Athlete and student has central vestibular dysfunction

“Tough times shape character.”

Age: 18

Diagnosis: Other

When I was starting my senior year in 2021 I was feeling great and excited to see what it would all be about! It started out fun and great, but as October hit I started having some serious problems with what I now know was central vestibular dysfunction.

I had lots of anxiety and weird thoughts that were interrupting my school activities. These thoughts ranged from questioning the existence of everything and even if I was real. Sounds bizarre, I know, but this was derealization kicking in. Next, I developed depersonalization, which felt like my thoughts and emotions were not mine. I also had extreme eye fatigue, a hard time focusing on things, extreme brain fog, tinnitus, and certain lights really bothered me. I worked inside a grocery store and started to get really bothered by the fluorescent lights. Certain noises bothered me as well.

I had always felt dizziness my whole life and it caused extreme worry in 5th grade when I was misdiagnosed with BPPV and never got proper treatment. I started to just give up and just got used to just being dizzy. I never really knew what being grounded felt like.

Finally, I went to the doctor and was referred to Children’s Mercy Hospital. There, I was talking to a physical therapist by the name of Andrea Thorne, who was very skilled in the vestibular field (her daughter suffered from vestibular issues and she has a passion for helping others). I told her all about what I was experiencing and ended up getting diagnosed with a central vestibular disorder. Now, after over a year of PT and doing certain exercises, I can gladly say that a lot of symptoms I once had are gone. Now, with vestibular symptoms, you never get back to 100%. However, with how I feel now I am comfortable and life is enjoyable. School became more enjoyable and I ended up having a great summer that year.

Growing up I played hockey my whole life; it was my favorite sport. I’m not sure how I managed to play it, considering it is a very balance-oriented sport. I continued playing the sport through the vestibular dysfunction and am now currently pursuing my passion playing for a u18 Tier 1 hockey team and planning to become a college athlete continuing my hockey career. This year my skills have sky rocketed with my PT exercises and I have truly found myself a different hockey player.

Having a vestibular disorder truly made me numb to about everything during my senior year, but it also taught me so much and helped me build character. For any young teens or adults out there attending school, and to athletes, push through and keep on top of your exercises and know that things will get better and life will be enjoyable again. Sometimes symptoms might arise again or you have have scary thoughts, but you learn to shut them down quickly knowing it is the vestibular dysfunction talking. I can truly say that the only thing that got me through this fight was Jesus and time with him. Through tough times he will help you and your symptoms.