I woke up last Thursday morning and puttered around in the kitchen to get my breakfast ready. No doubt wondering whether I will finally pull my shit together and get my ass in gear. I ate something small and simple. Probably an apple and a piece of toast or whatever. I put the dishes in the sink, went to the bathroom to wash my face…
And then. The world tilted. There’s really no better way to describe the sensation. I was overcome with sudden dizziness, only it wasn’t the usual light-headedness you get after standing up too fast or seeing black dots for five seconds or ten. No, my bathroom moved in front of my eyes. It tilted to the left, and then to the right. My head felt too heavy for my neck, and I was overcome with a strong nausea that made me want to barf.
I stumbled to the bedroom, and since the world was still swirling around me, figured it must be some sort of a migraine minus the headache. I decided to take some pills for the common headache (plus a small dose of sleeping pill) and I was determined that it would be gone when I woke up after a good sleep. Never mind that it was only 11 in the morning.
I slept. I woke up and tried to sit up. Whoa, not a good idea. Vertigo (like, serious vertigo), nausea, frustration, and a sneaking sense of fear. What if it kept for longer than 24 hours? What if it becomes a permanent situation?
I couldn’t move my head, not even to lie on my side, or another wave of nausea would plague me. But since LED-screens did not make my condition any worse, I Googled “extreme dizziness” using my iPad. The closest self-diagnosis I came up with is vestibular neuritis. Basically, my balance is screwed up because the nerves in my inner-ear(s) have inflamed or something. The recovery time? A few weeks. Maybe a few months. Sometimes it becomes only the first of the many recurring episodes.
The first two, three days were bad. I was scared, I couldn’t sit much less walk so I couldn’t go to a hospital (and I absolutely refused to let an ambulance come to me), I couldn’t eat thanks to the nausea. Really, the first day, all I could stomach was a chocolate bar because I didn’t have to chew. I drank lots and lots of water (I finally mastered the art of drinking by lying down!). I tried to sleep a lot because I was bored out of my mind. The only way to read was to lie on my back and stretch out my arms up in the air, holding a book. I tried to sit and not move my head but not making any movements while sitting was impossible, and the small waves of nausea eventually built up to a headache.
My family fretted and worried but they were unable to fly up on such a short notice. My friends worried but I didn’t want anyone to play the nurse because… I still have trust issues? I’ve gotten comfortable talking about the hard stuff after it happened but I’m still having problems telling them and asking them for help when it is happening right now.
The thing with this condition is that it came very suddenly but is healing very slowly. It’s frustrating and a little bit scary. It has been six days, and I still haven’t regained my sense of balance fully.
Thankfully, I am getting better every day. Today I was even able to walk a short distance to a pizzeria to pick up my lunch/dinner. It was a small miracle for me – to be able to go out and feel the sun and the wind on my face! Yep, the appreciating-mundaneness-thanks-to-a-temporary-illness has occurred. I hope, but doubt, that I will cling on to this gratitude forever.
So for the future reference, here is something I noticed while I was out tottering around. Firstly, walking is not as easy as it seems. I had to walk very slowly and focus on something distant and still the surroundings moved around a little. I also had to cross the streets a few times, and I was extra careful because running wasn’t a good idea. All this made me think about older people who have difficulties walking and how navigating their walkers or opening a door could be a physical hardship for them. The second thing I noticed is that all this slowing down and being careful in my movements have made me more perceptible to human friendliness. Before picking up my Italian food, I went to the grocery store next door, all the while chanting silently you can do it, you can do it, you can do it, don’t puke, don’t puke, it’ll be over soon, okay you’re doing great, when another customer let me go first, when the cashier said a cheerful hello, when the owner smiled at me. We are nowadays so used to automatic politeness – the quick, fake smile at our neighbors, the murmured hello and goodbye at check-out lines, the fleeting waves of hand at fellow classmates. But today I felt the warmth that can only come from deep within us. Maybe my brain is a bit delirious. Maybe I decided I needed all the friendliness I can get and interpreted everything in my way. Maybe, maybe by slowing down and concentrating on the moment 100%, I was able to see what I normally couldn’t see because I was already thinking about what I should be doing next.
My sudden balance-disorder is teaching me mindfulness in a new way. It is also teaching me self-confidence by letting me take care of myself. I “screwed up” yesterday because my balance was wacky (an oven-heated ready-made frozen pizza ended up on my oven door the wrong way down) and I was so frustrated. ‘Look at the mess I made, and I can’t even clean up because I’m already close to bashing my face into the hot oven! Why, oh WHY does it have to happen to me?!’ Hot tears of frustration ran down my cheeks, but I cooled off and started looking at things in a rational way. It wasn’t my fault that I was sick (okay, indirectly maybe, if this balance-disorder-thing is the result of a built-up stress) and that I made a mess because of it. Right now, I was in no shape to do any real cleaning up (I’m still not, sadly).
But I can take care of myself. I can make plans and lists and even write (thank you, iPad) while lying on my bed, oh-so-paitently waiting for my balance to restore itself.
Making the best out of the situation, and finally building a layer of self-esteem and feeling good about it. Appreciating life.
I’m so grateful I’m alive.