Let's rewind time to October 2016. Honestly, it's not a time I like to revisit often, but I think a part of healing and thriving is releasing the stuff that weighs us down. I don't often revisit the early months because it all felt so bad, so hard and so all-consuming.
The day that my vestibular something hit was a typical day in every way. I was recently back to work after my maternity leave. Life was beautifully full of love (my boys were 4 months old and 2) and I was managing life on little sleep. Nothing I hadn't done before as a new mom. Honestly, had that day not turned into the day that rattled my universe, I probably wouldn't be able to distinguish it from any other day.
But, as you can imagine, I remember so many details...
Sitting at my desk at work and suddenly everything going sideways.
Losing my sense of self in a flash.
My eyes drifting and losing their focus.
Scared to my core by the fact that walking suddenly felt near impossible.
As if I had jumped dimensions and was in a whole new one.
The months that followed that first day are a complete blur of doctors appointments, tears, putting on a strong façade for my boys, pretending I was ok, but terrified that I wasn't.
I'm sharing about the first few months because while I'm much more open about this part of my life now, there was a time I wasn't... to barely anyone.
Only my family and very close friends. I didn't tell anyone else how awful it was.
Why? Well, I was terrified.
Truly admitting it would only solidify that something really was wrong. I absolutely knew things were very not ok- the symptoms were crashing my system without a moment to breathe. Also, at that point I still had no idea what was happening to me. No doctor had put a name to it. I was however getting closer to self-diagnosing myself by the countless hours I spent searching for answers.
I was desperate for answers and I was breaking inside.
I went deep diving for pictures from the first few months and there were very few pictures of me, but many of my boys. In the pictures I did find of me I was smiling. In a way that makes me both happy and sad, because there was so much happening underneath that appearance. I don't regret not sharing in the beginning, but I know that I must now. Because if there's someone out there drowning in the initial stages, I want them to know they are not alone. And more then that, I want them to know that there are things they can do to take action.
You're not handled a manual when a vestibular something hits and my guess is that a great majority of people who experience a vestibular condition had little to no knowledge about their condition until it took over their world. I don't think I had ever even said the word "vestibular" before it was something I thought about every second.
Because I had two young children when it hit, I was never off duty. I went back to work just over a week after it all hit. If you're thinking that's insane, I agree. It was absolutely awful and it felt beyond challenging every single moment, but I didn't know any other option. In a weird way it saved me though. It required me to show up even when it felt impossible. There's no words to describe the struggle it took early on. I was relentlessly going through the motions.
I don't tap into the feelings I have associated with those days often. It was during those first few months that something started to change within me and in ways that I'd never look at life the same. I remember sitting on the floor next to my boys sobbing on the inside, but smiling on the outside at the amount of joy I had from watching them.
My inside was distraught by the symptoms... disconnected, brain fog, drifting eyes, anxiety coursing like fire, and feeling as if I was floating- always. But my heart, it was just overflowing with love.
It was a conflict between myself on every level. My mind + body felt like chaos, but my heart was overflowing with vibrant bliss.
I was a shell of a person with a strong heart. That's the feeling I remember so intensely.
It's only easier now to put it into words because I'm looking at it from the other side, or at least from higher up on the mountain. I can see what it looked like sinking in the mud at the bottom, but when I was in the mud, all I could focus on was trudging forward.
The thing about the beginning was that it didn't just feel like the beginning, because I had no idea what the middle or end even looked like. A great majority of the incredible vestibular warriors that I connect with want to know what their journey will look like, and man do I understand that. I can't speak to what it will look like for everyone. My journey includes vestibular neuritis and vestibular migraines, but I say that only to put a name to it. I believe a lot of vestibular stuff is a guessing game, so my mission is simply to elevate my wellness on every level possible. Because I know that in making that commitment, it will support my wellbeing on a deep level.
If you're at the beginning, I hope you know that even if you don't have a diagnosis, even if no doctor has helped you, even if your symptoms are 24/7, and even if you are lost and sinking in the mud, there are ways to pull yourself up and out of it.
I say this because as vestibular warriors we have to be empowered to take back our lives.
The first few months were ugly and I was scared and overwhelmed at every turn. But I did it, so it's a good reminder that beginnings do not dictate the journey or where we're going.
They are simply the starting point.