Finding My Purpose
Life Rebalanced Chronicles Season 3, Episode 9
Ever since childhood Rochelle has known a tippy and spinny world. After a life filled with periods of vestibular illness, her dizziness reached a breaking point. She wanted to have more kids, drive, and get her life back. That’s when she found a healthcare provider who gave her answers, made her feel better, and inspired a new pathway to help others like her.
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I’m someone I guess you could say, who was a pediatric vestibular patient. The first vertigo attack I ever had was, I think I was 10. It might have been nine. I remember being in school and I remember walking down the hall, and all of a sudden, everything was spinning. And I fell to the floor in the hallway. And my teacher didn’t know what was wrong. I didn’t know what was wrong. I was extremely scared. We just kept telling her that everything was spinning. It eventually went away that day. But it was scary. And I didn’t know what had happened. My parents didn’t know what had happened. I had another vertigo episode, probably every two or three years. And so I never really paid it much mind. I just hoped it would never happen again. As I got into, let’s say, my mid teens, my vertigo attacks were still very sporadic. But I noticed that I couldn’t walk certain places without feeling weird. I felt like sometimes when I was walking on the ground that it would be bobbing like a boat. And if I was in a grocery store, or a warehouse store of some kind, and they have those long, straight aisles with the big tall ceilings, I would be hugging the wall. I didn’t know why I felt that way. It did not make sense to me. It wasn’t vertigo, in the sense that I wasn’t spinning in that moment. But I was off balance. And I just could not kick that. When I was 24 I had a the worst vertigo attack I’ve ever had in my entire life. I was asleep. And I just woke up. And I had been on my back I remember and I woke up and I immediately flipped over to my stomach and like raced on the bed like this. Because I realized how dizzy I was and I didn’t know which way was up. And when I finally stopped spinning, and I stood up I was just very tired and very exhausted and and scared and anxious. That was that one episode that really changed everything. And I said okay, I have to seek out a doctor now. So the first thing I did was I sought out an EMT. After that first appointment, they said I had bilateral BPPV they performed an episode for me and sent me home and they said, you know, let us know how you feel. My acute vertigo attack started to become less frequent, which was good. But that wobbliness that imbalance that I had been feeling for years and years was always there. In my late 20s, I got married, and then I had my first baby at 29. And it was a wonderful time I found that being pregnant. My vertigo was still there, but it wasn’t as bad. And then I gave birth to my daughter. And after that it all just it all came back. The vertigo was there, the imbalance was worse. Now I’m in my early 30s and I am just feeling helpless. I couldn’t go to work. I was scared to drive. In Baltimore. We have two tunnels that go under the Inner Harbor. I couldn’t do the tunnels, I would have a massive panic attack. Being in a tube like that driving down a two would just I would suddenly feel like I’m going backwards instead of forwards. I didn’t feel safe enough to carry my daughter down the stairs. I felt like I couldn’t be a good friend. I couldn’t be a good mom. I just had moments where I was so anxiety ridden. And I started to feel like a nuisance. I started to feel like I couldn’t do anything. My will to live was just kind of it wasn’t. It wasn’t there. I didn’t want to kill myself, but I didn’t. If I thought if you know if something happened to me, I’m good. At least it’ll put me out of this misery.
I didn’t have a diagnosis, I still didn’t know what was wrong. And it was so frustrating. It was so frustrating. It was at that point in my early 30s, when I thought, I want to have more kids, I want to have my quality of life back. I want to drive and not feel scared. I want to be able to work and go out with friends and have, you know, a better quality of life. And so because I live in Baltimore, we have Johns Hopkins right here. And in my mind has said if Johns Hopkins doesn’t have someone who can help me, nobody can. I just searched for vestibular something or other. And a bunch of different doctors names came up and I threw a dart metaphorically at the screen and I said, Okay, I pick you. And this doctor changed my life. He was so knowledgeable. He was so empathetic. He told me, he said, I think you have vestibular migraines, and I said, Oh, I don’t get migraines, I get headaches, but I don’t get migraines. And he said, Well, vestibular migraines are different. Vestibular migraines aren’t your classic migraines that are gonna give you you know, they don’t necessarily give you the auras in front of your eyes. They don’t necessarily make you vomit, they’re gonna give you vertigo. That’s what these migraines do. I was so happy to have a diagnosis. I remember that specific day, when I had that first appointment with him, just going home and feeling so much better. I was still dizzy. But I felt so much better because of the fact that you know, I had an answer finally, and I had tools and a path for all i can actually address this now.
All through my 20s and into my 30s. After first being diagnosed with BPPV, and learning all about vestibular medicine and vestibular disorders, I tried to help people as much as I could by being a support online, in person, people I knew in life who struggled also with dizziness and didn’t know what was going on with them. And I thought to myself, you know, after this, the big appointment with this one doctor who changed my life. I said, Well, maybe I could do this in a different way. Maybe I could become a doctor and actually help vestibular patients. And so then I went online, and I said, Okay, well, what do you need to do to become a vestibular physical therapist. And I just graduated this past December, with my biology degree. I’ve applied to the graduate program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus, I just found out that I got in. And so I start graduate school doctorate program, this may have to 2023. I had the opportunity to go to Johns Hopkins Outpatient Center, and observe three or four different physical therapists there. And as I’m doing this, and I’m in this laboratory and talking with different PTS, in walks, my PT, this doctor of mine who I saw at Hopkins, and who, you know, changed my life and was very inspirational to me. And he looks down at my nametag and he looks up at me and he goes, it’s you. You’re doing it, you’re doing it. My only hope is that when I do treat patients who have vestibular issues, and I can relate to them on that level, knowing that I’ve you know, been there I know how you feel, I truly know how you feel that that gives them a little more comfort and to have that empathy because I think that’s the biggest thing that a practitioner should have. Like if I had just started to feel vertigo one day and then got a medication and boom, it was gone. Like what I have been inspired to research vestibular medicine when I have gotten to see all these doctors when I’ve met a vestibular pt. And so I am glad for the journey that I’ve been on and I’m excited to see where it takes me