I'm worried I may have experienced a brief watershed stroke

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I feel like this post should begin with an admission that I am prone to Hypochondria, anxiety, and inconfidence, and that I've had anxiety attacks in the past two weeks as a result of this fear. Even so, I really hope you guys don't dismiss my experiences as somehow less genuine due to my anxiety. 

I'm a 15 year old boy, and again I hope that you recognise the legitimacy of my symptoms - even if you disagree on the cause, and I've been back at school after Christmas for two and a half weeks. Those two and a half weeks have been marked by alarm, pain, frustration, and some level of despair. 

The incident which haunts me happened on the night before I went back to school. My mind was abuzz, swirling with thoughts and theories and fears and hopes and aspirations. This would be the night of the Second of  January. 

After I'd been laying in bed for around an hour, striding from thought to thought like I was navigating a curious maze, then I began to feel chest pains (I get these very occasionally) - but they seemed and seem benign: I roll over or move very slightly and they pass - and I began to feel my inner monologue slur. I tripped on words. I fell over in the maze. 

I sort of attributed this to tiredness and resolved to get to sleep, but the slurring grew worse. I grew worried I might be having some kind of heart failure, that my brain was starving of Oxygenated blood, that I was having some kind of stroke due to circulatory problems. I've never really got to the bottom of the chest pains because they've always been sort of a mild annoyance, but in the past I've worried of some kind of heart failure. I've always been wrong.

Anyway, this is how I went to sleep that night - uncomfortable, anxious, my optimism pained by an unrelenting fear. I managed to drift off to sleep, aided by circadian rhythm, no doubt, and I did sleep. I slept.

That is, until I woke up. My eyes snapped open quite suddenly at some indeterminately early hour of the morning, I felt like something was wrong:

It's hard to describe, but I sort of felt this sense of alarm and I could feel a tingling sensation in the front of my head: there wasn't any pain, just a frightening and entirely novel feeling which is sort of indescribable as anything other than a tingling or perhaps fizzing.

I very quickly realised that my hands and feet were shaking, not like a shiver so much as a tremor, 

I rolled over, they stopped. It all stopped, the horrifying tingling, the shaking, the panicked ecstasy of fumbling. It felt more like a nightmare, I sat up in bed, took a sip of water, and went back to sleep. 

This was alll fine, I thought, but I woke up the next morning and quickly realised that something subtle felt different. It was very subtle - imperceptible to others except in an exceptional silence, a dish of word salad - but I felt different, Cognition which was once effortless was suddenly much harder. I felt it when I was analysing a poem that morning. No big deal - William Blake's London - but it was astonishingly hard. My mind felt empty and the trees of curiosity did not grow. 

I began to feel nauseous, I stumbled to the toilet bowl and held back sick. I then went to school, because I like school.


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  • Posted

    Continued (writing this was really hard on an iPad) 

    I didn't feel any better at school, indeed it was in form period (homeroom) as I managed to maintain a humorous facade while talking to my friend, that I 

    put two and two together and thought about the incident early that morning: the tingling, the shaking, the bizarre panic. I'm not sure whether my putting two and two together made five, which is why I'm writing this.

    It was the Wednesday, the second day, when I began to feel the heache - a dull pain, it didn't respond to painkillers, it didn't stop: it was the unceasing reminder of what was going on. It was joined by an evil cousin - dizziness, and by the Thursday I struggled to walk. 

    It it was on the Thursday, when I was at school, that I asked to go see the school nurse. I sat down in a Geography lesson and the dizziness got worse, I felt like the world was spinning. I very rarely see the nurse, or a doctor - I hadn't in three years - but I felt a horrible volcano of fear and frustration and anguish bubble inside of me. I went to see the nurse, I went home, I convinced my parents to book me a doctors appointment. I told her what I've told you. She said that I should come back for some blood tests if the same symptoms - headaches, dizziness, and nausea persisted for a week. 

    They didnt - the headache evolved into a feeling of grating pressure, and then passed, and the dizziness and nausea went with it. I was left with the same cognitive frustration. 

    Since then, I've felt a little improvement: I can analyse poems again, my writing has gone back to normal, higher cognition - the ability to form and maintain a deep, perceptive, considered argument - has sort of come back in fits of optimistic normality. 

    However, my mind still feels emptier : I trip on words, I make simple mistakes that I didn't before, I struggle to think cogently, I worry a lot about how this will affect my hopes for life and my ability to regard it with the beautiful depth that it demands of us. 


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  • Posted

    Continued pt2

    So here's the self diagnosis of an interested, curious, terrified hypochondriac. I know it's my diagnosis, I can't help that, but please remember that ideas are impersonal and that it is the diagnosis, not the person who made it, that should be debated. 

    I think that the the chest pain has been an indication of a Cardiovascular problem, and that on the night of the second of January then the unfortunate combination of said chest pains and a drop in blood pressure as I relaxed into sleep led my brain to experience reduced blood flow. It wasn't starved of Oxygen - just hungry, and I experienced the growls of the metaphorical stomach as the frontal areas of my brain (those furthest from the blood giving arteries) experienced tissue damage, causing that localised tingling. I know the brain can't feel pain, and I get the sense that what I felt was a sort of numb requiem for some brain cells. 

    I think that this affected some some of my higher cognition, while leaving communication mostly unharmed, and processes closer to the arteries - coordination, and language entirely alone. That would tie together the physical sensation with the cognitive problems and lack of FAST symptoms. 

    Lastly, the tremors: I think they were hyperreflexia, marks of a watershed stroke, and they haven't recurred since.

    I don't know why my eyes snapped open, I don't know why I rolled over and it stopped. There are holes, and I hope I'm wrong (unless, of course, it's something worse - hope is a form of gambling) but it's my idea. 

    What are yours?

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    • Posted

      I personally don't think you experienced a TIA/Stroke or have a cardiovascular disorder. Dizziness and fuzzy feelings can be a cause of low blood pressure, this can last days and even make you feel uneasy. Lower blood pressure (if low enough) can effect judgment the same as sleep deprivation can. Low blood pressure can be caused by diet, stress, and other environmental factors. The fact you suffer hypochondria doesn't help is these matters. The body and brain are very sensitive to thoughts. The thought of being unwell can indeed lead to you being unwell. You are 15 so I will not rule out a cardiac issue but you definitely have a very low risk factor in this area. The same goes for infarction (clots).

      May I ask if you are overweight, smoke or use recreational drugs including alcohol?

      What we're you thinking about when you had the attack?

      Coming to the chest pain, this can be musculoskeletal or simply stress pains. During bouts of stress blood pressure can suddenly rise and fall causing pain in the arteries around the stomach and heart. Let me know the details and we'll take it form there


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    • Posted

      Hi, thanks for replying.

      Im not overweight, and I certainly don't smoke or take recreational drugs. In fact, that's one of the reasons this is quite concerning for me - a lot of the time, young people with stroke like symptoms seem to experience them after a night of heavy drinking, mine were after what felt like a normal night.

      That night was the night before the first day back at school, and I started off by thinking about a film I'd watched (The Dictator) and then about how my friends were, and what tomorrow would be like. After about an hour of this kind of stuff, I began to notice my inner monologue slur - I tripped on words and I haven't stopped since - and so I grew pretty worried that the chest pains which I ordinarily disregarded were heart failure, and that I was experiencing a stroke. I was sort of restless: tired, agitated, rolling over in bed to find a position where the chest pains stopped, and I sort of drifted off to sleep like that: uncomfortable, concerned, and exhausted (this must have been about midnight)

      Anyway, it was some very early hour in the morning when my eyes snapped open with the incident I described earlier: the trembling hands and feet, the urgent buzz in the front of my head, and the strange way in which sitting up in bed stopped them. I did what most would do and went back to sleep, 

      I sort of worried about that incident through Monday, in relation to the cognitive problems I've been having, and the headaches and dizziness and nausea all started in earnest on the Wednesday. 

      I find the hypotensiom angle really helpful and I'm grateful that you're helping out. Here are a few things that come to mind when thinking about it -

      When I went to the doctors appointment that Friday, she took my blood pressure and said it was 'normal', and on the night of the incident, I went back to sleep and had a pleasant dream about myself and my parents. That was sort of the last pleasant dream I've had, but the thing is that I don't think I was experiencing any extreme of stress that night - nerves and apprehension, perhaps, but not stress. 

      Thank you again. 

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    • Posted

      What you have described here makes me think it could possibly be a migraine with aura. These only tend to come on during times of being awake. As you were in bed you could well have experienced the aura of an onset migraine. Not everyone who gets a migraine will suffer a major headache. An aura will give you stroke like symptoms, these can range from a simple fuzziness in your vision to actual paralysis on one side (depending on severity) a sudden fluctuation in blood pressure during an aura can cause spasms and shaking as your blood oxygen levels in the brain decreases your body will react with a faster pulse and blood pressure will rise, fall and fluctuate.

      Sounds to me that your body woke you up because something was wrong. You said you rolled over and the symptoms ceased. Moving will increase blood flow in areas, especially if you rolled onto your left. When laying on your left the heart is under less gravitational stress.

      Have you had an ECG (EKG in the US) because arrhythmia can also lead to some of the symptoms you described. Irregular heartbeat effects a lot more people than you may expect. I myself suffer from a mild arrhythmia. Depending on the severity this could be a contributing factor. Get an ECG (EKG) you'll know more from there. Hypertension is also very common, and is very manageable. Have you every been diagnosed with diabetes? Because this too can have an adverse effect on your body, migraines are not common in diabetics but it does put the risks up slightly.


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    • Posted

      Hello again, 

      It is an entirely good feeling to be presented with alternatives to your worst fear - it is kind of strange that I derive some sense of hope from potential diagnoses of migraines, hypotension, or hypertension - at least they aren't a stroke, and at least they are transient or reparable. 

      The thing is, that I'm still experiencing cognitive symptoms: just yesterday, I went with a school team to an inter-school Maths Challenge and I found myself struggling to keep up, even though I'd been doing really well in the practices before the episode. I feel different, and whilst I recognise that the nocebo effect might be at work then this cognitive difficulty is no less confounding. 

      I don't think as quickly as I did, I'm not as logically adept, I occasionally slip up with reading and writing in ways that are entirely novel and frustrating. I also feel less perceptibly confident. 

      The thing is is that I think that our abilities meaningfully shape our conception of our own identity. We are shaped and defined by what we find easy and what we don't: it is reflected in our hobbies, our interests, our obligations, and our self-expectations. 

      In short, the experience is both physical and psychological, but entirely painful - it entails a difficulty in finding oneself. 

      The migraine idea is interesting, but would it have such persistent symptoms - those that last for weeks on end without any interruption? Does it even have cognitive symptoms? Also, while I didn't get to see the actual reading, my GP said my blood pressure was 'normal' when I visited her and that was only four days after that night. 

      It has been three weeks, and I don't feel very different. When I visited my GP the first time, she said to come back if the symptoms I described then - headache, dizziness, nausea - persisted. They haven't, but the most confounding one has - the cognitive difficulty. 

      I'll try and get another doctor's appointment, but my parents think that there's nothing wrong with me, and that my symptoms are entirely in my head (even though that makes them no less real) and to ask for an ECG would probably be laughed at and completely ignored. It was difficult enough for me to get an appointment the first time: my exasperation annoyed the. my mum ended up shouting "You have no symptoms!" at me, slamming the door as she left for work. 

      Thank you for your continuing help, it was a hope for help that led me here in the first place.  


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    • Posted

      I can verify that on the surface you may seem perfectly fine and healthy. But I have had many under 18s visit my practice without a parent or guardian, most of them were alone because their parents didn't think there was anything wrong, and a lot of them were very right to do so. I'm not sure of the rights under 18s have in the States and other countries but in the UK if you are a child and feel you need medical help you have a right to book an appointment to see a GP or even visit a walk in clinic (this also means urgent care centres like A&E)

      You have every right as an independent person to decide if you need to seek medical advice.

      A doctor should never turn a patient away and if they do you have the right to make a formal complaint.

      If you're worried about making an appointment by yourself you can have a friend accompany you. Because you're in school you can discuss your situation with a school counsellor and they can help you get appointments. You can ask for your parents to not be told, they must honour your confidential rights. Only if they feel you're in danger can they tell your parents any confidential information.

      Can I ask what country you live in so I can narrow my advice down for you?


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    • Posted

      I'm not entirely sure about the laws in the US either, but fortunately I live in Kent. 

      Would I have to register independently to book an appointment? 

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    • Posted

      If you're already registered you only need to call up or drop in to your GP surgery. If you get questioned by the receptionist all you need to say is. You're worried about an ongoing issue and it's personal. If you get any more questions you can just say "I don't want to answer that" or "I wish to only discuss my concern with a GP in private"

      Although medical receptionists work for the NHS and have basic medical and first aid knowledge you have a right to say "none your business"

      If you can't make an appointment with your registered GP you can call 111. They can give you advice, the nearest walk in clinic and a nurse can even call you back if required. However they may recommend sending an ambulance but you CAN say no to that.

      Alternatively you can visit a hospital and book into A&E they will run tests but they will also insist on calling your parents, but to that you can ask they only be called if a medical condition/problem is found.

      But your best bet is your registered GP.

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  • Posted

    I am a 66 year old retired RN.  I am so glad a doctor will listen on this wonderful site.  My experience was with geriatric patients and hospice patients.  When I went to school we were taught to believe what the patient says he feels.  So this was the kind of nurse I was.  You are so smart and young!!!  You seem to understand so much.  Are you going into the medical field?  My daugter bacame an RN at an older ad\ge (late 30s).  My son became a Physical Therapy Assistant with an AD after he was in his (30s).  Now my RN daughter's daughter is going for a BA in nursing.  being on Medicare and SS and loss of property I do not have funds for second opinions or more tests.  My daughter and son have different opinions about what I should do ranging from counseling to calling 911.  I am strongly oppinionated.  But I do get hurt when my family doesn't understand.  I have Advance Directives written and carry them with me.  My stomach and throat and middle of my abdomen hurt a lot and I am always exhausted.  I have not lost weight.  I am overweight.  And I have digestive complaints.  But you, MFK, have your whole life ahead of you!  Believe in yourself.  Do not let anyone tell you your symptoms are nothing.  You sound like you are able to figure yourself out.  You are so young, maybe you will not always have these symptoms!  You are still growing too!!!  Just keep believing in yourself!!!  And if you believe in a higher power, drawn on that and you will get direction and help!!!

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    • Posted


      I'm grateful for your understanding, and you're right that I'm still very fortunate for all I have. I've always believed that we should never treat the experiences of others as ingenuine, because doing so is a failure of empathy: an inability to see that the world is experienced in exactly the same depth, with exactly the same intensity of pain and exultation and emotion by others. 

      I have a word for this (it's sort of a made-up word, but then all words are made up) - sonder. 

      My iPad just tried to autocorrect it, it doesn't think that the word is real, but it is real - and we don't have enough of it in the world right now. 

      I really hope that things turn out well for you too, and seeing your compassion and understanding and concern even when faced with personal challenges reminds me of just how awesome people can be. Don't forget to be awesome. 

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    • Posted

      Wow!!  Thank you so much for your encouragement!!!  You don't know how much it means to me!!  You have an awesome vocabulary!  Are you in college already?  I live in Nampa, Idaho, USA.  My grandchildren range in age from 3 months to 21 years old.  My late husband's grandchildren are 7 years to 25 years old.  I am aware that they must be 1 to 2 years ahead of me in school than when I was their age.  I hope you can find out what is causing your symptoms.  To me it is so discouraging and frightening to me to feel like I cannot think or figure things out.  My hope for myself is that I am not developing dementia.  If I am then I hope to still be able to be the grandma my grandchildren need.  I want them to know I am proud of them and that they are special!!! Most of my grandchildren are in their teen years.  If their parent is not understanding them then I pray that some adult in school or church will understand them.  I always take their side, but I want to be accepted by their parents.  I cannot believe the difference between the season of life I am in as compared to the season of life my children are in being between 35 and 45 years of age.  And my grandchildren are in their teens.  Each generation is in different "world" and a different season of life.  Thank you again.  You can call me grandma Jonilyn.  I feel honored to be a grandma.  But I don't want to have dementia!!!  Keep on seeking answers!!!  You are too young to not feel your very best!!!

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