Call me crazy, but last weekend, only 3 or 4 days after I had spinning vertigo and was unable to go to work, I did a ropes course at a local climbing gym as part of charity event. I had raised money for the charity and was excited that I had the opportunity to complete the new course, which I had been eyeing every week this winter when I was at the gym climbing. After my group suited up with harnesses and helmets, I strode to the front of the line to be first. Note that I have never done a ropes course before. That’s how good and confident I was feeling!

Since I was first, I had to figure out each element of the course on my own, although there was a staff member on the ground who would mime or shout instructions if I was unsure. I was proud to be out in front and setting an example for the rest of the group to follow.  All was well until an element about 75% of the way through. I had to shimmy across a horizontal rope with my arms and legs wrapped around it and my body hanging underneath.  I did not pick up on the vertiginous implications! If I hadn’t been first, I would have seen the people ahead of me attempt this element, and I wouldn’t have risked such an extreme body position. (I could have zipped past the element.) In order to get on the platform at the end (which was behind me because I was instructed to go head first across the rope), I had to first spot it with my eyes. To do that, I basically arched my head and neck so I could see behind me, then I twisted my neck so I could look up, not unlike this:

photo of girl on rope bridge

Photo from Maine Army National Guard

You probably can see the problem here. It was awkward, so I spent extra time twisting and bending and struggling to get off the rope. Once I was on the platform, I had strong vertigo and nausea. I just gripped the support pillar and held on for dear life while assessing my options. I had exactly one: complete the course. There was no emergency exit, no way to get down. I was at a fork in the path, and I chose what appeared to be the most secure way to get to the final platform, where I would be able to zipline to ground level. Slowly, crazily, I made my way through two final elements. (As I write this months later, I realize I could have zipped past these, too.) Thankfully I was clipped in the whole time, so even if I lost my balance and fell, I wouldn’t fall to the ground.

Other group members made their way to the zipline deck by going on the more difficult but direct path, so there was a line of people waiting by the time I got there. I found a tiny ledge to sit on and just focused on not puking.

Not puking.

Not puking.

Ziplining didn’t make things any worse, but climbing down the ladder was tough since I couldn’t look down without triggering the vertigo. Once on terra firma I lay down on a gym mat and did two Epley’s. That worked well enough that I was able to socialize (with my head still!) during the rest of the event.

Not surprisingly, I had bad spinning veritgo on Tuesday. That morning I got so disoriented during my Epley’s that I ended up vomiting twice and staying home from work. I am writing this retrospectively (it’s August now) in order to fill out the back story of this latest episode of vertigo.

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