It was Christmas Eve morning 2023. I quickly stood up from my seat and briefly lost my balance. I placed my hand on the wall next to me to steady myself. I didn’t think much of it and I went about my day. I cooked, did house chores, and in the afternoon, rolled out my yoga mat. Twenty minutes into my practice, I did a forward fold and felt the ground beneath me spinning, fast. I fell to the ground and got on all fours.
I waited until the spinning slowed down and crawled my way to bed. I had to lie down on my side, since looking up made the spinning even faster. When my husband saw me in bed, I asked him to get me a bucket to throw up in, water, Advil, and Bonine. I took the meds and slept. I never needed the vomit bucket. I wouldn’t get up until late evening on the 25th. I slept through Christmas.
Feeling dizzy is nothing new to me. Ever since I was a kid, I suffered from motion sickness. My mom always packed a bag with extra clothes, towels, and vomit bags whenever I had to ride a vehicle. My family would always let me sit shotgun since that meant a less bumpy ride. I could gaze forward and see the horizon. I would stick my head out the window when I start feeling light headed. We didn’t have motion sickness meds such as antihistamine readily available where I grew up, so I didn’t take medications.
When I moved to New York as a teenager, I was unsure how the subway would affect me, but to my surprise, I never got motion sickness or vertigo in the subway train. At first, I thought sitting sideways was the trick. However, there were times when I would be traveling with my back to the direction we were heading or standing up, and I felt fine. But NYC cabs—forget it. I needed medication even for only a few blocks riding in those yellow demons. I avoided them whenever possible.
Motion Sickness and Vertigo Changes You
I consider my sensitivity to motion a blessing, in a way. It meant that at a young age, I had to start thinking about my health. Also, I’d like to think that it made me more understanding towards people who didn’t show physical signs of pain, such as a wound, but still needed to be treated with a bit more care. My grandma suffered from the same motion sickness and vertigo. I remember one time when she was complaining and everyone thought she was just overly dramatic. But I get it.
Yoga helped me control my motion sickness. In my 20s, I was able to travel on my own without medication. The only time I got sick was in Greece. I booked a boat ride from Athens to Paros. I hopped on that boat, a few minutes in, I felt nauseous. On the next stop, I got out. I had no idea where I was. I sat on the road for a bit to collect myself. When I was able, I stumbled my way to a little hotel next to the docks.
I remember the bearded man with the black fisherman cap in the front desk. He took one look at me, walked me to the room, gave me the key, and told me to rest and closed the door. I woke up about 5 hours later, paid my bill, and he told me to avoid the faster boats and take the ferry. He was right. The ferry was calm and slow and I got back to Athens without passing out.
Is it Aging?
For more than 20 years, my healthy lifestyle has allowed me to see the world and go on roadtrips without medication. But a couple of years ago, in my early 40s, I started noticing a change. Short 5 minute drives would sometimes take its toll on me. A few rounds in the parking lot looking for a spot, would trigger my motion sickness and vertigo. I try not to think of aging as the explanation for all aches and pains, but I also understand that older people struggle more with balance than younger ones.
I also felt that my dizziness not only came quicker, but have gotten more severe. My hands would normally feel cold, clammy, and tingly. But one time, my hands curled up to the point where I couldn’t straighten my fingers. I would be drenched in sweat.
When I get motion sickness, the weight of the shirt on my shoulders felt too heavy for me to carry. I’m overly sensitive to sound and smell. My neck starts aching and I can’t hold my head up, so I would look down. When it reaches the point of no return, I slump down. I’m at the mercy of the spinning world.
Antihistamine Saves Me
I’ve spoke to doctors about it and the prescription has always been the same: take a motion sickness drug. But my Christmas vertigo was a new challenge. I wasn’t in a car or a boat. I was at home. When I look back and think of what could have been signs of the vertigo coming and all I could think of was my neck. For the past few weeks, my neck felt tight. It wouldn’t crack no matter how I would stretch out or massage it as it normally would.
My vertigo lasted for 5 days. The first 48 hours were the most debilitating. I had to move deliberately, from turning on the bed or getting up. The good thing is, the spinning would subside after staying in one position for a bit. On the 3rd day, still fully on Bonine, I resisted the urge to curl up in bed and walked around slowly in the house. It worked. It felt like I was retraining my body to move again.
The 4th day, I was moving a bit faster and well enough to read articles about my condition. There are a few articles and videos that gave me some peace of mind, but this particular one from The University of Mississippi on vestibular therapy was life changing for me. It’s not only helpful in terms of outlining exercises one can do, but it taught me that to overcome my dizziness, I shouldn’t be afraid of it or avoid it. In fact, I should summon it.
You have a problem with your balance or equilibrium. Do not be afraid of your dizziness. Only you can build up the tolerance in your brain to overcome your dizziness. It is like an exercise for muscle building. It requires regular, capacity-extending work to build up strength or tolerance. Keep provoking your dizziness many times each day, realizing that each purposeful, controlled episode of dizziness brings you closer to your last one.The University of Mississippi Dizziness and Balance Clinic
“Do not be afraid of your dizziness.” I felt like Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins facing his fear of bats.
To conquer fear, you must become fear.Batman Begins
By making myself dizzy in a controlled fashion, I can train myself to better handle dizziness. Recovering from my vertigo, sitting up after lying down was when I felt the most unstable. So I laid down and sat up 10x in a row as part of my therapy. I started slowly at my own pace and gradually increased pace. The next morning, that motion felt normal again.
It’s been more than a week since my Christmas vertigo. I would say I’m about 90% there. I will continue with my self-guided therapy based on the University of Mississippi’s recommendation. When I’m ready, I’ll try to build tolerance by provoking dizziness in the car. My husband and I plan to just take the car out of the garage, to the driveway and back, breaking slightly along the way.
As my motion sickness got worse, my husband no longer felt comfortable driving me unless I took Bonnie. I can’t blame him. Every time he has to apply the breaks in any capacity he sees me wince and he apologizes. Similar to training yourself to get sea legs, I hope to get my passenger head with time and patience.
Thank You Bonine
Although I’m grateful for Bonine for effectively controlling my nausea, it does give me side effects. I dream frenetically. I’m in an odd state of half awake and half asleep when the pill wears down. It feels as if my mind has grown tentacles, and each one pulling me in different directions of thought. The rapid fire of thoughts, all at once, can get exhausting. I’m not sure if I’ll completely wean myself from it. But I hope to gain more confidence when I go on short car rides without it–baby steps.
I certainly received a gift this Christmas I never thought possible. My Christmas vertigo has giving me the gift of courage to face dizziness. All my life I’ve been avoiding getting dizzy. Now, I’ll call to it.
If you want more additional resources, Gordon Physical Therapy’s YouTube videos help. He has videos for different types of vertigo, tests you can conduct, and also exercises. This video on how long vertigo lasts gave me confidence and hope when I was dizzy for a couple of days and wondered if I was going to get better.
Disclaimer: The content in this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or health advice, diagnosis or treatment. Read the Lifdb terms for more information.
Tell me about your experience with motion sickness and vertigo: Do you suffer from motion sickness or vertigo? I would love to hear your story. Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may use your contribution in a future article or newsletter.