Migraine with vertigo

Recently I read on Migraine.com about vertigo and its relationship to migraine disease. Unfortunately, research is inconclusive thus far—that is, no one is really sure why such a high percentage of migraineurs report vertigo associated with their migraine episodes.

In any case, the mention of vertigo reminded me of something that’s been happening to me with disturbing frequency. I used to be slightly afraid of heights but had no problems dealing with being on high roofs—true, I’d step back from being directly at the edge of the Empire State Building when I took friends there in my NYC days, but I never got dizzy or worried I’d topple over. But things have changed in recent years, and I feel dizzy and off-center when I’m in very high places (or sometimes when I’m just walking down the street!).

My mother has often described how off-balance she feels in stadium seating at concerts. The woman loves some rock music but doesn’t go to really big rock shows unless she can get seats that are in the lower section—navigating those super-steep concrete stairs in the nosebleed section is a hindrance for her (plus the view isn’t nearly as good!). I tried to be understanding in talking to her about this but didn’t really comprehend where she was coming from until relatively recently.

At a Fleetwood Mac concert a couple years ago in Atlanta, I felt as if the ground had been whisked away from under my feet as I tried to find my way to my seat in the darkened amphitheatre. With one hand I grabbed for my boyfriend’s arm; the other was swinging behind me as if to keep me balanced on a tightrope. As soon as I sat down, things were fine, but I was disconcerted, to say the least. I didn’t think much about that particular instance of vertigo until a few months ago when I was in Washington, D.C. for a booksellers conference.

I was navigating D.C.’s [clean, efficient] Metro system, in a hurry to get to a party at the Library of Congress. I entered the Metro station and found myself at the top of an impossibly long, dimly-lit, skinny escalator. From the top, I could not see the bottom due to the bad lighting and the number of people on the escalator. I felt that same feeling I’d experienced at the concert long before—a rush of wind around my ears, a sense that the ground had tilted and that my feet were not to be trusted.

I admit I’m not the best at keeping up with a migraine diary, so I have yet to really see if the dizziness and off-centered-ness I occasionally feel are actually related to a particular phase of a migraine episode (that is, if they’re related at all). I’m not comfortable with this newfound imbalance and know I need to make a more concerted effort to see when it’s occurring and if there’s anything I may be able to do to ease the frustration and slight trepidation that come along with it.

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