Putting Movement Back In Life
By Claire, Through the Fibro Fog
Deliberately trying to pursue movement can feel a little strange when you have a vestibular disorder, don’t you find? After all, we often experience movement as an unwanted symptom, with dizziness, a floaty feeling, vertigo, and more. So, to actually want to move more? It’s something I approached with a large dose of apprehension.
Back in the day, before vestibular migraine came into my life, I was a regular at the gym and went on to become a qualified fitness instructor. The gym was as familiar to me as my front room at home.
Yet overnight, the movement became something unwanted in my life. I was scared of all the dizziness and of vertigo attacks that once had me grabbing a wall as I walked down the street in Brussels. Just a simple turn of the head would bring on symptoms that made my stomach flip over in fear.
How Could I Get Back to Exercise?
As many of us experience, my path to a diagnosis of vestibular migraine wasn’t straightforward, although I was lucky to only wait about a year for the appropriate tests and to find the right doctor. It took another year or so to find the treatment that worked best for me.
During that time, it was difficult to walk down the street. It felt as though it was shifting under my feet, my legs felt like jelly and my head was all floaty and disorientated.
A few things helped a great deal. As well as medication, seeing a specialist vestibular physiotherapist (physical therapist) was incredibly important. Once my symptoms were more manageable, we began to discuss getting back to more ‘formal’ exercise which, for me, was to get back to running.
I started slow. Super slow. With a little jog for 30 seconds, adding time very gradually each week. The first few times felt disastrous and made me feel so discouraged. But perseverance paid off, after a long time.
I learned how to work with my body and with migraine. Hydration is so important, as is sleep, reducing stress, and knowing when to step away from screens.
Now exercise feels like a positive thing in so many ways. It’s a positive way that my body works, makes me feel mentally and physically stronger, and simply gives me ‘headspace’ away from work and everything else.
While running is my preferred form of movement, there are so many other forms. Gentle yoga or Pilates may be better for many with a vestibular disorder. Or slow walks in the countryside or around the block.
I deliberately haven’t joined a gym because I know it’s too much for my migraine brain. Harsh lights, noisy machines, and a busy environment wouldn’t make me feel good; just the opposite. I think it’s important to shift from a sense of exercise having to be ‘high impact’ to simply any way that we move our bodies in a way that doesn’t increase symptoms. After all, if our migraine brain isn’t happy then it’s likely we won’t be either.