On December 23 I was thrilled to go for a run with my sister. She started running in 2013, and this was our first time ever to run together. We were less than a quarter mile from her house when I suddenly got vertigo. I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and spread my arms and legs for stability, then shouted ahead to where she had been pulled by her dog. “Hang on a sec!” I got my bearings and started to jog again–still too unsteady. I told my sister that I would walk home, but after a few steps I realized I needed to hang on to her. It actually felt very natural to ask to hold her elbow, and we walked back to the house.

Here’s what I think happened: while visiting my sister, I did an Epley maneuver using her pillows, which are higher than the ones I usually use. Having more extension in my neck seems to be a ticket to horizontal canal BPPV for me, and indeed for December 24-26 I felt nauseous most of the time. Snapshots from my visit:

  • holding my sister’s elbow as we walked home from an aborted run workout
  • folding a washcloth and kneeling on the floor of the bathtub in order to wash my hair (the shower head was at nose level, and I could not bend or tilt my head to get under it)
  • drinking a wine cooler through a straw to avoid tilting my head back (for those of you wondering: no, alcohol does not seem to be correlated to my symptoms)
  • my dad coming up to me in the kitchen and sweetly asking if I was OK. My wife said I looked bad, and if my dad noticed, too, then I was bad.
  • closing my eyes while watching TV and getting vertigo
  • flinging my hands out to “catch my balance” while playing cards with friends and pretending that suddenly gripping the table edge was just, you know, normal
  • moving around like a stiff-necked robot with my hands constantly on the walls or furniture for reference
  • my wife turning on and off the light over my airplane seat (I couldn’t look up to differentiate the light button from the call button). (For those of you wondering, dehydration–such as that caused by air travel, or alcohol for that matter–doesn’t seem to be correlated to my symptoms, either. I keep looking at this one, but over 11 months of data-gathering, I have no clear connection. Were that that was the problem!)
  • sleeping with my back to my wife for the entire holiday. She tells me that I spooned her in the early morning hours. What can I say? I can’t stay away from her!

I did lots of Epley’s on low pillows and finally felt well on December 27. Noticing how good I felt that day, I was saddened to realize that my family had missed this ebullient, relaxed side of myself when I was feeling so poorly. That hurts. I don’t see my family often, and I am bummed that I was less engaged during their visit. It is harder for me to talk, to think, and to be empathetic when I have strong symptoms. In the moment I notice the change, and to be honest my behavior isn’t that bad, but I am absolutely unable to overcome it.

Cue dark feelings and forebodings….but that is another post.

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