Something you may not know about me is that for the past year I have suffered with on/off again vertigo.
For those of you who aren't familiar with vertigo it's described as a sensation of feeling off balance, dizzy spells where you feel like you or the world around you is spinning. It's often caused by an inner ear problem and is accompanied by a variety of other less than desirable symptoms such as nausea, headaches and vomiting - to name a few!
I'm in NO way an expert on vertigo. I'm merely just sharing my own personal experience with it. Mostly because at times, I felt really lonely and scared. What I found most interesting throughout this experience was discovering just how many people - friends, family and work colleagues who have also suffered from vertigo. You don't hear a lot about it, or at least I never really did. Hearing other people's stories, somehow helped me feel a little less lonely and a little less scared. That's why I feel compelled to share...
There was a 2 week period over the course of last winter when I had some extreme bouts of vertigo. One came on while I was exercising and the other came on in the middle of the night - both rendering me helpless and immobile. I couldn't walk a straight line to save my life. Lifting my head, even a millimetre felt impossible without triggering nausea and vomiting. During those episodes, I was bed-ridden, off work and needed to be taken care of. It would take days (sometimes longer) between an episode to fully recover.
At that point, I heavily researched about vertigo. I tried everything natural, alternative and holistic under the sun to try and help. I was unsuccessful. I finally went to see my doctor who prescribed medication for what she assessed to be 'positional vertigo' to help with some of the severe symptoms so that I could get back to work and my life. I took the meds (reluctantly). Obviously, being a nutritionist, the last thing I wanted to do was bombard my liver with pharmaceuticals. But nothing else had helped and admittedly, it was time for a little relief. I love this world of holistic health and wellness but now more than ever I know that there is most certainly a time and a place for western medicine. The meds got me over the worst of it. I took them (as needed) and have them on hand in case of another severe vertigo episode. But they aren't without their unpleasant side effects either, so they are not my first choice.
I continue to live healthfully, eat clean and take great care of my body. I get adjusted regularly by my chiropractor (which I read to be very helpful with vertigo), I see my naturopath as needed and above all else, I respect my triggers.
There are a number of things that I've learned (through trial and error) which trigger my vertigo:
- Alcohol. I'm extremely careful with it now (too much can trigger dizziness and I've experienced enough of that for one lifetime).
- The weather. I'm weary of pressure changes that come with different weather systems as that seems to set me off.
- Yoga. Sadly, I'm avoiding yoga (for now) because many of the positions seem to trigger me. So I've chosen different forms of physical activity such as cycling, walking and pilates (depending on the position).
- Screen time. Too much of it whether it's my phone or computer, can trigger me.
So far, avoiding my triggers has worked for me. Again - I'm no expert on vertigo. I'm just sharing how I've managed to deal with it. Truth be told, I'm still figuring this all out.
As I was reflecting on this past year, my experience with vertigo and then contemplating writing this post, I began to think of all the things that vertigo has taught me. I realize it sounds strange to say that. As though I'm grateful for the experience. I'm not - it downright sucks and I'm not that enlightened, honestly. But all of our experiences teach us something, don't they? And so, with that I'd like to share a few things my vertigo has taught me:
To let go of timelines
This one was really tough for me. I am a very disciplined person and I thrive off of routine. I'm an entrepreneur, so those qualities come in handy and really help to keep me on track with my business goals. BUT...when vertigo hits whether it's mild or severe, I have had no choice but to surrender to it and to let go of timelines and routine. It's been a learning curve. I've certainly tried to work against my vertigo, push myself anyway and each time, I've come to regret it.
I tell clients all the time that they need to listen to their body, their symptoms and vertigo has taught me that I have to do the same. Even if that means that things don't get done according to my schedule. It's been quite the lesson in letting go.
To let go of self imposed exercise regimens
I told you! I'm very disciplined. I like my routine. It's important for me to practice what I preach to my clients. Which is clean eating, healthy living and moving our body. But moving my body is so much more than vanity and physically changing my appearance. For me, it's also mental and emotional. Exercising makes me feel good. It makes me feel strong and powerful.
Like most women, I'm not immune to the pressures of social media and I struggle with that inner mean girl who tells me I'm not enough. Exercise helps to quiet her. BUT when vertigo hits, I have to listen and that often means changing my exercise regimen to something slower paced like a walk with my dog and sometimes it means no exercise at all. And in those moments, I have to learn to be ok with that. I have to listen to what my body needs. And that's not always a strict exercise routine.
I often wonder when it became so cool to be so busy. Have you ever noticed how busy everyone is lately? I think one of the biggest lessons I've learned with vertigo is to slow down and take things off my plate. That's a tough lesson when you're an entrepreneur. There's 24 hours in a day and sometimes even that's not enough. But I don't need to jam pack my day with a million and one things. That serves no one. Especially me. When vertigo hits, I have no choice but to surrender to it and SLOW THE F DOWN!
Doesn't that sound so simple? Rest. Lay down. Do nothing. Turn your mind off. Breathe deeply. It's not! In today's day and age, resting is really hard to do. Especially when you're like me and you thrive off of routine, to-do lists and the sort. But I have had to learn to rest. Scratch that. I've had no choice but to learn to rest. That's vertigo. All you can do is rest and be still. I'm telling you, the lessons don't quit!
I'm not invincible
My 30's have really taught me that I'm not invincible. Bad things do happen and they can happen to me too. I used to think bad things happened to other people and I was safe in my little bubble.
When I got hit with that severe bout of vertigo, I remember feeling so helpless and realizing that I'm in fact, not invincible. To be honest, it was one of the best realizations I've had. It made me want to live. Truly live my life. Not waste time. Not miss out on opportunities. Not be scared. To be truly present in my own life. It may sound dramatic, and maybe it is but being bed-ridden for 2 weeks with vertigo really puts things in perspective.
Listen to my body
I've become much more aware of my body and listening to small signs and symptoms that tell me not to push myself. Trust me, there have been times I resist those warning sigs and push through regardless and it's always been a bad idea. I've learned to respect my body and listen to my gut. The body knows.
Turn off the world & be still
When I'm dealing with a severe bout of vertigo, I have no choice but to be perfectly still. No TV, no computer, no phone. They all make me feel worse. But that can be tough! We've become so addicted to screen time and scrolling through all of that noise. If nothing else, It forces me to step away and turn inward.
The value of the little things
You come to value the small things when you're suffering from vertigo. Such as being able to lift your head, walking yourself to the bathroom and freedom of movement. I liken it to when you're sick with a bad cold, you miss breathing easily and feeling well. Vertigo is a strange thing though because physically, you don't look sick but let me tell you, it turns your world upside down.
Mom's are gold
Plain and simple. Every time my vertigo has wiped me out, I've called my mom who drops everything to come take care of me and my fur babies. When you're sick, you need your mom and mine has always been there for me.
Now, more than ever I realize the importance of taking care of yourself mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Doing whatever it takes to fill your cup. Sometimes that's netflix and dark chocolate. Sometimes it's a bath with salts and essential oils. Sometimes it's even online shopping or a glass of wine. And other times it's scheduling time off work to truly take a break and decompress. Whatever it is, it's all about me. And that's not selfish, it's necessary.
Do I have it all figured out? No.
Am I a work in progress when it comes to this vertigo stuff? You bet cha.
But I'm learning as I go and I can't wait to share it all with you. I'm looking to build a stronger connection with my community, get to know each other better and that means opening up, sharing my stories and allowing them to hopefully resonate with you.
Have you had vertigo before? If so, what was it like and how did you find relief?
keep on reading...