My Week in Vertigo

Hello, hello. I’m a place called Vertigo…

Bono clearly has never had vertigo.  He has never been to where the entire world spins in front of your eyes and the floor shifts beneath your feet, so much so that you were thrown to the floor from how disoriented you are. Where you are so dizzy your stomach makes like a snitch and gives up everything it has.

It was a horrible place to be.  And that was where I found myself on Saturday night.

The day started out just like any other busy Saturdays. Early afternoon quick visit to a birthday party. Then a massage to fix my sore shoulders, a lingering effect from having been rear-ended on the 405 a little over a week ago. Then our friend David was coming over and I was making steak dinner.

Birthday party was great. Trip to grocery store was successful, gorgeous pieces of rib-eye steak on sale at Whole Foods. After 90 minutes of bliss on my massage therapist’s table, I was ready to get up and get dinner started. But then my world spun so violently I was “thrown” back onto the table.


I laid there for a second, stunned.  I chalked it up to a horrible head rush, maybe a result of having had a glass of bubbly at the party a few hours earlier. I tried to get up a few more times and I was once again thrown down. Eventually, I inched up and made it off the table, got dressed, sent my therapist off, and waited for Brandon to get home, all the while willing myself not to throw up.

Brandon got home and I put on a brave face for about 5 minutes before everything went horribly wrong.  Let me put the rest of the evening delicately this way.  Every movement of my head sets the world off pirouetting around me. Every little spin sets off nausea. I’m so sensitive to motion to begin with–I mean, I get sick on a swing, people–so you get the picture of how horrible this was for me.

I was lucky I didn’t hit my head on the bowl or the bathtub when I scrambled to get to–and stumbled into–the bathroom.  It was really hard to run straight when the floor seems to be tilting in all directions underneath your feet as if you were on the set of Star Trek during a heated battle.  At some point, I was hugging the toilet bowl for dear life, refusing to let go. Panic is one of the things brought on by severe vertigo, naturally.

And all the god damn time, all I could think of was “I spent $35 on the rib eye and now they’re going to go to waste. Stupid, fucking vertigo!”

Brandon did some internet diagnostic and consulted our ER doc friend about feeding me a motion-sickness pill so I can just get through the night.  Eventually, the pill did take the edge off of the nausea enough for him to pry my trembling fingers off the toilet and got me into bed.  I was startled awake several times that night by jolts of dizzy spells that didn’t care that I was asleep or that it was dark out. Hey, your head moved so we thought we’d beat up your brain inside your skull a little. It may be dark but we can still fuck with you.

A visit to the ER on Super Bowl Sunday confirmed Benign Positional Vertigo. Essentially, inside your inner ear where it monitors the movements of your head has crystals in it. These crystals could get dislodged and moved into other parts of your inner ear, and therefore it messes up that whole system. Ergo, dizzy spells.  Having been rear-ended just a week ago, my head did hit the head-rest. That, according to the doctors, could be the cause.

There is a procedure that could be performed to help that crystal move out of the way called Epley Maneuver. However, the ER doc said he didn’t remember the sequence so he didn’t want to do that. Instead, he put me on some monitors, gave me anti-anxiety and anti-nausea meds, and sent me on my spiral yellow brick road home with prescriptions.  The drugs did stop the vomiting and, of course, mellowed me out, but the dizziness did not stop.  Driving was absolutely out of the questions between the meds and the dizzy spells. Working on a computer was also challenging. My phone was my best friend as I remained either in bed or on the couch, praying for things to get back to normal on its own.

But of course, it didn’t.

A few days later, the vertigo was less in intensity but I still had it.  My primary doc isn’t available until next week, it figures, so I went to an urgent care office. Now, this doctor KNOWS his Epley Maneuver! You know, the procedure that would help me but the ER doctor didn’t remember how to do?  I walked out of the building 90% better than when I walked in. - Epley Maneuver

I was told to sleep at 45 degree angle for the next couple of nights and not to tilt my head forward or backward drastically to make sure the crystals don’t settle back in the wrong spot, and to repeat the Epley movements at home until I feel 100%.

I’m happy to report that I did the Epley yesterday morning and there wasn’t a slight bit of dizziness.  I stopped taking the anti-nausea pill and I didn’t feel gross.  As a final test, Brandon accompanied me as I drove around the neighborhood to see if I could function normally in a car. I could but I was driving like a student driver, overly cautious and a little bit scared.

In a way, I’m more or less back to normal. Hence, I was able to sit at the computer and wrote this entry. But in other way, I’m still a little paranoid and cautious about the movement of my head. In the back of my mind, I’m afraid I would turn too fast and set off the vertigo again.

Today, Brandon and I went to lunch and ran some errands. The world seems a bit different after your perception of it has been morphed for several days. I’m still very cautious of my head movement and I’m walking a little bit like a robot right now. But I’m sure I’ll get back to my bouncy, normal self soon.

I have to learn to trust that when I look left next time, I’m not going to get dizzy. I have to trust that when I lay down flat to sleep tonight, I can actually get up out of bed without having to struggle with the moving floor.  I have to get my life back. I AM getting my life back.

So long, Vertigo. Thanks for an unforgettable week, but I never, ever want to visit again.

Oh, and just in case if you’re wondering what became of the rib eye steaks. Our friends happened to call while we were in the ER Sunday morning so Brandon offered up the steaks. They came by later to pick them up. And didn’t even bring me back any leftover. Bastards…


  1. kuri   •  

    Wow. Glad you’re feeling better.

  2. oakmonster   •  

    Thanks, guys. It was hell-ish. I was just telling Brandon that I wasn’t all that afraid when my lung collapsed and I was rushed to the hospital back in 2000. But this dizzy spells scared me senseless. Apparently, I’m less afraid of actually dying than being dizzy and throwing up. LOL

  3. Ken C.   •  

    I’ll echo Kuri’s “Wow” and add an exclamation mark. If what happened to you isn’t an adventure, it certainly is a saga. I have never heard of “inner ear crystals,” but the “Epley Maneuver” looks like something Jack Bauer would do to make the terrorists talk.

    Speaking of getting someone to talk, your line: “your stomach makes like a snitch and gives up everything it has” is absolutely inspired. So, dizziness does not reduce your creativity. And, your inner ear has equilibrium crystals.


    Really glad that you’re feeling better…

    Regards from Ken C.

  4. kellypea   •  

    Sorry I’m so late on the uptake — I saw you were dealing with this and the first thing I thought of was how awful it feels to be drunk. Or, out on a sail boat all day then when you lay down to sleep, the crazies start. So I was feelin’ for yah big time. Glad you’re on the mend!

  5. oakmonster   •  

    Thanks, Kelly. Now I’m paranoid. I want to start doing yoga again but I was afraid to put my head down. LOL

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