Vertigo without warning, or What I Wish I had known about Entering My Thirties

About three weeks ago, I was watching Buzzfeed’s video on Second Puberty, and very much enjoying it. It mostly outlined some of the body changes I had noticed in the past few years, and it gave me a bit of a laugh.

A week later, I woke up with the beginning of one of my usual migraines and a stiff neck. Knowing my migraines fairly well by now, I knew I had time to go through my usual morning routine, and then treat the migraine. As I stretched to relieve my neck a bit, the room spun. Having never experienced vertigo, I had no idea what was happening. I thought it might go away rather quickly, so I got up, and went on with my morning. While in the kitchen, I fell over. It was then that I realized something was very wrong. My husband was equally alarmed and stayed home from work to take care of me.

Looking up my symptoms on WebMD, I found that I had a vestibular migraine, which happens to about 30% of women in their 30s and 40s, and goes away either in their 50s or during menopause. There are several good resources online should you want more information on it. I strongly recommend this article from Johns Hopkins: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/neurology_neurosurgery/centers_clinics/vestibular/conditions/vestibular_migraine.html

These migraines can be treated just like any other migraine, although I found that for me, the vertigo lasted a day, with dizziness lasting two more days before dissipating like a fog. I spent most of the first day and a half sleeping in the dark, and had no interest in food. However, migraines are different for different people. It was, however, something I had never heard of. Afterwards, through talking with friends and family, I found that my mother experienced these migraines through her 30s, and so did quite a few spouses of my husband’s coworkers. It was indeed pretty common, and not at all surprising that I had it, since my mother had too.

That was the biggest thing I wish people had told me to expect in my 30s. The ease of weight gain is another: I moved countries a year ago, and am a stress-eater. This resulted, to no surprise on the part of my doctor, in my gaining quite a bit of weight in a short period of time. It surprised me, however! She patiently explained that part of being in your 30s is that it is much much easier to gain weight, and harder to lose it, especially for women.

One of the things that has made it easier to begin to lose weight is yet anothering thing I wish someone had warned me about: diminishing of appetite. When I was in my 20s, I loved eating. There was so much wonderful and delightful foods out there, and I was fortunate to live in a part of the world where delicious food was abundant and reasonably affordable. Nowadays, the amount of food I delighted in eating is off-putting, and is certainly something I have no interest in doing. Indeed, I am surprised at how little I want to eat, and the sorts of cravings I have, have also changed. I prefer savory to sweet, and fruits and vegetables to starchier sugars and candy. I adore fish and leaner meats, and like red meat only occasionally. I do still like chocolate, but not as often as I used to. I still like tofu, edamame, seaweed, and darker greens, but to a greater degree than I used to.

There are many other changes too. I love walks now, and indulge in them when I can. Friends are harder to make, and much dearer when you do make them. Silver hairs, wrinkles, and painfully dry skin! I understand the need for moisturizers, where before I never used them. I now like my mornings, and get up well before I have to. Hangovers are also things that exist now, so I need to be careful if I’m having drinks with friends. A properly fitted bra is a must, and generally I don’t want to have to put up with clothes, shoes, and accoutrements that make me feel uncomfortable or put strain on any part of my body. Aches and pains happen, and can be managed with stretching and hot showers. Indeed, many delightful things may now need stretching to beforehand, as inopportune charlie horses are inconsiderate, and mean a break for a massage.

So for those of you embarking on your 30s, or beginning to approach it, be forewarned: it is not only the beginning of adulting in earnest, but also a significant shift in your health and body. I recommend that you seek out advice of those who have gone before, and of doctors, and pay attention to what your body is telling you. Do these things, and you will get through it, and shine in ways you never thought possible.