Reaching dizzy new heights

For the last three months I have been swimming around underwater, drunk as a skunk and battling a severe case of morning sickness. OK so that’s not strictly true, but I may as well have been as this pretty much sums up how I have been feeling. Everyday I have had to battle with a complete lack of balance and contend with a blinding headache. And these are just two of the perks that you get to experience when suffering (and I don’t use this word lightly) from vertigo.

Vertigo is one of those medical conditions that you probably haven’t even heard of before you get it and have absolutely no idea how horrible it can be to live with until you do. I know that I had always been under the illusion that vertigo was something people only suffered from when they peered down from a tall building, descended down a steep set of stairs or threw themselves off a bridge attached to an elastic band. For the record, that last one does come with it’s own medical condition. It’s called insanity.

It is actually a symptom of a balance disorder, which gives a constant sensation of spinning or whirling and the illusion of movement, when no movement is actually present. An example of this would have been when I sat at the traffic lights the other day and the road in front of me looked as if it were moving towards me at considerable speed. It was quiet a surreal experience and had I not known better I would have sworn that someone had laced my green tea with a hallucinogenic mushroom or two. Throw in some dancing trees and a talking dashboard and the ‘trip’ would have been complete.

This sensation of constant movement is apparently classed as ‘subjective vertigo’. The perception of movement in surrounding objects is called ‘objective vertigo’. What do you know, it’s my lucky day. I seem to have been blessed with both types.

Now I have never had a good sense of balance at the best of times. I am likely to pass out on any fairground ride faster than the ‘Tea Cups’, I feel sick if I towel dry my hair upside and I couldn’t walk in a straight line even if it were 2 feet wide and came with a built in hand rail. So no, having a medical condition that affects balance is never going to be a good thing.

It came on out of the blue, just a week after my husband came out of hospital with his own clot to worry about. After a 3 day imploding headache, the loss of my peripheral vision and no sense of feeling in my hands I decided that I had reached dizzy new heights that I couldn’t deal with anymore. I checked myself into Emergency. One night and 5 different doctors later and the world was still spinning. I was told I was suffering from a migraine and was sent home the next day. 2 days later in a state of desperation I threw myself into my doctor’s chair and begged him to fix me.

30 seconds later he told me what was wrong, handed me a box of tissues and then told me there was nothing he could do. Funny how he knew to give me the tissues first.

Not knowing what had brought it on made it seem even more bizarre. It could have been stress (husband with blood clot – check), some sort of virus, a problem of the inner ear balance mechanisms or even something wrong with my brain. I heard that thought, I do have one. They did an MRI and double checked.

When living in a time where antibiotics are dispensed like Strepsils, it’s rather unsettling to be told that the prescribed remedy for what you have is, wait for it… ‘waiting’. Especially when it can take up to 3 months to go away. Worse still is being told not to get stressed.  Not being able to locate the butter in fridge can make me stressed, what hope did I have of staying calm when I couldn’t even cross a room without drifting off sideways or pick my son up without wanting to throw up all over him.

I left the doctors armed with a boxes of tablets to try and combat the dizziness and nausea. Ironically one of the side effects of the tablet was dizziness. I then went home to lay down and feel incredibly sorry for myself. Had I known back then how long it would last I think I might just have crawled into a hole and lost all will to live.

There are of course lots of suggested alternative cures on the Internet and plenty of books written about how to deal with Vertigo. Somewhere I read that using energy saving light bulbs can make it worse and strawberries can make it better. So I ate several punnets to compensate for all the bulbs that we use in the house and hoped they would cancel each other out.

I found vertigo exercises to try, limited myself to how much I worked everyday and tried to keep as calm and stress free as possible. I found someone to help treat the tight knots in my neck and back and made myself start going to Pilates again. I ruled out the Body Balance and Yoga class as I thought that trying to achieve a ‘Downward Dog’, ‘Tree’ or ‘One legged King Pigeon’ pose probably result in last night’s dinner coming right back out to greet me.

Then last week the whole family came came down with a virus, something that, unpleasant as it was may just have proved to be that proverbial cloud with a silver lining.

If you are eating, please don’t keep reading:

The force with which my Sunday Roast left my stomach, coupled with the piece of chicken that shot out as I blew my nose afterward (disgusting I know, but medically relevant) seemed to unblock my ear and reduce the severity of the vertigo. It has now been 3 days since I stopped popping my pills and (touch wood) I am finally feeling a bit better. Obviously if you find yourself suffering from vertigo, intentionally making yourself sick isn’t a route I would recommend, but on this occasion it seems to have done the trick for me.

So to cut a long story short, if you ever find yourself unlucky enough to be on the receiving end of a bout of vertigo be reassured by the knowledge that as horrible as it is, it will eventually go. Until then, try not to get too stressed, it only makes it worse.

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