Why I’m running the Great North Run

By: Aron Stoker, who lives with vestibular migraine

23rd August 2023

I first started getting migraine attacks about two or three years ago. They started after I had an inner ear infection. I had some really unpleasant symptoms, my balance was really affected. I was having to lean on chairs and walls to feel supported. These symptoms were ongoing and, last year, I was eventually diagnosed with vestibular migraine. This was mentally really challenging for me as I don’t take illness very well at all; I’m usually really active and run loads. Not feeling myself was exceptionally difficult.

The psychological impact

Although the symptoms of my vestibular migraine are awful, I really think it has affected me more psychologically than physically. I was surprised as the symptoms appeared out of nowhere. I am a healthy and fit man so to suddenly feel really dizzy and sick inexplicably was distressing. It affects my work and social life often – I’m unable to take part in activities or events if I’m having a migraine attack. I have to lie on my bed and make sure the room is really dark to try to cope with an episode. It’s an awful experience and I do not wish it on anyone.

I also live with epilepsy and have suffered two seizures close together. That hit me really hard and was very challenging. I had my first seizure in 2018 whilst on holiday and then another at home in front of my family, which left me feeling embarrassed and shocked. The seizures led to me having so much anxiety and I was having panic attacks as I was terrified about the unknown; when would I have another seizure? Eventually, I accepted it and took my medication for it which has worked very well until now.

I lost my Royal Navy career due to my epilepsy. That was another challenge too but as you see I don’t give up. I have a new job now, I train often and run as much as I can. Migraine has also impacted my work but only to begin with. I had to miss some shifts but now that they are more manageable and I’m on the right medication, it doesn’t impact so much, which I’m grateful for.

Managing my migraine

I take medication for my vestibular migraine, which was prescribed right at the start, after the ear infection. I am also on lifelong medication for my epilepsy too. At the moment my condition has stabilised and luckily my migraine attacks are less frequent.

I find exercising and getting really good sleep helps a lot. Finding ways to prevent migraine has been the best way of managing them. I run a lot and do a lot of strength and conditioning work which brings me peace. I also study and read, which really helps me to focus and reduces stress.

I think it is really important to have access to good information about migraine, to know what treatment and support is available, and to know you’re not alone. Social media is really helpful because everyone can easily share their experience and connect with others who also live with migraine. Having a community of people who have migraine allows for more support and helps with feelings of isolation. The information and support that The Migraine Trust offer is really helpful for anyone living with migraine.

Supporting The Migraine Trust

I’m really passionate about running and this year I have already ran four races. In September, I will be running the Great North Run for The Migraine Trust. I am hoping to raise £350 to help support the work that they do because I want to make sure that anyone else living with this awful condition can get the help and support that they need. I’ve always wanted to take part in the Great North Run so this is a fantastic way to be able to take part and help others at the same time.

You can support Aron’s fundraising here.

Learn more about vestibular migraine here. Find out more about doing a fundraising event for The Migraine Trust here