I have a really annoying neighbor who moved in uninvited three years ago, and just won’t leave. I’ll call him Mr. V-Stib. He has a cousin who visits sometimes, and then it gets MUCH worse. They really par–tay when they’re together.
The cousin is BPPV, the most common vestibular problem. I do exercises every day to mostly keep this guy at bay, Whenever he comes to visit, which is about twice a year, really bad things happen. Every movement of my head results in violent nausea. But–on the other hand, when he does show his ugly face, we can call my doctor and tell her that he’s here again, and get an order to go back to On With Life and get treated for he/it. Then I just need 6 or 8 bi-weekly sessions of physical therapy to recoup the ground I lost.
That all sounds simple. The reality is that, one morning I wake up, start to get out of bed, and immediately the world erupts into violence. I might throw up, and I might not. But I definitely feel like it. Only my husband can take me to get treatment because I am in no shape to travel with anyone else and he has to get a day off. At the risk of TMI, I always have to take a vomit bowl in the car. Just saying’.
So usually I’m like this for several days while all these arrangements are going on, and we are getting all the delights of insurance worked out.
The “treatment” involves me laying down, usually with a trash can by the end of the bed (just in case.) Then they have me roll rapidly from side to side, and several times with my head hanging off the edge, and then they watch my eyes spin. Somehow from all this they can tell which ear canal those darned calcium crystals have migrated to this time. It’s definitely not fun. But I’m very very very grateful they can do such an impossible thing.
That episode earlier this summer turned out, despite days of pain-in-the-neckness, to be a blessing in disguise because it resulted in me getting a doctor’s order to go back for some much-needed physical therapy. This really gave me a good start on my summer. And at the end of all this, I don’t have to deal with the effects of this one every day. And that is sweet.
My permanent neighbor is bilateral hypo function. This one is pretty rare. They say I have some permanent loss here, but not severe. This one is low-grade constant all the time, but occasionally I go through periods of weeks where it is much, much, more severe. This one is so complicated–I guess those of you that are THAT interested can look it up–but among its many personal delights for me are what I call my “personal earthquakes,”, which I think is pretty explanatory. Or how I constantly feel like I’m walking through a funhouse, and when my hypo function is really acting up everything is in huge motion. That’s fun. I read one description of it that described it as “always on a balance beam.” That’s probably the best thing I’ve heard yet.
Another exciting extra I got with my purchase of hypofuction: frequently, I feel an invisible push when I’m walking. Given that my balance is pretty precarious at the best of times, this feels just plain mean. So I’m away from home, feeling sunny and confident, and trying to stride briskly out in public with my hiking stick, and suddenly I feel a hard shove that causes me to stumble. And the shover just won’t stop. He–somehow it is always a “he” (sorry guys, but I guess I picture him as a big bully).
This is not at all funny, no matter how hard I try. When I suddenly am afraid it could happen at any time, it’s really hard to be so darn confident. To not hunch over. To not frown. And to put my shoulders back. To take big steps. To not suddenly become a sniveling heap of whining humanity.
But yesterday I had a revelation. Earlier this summer, when I had my other reoccurrence, my therapist asked me to step up on a foam pad. I couldn’t, even with her holding on. I felt too dizzy still. Then she went and got a weighted vest, put it on me very snugly, and held on to me lightly and asked me to do it again.It was much easier that time. I did it several times, and asked her what the heck was going on?
She explained. My v-stib occurrence had been so harsh this time that I had been having mini panic attacks, imagining that they had come back. My imagined symptoms were maybe worse than my real ones were now. My paralyzing fear was stopping me from doing things much more profoundly than the v-stibs themselves ever would be able to.
That was another life-changer that my illness has to teach me. There just seems no end to the lessons that this pile of crap has for me.
So, if God won’t release me from me from Mr. Stupid V-Stib, if he’s here for the duration of my life–as it seems he is–I’m apparently going to have to make peace with him. He won’t move, and I can’t move. I’ve tried fighting him, and I’ve lost. He’s still here. So I’m going to have to make peace with him. This is my fifth day of thinking of him as a fairly unpleasant neighbor. People have them. We don’t live in a neighborhood, but we hear stories. And we’ve worked with some unpleasant people before, so it’s not like we’re beginners at this sort of thing. Apparently God thinks I have something I need to learn from Mr. V-Stib.
I had been trying to avoid doing anything that would bring on the symptom. The repercussions in my head and my stomach were so unpleasant. But for the last few day days, I’ve been trying not so much to purposefully “lean into it,”, but to just behave normally. To get on with my life. And I’m finding, that it’s really not that bad, when you take the fear out of the equation. Whatever I’m doing, whether it’s washing the dishes, walking to the refrigerator, or putting something away, if I feel something different, I just pause, think about it, and go on with what I was doing. And already I find that I’m getting a little more used to it, I think. As my favorite neurologist said, “the brain is a wonderful thing. There seems no end to what it can get used to, adapt to, or how much it can improve from an injury.” There seems to be a little of all three of those finally going on here.
OK, those words sound good. They sound brave. Here goes. I almost convinced myself. Plus that last couple of days, he’s been bothering me much less than when I started this post. That definitely helps my attitude about all this.
But not his cousin, Mr. BPPV. Anytime he shows up, I’m definitely showing HIM the door!