouble seeing due to a big blind spot, my arm went numb, and I started throwing up. My mom rushed me to the ER thinking I was having a stroke. Luckily, it was just a migraine. Now, don't take this as an excuse not to go. Your symptoms and mine could easily have been a stroke. And anyways a migraine that lasts for 72 hours is a medical emergency. Please go, just go, the sooner, the better. Then come back here and let us know you're okay.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:40 PM on October 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Your card is really good. If you haven't gone yet, you might want to prepare cards with more detail that you can keep in reserve if you want to so that if they ask follow-up questions, or you want to share more information, you can choose to hand over more cards.

I totally agree that you can be specific about asking them not to talk to your father about you, but they shouldn't do that without your permission anyway.

It really is important to mention that you have not seen a doctor since you were a child, since medical history is one of the important keys for them in diagnosing you. Also it is support for what you are saying about being housebound, and they need to understand all the implications of that.

Good luck. You are being very brave, and I am proud of you for finding the strength to advocate for yourself and your sibling. Good luck!
posted by lollusc at 2:20 AM on October 17, 2010

Best answer: Also: did you know that you and your brother may be able to receive disability benefits if you are diagnosed with psychiatric conditions that are severe enough to prevent you from working? If so, you won't be as dependent on your parents' whims when it comes to money anymore. You also may be able to go on Medicare. These are things you can talk to the social worker about.
posted by Ashley801 at 12:25 PM on October 18, 2010 [5 favorites]

Hope you're okay, would love an update!
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:01 PM on October 18, 2010

Response by poster: Hey guys, I'm just writing a quick update to let you know I'm OK. I went to the ER with my brother shortly after my last post and we both got the medical attention we needed. I'll go into more detail later.
posted by Faraday Cage at 1:28 PM on October 19, 2010 [24 favorites]

Great!! I'm so happy for you!
posted by coupdefoudre at 1:34 PM on October 19, 2010

That is terrific. Good for both of you. That must have been really difficult for you. You are my hero of the day.
posted by prefpara at 1:43 PM on October 19, 2010

Awesome! Congrats on facing your fears and making sure that you and your brother received medical attention, and I'm very glad to hear that you're OK.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:10 PM on October 19, 2010

ditto prefpara: My hero of the day.
posted by Sassyfras at 2:39 PM on October 19, 2010

SO glad to hear, been watching this thread w/bated breath.
posted by epersonae at 5:28 PM on October 19, 2010

OMG I am so, so thrilled, have been thinking about you a lot. I'm so proud of you (person I don't know)! :)
posted by tristeza at 8:27 PM on October 19, 2010

I'm really proud of you, too. I remember your last AskMe, and I was afraid you wouldn't have the courage to actually seek help. YOU ARE COURAGEOUS!!
posted by sunnichka at 8:52 PM on October 19, 2010

Well done. I've been following this thread from Hamilton, New Zealand and wishing I was closer to be able to give some physical help.

Good onya Faraday Cage.
posted by chairish at 10:48 PM on October 19, 2010

I want you to know that this isn't just like sitting down, realizing you have to eat an entire elephant and then taking the first bite--this was like sitting down, realizing you have to eat an entire elephant, and taking that first bite...starting with the tusks.

I'm really, really proud of you.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 10:53 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Note: This post will be grammatically incorrect, out of order, and full of (). Sorry about that.

I may or may not go into as much detail as I should. For that reason I will keep updating this thread from time to time in the next six months until I feel satisfied that it's enough information for someone else in a similar situation. (I also want them to know they can always MeMail me even 5+ years from now if they have any specific questions.)

Being admitted to the ER and then the hospital was, by the way, confusing and traumatic 85% of the time, despite most of the psychiatric team trying their best to ensure our stay at the hospital was as comfortable as humanly possible. For example, one of the nights we were able to share a room together even though it was against hospital policy for a male and a female to share a room together because they knew we were each other's voices. They tried their damned hardest. They really did. It was also traumatic mainly because each new person who talked to us didn't know what was going on and we had to start from scratch without my index cards, and eventually Adult Protective Services got involved even though the psychiatric team promised that wouldn't happen.

Adult Protective Services was unavoidable. We answered seemingly innocent questions and our answers made our parents look bad even when we sugarcoated it. Even "What is your medical history?" and telling them we hadn't been to the doctor since I was 8 or 9 was taken very, very seriously. Eventually the questions got harder.

"What does your mother say about your brother's dislocated arm? What did she say when you told her about the temporary blindness? Does she hit you (no)? Has she ever hit you? Is she emotionally or verbally abusive? How did she treat you when you were kids? How long have you really been homebound? Do you have ant friends? Did you come here to the ER today because she was out of town and you knew couldn't or wouldn't be able to go if she was around? Does she scare you from getting the medical attention you need?"

After reassuring us no one would get into trouble, we started to answer those questions, then I freaked out and starting sobbing and shaking uncontrollably. Yeah. It was traumatic. I managed to calm down somewhat after I begged them to not get our parents in trouble and they promised that wouldn't happen and I had a right to my privacy. I told them: "I honestly believe my father doesn't know there's anything wrong because he drinks a lot and forgets, and my mother acts apathetic because she's overwhelmed and doesn't know how to help us. I think if a doctor told them we needed medical/psychiatric care and gave them information and resources for affordable care, they would do it. But confronting them like they did something wrong... no... that would help at all." They acted like they understood. And just when I started to believe the psychiatric team wouldn't report abuse/neglect, an investigator approached my father on his way to the ER to drop off my brother's glasses. He came in our room and said, "Some Child Protective Services person told me I was abusing you guys? She should be coming in to talk to you later..." and he left. I started to freak out again. I hated myself for stirring up drama and destroying what little family I have left.

(The test results and diagnosis is in bold for the TLDR people)

The CAT scans were normal for both of us. I wasn't told the results were normal until my physician (who was sort of gruff) came in and acted like there was no reason for me to still be admitted to the hospital and that--even though she hadn't looked at the CAT scan results-- it was probably normal and I should go ahead and discharge myself right now. She acted like I should have already known they were normal because I didn't get the results immediately... or something, at least that's how I interpreted what she was saying at the time. I think what she was trying to say was, "The reason I know they're most likely normal is because there was no rush for me to look at them."

She wasn't familiar with the whole situation and by then my index cards were gone and I wasn't making much sense. My brother was passed out from sleep deprivation and still popping Xanax pills. So I had to deal with the physician by myself also sleep deprived. I couldn't tell her why I was still there. Then she left and I started sobbing again. I felt guilty for being there. I didn't remember any of the names of the people who admitted me in the hospital for psychiatric reasons. By then I had already talked to the investigator from Adult Protective Services, so I felt guilty about getting my parents into possible trouble, and I started to question my self-narrative. Maybe I over-exaggerated? Maybe I'm a big fat drama whore liar? What if I went all this way and caused all this drama and I go home with a giant question mark for my temporary vision problems because my CAT scan results were normal?

Finally, my father came in to check up on us for a few minutes in-between work and asked me what was wrong. I told him about the investigator coming in, that I told the ER about us not seeing a doctor since I was 8 or 9, that the ER knows we're homebound and they know our mother discourages us and scares us from seeing a doctor, that they promised they wouldn't get Adult Protective Services involved. I expected him to get angry... but he patted my back and said, "Don't worry about it, We'll figure it all out." before going back to work. That was... surprising... and it helped me calm down for a while until I started to think about my mother's reaction when she came home from her trip.

I had my eyes checked at the University of Florida Eye Institute across the street and my vision is ok (I need glasses though). I did two days worth of tests. No retinal detachments or anything like that. However, they did find either scar tissue or nerve damage in my left eye. I think there will be a follow-up soon. Not sure when.

I don't have diabetes or high blood pressure. My blood pressure throughout most of the ER/hospital stay was between 146-152/83-94 (something like that). No one ever explained to what the numbers meant and/or that I didn't need to worry about those numbers in this particular situation because I was in an unfamiliar environment and socially anxious, etc. By the time we left the ER and was admitted to the hospital we were handed some pamphlets about Shands hospital. I noticed a little "ad" on one of the pages about making sure to keep your blood pressure at or below 130/80. So I was thinking for awhile, "Do I really have high blood pressure or am I just really, really nervous?" I got my answer the last night when the Adult Protective Services situation seemed to be resolved, my sitter accompanied to the eye appointment and talked to me like I was a normal human being even when I was rocking back and forth and shaking, and they gave me an anxiety pill: my blood pressure by then was between 120-132/70-83.

My physician at the hospital believes the hour long blindness I experienced was a migraine and that I need to see a neurologist about it. At first I was told my blood and urine tests were also normal.

It turns out my migraine might have saved my quality of life by making me go to the ER (I should be getting a Primary Care Physician, a OB-GYN, and a Psychiatrist with the Shands card) and so I could find out I had hypothyroidism before it was too late. The hypothyroidism is very mild right now and I'm told it's reversible if I take some hormone pills daily for however long I'm supposed to take them. At first I was sort of confused... because even though I am overweight, when I'm not stuffing my face, it's easy for me to lose weight. She said that's because it's "very mild" right now, but it can get worse and all sorts of "nasty" symptoms (hair loss, mood swings, etc) can happen and by then it would be extremely difficult (not impossible) for me to lose and maintain a normal weight at that point. I asked her what might have cause the hypothyroidism. Her answer: Probably depression.

As for my brother, he got an EEG and his arm X-rayed. He has yet to get the results to either tests because he discharged himself "early" (to the psychiatric team, he left too soon* -- to the physicians, we should have left after the CAT scans and came back for a follow-up). He will need to do some sleep deprivation tests before they find out what's really wrong.

*The psychiatric team was worried if we went home needing any follow-ups we wouldn't be able to come back. This may or may not have been true. I don't know. But it's nothing anyone has to worry about anymore... because my father is taking this seriously (even though he doesn't understand the psychiatric stuff completely). Also, my brother told me yesterday our mother snooped on my computer and read this Metafilter thread and our AIM conversation while we were in the hospital. Apparently she got upset and "it hurt because it all was true". It took her an hour or so to approach me after I came home. Eventually she hugged me and said she wasn't angry. I thought you guys might like to know she's handling this much better than any of us thought she would.

None of this would have happened without the information, advice, emotional support, and validation I got from all of you. You literally saved my quality of life (maybe even my life), and you helped me realize not every person on earth is going to doubt me, judge me, or turn me away when I need help. I am so grateful to all of you for that. I may not have friends... but I felt like had "friends" these last few days because of you guys.

I'd like to apologize to all of you who contacted me personally for not replying. I also avoided the people who contacted me when I made my other thread in July. I wanted to respond... but I couldn't. I want you all to know that your attempts to reach out to me meant a lot. Please don't take my avoidance personally. I avoided everyone, not just you.

Again, thank you so much.

I do feel a little stronger, and I'm truly hopeful for the first time in a very, very long time.
posted by Faraday Cage at 6:39 AM on October 20, 2010 [39 favorites]

Response by poster: "Do you have ant friends?"
Sorry, I meant any friends.

posted by Faraday Cage at 6:42 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

You're awesome!! So glad that you were able to get some help and that your parents are handling this better than you had hoped!
posted by Sassyfras at 6:56 AM on October 20, 2010

Best answer: I'm so, so glad to hear all this. I can't imagine how nervous you must have been about what your parents' reaction would be.

A few things to remind yourself of -- I think you already know all this, but I'd just like to emphasize them:

* You're doing the right thing. You're doing a great thing. You haven't done anything wrong.

* You're finally getting help. Please make sure you keep getting help. You need plenty of it. This doesn't make you different from other people. Everyone needs plenty of help from a lot of other people in life. It's just taken longer than usual in your case. But it's happening now, and you'll continue to get help.

* Just on this website, you have a whole bunch of people who are interested in your life, care about you, are rooting for you, and can't wait to hear how this turns out.
posted by John Cohen at 7:12 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Congratulations for pushing through to get all of the care you need! And remember, you do have friends here. Good people who you meet online are as friends as valid as any.

Here are two things you need to know:

1. You don't have hypertension. When people are nervous, their blood pressure goes up. It's natural. They gave you the depressants, at least in part, to get an accurate blood pressure reading without you being worked up. It's a diagnostic problem for doctors everywhere, trying to figure out if elevated BP is from a real problem, or if the patient is just scared of doctors/hospitals/whatever.

2. Hypothyroidism generally doesn't "go away". I suffer from it myself. The hormone pills that they give you are a replacement for what your thyroid isn't producing enough of. If you need them, you'll be taking one every day, permanently. It's not such a bad thing - it becomes part of your routine. And, missing a day here and there won't hurt you (although, I wouldn't recommend it). Changes in your thyroid levels happen very slowly compared to other things in your body. Read up:

The first therapy you'll get is "synthetic TH", under the brand names "Synthroid" or "Levoxyl", or a generic brand. If it works, great. If not, you need to see an endocrinologist (hormone specialist) to start trying different levels or different therapies. For the record, my doctor recommends against using generics for thyroid replacement. But, everyone's different, and it might work well for you if you end up starting on it. The most important thing is that, once you find a solution that works (both keeping your levels correct on blood tests, and making you feel good and symptom-free), stick to it.

Please feel free to MeMail me if you have any questions about the condition. I'm not a doctor, but as a patient who's active in my own care, I've learned a few things.

Good luck with everything!
posted by Citrus at 7:15 AM on October 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Hypothyroidism generally doesn't "go away".

Oh wow...

The physician made it sound like it was reversible. I have to admit I'm still crossing my fingers for that. Maybe denial? I'm trying not to think about it too much until I see a doctor. But thank you for the information. I'm going to need it if it turns out you're right. I will try to contact you (if you really don't mind) if I have any questions about it after the doctor's appointment.
posted by Faraday Cage at 8:14 AM on October 20, 2010

Best answer: None of this would have happened without the information, advice, emotional support, and validation I got from all of you. You literally saved my quality of life (maybe even my life), and you helped me realize not every person on earth is going to doubt me, judge me, or turn me away when I need help. I am so grateful to all of you for that. I may not have friends... but I felt like had "friends" these last few days because of you guys.

Everyone needs help sometimes and the worst thing about being isolated is that you don't have a support system. Whether it's doctors, psychiatrists, your parents, or just Internet friends, remember that there are a lot of people out there who can help, even if things can make it difficult to reach out. Even if you don't have "real friends" there are plenty of people who care about you and will do what they can to help.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:44 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, another vote here for hypothyroidism not going away easily. I may have to take meds for it for the rest of my life.
posted by mathowie at 9:40 AM on October 20, 2010

I am so, so, so happy for you (and your brother)! And you should be proud of yourself!

*throws confetti, blows noisemaker horn*
posted by Asparagirl at 9:42 AM on October 20, 2010

Best answer: Faraday Cage, I also have hypothyroidism and I take synthetic thyroid hormone every day. In my case, the only problem we know it was causing for sure was recurrent miscarriage, but there is evidence that it may have been causing weight gain, depression, and chronic hives. The generic formulation works very well for me, even at the relatively high dose (112 mcg/day) that I have to take. In the generic formulation, it is VERY cheap; without insurance, I pay $10 every three months for mine.

I am beyond proud of you for taking these steps. You are clearly a strong and intelligent person; the index card idea was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant, and I don't know if I'd have thought of it under your circumstances. I am sorry your ER experience was so traumatic, but I'm really, really glad you went. We are here for you to keep being a "reality sounding board" whenever you need us. I, in particular, have been through some moderately acute depression and emerged from it at least resembling a functional adult, and want you to know that you can MeMail me at any time, even just to chat or say "Wait a minute, is this normal? What do normal people think or feel here?"
posted by KathrynT at 9:52 AM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

I also have hypothyroidism, and any time you want to talk, feel free to MeMail me.

I am just so glad that things have turned out so well, and even though you have been through a lot, you are really doing great--just look at how well you were able to tell us all what happened, coherently and thoroughly without any drama. I'm very impressed, and I really think you are going to be okay.

And I want to say something else. I really thought, when your original post came up way back in July, that maybe this wasn't for real, that we were being trolled.

I want to sincerely apologize to you for my cynicism. I'm thankful you were able to find the help you needed despite internet people like me not giving you the support we should have.

Congratulations on taking those first steps. We are all pulling for you!
posted by misha at 11:03 AM on October 20, 2010 [6 favorites]

Faraday Cage, I join everyone here in congratulating you on your bravery in this situation.

Also, I want to say that you telling your story here will definitely help others. I'm a brand-new nurse (well, almost - I take the test for my RN license next Friday) and I will remember what you've said here. Someday, I will have a patient with a similar problem, and having read your story will help me to help that person.

So, thank you.
posted by shiny blue object at 1:33 PM on October 20, 2010 [7 favorites]

Just wanted to add to the chorus of congratulations, and thanks... I'm an agoraphobic shut-in (my post about it from last year). I've been dealing with some deteriorating medical issues the past year and going to the hospital has become pretty much unthinkable for me (even writing about the idea is making me tremble)... and reading this at least helps it to be, well, thinkable again. (Really, just the "so maybe I should go get checked out someday in the far future" thought alone is 1,000% more than my brain could manage before I read this post.)

Thank you so much for this.
posted by Noah at 2:52 PM on October 20, 2010 [5 favorites]

I am so happy that positive things are coming out of this experience, even though it was traumatic at the time. I am especially really happy that your parents are handling this better than you had thought likely. Hopefully it will bring about sustained change in your family dynamics, but even if it doesn't, you now have allies on the "outside" who will help you advocate for yourself.

Best of luck for the future!
posted by lollusc at 3:57 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Don't worry about the scar tissue/ nerve damage in your eye just yet, either. I've been walking around for years with retinal scarring, some of it done to preserve my vision, and my glaucoma specialist has been monitoring my optic nerves for the last three years. Those conditions can be quite stable and not affect your everyday life-- shit, I work in the movies, doing visual QC on fiddly stuff. The UF eye hospital is a good one, and if you did happen to need better, they would probably refer you to Bascom-Palmer, which is in south FL and is absolutely excellent.

As for the migraines, UF undoubtedly has some good neurologists who are up on the most recent developments in treating them. Migraine can be related to psychological issues like anxiety too, so getting medicated and examined for migraine may help you adjust to all the new changes in your life now that the cover's been blown on the homebound thing. It can also be genetic, so maybe getting your own issue sorted can help shed some light on your family's concerns.

(A lot of things about my own mom that never quite made sense made more sense once I learned that migraines and other neurologically-based disorders go together. It didn't make them hurt any less, but it did make her behaviors comprehensible.)

Good luck, Faraday.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 5:49 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Metatalk! Faraday, we're proud of you!
posted by Houstonian at 6:38 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have hypothyroidism. When I first had to start taking medication for it, about 10 months ago, it was a little distressing; it seemed like I was too young to have to take a pill every day. But I've gotten used to it, and now it's totally a part of my daily routine; it's the first thing I do every morning, it takes ten seconds, and then I don't even have to think about it for the rest of the day. There are no side effects, and it doesn't limit me in the slightest; the hardest part is waiting an hour to let the medicine absorb before I eat breakfast. And I feel much better than I did for months before starting medication -- I have more energy, I remember things better, I think more clearly, the list goes on.

I'm certainly going to have to take my thyroid medication for the rest of my life, because of the particular type of hypothyroidism I have, which is called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis and is caused by an immune system response against the thyroid gland. Yeah, it's a little unsettling to have a completely incurable disease, but if you had to have a chronic disease, this would be the one to pick: take a single pill every day and it's like you're not sick at all. Pretty good deal, eh?

So, long story short, on the surface it may seem really bad: "OMG! I have an incurable disease!" But really, it's a piece of cake to deal with.

Of course, it means picking up your meds from the pharmacy every couple months, and getting your hormone levels checked about once a year, which means going to the doctor, and both those things are very difficult for you right now. But that will get better, too. There will come a day, I promise, when you can walk smartly into the drugstore, smile at the pharmacist and say "Hi, I'm here to pick up a prescription for $lastname," and you will not even bat an eyelash.

Good luck!
posted by Commander Rachek at 6:50 PM on October 20, 2010

You're a hero now! Especially to your little brother.

Please keep the AskMe questions coming in the weeks and months and years ahead. We are all here for you.

Oh, and don't worry about sobbing uncontrollably in the hospital. Hell, I sobbed uncontrollably several times in the hospital about a month ago myself! (I have neurological problems, too.)

posted by sunnichka at 9:24 PM on October 20, 2010 [17 favorites]

Best answer: You are amazing and brave! I am so happy for you that not only were you able to overcome your fears and advocate for yourself, but also that your symptoms were not as serious as you feared.

I am writing to offer a small suggestion. Your idea of the cards to pass to the people treating you was a great one! Many people, even those without a scrap of social anxiety, can't remember all of their symptoms or medical issues when they get to a doctor, but you came up with a great way to do that. You mentioned, though, that you had trouble remembering things like what doctors you had seen, and some of the things they told you. Perhaps in the future, you could include on your card a request for the business card of each doctor you see. Something like, "When I am anxious, it is difficult for me to remember who I've spoken to and everything I've been told. May I please have your business card in case I need to contact you in the future?" It is totally appropriate to ask any of the people who treat you for a business card or contact information if they don't have a card. That's what business cards are for! I do not have social anxiety, but I am very very disorganized, and I wouldn't remember any of my doctors if I didn't have a case in my bag full of business cards.

One other suggestion that may or may not work for you: it's okay to take notes on what different doctors or nurses or social workers tell you. It's okay to ask the same question several times if you can't remember the answer (I can never, ever remember what the BP numbers mean, and I ask at least twice a year!). If you have the presence of mind to take some notes, even when you're anxious, that may help you later on, especially if you have to talk to more than one person. However, it's okay if your nervousness makes it too difficult to write things down. I just thought I'd mention that in case it hadn't occurred to you and might be helpful.

I wish you the best, and hope with all my heart that your situation continues to improve. You have already done so much hard work! Good luck!
posted by Fui Non Sum at 9:53 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

I, for one, am blown away by your strength and your clarity of thought throughout all this. I know very, very few people who would have dealt with all this as well as you have. I hate to sound like a fortune cookie, but seriously, you are obviously capable of far more than you even realize. I think that there will be great accomplisments in your future!

Your lucky lottery numbers are 12, 17, 32, 44, 51
猫 Māo = cat

posted by MexicanYenta at 7:08 AM on October 21, 2010 [4 favorites]

Faraday Cage, you are an inspiration. The power you've shown in going and getting the support you and your family need is more than many people in much "easier" situations can muster. I am going to strive to be like you and advocate for myself and those I care for, fight the fear of the unknown. We all have things we want and need to change in our lives to find our own chance at happiness. I wish you and yours all the best going forward, and even if some days are going to ask a lot of you, I am pretty sure you've already taken the biggest step.
posted by Iteki at 9:58 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh frabjous day! I'm inspired by you, Faraday Cage! Thanks for letting us know about your experience. Please remember that you found the strength to help yourself and your brother and know that you can draw on that (and your MF friends) in the future. Take care.
posted by carmicha at 9:37 PM on October 21, 2010

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