INNER EAR LABYRINTH
It's amazing how much grief this tiny anatomical doohickey can give you.
Did you know that equilibrioception (sense of balance) combined with proprioception (sense of body position) are jointly accepted as the sixth sense? (In the "sense of smell/touch/sight" sense, not the telepathy/M. Night Shayamalan sense. Make sense?) So it's not the most awesome thing in the world when your inner ear starts freaking out on you, like mine has been doing off-and-on for the past three years.
But a couple months ago, my Grammy offered to pay for me to see a prestigious specialist here in Portland and get some serious testing done. Several hours of poking and prodding and looking at weird things later, I went back to get the verdict from Dr. Wackym. (Pronounced "Whack-em". Seriously. He used to partner with two other doctors named Black and Grimm. Black, Wackym, and Grimm. Sounds like a shop on Knockturn Alley, doesn't it?)
Diagnosis: vestibular migraine. Plus the saccules of an 80-year-old (whatever that means; he explained it twice but hello impaired cognition, common symptom of vestibular disorders). The point is that this is all actually good news; Dr. W is confident the condition is treatable and the damage reversible, and prescribed meds and balance therapy. Very, very, very GOOD NEWS.
I'm still adjusting to the meds, which cause some fatigue at first. And it will probably take a couple weeks before I feel better. But I will almost certainly feel better. And I may very well never again have a severe vertigo attack.
The Free Dictionary defines vertigo as "the sensation of dizziness." Pfffft. As if. I eat a "sensation of dizziness" for BREAKFAST, fool. The Free Medical Dictionary gets a little warmer, defining it as a "sensation of rotation or movement of one's self or of one's surroundings in any plane." Not bad, but there's still the problem of that lukewarm noun, "sensation". I actually prefer a definition from, of all places, speedyremedies.com, which pithily describes vertigo as a "movement hallucination". Because it does begin to touch on the totally unreal freaky scariness of the experience. But still, it hardly captures the reality.
So in the interests of personal catharsis, allow me to wax melodramatic for a moment about vertigo.
It's not about feeling "dizzy". It's about the total loss of your ability to locate yourself in space, or to clearly register where your body ends and everything else begins. You have sailed off the edge of the world; you have fallen down the rabbit hole; you are hurtling toward the bottom of a cartoon canyon a la Wiley Coyote.
And for the animal that is your body, there is only one possible reaction to these perceptions, which is to scream: "You are seconds away from certain death! DO SOMETHING!!!" And though your brain knows that everything will be all right if you simply lie still on the nearest available flat surface, such attempts at rational thought tend to be drowned out by the steady drumbeat of "DEATH DEATH DEATH", punctuated by sudden jolts of pain from the adrenaline-fueled shaking and involuntary straining of random muscles against the push and pull of a nonexistent force.
It's like having a panic attack and the stomach flu while tripping on acid*. Or like starring in your own personal Picasso painting. Or like an hour(s)-long near-death experience.
It is not awesome.
(Phew. That sure felt good to write.)
So take that, vertigo. Eat my Verapamil. Buh bye, suckah. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.