By: Brandy Garcia 

Finding health care providers that understand chronic pain can be daunting. I started having head pain when I was a teenager, it took me over ten years to find providers that I trust. I have now been with my neurologist for 11 years. The process was not easy, for many reasons, but the hardest part was going without help until I found someone who listened to me.

It feels like I have had head pain my entire life but I remember it started to affect my daily life when I was in high school. I had migraines that kept me in bed for days or headaches that lasted for a week straight. Every year my parents would tell my doctor about the pain, only to hear it was due to my menstruation. It was not until I began having terrible jaw pain that the doctor became concerned. She still did not believe I had significant head pain but began testing my heart and lungs. After my heart and lung test got an all-clear, it took about 3 years to get referred to a neurologist.

At this point, I had made numerous visits to the emergency room for jaw and head pain. I was told a slew of things by different doctors. Most often, I was told to see an OBGYN and get on birth control. I knew my pain was more than just once a month, and every time I heard this, I felt defeated and crushed. I could not understand why my pain was not taken seriously or why everyone was blaming it on me being a woman. It was not until I aged out of seeing a pediatrician, I was able to make a connection to a neurologist.

My very first experience with a neurologist was frightening. He inundated me with questions about my pain, social habits, and symptoms. I was so overwhelmed I barely answered any of his questions. I felt that I was being interrogated rather than questioned. He did not believe my level of pain nor did he believe the symptoms I explained. I was advised to not think about the pain so much and use over the counter pain relievers. This experience left me with a doctor who did not believe me or try to help me. For years I walked around with bottles of over the counter medications jingling around in my purse. I decided to look for another doctor when I was told to stop thinking about it so much and my symptoms would go away. The doctor believed that I was making it all up and that my mental state was the sole reason for my symptoms.

The search for a neurologist in a small state was taxing, many providers did not take my insurance or were not accepting new patients. After many years of self-treating, due to a lack of doctors, I found someone that insisted I get an MRI. I was thrilled to finally find someone who believed me enough to send me for testing. My excitement did not last long, as I was told the only thing they could do was to prescribe a caffeine pill. After I received the prescription the doctor did not want to see me for follow-ups. I only saw them when I needed more medication. The medication did not help but I felt I had no other choice. My doctor was not a neurologist and did not understand the level of pain that I was having. My search began again when my symptoms worsened, and my primary care could no longer help.

At that point, I was 25 years old and had spent the last ten years of my life in pain with no outlook or relief. My symptoms had started to include visual auras, dizziness, and numbness of my face. With the help of my family, I was introduced to a neurologist and a nurse practitioner. At my first appointment, they both sat and listened to every word I had to say. Every symptom mattered to them, and so did my level of pain. Immediately they devised a plan to help stop the pain while we waited for the results of an MRI and blood test. I never felt so comfortable telling a doctor about my pain and had never been so happy to see a doctor. Eleven years later I am still with this doctor and nurse practitioner. Over the years, my pain level and symptoms have changed drastically. No matter what, they have never questioned my mental state or equated my pain to being female. What they have done is built a trusting relationship by listening and understanding my experience with migraines. I no longer worry about telling my doctors my symptoms or the severity of my pain. I trust that they will do everything they can to help me. Because over the past 11 years, they have worked with my primary care and therapist to find treatments that might work for me.

Even though it was a long painful road to find a doctor, I never gave up hope. I encourage anyone I know to always search for a doctor they feel comfortable with. Whether you have an illness or not having a doctor that listens and you can trust is truly a gift.

Finding health care providers that understand chronic pain can be daunting. I started having head pain when I was a teenager, it took me over ten years to find providers that I trust. I have now been with my neurologist for 11 years. The process was not easy, for many reasons, but the hardest part was going without help until I found someone who listened to me.

It feels like I have had head pain my entire life but I remember it started to affect my daily life when I was in high school. I had migraines that kept me in bed for days or headaches that lasted for a week straight. Every year my parents would tell my doctor about the pain, only to hear it was due to my menstruation. It was not until I began having terrible jaw pain that the doctor became concerned. She still did not believe I had significant head pain but began testing my heart and lungs. After my heart and lung test got an all-clear, it took about 3 years to get referred to a neurologist.

At this point, I had made numerous visits to the emergency room for jaw and head pain. I was told a slew of things by different doctors. Most often, I was told to see an OBGYN and get on birth control. I knew my pain was more than just once a month, and every time I heard this, I felt defeated and crushed. I could not understand why my pain was not taken seriously or why everyone was blaming it on me being a woman. It was not until I aged out of seeing a pediatrician, I was able to make a connection to a neurologist.

My very first experience with a neurologist was frightening. He inundated me with questions about my pain, social habits, and symptoms. I was so overwhelmed I barely answered any of his questions. I felt that I was being interrogated rather than questioned. He did not believe my level of pain nor did he believe the symptoms I explained. I was advised to not think about the pain so much and use over the counter pain relievers. This experience left me with a doctor who did not believe me or try to help me. For years I walked around with bottles of over the counter medications jingling around in my purse. I decided to look for another doctor when I was told to stop thinking about it so much and my symptoms would go away. The doctor believed that I was making it all up and that my mental state was the sole reason for my symptoms.

The search for a neurologist in a small state was taxing, many providers did not take my insurance or were not accepting new patients. After many years of self-treating, due to a lack of doctors, I found someone that insisted I get an MRI. I was thrilled to finally find someone who believed me enough to send me for testing. My excitement did not last long, as I was told the only thing they could do was to prescribe a caffeine pill. After I received the prescription the doctor did not want to see me for follow-ups. I only saw them when I needed more medication. The medication did not help but I felt I had no other choice. My doctor was not a neurologist and did not understand the level of pain that I was having. My search began again when my symptoms worsened, and my primary care could no longer help.

At that point, I was 25 years old and had spent the last ten years of my life in pain with no outlook or relief. My symptoms had started to include visual auras, dizziness, and numbness of my face. With the help of my family, I was introduced to a neurologist and a nurse practitioner. At my first appointment, they both sat and listened to every word I had to say. Every symptom mattered to them, and so did my level of pain. Immediately they devised a plan to help stop the pain while we waited for the results of an MRI and blood test. I never felt so comfortable telling a doctor about my pain and had never been so happy to see a doctor. Eleven years later I am still with this doctor and nurse practitioner. Over the years, my pain level and symptoms have changed drastically. No matter what, they have never questioned my mental state or equated my pain to being female. What they have done is built a trusting relationship by listening and understanding my experience with migraines. I no longer worry about telling my doctors my symptoms or the severity of my pain. I trust that they will do everything they can to help me. Because over the past 11 years, they have worked with my primary care and therapist to find treatments that might work for me.

Even though it was a long painful road to find a doctor, I never gave up hope. I encourage anyone I know to always search for a doctor they feel comfortable with. Whether you have an illness or not having a doctor that listens and you can trust is truly a gift.

 

Brandy Garcia has lived with chronic migraine for over 10 years, but she doesn’t let that stop her. While raising three children, Brandy is pursuing a degree in psychology and writing poetry. She became a U.S. Pain ambassador to help others who have lived in pain, like her. She believes that people in pain can live a fulfilled and joyful life.