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Sidelined: When Your Health Issue Calls Time Out

Just my luck (or my body’s dramatic response to wide swings in air pressure). Western Washington, where I live, has been under an iron curtain of rain and gloom for about a solid month. During this time we had a 6-day snowstorm and not one, but two “Pineapple Express” rainstorms, which are known for dumping huge quantities of water in a short time and causing flooding. Indeed, a flood emergency was declared for our state a week ago.

So when Monday dawned clear, sunny, and warm, I was excited to get a bike day. So excited that I ignored the shimmery vision, slight nausea, and sinus headache that heralded a full-blown migraine on the way. Even when I bent over to pick up the cat dishes and floor rushed up at my face, I thought, “it’s just a little morning vertigo; it will clear.” Never mind that the only time I have vertigo is when a migraine is starting.

I went to my desk, did my morning “check-in” on the computer (check my email and whatnot), and started trying to address a work email. That’s when I realized my eyes were hypersensitive to the screen light, my brain was offline, and I had the attention span of a goldfish. My bike ride went up in a puff of shimmery, throbbing smoke.

Monday’s migraine was the kind that kicks me off-screen. No scrolling and no games except 5 minutes of online Scrabble here and there; that game doesn’t move around much. TV was okay, reading took too much concentration. A few times I went outside to walk in the fresh air, staying on the shady side of the house until afternoon when I ventured into the sunshine, my eyes squinched like a vampire’s. My skin might have sizzled a bit on contact with sunlight.

My neighbor stopped by midmorning, before I was dressed, and was concerned to find me in such rough shape. “It’s the price I pay for sunshine,” I sighed. “Well, it shouldn’t be!” he said, his new leather jacket creaking (loudly to my ravaged head) as his chest puffed with indignation. He made sure I was hydrating properly before he left me to my misery.

This is a common occurrence for us in invisible disability world, whether it’s migraines, dysautonomia, an autoimmune flare-up, or sometimes in my case, a dislocated rib head (residual problem from spinal fracture). We have things that grab us around the ankles like a bola and yank us off our feet unexpectedly. There’s nothing to do but apply whatever treatment it needs and wait it out.

For me, missing a sunny day is torture. And mind you, if it clouds up again and the air pressure drops, that may trigger a migraine too. I was just getting some momentum with beginning my training for bike touring season. I was starting to come out of my “crash” that happened during the snowstorm, when the confinement and lack of movement caused my health to start breaking down. I really needed a good day.

Today my Migraine Buddy app says, “You have been attack-free for 9 hours!” Yee haw. The good thing is, these attacks are less frequent and less severe since I moved to my tiny house and stopped feeling under siege from the intrusion of random noise. At least I haven’t thrown up once since I moved here. The CVS (Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome) component of my migraines was bloody-hell miserable. I don’t know if the improvement is because of my corrected eyeglass prescription, the move, or both, but I’ll take the win.

Today I’m getting the remaining knot of soreness massaged away from my spine, and that will probably trigger more vertigo and a rough sleep night. The day after, the chiropractor will check that rib head and make sure it’s not contributing to my physical angst. I dearly hope to ride my bike to that appointment.

These stumbles on the road to recovery become tedious, especially when recovery is a transition from a severe acute condition to a less serious chronic one, and it never really goes away. The momentum I started with better self-care after the big snowstorm raised my baseline—when I’m recovered from this setback, I’ll still be in a better place physically than I was on January 18, confined in a small trailer with a frozen drain pipe, surrounded by snow. Soon the baseline will rise high enough that these attacks will be less frequent. Soon spring will come bursting out everywhere, along with good riding weather, gardening, sunlight on bare skin, and social outdoor dinners with the neighbors. But not today.

Is anyone else in stumble mode? Talk to me so I know I’m not alone (and neither are you!)

Sidelined: When Your Health Issue Calls Time Out

Kristin Noreen

Kristin Noreen lives in Bellingham, Washington with two cats and her vintage touring bicycle, Silver. Her triple passions are animal rescue, long-distance bike touring, and writing. Her book, On Silver Wings: A Life Reconstructed, is about reinventing her life following a catastrophic injury.

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APA Reference
, . (2020). Sidelined: When Your Health Issue Calls Time Out. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 6, 2020, from


Last updated: 12 Feb 2020
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