‘Round And ‘Round And ‘Round

A few times in my life I have had bouts of vertigo, usually at the most inopportune times. The folks who saw me at Home Depot several years back must have thought I was about 8 drinks past my limit. Not the impression you want to make when accompanied by your wife and children.

People who haven’t experienced it may confuse it with plain old dizziness. Whoa, Nellie… This is a whole different ball game.

The way mine manifests itself is by making my field of vision spin. Whatever point I am looking at serves at the center of the pinwheel, and the room spins around that point. Fun, huh?

My balance goes to hell, I can’t walk without holding on to something, I immediately start to sweat like I just hauled a television up twenty flights of stairs, and I feel like I’m going to throw up everything I’ve eaten for the last year and a half.

An allergist suffering from the same problem told me that it was related to a virus, and it just flared up whenever it decided to have some fun. He was kind of right, but the virus-related vertigo is only present where there are pockets of affected patients in a concentrated geographical region. So that’s not me.

No, what I believe I have is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. It’s caused by some tiny crystals from your inner ear that get jarred loose and float downstream, messing up another part of the ear that measures head motion and gauges the body’s response. That’s when the fun begins. The crystals eventually move on or dissolve, and you get your life back.

Totally harmless, totally unpredictable, unrelated to any bigger disease or condition, and no cure or treatment. All the doctor can do is suggest Benadryl for the nausea (same active ingredient in Dramamine, who knew…) and say, “Good luck with that…”

So about two weeks ago here in Portland, I’m alone, no family within 300 miles, no friends save the guys at work who I’ve known for 6 weeks, and what should rear its ugly head? That’s right, Satan’s Tilt-A-Whirl. Three attacks that Saturday, one Sunday, and another one on Tuesday.

The worst time this happened was about 4 years ago, and during that attack I was wholly incapacitated for a week, missed eight work days and wasn’t fully recovered for close to a month. I was afraid it was happening again.

But I read up on the condition, and focused on the word “positional.” I hoped that there was at least a possibility that this could be controlled by trying to find the head position that minimized the effects and/or prevented the onset of these attacks. And what do you know…

If I sit upright, feet flat on the floor, put an ice pack on the back of my neck, and hold still (eyes closed to minimize the nausea) it subsides within a few minutes. I had to be cautious about my movements for the next week or so, but one day I woke up and I felt perfectly fine.

The condition itself is scary, but the circumstances make it even more so. What if this happens at work, or on the train? What will I do if it lasts an extended period of time again? Who would help me if this gets serious or other symptoms arise?

Fortunately it appears, for now, I have discovered the means of controlling it. All I can do is wait until it shows up again, and see if I get the same result with the same treatment.

If not, then I guess I just hang on and hope the ride ends soon…

One thought on “‘Round And ‘Round And ‘Round

  1. I’ve had one bout of vertigo. I was hiking, and while looking down, over a cliff did nothing to me, looking up, did — it felt like everything around me was just being sucked into a vortex. I had to lie down, close my eyes, and wait for it to pass . . . it took about half an hour. Since then, I fear it happening again — it hasn’t, but that feeling will never leave me.

    Here’s hoping that future episodes, for you, are very few & further between.

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