The first weeks of 2015 have been interesting ones for me, as I am dealing with (SARCASTIC HOORAY) an entirely new-to-me medical concern! WHEEEEEEEEEEE!
It’s vertigo. Long-lasting vertigo. Ya-fucking-hoo.
I’ve had dizzy spells before, like anyone. You stand up too fast, you whip your head around too quickly, you get blind drunk – you get dizzy. But Friday, January 2nd, I got a crazy case of room-spinning vertigo while I was in New Orleans. I thought I had just sat up too quickly, and it went (mostly) away after I sat still for a moment, so I dismissed it.
That night (I was still in the room from hell) I took an Ambien so I could get some rest. At some point in the night the street noise from the open window (open windows in January was my favorite thing about NOLA) was keeping me awake, so I got up to close it. I walked across the room towards the window, but like a cartoon of a drunken sailor I somehow ended up on the opposite side of the room entirely to where I had intended to go. I clutched at the bedframe and reeled around, and eventually steadied myself. I assumed this was the effect of trying to walk around in the middle of what should have been an Ambien-induced sleep, and again dismissed it.
The next morning we were starting on our way back to StL, and I staggered down all 44 of the slimy, rickety stairs with a full suitcase, a spinning head and a bad attitude. For most of the day I was in the back seat of a moving car, so my nausea seemed normal. Once when we stopped to pee I almost fell down trying to get up off of a toilet. “Jeez, I am tired.” I thought.
It was only when I had a full night’s sleep that night and the next morning I was even more dizzy that I started to be concerned. My mom was at my house (she had been house sitting) and she stayed to make sure I could get myself up and around and shower (That was an adventure. There’s no way to wash your hair with your eyes open, and you also have to tilt your head back. Super whee.) I was sure I would be fine the next day.
The next morning, my first back at work, I was no better. I could drive, luckily, with no problems – in driving the head doesn’t move relative to the body – and I went in to work and called the doctor first thing. I went in that afternoon and had an exam to rule out neurological/nerve things (stroke, MS, etc.) and she checked for an ear infection (nope) then checked my eyes, made me lie down and moved my head around (urp.) and said she thought I had BPPV, and I needed to see an ENT for a firm diagnosis. (Super short version, BPPV is where you get some tiny calcium deposit granules that fall out of your inner ear parts into the wrong place and start bumping up against your gyroscope parts. It gives you the dizzy. It’s not uncommon, and it’s not progressive, but it just sucks. Go read more at the link, it’s interesting.) My doctor gave me some prescription strength Dramamine type stuff, and a nasal spray, in case I had a sinus blockage. Neither helped.
The real adventure was trying to get in to see an ENT. One said it would be two weeks before they could get me in and the woman who answered the phone had never heard of BPPV. Not promising. The next place specialized in vertigo, but their next appointment for a new patient was in February. I don’t get this with specialists. If I have a problem that requires specialist intervention, I generally cannot wait a month to see said person. I remember the same thing trying to get into a dermatologist for a rash once – it was going to be a month. How am I going to suffer a rash or chronic vertigo for a month? How does that make sense? Why am I even trying to see you if I don’t have a problem that requires actually seeing you in some sort of timely fashion?
Anyway, I saw my chiropractor, who said that all an ENT would do would be to send me to physical therapy for canalith re-positioning exercises, and I called my doctor back to see if I could get a referral to a physical therapist. By now it’s Thursday, so it’s been six days that I’ve had can’t-walk-without-drunk-staggering vertigo. Six days. Do you want to know how fucking exhausted and depressed I was by then? Try feeling chronically drunk and being unable to focus your eyes for six days, and see how you do.
She said then that if I was getting worse I needed to go for an MRI. And that’s the thing with American health care. We may have some advanced facilities to treat special diseases, we may have stunning surgical care, we may have lots of things, but diagnosis and actually speaking to doctors? NOT something we’re good at. I find it hard to understand how I can’t get ten minutes with an ENT for a month, but I can immediately be scheduled for a hugely expensive and probably unnecessary imaging session that I am 97% sure will have a result of “oh we don’t see anything, you’d better see that ENT after all.”
I didn’t call her back to schedule an MRI. I did take Friday off work, and I slept for about 40 of the 48 hours between Friday and Saturday. I did some exercises I saw on the internet to try to move the little granules around. I also used an, um, massage device to vibrate the base of my skull under the right ear, figuring that if there were tiny granules in there they might break apart and re-absorb into the body if they were vibrated to pieces (I took my inspiration from the concept of rock tumblers) and that actually made me feel a lot better every time I did it. On my ear. On my ear, people.
Otherwise, nothing really changed, I spent the weekend dizzy as hell and mostly not going anyplace and having a crappy attitude and sulking and feeling like reconstituted monkey shines. Finally today I am starting to feel better and this episode is starting to subside. I can walk pretty much normally, and I only get the spins if I tilt my head back or bend down. I am hopeful that my misplaced granules have broken down and started to re-absorb.
This whole last week has been an utter shit-pit though. I have only just gotten back my ability to half walk like a normal person, and all of a sudden I am staggering like a drunk and don’t want to move. I felt (and feel) like god-fucking-damn can I not catch a fucking break for a minute. I see everyone else moving around so easily and I want to freak out on them – most people don’t understand what it’s like to have long-term limited mobility. It impacts everything I do, all my planning and it really affects my mood. All I want is to move freely and feel well and I don’t seem to ever have those two things at the same time. And it’s like I can’t build on some movement to more movement, because every time I try some movement I fucking break some other part of me, which requires me not to move. In the meantime, people are steady bleeting about optimism and how you choose your mood and the benefits of exercise. Man, fuck you. Triple extra fuck you in your fuckparts. I would very much like to take a fucking walk and not feel as if I am dying and/or ready to tumble to my gods-damned death, OK?
Anyway, that’s where I am right now. I will probably bitch more about it if this shit comes back, because I am beyond done with it. It’s 2015. Where’s my fucking cyborg body.