An Epic of Dizziness Part Four

It was here! The day had finally arrived when I could see the Physical Therapist! It was August 3rd, 2011. I was ready to get this dizziness problem taken care of. I was still nervous about the whole procedure, but ready despite the apprehension. You see, I had done some research and I knew that I would have to lie flat back on a padded table and I wasn’t liking that part very much. Knowledge does give you power, but sometimes it just makes you worry. I’d been feeling about 80% better the past two or three days so that helped keep my fear in check somewhat. So, my husband and I made a short 20 minute drive over to the Physical Therapist to try and get me fixed.

The Physical Therapist greeted us with a warm smile and a nice honest looking face. I liked him right off the bat. He seemed to be compassionate and when you’re having issues, don’t you need someone compassionate? I trusted him and felt pretty much at ease. He spent quite a bit of time talking to us. He said the good thing about BPPV is that it’s pretty easy to fix, but the bad thing is, about half the people have another episode within the first year. He asked me questions such as “How has this changed your life?” and “What are your symptoms?” It’s a good thing my husband was with me, because I was still nervous about how dizzy the procedure would make me and some things were slipping my mind. So, my husband piped in and helped me answer some questions. He told the PT that I hadn’t been attending choir, and I always did before. It was true, I hadn’t been attending a few weeks as I was still hesitant to drive much and feared getting severely ill out in public. As I admitted my fears to the PT I broke down and cried. I apologized as I was embarrassed to be crying like that, but it just came out and there wasn’t anything I could do to hold it back. The PT also explained the function of the inner ear and how the otoconia (ear crystals or ear rocks) can become displaced. He explained what procedure we would be doing and what I might expect during it.

I climbed on top of the table and didn’t realized that I was tightly grasping the sides of the table. The PT picked up on my nervousness and told me not to worry that he would keep hold of me during the whole procedure and I wouldn’t fall off the table. He proceeded to perform the Epley Maneuver for my left ear, which my ENT believed was the affected side. To my surprise, I felt nothing. We talked a bit more and he decided to do another procedure to see if he could evoke nystagmus which would show that I had BPPV. It is called the Gans Repositioning Maneuver. He watched my eyes closely as he did with the other procedure and this time he did notice some nystagmus and I felt myself going into a spin, but it didn’t last long. As we got to the end of the procedure he kept his hands on me to keep me steady as I still felt off kilter when the procedure was finished. It got better, though, and I felt more like I did when I walked in after a few minutes. He seemed less than convinced that it was indeed BPPV. Usually, he books patients for a follow-up two weeks from the initial procedure and performs it again. He explained it sometimes takes 2 or 3 times for the procedure to clear the crystals and put them in their right place. He told us that based on where the crystals or otoconia lodge themselves determines which procedure work. He explained when the otoconia are lodged in a certain place, the area I can’t recall now, but this particular location causes extreme dizziness when procedures are performed to try to correct it. Some patients almost throw themselves off the table and he has had to lie on top of them to hold them down. The patient has severe nausea as the spinning sensation lasts longer than normal and can result in vomiting. I could imagine that he has probably been in a bad location when a patient of his gets that sick as he is right there holding them down. What seemed to puzzle him was that I was having the sensation of movement when I wasn’t moving my head in any particular position and that was not usual for BPPV. He talked about how some people describe BPPV. They’ve told him their head feels like a snow globe where the fake snow is floating around. It was ironic because that is what I had told my husband that I was feeling just a few days earlier. So we left the office with a follow-up appointment for two weeks out. Still didn’t know exactly what was going on. Was it BPPV or something else? How come I don’t fit the typical pattern of symptoms? Many questions went through my mind.

The next few days were pretty much the same as before. I’d have days that I felt about 90% better and then parts of days that I’d feel 60% or so. Honestly, most of the time I would feel different each hour. Then one day in particular I felt an increase in pressure in my head. Storms were rolling into our area. I felt it coming before it did. The nasty rocking sensation that I was having really increased. I was still sleeping on the sofa, as I feared falling off the bed and I’d found a way to wedge myself in the corner so I wouldn’t roll over on my side as sometimes that made me feel bad. I had to take one of the first meds that they gave me at the Centra Care walk in clinic when I first started with the whole thing. I hated to, but I knew I would have been sick to my stomach most of the night. I already felt the rolling waves in my gut as the couch and room were moving around. I slept like a zombie, it was a fitful sleep. I awoke in the morning still zombified and remembering a very vivid dream I’d had. My pastor was in it and he was praying for me. He was praying intently as his hands grasped both sides of my head and they were placed over my ears. When he spoke it felt as if he were shaking my head in a jerking type movement, he was praying for healing. I wanted to be comforted by the dream as I knew people were praying for me and I’d hoped that healing would happen. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that. Who wants to be sick? The reality sunk in, though: I was still sick. I did feel a little better by about 3pm that day though, partially because the medication that robbed me of any possible productivity was wearing off and the bad weather was moving out of our area. I took note of the correlation of the weather and my symptoms increasing.

In the meantime I waited for my next appointment with the compassionate P.T. and I researched a lot! I found an organization called Veda. They had great resources available to educate me on the many different types of dizziness disorders and the symptoms. I tried to narrow down what I did or didn’t have. I continued to browse the message boards and took in a lot of advice from others. I was recommended to go see a doctor that had fixed someone with BPPV in our church. I didn’t make an appointment with him because I was already going to my PT. I kept his name in mind just in case. I was still piecing together a puzzle. Was it BPPV or was something else going on too? I still had the problem with my arm and shoulder. I hadn’t made it to the Orthopedic Doctor yet. I needed to get that checked out as well. How can all this be happening at once?

An Epic of Dizziness (Part 3)

Journal entry  from July 27, 2011:

 I’m feeling a little better tonight. I’m more alert and present.  My focus and cognitive functioning seems better.  It’s almost like a cloud has lifted and the brain fog I was feeling is gone. I didn’t feel any movement when laying down to go to sleep last night, which was great.  Reading and using the computer is easier too.  I hate having to sleep on the couch, but for some reason I feel much more secure there.  I can prop my head up on the big  pillows and tuck myself into the corner.  I’m much less likely to roll over or fall off the couch this way.  Our bed seems so high up.  What if I fell off at night?  As much as I dislike sleeping on the couch, for now it will have to do.   

My appointment with the physical therapist was moved up by a week due to my persistent calling.  A one week wait didn’t seem so bad. It’s certainly better than two weeks!  Since I was feeling a bit better, I used some of my time to research the different causes of dizziness.  I found a great website with a forum called  What I read on the site comforted me, yet terrified me at the same time.  I watched a video posted on the site about a girl and she shared her personal ordeal with Labyrinthitis, or Labs, as it is called for short. I sat and wept while watching it.  As bad as I felt, my experience seemed to pale in comparison to hers. I cried tears not only for her, but for myself as I wondered what I might possibly face in the future. Would my symptoms get worse?  I was learning a lot reading the message boards and saw that there were many things that could cause dizziness.  All the symptoms were like pieces of a puzzle that I was trying to solve.  I was playing doctor, yet I was the patient.  As I read the stories of others suffering from dizziness and correlating symptoms, I thought of the statement, “God will never give you more than you can bear”.  I struggled with that thought, I still believed it, yet a sliver of doubt began to taunt my mind. I thought of Jesus as He bore death on the cross and the agony He endured.  If you’ve ever.seen the movie “The Passion of The Christ,” you know what sort of torture Christ went through to redeem us.  I thought of people who had suffered some really bad  and unexplainable things- things that don’t seem fair or right. A scripture (2 Corinthians 12:9) comforted me: “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me”.  I asked myself  “What is God asking me to bear”? “What is the purpose of this “? I knew that this was testing my level of trust in God and also my faith in who He says He is, and all that He promises to those that are believers in His word. I’d either trust Him or I wouldn’t; this is where the rubber was meeting the road.

The next few days were a mixture of good and bad.  There were times I felt like I was being pulled towards my right side, as if a weight or magnet were pulling me over.  I never fell, nor was it noticeable to others, yet I felt it internally. Sometimes when I would be on the computer the computer and desk would be moving forward and backwards and my eyes would hardly be able to focus.  I’d have to turn it off.  I went walking quite often not only for exercise, but to keep my spirits up, most of the time it felt like I was swaying when I walked, yet I had a normal gait to anyone that would have observed me. If I stood still and closed my eyes I would feel a backwards pull.  I didn’t do that very often!  I’d also noticed something new, a feeling of fullness mostly in my right ear and occasionally in my left. It felt plugged up.  This feeling would come and go.

I didn’t really go many places for a few days, I was almost becoming housebound.  The fear of what would happen out in public stayed in my mind.  I’d read about so many horror stories that I didn’t know what to think at this time.  I did decide I wanted to go to church.  I wasn’t going to let fear and the devil keep me from going; besides, I really needed to hear God’s word.  His promises became something I clung to even more so than ever before.  Unfortunately, my experience at church wasn’t good.  Everything felt different.  It was like a strange place to me, a place I’d never been or one that had morphed into something different. My perception of my surroundings were so changed the sights,sounds, lighting, everything that usually brought such happiness, joy and peace were making me very uncomfortable.  Of course, it wasn’t my church that made me feel this way, it was the BPPV or whatever I had that caused me to feel this way!  I’m usually in choir, but I was certainly not ready  to be up in front of hundreds of people at this point.  Our family decided to sit near the back.  I needed to be by a door in case I had to make a quick exit.  What if I had a huge spinning attack and fell on the floor and vomited in front of the whole congregation?  How embarrassing would that be!  Our sanctuary is laid out like a lot of churches.  The floor slightly angles down to where the platform or alter is.  I could now feel that slight angle much more magnified.  I felt as if I were leaning forward, and as my eyes scanned across the assembly of people it was overwhelming to my senses.  Strangely, when we stood up to sing our praises to the Lord I felt somewhat better.  When it was time for our Pastor to preach I had a hard time focusing on him.  He looked blurry, it was like I needed glasses, and I felt mental fatigue and brain fog set in. My hands were clammy and I grasped the pew trying to hold myself together.  My anxiety level was at a 10!.  Having read the message boards on I learned that with dizzy disorders anxiety is one of the symptoms that often accompany those suffering with dizziness. Having made it through the service, my family and I slipped out the back door quickly so as not to have to talk to anyone.  People were praying for me, that I knew, but I just couldn’t talk to anyone at this time.  I  wanted to get home.  At least there I didn’t have such severe symptoms, and who doesn’t want to be home when your sick? There’s nothing like having your own bathroom for those types of emergencies. 

When I got home my anxiety level went from a 10 to a 6.  I wondered if I’d ever be able to get back to choir.  Singing is my passion and singing for the Lord is an absolute joy to me.  I wondered if I’d feel the peace and joy that I’d always felt at church before, instead of anxiety and sensory overload that I was experiencing.  I was pretty depressed the next day.  My life was like a seesaw.  You probably remember them being in neighborhood parks.  Basically a seesaw is a plank where each end would seat a child and you would take turns pushing off the ground to raise the other side up.  It was always so much fun!  You go up and down, up and down.  That’s how the each day and even each moment of each day was for me.  I was up when my symptoms weren’t too bad and down when they were.  Part of the problem was the pattern of this illness. Every time I’d been sick before healing would follow a general course. I’d  get sick and gradually the symptoms would reach a peak and then finally fade away.  Case closed!  I couldn’t understand why I’d feel better and have times of almost feeling normal for a few hours or a day only to feel completely different later.  Wrapping my mind around it was almost impossible.  

I went ahead and rescheduled my appointment with an Orthopedic Doctor in the meantime so that I could have my arm and shoulder checked.  I was having limited mobility. I could barely reach back past my hip and raising my arm to reach things on upper shelves wasn’t quite like it had been.  I had to stand on my tippy toes to get stuff and not because I’m short. So I waited for two different Doctors appointments.  Had I prayed for patience or perseverance?  Maybe they are the same? 

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An Epic of Dizziness (Part 3) by Melissa Jo Elliott is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.