Vestibular Migraine-The Onset
I remember the first time it really hit me. I was working at my desk; as I gazed at the computer monitor, I began to feel a little uneasy and didn’t quite know why. Have you ever had that feeling that something just isn’t right before a stomach bug hits you? That was the feeling; a complete and sudden state of anxiety coming out of nowhere, for what appeared to be no reason. I decided to continue with my work when suddenly the words on my screen began to blur and float, rising towards my face in slow motion. Shortly thereafter, I began to feel as though I was sinking into my chair. I had difficulty focusing on anything in the room and felt like throwing up that amazing Pad Thai I had eaten earlier that day. I decided to get up and make my way down the hall which very quickly became a funhouse equipped with a moving floor and walls like quicksand that my hands sunk into as I placed my palms against them in order to steady myself. “Was I having a stroke?” I asked, as I barricaded myself in the washroom, too embarrassed to say anything to my coworkers. I had been at this job for less than a year. I had never once called in sick, and very rarely did I ever call in as a practice. I didn’t remember ever going home early from any job, and the thought of breaking that record annoyed and disappointed me. Looking into the mirror, I was pale. I sat on the toilet seat, hunched over and closed my eyes, hoping it would just pass quickly so I could get back to work. Although many of the symptoms began to calm down, the swirling sensation persisted.
I managed to climb down the long staircase to the main floor of the building I worked in so I could speak with my boss who was in the central office with other staff. It was late in the day on a Friday; I was done at 4 pm, so it didn’t seem too bad to tell her I needed to go home. “This was just a fluke! I had a virus or something right?” I approached my supervisor and let her know what was going on and problem solved how to get home that afternoon. I personally thought I could wobble down to the station and take the subway home, but I was charged not to! As it turned out, a co-worker was leaving for home and decided to drive me to my apartment that was a good half hour drive away in traffic.
The movement of the car on the packed freeway and through the busy city streets might as well have been me traveling by rickety wooden roller coaster that was built in 1932! You know what I’m talking about; those roller coasters you know should have been ripped down long ago, the ones that look like they’re falling apart, but for whatever reason you go on them anyway and then at the top of the hill pray to some random deity not to let you die that day….It felt like that!
Every movement triggered the contents of my stomach to rise up my throat to my mouth, and every pause resulted in me feeling a sense of movement even when I was still. I rolled down the window to feel the cool September air on my face, hoping it would calm my nausea enough for me to get home without barfing in my colleague’s car. As we approached my building, I stumbled out of the car like a drunk who had just had too much to drink at happy hour and made my way inside.
“Why, why, why did we have to live on the 20th floor!!!?” I thought to myself as I waited for the elevator in the lobby, my slouched body propped up against the wall. I made my way into the elevator that for the first time seemed like a device designed for torture as it began its ascent to my floor. As the steel box rose to meet my destination, I felt my body pull to the floor and drop with force. By this point, the vertigo was so intense I could barely hold myself upright.
I saw my floors number light up on the control pad through a hazy filter that seemed to cloud my vision making my surroundings appear indistinct and vague. I crawled out of the elevator after what seemed to have lasted hours rather than the mere 30 seconds it probably took in reality. I consoled myself with the thought that I didn’t need to see well to get to my apartment door.
“It’s just to the left, the last door in the hall. I can make it.” I asserted to myself, slightly panicked I’d end up at someone else’s door looking like a fool attempting to get in, or that someone would see me on the floor and intervene in some way. How embarrassing would that be? I reached for the door handle, inserted my key, and felt a sense of relief as the door unlocked and I pressed myself in, swaying on my feet a final moment before I collapsed on the couch. This is where I stayed, perfectly still, for the next several hours until my husband came home from work while my brain continued to sense the room spin around me, making me feel increasingly more agitated and helpless – a feeling that persisted almost daily for what seemed like forever. Unknown to me at the time, I was suffering a migraine.