Spinning out of control. That’s what I feel like I’ve been doing for the past 2 and a half years. Countless doctors, tests, meds and the very real fear that I wouldn’t be able to teach anymore have left me tired. The migraine struggle is real and I’m going to share my story with the hope that it helps you or someone you know. Now, first off I have to explain that I rarely get headaches or head pain of any kind. Yes, you read that right. I don’t get headaches, but I do suffer from migraines. VESTIBULAR MIGRAINES have plagued me in my over 40 years and It’s a very real struggle. My migraines usually start with a spinning sensation (vertigo) and blurred vision. I have trouble looking at my phone or my laptop and sometimes feel like I might pass out. Then, fatigue sets in. Like crippling fatigue that has me on my butt for hours. I’m unable to get anything done. Occasionally I’ll have a headache as well, but this is rare. Sometimes I can add nausea or tingling to the list of symptoms, but not usually. Brain fog, confusion, memory issues, an inability to concentrate and the feeling that something is pressing down on my forehead are persistent and frequent symptoms while l’m experiencing a migraine, or as I say “migraining”. Sometimes, I’m fine all day, but when I get in bed and close my eyes I feel like I’m on a boat in the middle of the ocean.
Full disclosure, it was a full time job to get diagnosed! I won’t bore you with tedious details, but I will say that you must be an advocate for your own health. Don’t stop until you get to the right people. I found an amazing vestibular therapist who led me to a highly specialized neurotologist and finally to the neurologist I’m seeing now. That’s the short story.
Once diagnosed, a lot of the anxiety associated with the vertigo subsided, but not all of it. That’s another battle I fight. Now, my focus has to be about symptom control. I’m not where I want to be, yet, but I’m making progress.
Knowing your triggers is important. Mine seem to be related to lack of or irregular sleep, changes in weather patterns, hormonal changes, screen time, and flourescent lights. I can also sometimes be triggered by dim lighting in a restaurant.
Here are some ways I manage my vestibular migraines in the classroom. First, I’ve invested in a pair of gamer glasses. Yes, gamer glasses! They block blue light emitted from your phone, laptop and TV. For me, fluorescent lights are a trigger and I feel the glasses are helping me at work where I can’t avoid the lights! I’ve also invested in light filters for my classroom.
I often shut the lights in my classroom. My students prefer it and my head just feels lighter and more clear when those oppressive lights are off!
This upcoming year, I plan to add soothing music to my classroom. I took the plunge and got the paid version of the Calm app and I’m sort of in love with it. I’m going to look for ways to incorporate this into my classroom in a way that helps me and the kids.
Also, I’ve cut down on caffeine. Notice I said cut down not cut out. I tried eliminating caffeine and didn’t feel a difference so I allow myself two cups a day.
And… I’m taking vitamins and meds as prescribed by my doctor. I try to drink plenty of water and get plenty of sleep. I also try to put the laptop away a couple of hours before bed to let my brain decompress before sleep.
All of this can be a lot to handle. It’s such an unsettling feeling to deal with a chronic migraine condition. Like many of you, I’m a teacher, a wife, a mom, and a busy person! But, when life tells you to slow down, you slow down. I’ve had to put the breaks on things, miss out on some things, sleep through some weekends, take sick days, and basically just take care of me!
I know I’m not alone in this. So many of you have already reached out through Instagram to let me know about your own struggles with migraines. Vestibular migraine diagnoses are rare and often misunderstood. It’s easy to feel alone when dealing with these unusual and often debilitating symptoms, but you’re not alone.