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April 2020  /  Interviewed by Efrain

Being diagnosed with vertigo at the age of nineteen, Kimberly unfortunately needed to adjust her life around the illness in an effort to persevere through college. By sharing her experience she aims to bring awareness to illnesses, like vertigo, many people endure and urge others to lend a helping hand. With help from her family and loved ones, Kimberly is currently studying at the University of California Riverside with Honors in hopes of developing programs to help minorities in their academic progress.  

“I found out about my illness at the beginning of my first year in college. I had just finished my summer program and I was going to the beach with my school. We were going to Santa Barbara and while we were on the bus I remember getting really sick. I felt nauseous and had a slight headache. It was manageable so I took a nap, which helped me get rid of those feelings at the time. Three weeks after the beach trip, I was driving to my sister’s house. On my way to my sister’s house, I turned on to a street that has a sharp curve and as you are in that curve, it feels like you are going really fast. As I was taking that curve, I became extremely nauseous and dizzy. When you become nauseous and really dizzy, your senses become super sensitive. Any high pitch noise made me more dizzy and the bright sun made me more nauseous. As a result my eyesight blacked out and I was forced to pull over. Once I pulled over, I got out of the car and I started to throw up everywhere. 

“I was on the side of the road throwing up and people were just driving by looking at me as if I was on some kind of drug. I thought to myself, I have to get to my sister’s house, it’s only two lights away. So I sucked it up and I drove her house. It was horrible, because as you enter the parking lot, there is bump after bump after bump. I took a quick turn into the parking spot and got out of the car. However, I felt so dizzy I had to army crawl to my sister’s front door. I would crawl a little bit, stop, throw up, crawl a little bit, stop, throw up. I finally made it to her front door but she took a long time to open her door so I just started throwing up on her porch. When I start having a vertigo episode, all my senses become super sensitive, so when I walked into my sister’s house, it stank so bad, I had to move quickly to the bathroom to throw up again.

“Today, I take [medications] to help with my vertigo episodes. However, anxiety worsened during these times. Now, I can’t just get up and go somewhere without thinking, how am I going to feel on the way there? Will there be a lot of people, and therefore a lot of noise? It is very discouraging because I am a youth leader at my church and whenever we are planning activities, all the other leaders say, yeah that’s a fun activity, let’s do that, or go here, or go there. As for me, I constantly have to think about my condition. I also have a strict diet that I have to follow so I have to think of eating beforehand, bringing my own food, or simply not eating during those activities. If I eat foods high in sodium, my migraine will trigger in thirty minutes and my vertigo will start to act up. I give a lot of thanks to my mom that helped me get through this by looking things up on the internet and looking for home remedies we can try. I thank my dad for giving me rides to school when I couldn’t drive and I’m especially grateful to my husband who now gives me rides and walks me to class to make sure I get there safely. I am also very grateful to have been accepted to the disability program at RCC and have a great disability counselor that helped me with my new lifestyle. I will keep on pushing forward regardless of my illness and nothing will hold me.”

Narrator's story and photo shared with their permission. Oral history has been lightly edited for length and to protect their privacy. 

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