Stress: kill or cure?

I have a really stressful job as a primary school teacher and school leader but somehow have managed to continue to teach and run a school full time since developing constant MAV/ VM 3 years ago. I think the stress was a big factor in it becoming chronic, as I was going through some horrible life events at the time, and it was periods of stress letdown, ie holidays, when symptoms worsened. I think that somehow the stress, combined with an inner ear disorder (which was giving me recurrent bppv) and the menopause, all triggered this off. I have had no relief from meds and suffer all sorts of crap every day and yet it seems I can still thrive on stress at work. Today I taught 2 really fun and lively lessons which were judged as outstanding in front of 3 headteachers. How can I do that but on my day off struggle to make a cup of tea? I don’t get it.

Is my brain craving the chemicals/ hormones it got used to being flooded with when I got sick? Did that kind of become the new normal? Was stress interfering with inner ear compensation? And is it good for me to keep putting myself into that situation where I buzz with adrenalin and the MAV is shut out temporarily? :smiley:

Any thoughts?


I can kind of understand what you’re saying, but for me it has to do with focus. I find with
VM I’m constantly checking in with myself “how am I now? just a little dizzy, phew ok,” one second later “how am I now, ok a bit more dizzy, oh no,” one second later…and on and on, BUT when I get distracted I sometimes forget about VM for awhile.

I think it’s what Ellen said–the distraction, the focusing OUTWARD instead of INWARD.

My case of (self-diagnosed) VM is pretty mild, but I’ve had it a LONG time, and I have always found that when I have an OUTSIDE source of distraction–either someone or something demanding my immediate attention (or something that I’m deeply interested in), I don’t notice feeling woozy/dizzy unless I make some particularly provocative head or body movement.

I think most dizzy people experience this.

You know how when you have an ENG, during part of it, they make you count backwards by seven or name girls’ or boys’ names starting with certain letters, etc.? This is to make you focus, which for some reason gives them better eye-movement readings.

I sure know that if I turn my attention “backwards” into my own head–and especially if I ask myself, Am I dizzy?–for sure I will feel it. The less time you have in which to be tempted to analyze or remember your dizziness, the better.

Which DOES NOT, of course, mean that “it’s all in your head” or that if you would just stop paying attention to it, it would go away. The vestibular damage is real.

I’ve always been amazed that even in my worst-dizzy times in the past, I managed to work at the library and appear pretty normal to people (I guess!), just maybe a bit spacy and easily confused. I had a LOT more trouble with my freelance copyediting, as it is hard to make yourself focus when no one is standing in front of you and demanding your attention.

Keeping up a normal life, normal movement and activity, to the extent that you can, is no doubt far better for dizzy people than just sitting around, for numerous reasons. Of course every person needs to find their own correct balance between rest/sleep and activity, which may change as the disease symptoms wax and wane. The range of severity is great, and only you know what you can and can’t do. But I don’t think that either taking a prolonged rest period or having a prolonged period of stress is going to fundamentally change the course of the disease over time. (As far as I know.)


Hi Nancy, do you have any balance issues with your VM? If so do you take anything for this?

Hi Sarah–my balance is not great, but it’s not seriously impaired; I’ve never actually fallen and can walk normally, to appearances anyway. How about you?

I do realize that a lot of people here have much worse problems than I do and that some people cannot function normally, cannot work, etc. Everyone just has to find what they CAN do and do it.

I don’t take or do anything for my balance–I do take Strattera for concentration/attention help. I used to do about 2 miles of fast walking several times a week, which is great for dizziness and balance, but now I can’t walk more than a block or two at a time.


Hi Nancy,

When my MAV first started, my balance wasn’t normal, but I could walk ok- I would say it was about 75% of normal. For the last six months, my balance has deteriorated to about 10-20% of normal- I need a cane and can barely leave the house because of this. I am desperate to find something that consistently helps my balance but no luck yet. I am unable to work because of this and other health issues. I agree with you that we need to try to do what we can to stay busy and distract ourselves even though it is difficult.


When you are teaching–do you consider yourself “stressed” or just “busy?”

I would tend to agree that when I am busy I am less focused on how crappy I feel, and thus less prone to noticing the effects of the crappiness. When I’m bored, I noticed every little icky feeling and it builds to feeling worse and worse. I like to keep busy if I can–but I don’t like STRESS…

I feel there is a HUGE difference between busy and STRESSED.

dolflvr–I think you hit the nail on the head–there’s a difference between being busy and being stressed.

Sarah–what do your docs say about your imbalance? Have they really thoroughly investigated it? Do you have a diagnosis? If it is deteriorating over time, that seems like a huge red flag for something they’ve missed. Have you been to a vestibular physical therapist? Sorry, I don’t read enough on this board to keep up with everyone’s stories… I know you’ve investigated PLF but haven’t been able to get a doc to agree to the surgery?

I hope you’ve seen a good neurologist too, but honestly, I think vestibular PTs, who assess function very attentively, are the sharpest at knowing what’s wrong with a patient!

(Sorry, Nubs, to let this thread stray a bit!)


Thanks for your replies.

I did mean stressed and not busy. I am a mum of 2 working a 50 hour+ week so I am always busy! I was wondering about the link between my brain being in this constant state of terrible stress when I got sick and the phenomenon of the dizziness almost disappearing when I am again under high pressure. I think it is more than just having less time to notice the dizziness. On a normal day I do often struggle just moving around the classroom even though I am extremely busy but it is when the pressure is really on and the adrenalin kicks in that it suddenly lifts.

I just wondered how other people viewed it and how they cope with high pressure situations. I also had a horrible night a while back when my son had to be rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night and it was only in the morning that I realised I hadn’t been dizzy at all. It doesn’t really make sense that a sick hyper alert brain should feel better when flooded with stress hormones, but maybe that’s just part of the survival instinct.

Sarah- we’ve talked before and I am so sorry that you are still suffering so much with your balance and walking and I was shocked at how young you are to be dealing with this. I agree that you must push for any testing you haven’t had, instead of trialling meds for ages with no success. Your situation sounds intolerable and you must fight to get doctors to see how much you need to get your life back. I do know I am lucky to be able to work at all but it is really hard. I have no social life and crash out on the sofa every evening and weekend to be able to give all my energy to work. I really hope you find some answers soon.


Thank you Nicola and Nancy,

Yes, the balance issue is severe- I don’t know why last summer it just went south all of a sudden. Around the same time my balance got worse, I started to feel an achiness all over my body like a fever - I had this for about 2 months. So I went to an infectious disease dr. as I have been tested for Lyme before- she put me on amoxilicin- within 3 weeks, the constant achiness was gone, but my balance stayed the same. I was on it for about 2.5 months total and then stopped it. The Lyme Dr. thought if the balance was connected to Lyme, it probably would have improved with the amoxicilan, because my achiness did. I recently went back to her about this and she will try me on 2 at the same time for a month to see if this makes any difference to my balance. I am also going to see a regular neurologist in May to see if anything non-vestibular has been missed.

My neurotologist (the one treating me for MAV) said that typically the symptoms are not progressive- that seems to be the theme on this site- people don’t seem to really get worse over time, in fact some seem to improve on their own? I have had full testing done a couple years ago but my neurotologist mentioned me having it done again to see if anything has changed? He also said that if I did have a fistula, my symptoms wouldn’t get worse over time like this either.

It is a scary scary thing to not be able to walk right- even with a cane some days I can barely leave the house and am in constant pain from limping and wobbling. I can barely do things like make a sandwich or do laundry with no balance. So I guess my plan now is to try the Lyme antibiotics, see the regular neuro in May, and then I guess try another MAV med. My life is a complete mess- I can’t work- I live at home with my mom (I am 29)- I feel like I keep getting hit in the face with this and my fibro pain which I can’t seem to treat. UGH sorry to vent thank you both for your concern!

Nicola- have you tried any more meds since we spoke on dizzytimes? Have you improved at all?

Hey Nancy,

I forgot- yes, last summer I did vestibular rehab therapy- and actually about 4 weeks in was when my balance went south. I don’t see how the therapy could possibly have caused this prolonged downturn…I continued with it for maybe another couple weeks but it really didn’t have a point then.

Hi Sarah,

I have tried propranolol, amitrityline and on currently on pizotifen although not yet on max dose. I have found that the pizotifen helps me sleep which helps because lack of sleep seems to be a trigger. And I have had a few better days in he holidays but generally not much better.

I don’t know about the non progressive thing. I have had three years of this and the last year has been the worst, which is scary. It changes all the time for me and some days, weeks or months I will really be struggling with my balance and then the next month ot will be more that the floor keeps moving and the next week it will be terrible ear pain and I never know what to expect or how low down this thing really goes. It used to be the rocking which was the main event but the last few months it has been more positional dizziness. I tried VRT for a few months but the physio said there was too much interference from the MAV and signed me off for now.

I think you need to press for an mri scan with contrast from your neuro to really look for any damage around the balance organ. Have you had full vestibular testing? I have damage to my vestibular nerve diagnosed on ENG and I think becuase my vertigo is both peripheral (ear) and central ( brain) it is particularly hard to treat both at once. It sounds like you may also have more going on. Do your symptoms change much day to day and are there any triggers?

All the best Sarah,


Sorry I missed what you said about vestibular testing. I definitely think you should have the tests again as your balance is so much worse now. Best of luck.

Hi Nicola,

I will discuss more testing the next time I see the Dr. It’s strange how just my balance got worse and none of my other symptoms did. My symptoms are pretty steady from day to day, not much changes- the only thing that really upsets them is trying to take medication- most will screw up my balance more. Do you think you will try more meds?