Vertigo, My Newest Companion

Vertigo, My Newest Companion, companion is not the best characterization. I should say vertigo, my new nauseating, clingy associate. Yes...that sounds a bit more true. I am sad to say that, unfortunately, I've recently developed experiences of vertigo with migraine, and in this article I am going to discuss my first, intense experience with it.

Unpredictability of migraine

As many of us know, migraine can be really unpredictable and confusing. While each individual migraine sufferer knows that certain situations, environments, instances, and objects can act as triggers, we oftentimes struggle to pinpoint exactly what those triggers are and can devote a lot of time just trying to find out what might trigger a migraine in order to avoid casually running into or inviting those things into our daily lives.

Same for symptoms: Many of us spend a lot of time honing in on and defining our symptoms in an effort to find some relief. Some folks try elimination diets to narrow down their food triggers, others experiment with dampening and filtering out light to help with their light sensitivities with glasses such as Theraspecs. With triggers, symptoms, and relief methodology varying from one migraine sufferer to the next, there seem to be endless approaches to manage experiences of migraine.

We all have different experiences

Variation is why communities like the ones at are so invaluable. The structure of sites like allow community members to explore all of those different triggers - coffee, headlights, loud construction, the off-smell coming from the office kitchen - and a lot of those symptoms - nausea, vertigo, slurring, weakness, forgetfulness - together. These spaces also allow many migraine sufferers to see what others are doing to tackle those triggers, and to see what has worked and not worked for others.

While each individual is different, we also tend to see similarities, too, among many patients. For example, many community members here at gave feedback in the comments to an article about eating while migraining, and reported that a good ol’ Coke and Saltine crackers helped them out after or during a particularly nauseating migraine. It is always super interesting to see what many people who are dealing with similar pain are doing similarly, as well as what is different with this unpredictable disease.

Learning more about myself through community

It was actually on that I learned more about, and got a better glimpse into the experience of vertigo for migraineurs. Up until very recently, vertigo was a symptom that I knew to be likely for migraineurs, at about 30 percent of folks having them,  and I had read about many experiences with it from others in the community. I always wondered whether it would happen to me. As a chronic migraine sufferer, I tend to anticipate symptoms and triggers that may happen, even if they’ve never happened before, because I know that migraine can change its mind and habits out of nowhere...and that is exactly what happened. After many years of chronic migraine with relative consistency---BAM, a big, jarring experience of vertigo hit me like a truck.

From 0-100 in 60 seconds...literally

I was watching The Great British Bake-Off with my caretaker, on a relatively relaxed and sunny day. Not much was happening in the way of anything at all. I didn’t feel stressed, I didn’t feel as though my eyes were overexerted, and I actually had migraine relief enough to watch television without feeling strain. I felt almost...average I suppose, it was all around a low-pain day. When suddenly, it felt like a twenty foot wave was pushing me backwards and the room began spinning rapidly though I was completely still. Then... nausea like none I’d ever experienced followed. I mean, like a case of the spins to rule them all. I was floored.

Knowing, but still fearful of vertigo

Even though I’d read numerous accounts from migraineurs with vertigo, and even though I knew I should expect to feel just awful, when it actually hit me I felt full of fear. This new terrifying experience halted me, and I lost days to it. I couldn’t sit up for hours, and when I finally did, I fell back down. I tried to stand and fell down. I couldn’t get to the doctor for an entire day, because I couldn't’ make it to my car. My caretaker and I managed to finally get to my car and I couldn’t make it out of the driveway, we had to go back in the house and wait some more...and that took forever. I wasn’t able to drive for days. Making it to the restroom was an ordeal. It was a lot like what I’d read the experience could be like...but experiencing it was like a painful, awful light bulb.

A shot in the dark

During my first really intense vertigo attack, it was really all up to my caretaker, as I was in no condition to find out more about what was going on, especially in the first few hours. This was a pretty intense case of vertigo, and one that both of us had to navigate a bit blindly. When we finally made it to the doctor days later, they kind of rolled their eyes at us it seemed, saying it wasn’t too serious, telling me it was a tear in my ear when it wasn’t, giving me some weak nausea medicine after I ‘passed’ a sobriety test (of course)---and I thought well you should have seen it.

It seemed as though the real help, once again, would come from the community. Once I was well enough, I dug into the questions and articles from patients and migraine sufferers to compare my experience to others, and I found and confirmed that a lot of what I experienced and felt had been experienced and felt by other migraineurs--a relief because I knew I could now reach out to folks about what happened and what might help me avoid losing days again.

My new normal for migraine

Most of us know well that migraine can just totally change on us one day, and our migraine can go from episodic to chronic or vice versa, we can get symptoms we haven’t had in ten years come back, or develop new ones after ten years, some things can suddenly become triggers, and if you’re like me, you can begin to experience vertigo out of nowhere it seems. Since then, I have had experiences of vertigo a handful of times during a migraine attack, and sometimes on its own. I think this is now just a part of my migraine experience and am now in talks about how to address it. Migraine kind of keeps us on our toes in a way, because it is so ever-changing.

Have you experienced a new symptom or trigger out of nowhere that completely caught you off guard? How did you cope? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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