Sometimes you have to move on – working with vertigo

Today I was working with my trainer trying to get this old body ready to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro again.

We are really working on my leg flexibility right now, one of the things I need to get good at if I want to climb a huge mountain mass like Kilimanjaro. It is a very slow process.

Doing lunges and trying to stay upright

We thought that it would be interesting to do some writing about living with vertigo, especially training with vertigo because sometimes you just have to move on.

In late November, I came down with a vicious attack of vertigo. Everything started spinning and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. When things didn’t get better by the next morning we went to the hospital to check things out.

I got some pretty immediate treatment seeing how I was displaying the same symptoms as a stroke. Fortunately, after a day’s worth of tests and lots of doctors, it was determined that I had something called vestibular neuritis or an inner ear infection. Not all that interesting, but something that is pretty common. It can also have a dramatic impact on your life.

Now six weeks later, I still have most of the symptoms of this condition. I am dizzy most of the time, my balance is off, sometimes considerably but I don’t have any problems with my hearing or vision, here I am fortunate. I have daily exercises that I do. One has to do with rotating my head while throwing and catching a ball – our dog really likes this one.

I am fortunate because right now my work schedule is pretty light. In December I didn’t do anything but catch up on old movies. I actually did a Facebook survey to get some ideas for things to watch – I got a pretty good list!

Others have it so much worse. My wife Heather had Meniere’s Disease, also an ailment of the inner ear but so much worse. She dealt with this condition for at least eight years all the while teaching full classes of grade 7’s. The condition would sometimes lead to terrible attacks of nausea that would leave her world spinning for hours.

One of the reasons I am doing OK, is that I have the benefits of Heather’s experience. I am learning all sorts of tricks about how to navigate through my day and how to monitor my energy level.

It is one of the amazing things about teachers like Heather is their ability to cope with chronic conditions and still teach a group of students. Pretty amazing, really brave.

It is interesting to note how people react to invisible conditions. Many people have told me about their experiences with inner ear ailments. People talk about going for months without being able to keep their balance, a constant buzzing or fogginess in their heads. They also talk about recover which is really good to hear.

There is another group of people who unfortunately don’t get it. One person, once I explained what was going on said he thought I just had a cold. Some people, good friends have paid no attention to what is going on here. In one case, a former good friend was insulted when we cancelled a dinner because Heather was experiencing an inner ear attack. But let’s not focus on these folks.

There is a lot going on out there. We really don’t know what people are coping with and what people do every day to put up with a whole variety of conditions.

I think the only thing I would ask of people, especially friends is to take a few seconds to actually acknowledge when someone has been hit by a pretty debilitating condition. I am not asking for sympathy, just a few seconds of directed attention in the space of a busy day.

That’s not going to happen and writing about this doesn’t matter at least not to others, to me the writing matters.

What I love about my trainer is that he always takes me where I am. He is someone who has gone through battles I cannot even imagine and he thrives. He knows how hard it is for me to do a certain type of squat because today, for instance, my balance is not very good. But I do it and he is overjoyed. I am all over the place and my head is full of cotton, but I am doing my best stretches ever.

After the session I feel better, my head clears a bit. I am thankful for those who take the time to notice, my family, my trainer and a few of our friends.

This is a good reminder to try to be there for others. Try not to stay on your busy track and miss the moment to notice what is going on with another person. Take the time to get outside of your bubble, don’t move on too quickly.