Vestibular migraine: commuting

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Migraine associated vertigo (vestibular migraine) can have these effects : “dizziness; motion intolerance with respect to head, eyes, and/or body; spontaneous vertigo attacks (often accompanied by nausea and vomiting); diminished eye focus with photosensitivity; sound sensitivity and tinnitus; balance loss and ataxia; cervicalgia (neck pain) with associated muscle spasms in the upper cervical spine musculature; confusion with altered cognition; spatial disorientation; and anxiety/panic.” Migraine Associated Vertigo 

Vestibular migraine is something I now just have as a prolonged migraine symptom and the above is an exact description of my drive home yesterday from work.  Since I normally in the past never driven except for the five minutes it took to get to work, I didn’t know MAV would such an effect on me when driving on the highway… because I just have not driven on the highway in a long time and certainly not with an acute migraine.  Add acute pain and all those MAV symptoms and you get one terrifying experience and my first ever anxiety attack.

First thing I noticed was that I couldn’t see the signs or the background.  I thought maybe my vision was strained and tried to focus more, but I couldn’t.  I couldn’t track moving objects well for one thing and just couldn’t focus on them.

The next thing I noticed was that my vision was warpy and that the I was feeling the motion a little too much.  The highway is one lane, so you get all the commute traffic coming towards you from the other lane and the lane you are in is busy as well.  It creates this swell movement…. speeds up, slow down… and I could feel the acceleration and braking motion in my head.

I tried to just focus on the vehicle in front of me, but that gave me a sort of tunneling effect and that seemed to trigger the spontaneous vertigo event… which I wouldn’t recommend in a vehicle while driving.

At first just a weird spinning feeling… then ‘drop’… ‘drop’. Sudden profound Drops. Like drop attacks I get when walking but in the damn car. I slowed down, a lot, and tried to just keep steady. And my heart was going wild.

That was bad enough but when I finally got back into town you’d think slowing down would feel better, but suddenly I felt closed in… I felt like I couldn’t tell how close I was to the other vehicles, that they were moving too fast, I was extremely confused and disorientated and this is what caused an anxiety attack because I just wanted to get home.  Everything was extremely distorted.  When I tried to focus on anything it shifted and moved.

When I got home I stumbled into the house, took my vertigo medication and had myself a good cry.  It was terrifying.  Distorting and confusing and apparently A FREAKING PROBLEM.  A made a doctor appointment but who the hell knows if they will do anything.  I mean if insurance companies clear me to work then ‘clearly’ I must be good to work and drive and function, right?  Because its all about the pain and no one thinks about all the neurological symptoms that are common in chronic migraines that are a big issue.  The pain is a big issue, but apparently not a concern.

I’m still getting that today, the shifty moving background, inability to focus on things and other MAV fun but only a few small bouts of vertigo thankfully not in the car today.  It didn’t catch me by surprise today in the car, but that just meant I could pay more attention to how distorting it was to my vision.  At least I didn’t get another anxiety attack but it’s not a good feeling knowing your environment is being so warped like that, and you’re cognitively affected by it… I was sort of spacing out even when I tried not to, so not seeing the important details that need to be focused on when driving.

I can’t keep commuting like this. It is a serious, serious problem.


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