A health problem isn’t really serious when it’s an annoyance, and not when it’s affecting your quality of life or your ability to work, function, think, or enjoy life. The ideal would be not to have any ailment or condition at all, but, failing that, keeping it to the level of an annoyance is a worthwhile goal.
That is my current feeling about benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, which showed up about two weeks ago. There had been some minor symptoms, such as mild spinning of the world around me when getting up from a chair or from bed. I have had balance issues most of my life, as a result of many ear infections when I was a child.
This all came to a head on the 21st of last month. I had taken the day off work, so that Susie and I could protest at Governor Kasich’s announcement that he was seeking the Republican nomination for the Presidency. (Much as I loathe the man, he is not on my list of “If he’s elected, I’m tithing half my income to Al Qaeda” candidates–Rand Paul and his father head that list, with Donald Trump very closely behind.)
So what happened, die-hard left-wing activist that I am? I ended up sleeping through my alarm, and missing Kasich’s announcement at the Ohio Union altogether. So, I decided to cut my losses and enjoy my day off, which meant lunch with Susie at McDonald’s and then going a few doors north from there to Used Kids Records.
In their street-level foyer, at the foot of the steps that lead to the store itself on the second floor, they leave out all the albums they’ve been unable or unwilling to sell. I stopped in, and bent over to look through the discards. They lean against the wall at floor level, so I bent over pretty far to flip through them. (I have less girth than I did a year ago at this time, but bending over for an extended period of time is still not easy for me.)
When I straightened up, the whole area was spinning, very rapidly. The spinning was quick enough that I actually saw blurry after-images. I began to fall, but I managed to brace myself on a cabinet that had also been discarded. (It held an all-in-one from the 1970s–with an eight-track player, useful only for parts.)
I leaned against the wall, panting. I realized this wasn’t normal off-balance or dizziness. Once I had recovered, I took out my phone and I called Rardin Family Practice, the OSU clinic where my general practitioner is. He wasn’t available, but the woman who answered the phone was able to get me in with another doctor later in the afternoon.
The doctor listened to my litany of symptoms, and went through the medical history I had on file. He asked detailed questions about my tinnitus, such as what type I have. (I either have the air-rushing or the “cricket” type; there is really no pattern to which one I will have at any given time.) I told him of my issues with balance, one of the reasons I ride an adult tricycle instead of a regular bike. (The doctor was a Florida native, so he has seen plenty of them.)
That was when he diagnosed the BPPV. I knew it was some kind of vertigo. I also knew, remembering Steph’s pre-cardiac surgery issues, that vertigo is more than just feeling dizzy. The doctor asked me to turn my head from one side to the other, and took note of the nystagmus (involuntary eye motion) that occurred whenever he did this.
The treatment was something called Epley’s maneuver. (I thought about asking him if that was anything like the Venus butterfly, but he looked like he was too young to know about L.A. Law.) I hung over the edge of the exam table while he moved my head from one side to the other. On Facebook, I described it as waterboarding without the water.
I’m supposed to follow up this Thursday. In the meantime, the doctor phoned in a prescription for meclizine, which is an antihistamine. I carry the bottle with me, and I take a tablet whenever I feel the dizziness.
And that is quite a dilemma. I don’t like the dizziness, but the meclizine causes such fatigue that I feel like I’m in perpetual slow motion. I am still walking in the Short North and Victorian Village during my lunch hour (I call it my in-lieu-of-lunch walk), but one afternoon, after a spell of the dizziness and taking a tablet to keep it at bay, I came back from the walk short of breath and exhausted, even more than the heat could cause. I was not very productive the rest of the work day, and slogged through the many ex parte orders that popped up on my screen.
So which do I choose from one minute to the next? Dizziness or exhaustion?