Living Quarters: My House Hunting Experience

My husband and I spent a few months of 2020 looking for a new house. Like many millenials post-COVID, we ran out of reasons to live in the city (no longer needed to commute to work, needed two home offices, many businesses were closed or had limited hours, no longer spending our time in restaurants and bars), and gained one big reason to live in the suburbs (our baby on-the-way)!

When we started searching, my MdDS symptoms were higher than they are currently, and I was more prone to vestibular migraine attacks and symptoms.  Ever since my onset trip, my brain had always had an “adjustment period” to new places, which usually created a few minutes of elevated rocking, bobbing, or swaying until I got comfortable with my surroundings.  Overall, I felt was managing pretty well, though. Oddly enough, I didn’t anticipate house hunting being a challenge… 

Our first day out looking at houses, I realized quickly that it was going to be harder than I thought. We looked at a place with an enclosed staircase, and my “boat feeling” immediately worsened.  I decided then that if I couldn’t see an open staircase in the house-preview pictures, we weren’t going to look at the house.  

Early in our search, we found a really cool house that had almost everything we were looking for… until we reached the basement.  It had low ceilings, uneven floors, no windows, and those awful cylinder lights that tend to blink as they start to go out.  I could feel a migraine coming on… my MdDS immediately ramped up and my head started to feel swollen.  

I realized then that I needed to carry my rescue medication (Timolol Maleate eye drops) with me all the time.  I put a dropper in my purse, and it has come in handy so many times since (house hunting and otherwise).

Besides the migraine, the other part that really sucked about this situation was that we loved the other aspects of the house!  We agreed at the time that we couldn’t live somewhere that I couldn’t use the basement.  Even if we changed the lights, the enclosed space and uneven-ness of the floors would probably always be a trigger.  

It’s always hard when these types of situations come up.  I’m feeling like I have things under control, that I’m doing really well… then something comes along to remind me of my limitations.  Those automatic negative thoughts, like, “If I weren’t sick, we could have bought this house,” or “My husband can’t get the house he wants because of my illness,” are difficult to ignore.

When I brought myself back to reality, I realized I was just really lucky to be looking for a house in the first place.  Plus, the right house for us was going to be something that we both loved and felt good in.  

It took a few months of searching, but we eventually found a house with everything we both needed.  For me, that was lots of natural light, an above-grade basement, no crazy patterns on tile or flooring, a glass-door shower, no slanted or low ceilings, and rooms with an open feeling. 

Here we are celebrating the first day in our new home!
(Don’t worry – it’s just juice!)

As I searched, I made a list of triggers.  Hopefully they will help you if you are house or apartment hunting this year!  It helped me to look at the photos online beforehand and eliminate any houses with obvious triggers. Have a loved-one or real-estate agent do it for you if you are struggling with technology. Pass on this list to them!

House or Apartment Hunting Triggers:

  • low ceilings
  • slanted or uneven ceilings
  • uneven floors
  • busy tile, carpeting, and flooring patterns (if you aren’t planning to renovate)
  • make sure light fixtures can be changed or updated if LED, fluorescent, or exposed bulbs are present
  • make sure there is enough natural light to support your circadian rhythms
  • avoid enclosed spaces, like narrow stairwells or tiny powder rooms
  • avoid buildings that require elevator use if this is a trigger

What would you add?  Tell me in the comments!

I’ve been working on a more tip-focused blog with my business partner, Kelly, for people with Mal de Debarquement Syndrome, Vestibular Migraine, and/or Migraine.  We have a few posts with strategies for various daily challenges, and we will be adding more in the future.  These are especially great for those who are new to the dizzy life! Check it out here:

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