Believe it or not, I’ve had vertigo while driving, and it’s not pleasant at all. In fact, I find driving stressful at the best of times, even when I’m clear-headed and thinking well. So on top of that, have my vision going everywhere, feeling dizzy and feeling my stomach drop while I’m holding onto the steering wheel on a highway, it’s a very anxiety-producing event. So how did I get through that? It’s just random vertigo, it happens when it happens. And the most common response to having an onset of sudden vertigo and dizziness would be anxiety. So all of that’s quite normal.
I’m a vestibular audiologist and I’m highly trained in vertigo and dizziness, so I had a few key insights as to what to do, and I knew if the vertigo did not resolve quickly, I had to pull over because I would then become a danger to everybody else around me. So that was on my mind. I held onto the steering wheel, I felt my seatbelt, I really just ground my sitting bones, my buttocks and my legs. I did a quick body scan in my chair and I checked that I could sense I could orient myself and that I could have stable enough vision to drive safely.
And as I felt the steering wheel, I reminded myself:” False alarm, you’re safe, you’re in your car, you just had a little flurry of vertigo, your stomach dropped, your eyes spinned, it’s past.” Doesn’t matter why it happened. And I just went back to my breath and back to my body scanning so that my brain really quickly and really rapidly got that, “it’s okay,” the reassurance it’s just a false alarm. And that’s what the body is looking for. It’s like, “Okay, is there a tiger chasing me? Have I got cancer? Am I dying? Is there some life-threatening thing causing this vertigo?” And in that moment, we want the brain and body to say, “No, no, false alarm, it’s fine.” Vertigo can come and go in healthy, normal people. It doesn’t mean it’s a life-threatening event.
If you’ve never had vertigo before, and this is happening frequently, go and get medical clearance so that then you can hear it from the doctor’s mouth, and they say, “We haven’t found anything, no abnormalities detected. This was just a freak event.” And they give you medical clearance from there. If you’re worried about vertigo, if it’s creating anxiety for you or what we call maladaptive avoidance behaviors, which means perhaps you stop driving, you avoid driving, you’re afraid of driving or other avoidance behaviors in your life, please understand vertigo and dizziness are reversible, you can treat them at home, you can cure them at home. And my book, Rock Steady really explains how to do this. And there’s also a Rock Steady online program with further support and community. So visit seekingbalance.com.au to learn more. There’s plenty of resources. Read my book, Rock Steady. But above all, be reassured this is reversible, you do not have to live with this and you absolutely can continue driving, get medical clearance and learn how to interrupt that false alarm and bring your body from that dizziness, anxious cycle, back into the steadiness and calm cycle.