Thursday, June 14, 2012



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,, 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.

*I have never taken acid. Just say "no", kids.


K + J said...


Liz-a-nator said...

That's fantastic news!

I think I had a taste of vertigo the night we flew to NYC a little over a year ago. I woke up on the plane at 2 am to the worst turbulence in history, and for a solid 45 minutes, I couldn't convince my brain that I wasn't DYING. That up was still up and down was still down and that one day everything would make sense again. I stumbled to the bathroom because it made sense to my addled brain at the time...something about feeling super-nauseous, but also something about having four solid walls really really close. Helped me define my reality a little better.

I'm so glad you may never have to experience that again.

Jaggers Brain said...

Annieface I am so happy that you now have a diagnosis and a treatment! That is so so wonderful! I hope that it will work speedily and completely!

Love you!

A said...

Annie, I'm so glad you're on the road to recovery.

I experienced vertigo a couple times not too long ago. It was one of the strangest sensations--definitely not dizziness. Mine wasn't to the extent of yours. But yeah it was the sense of constant, unjustified movement (a lot of it), like I was spinning while falling, regardless of what i was doing--sitting, walking, etc. I didn't have nausea or anxiety or anything like that, but even from that one or two days I had it, it was tiring, and I can easily see how it could become much worse than that. I hated it for the short amount of time I had it.

And it's funny as you were talking about your doctor's name, I started thinking, "they could be in Harry Potter," and then you said just that. ha ha!

Naomi said...

This is good stuff. And sad to me all in one.

Sierra Penrod said...

Has anyone chimed in with an Arrested Development anecdote yet? Lucille Ostero? Anyone?

Annie McNeil said...

Nope; you're the first, Sierra. 1,000 frozen bananas for you!

Thanks to everyone for the love.