Vertigo: not just a loud U2 song

“Wooohhhooowww now how do I find my way back to my desk?!”

With that, vertigo had entered my life in 2005 while I was at work. The hallway seemed to be spinning… scary! Tilting as if the floor wanted to meet my knees instead of my feet… freaky! “Uh… ground control to Major Tom? Can anyone save me!?” Afraid to move any further because I felt like I would fall on the ground…
“Well hello there, I’m Vertigo, your newest, fancy symptom!”
Hhmm… OK… “I can’t seem to remember inviting you to my equally-uninvited-MS-party!”

Vertigo please don’t confuse it with the Hollywood-version of acrophobia, the latter being an extreme fear of heights. I’ve never been afraid of heights, I even love heights and I still want to do a parachute jump! What I had encountered that day in the office was not a case of acrophobia so it had to be vertigo, and indeed vertigo was the name of the game… my game.

When you experience dizziness triggered by heights, it is called ‘height vertigo’ while ‘vertigo’ itself is the sensation of movement while standing still. Like that, I feel dizzy when cars are speeding past me, or while looking through the windows of a car, bus or train and also when looking up at tall buildings or down the staircase (aren’t I just so damn easily excitable these days?), I’d start swaying, or lose my balance completely when faced with those oppressors. However, since the early days of having vertigo I developed a way of correcting myself quickly and gracefully when I feel myself going off-center; imagine Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality stumbling and falling over… yep, that’s me alright… Slapstick Billie! Why? People – you know that type of (sub)mammal we often identify ourselves with – would often give you funny looks when they see you falling over or losing balance. People being people, they will be judgmental and they might not always think the nicest things when they see you staggering at 10am on a weekday (that early in the morning and drunk already?!)

Luckily enough there is good medication out there (phew!) if you have bouts of vertigo; Serc being one of them. I’d take tablets when I lose my balance a couple of times a day or when I feel dizzy and they’re doing a good job, so I’m on the medication on and off according to my needs and I leave the slapstick moments to Hollywood again.

Another good thing is that, when you have vertigo it’s not always a direct result of having multiple sclerosis. You can feel it because of certain medication, having sinusitis, migraines, Ménière’s disease or other underlying causes. The most common reason for feeling vertigo is after excessive use of alcohol but yours truly (myself so) is a non-drinker so I can scrap that reason from my list of plausible causes.

For people who have ‘central vertigo’ unsteadiness (also like yours truly) sitting or lying down to clear the feeling may not always help. Often my bed would be spinning under me when I have a vertigo attack… sooo not nice! Thanks crunchy though that my own episodes never last longer than 15 minutes; I’ve never timed it and it’s something that just comes and goes but when it comes, it’s usually with a bang because it’s always unexpected. The notion of having looked up at a tall building or down the staircase usually escapes me because I tend to forget vertigo is part of my MS menu (I call those moment my ‘blonde moments’ because funny as it sounds, I really do tend to forget I have certain symptoms!)

Either way, vertigo is just not a nice symptom to have, if symptoms can be nice to begin with. The first time I felt vertigo my MS nurse called me in to have it checked out in hospital that day, and so I did. But when they told me I would have to stay in hospital for a few days to rest and have more tests, I refused so I went home to sweat it out (I can be rather stubborn when the words ‘hospitalization’ tumbles out of a doctor’s mouth because hospitals are not places where you can get healthy quickly).

After my initial bout of vertigo I had another bad episode where things were spinning so fast while being out in town, I had to call a friend to tell me which way was which because I just could not coordinate my sensory input at that moment. Since then I make sure I always have Serc tablets in my handbag to help me out if or when I get caught up in dizziness, unsteadiness and when cars, trains or buses are running too fast for my senses. For those reasons I have put my bicycle aside because my balance could end up costing dearly if speeding traffic would go faster than 10 miles an hour past me. Plus, after having a bicycle horror moment when I broke my coccyx (tailbone) while cycling, I would end up being a complete terror on the road. A one-mile-an-hour-terror no less!© WVE and Ireland, MS and Me, 2011-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WVE and Ireland, MS and Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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