So my navigation system is essentially on the fritz. Of course I do not mean to harp on it, but since this is such a crazy, uncomfortable, frustrating, and relatively dramatic thing affecting my life at the moment I can’t help but prattle on about it. That and, as mentioned last time, I am limited in what I can accomplish and since typing is more or less on that short list…
Aside from the obvious problem, my brain is working fine; that is, I can still think clearly. However, with so few distractions, since I am largely relegated to staying put, said brain is being slightly hyperactive. I do generally enjoy just hanging around, and as I believe I have mentioned previously, I am also a fan of simply staring into space. That said a week of this is becoming a bit trying; plus, staring into space for very long gets a bit weird as my eyes keep trying to tell my brain that things are moving, which of course most times they are not. I know this, but that does not matter for, while when my balance is off it can be helpful to focus on a single spot, sitting in place trying to focus on anything makes everything all… well, bendy. Hence the acid flashback element I mentioned in my original description of this business.
So yesterday afternoon we went to visit a physical therapist that specializes in these sorts of issues. Turns out he really likes helping people in my position. He is genuinely fascinated by the symptoms and the body’s weird responses as well as the ability for it to adapt and adjust. He had a lovely office, something one might see in a magazine ad, but never quite expect to actually exist in the real world…certainly not in the ‘banks. Very appealing paint combinations, a lot of wood, bamboo floors, relatively Spartan in a sense but very well appointed,… and Radio Paradise on the iPod. He commented on my Muse shirt. Anyway, the visit went well. He ran me through some tests to verify what the ENT doc early in the day had said… essentially that this is not the aforementioned BPPV business. He also corrected our misinformation that I do NOT in point of fact have Labyrinthitis as that would also entail hearing loss.
Anyways, we talked a lot about dizziness and vertigo and the human navigation system. He verified that it is my right vestibular system that is wonky and since our balance is based on both sides agreeing with each other, this is causing the rather distracting sensation that I am perpetually listing to port…as it were. The inflammation is not permanent, but does have a somewhat irreparable effect in that the overall system, while it will recalibrate, will never be quite the same. So I genuinely do, in a sense, have to relearn how to navigate. That sounds more drastic than it really is. On the other hand it does reflect reality in that there will not just – all of a sudden – be a day where everything is back to normal.
One day at a time. My body and brain have to relearn to… (I was going to say communicate with, but I think understand is more appropriate) understand one another. So, walking will gradually get easier, followed by walking on uneven terrain, followed by walking fast/jogging, etc. it all has to do with the way the eyes focus on the environment and how that information is computed within the balance… algorithm… or something. Picture yourself jogging. Your body continually adjusts all the tiny movements that need to happen to keep you doing that, adjusting for all the input that is being taken in from around you, all the input that your body is processing, and all the computations that are required to keep things in balance and thus progressing normally. You can easily navigate twists and turns, a rise or dip in the trail, wind, etc. Now picture yourself jogging when everything else is continually moving too… as if you were trying to jog on a broken treadmill that was in a bouncy house in a wind tunnel…or something. Input overload. There are simply too many variables to process. Of course that is not actually happening to me, but that is what my brain thinks is happening… as I understand it.
So I have an exercise that is supposed to help recalibrate the system, or at least start to. Hold my hand at arm’s length and give the thumbs up. Focus on my thumbnail and turn my head back forth about twenty degrees to either side, trying to keep my eyes focused on the thumbnail the whole time. OK, you do it. Easy right? Makes me sick if I do it for more than a minute or so. I have to go real slow with the head turning. If I tried to do it quickly I may well just fall over. So gradually I get to increase the complexity of this simple exercise; more rapid head movement, up and down instead of side to side, up and down COMBINED with side to side (this would give me fits and makes me queasy just thinking about it right now), pick a more distant target, pick multiple targets, try it standing up, trying balancing with one foot in front of the other, try it walking… you get the picture. All of this is meant to recalibrate the system.
So there is that. Interesting stuff to process. I was pondering it all this morning, not really knowing when “normal” will be again, and it gave me the sense that I am in point of fact, experiencing a physical disability. Now please do not take this wrong, I am not being flippant in any way or trying to compare myself to those with various long term disabilities. What I am trying to get at though, is that this experience allows me a genuine window into what life is like to have to live with such a thing. People look at me funny when I try to walk around in public. At the therapists office yesterday I had to fill out a questionnaire about what I am experiencing. There was a question that asked if my condition makes me fear that people will think I am intoxicated. My response was “amusingly so”. I feel like I am acting intoxicated. This all made me sort of want to push the envelope and do something like wear a crash helmet when I start taking the bus next week. People are bound to look if I am wobbly… I expect I would if I were them. It just makes me think more about how we really have no idea what is going on with other people and we really need to be better about reserving judgment when we do not have all the facts.
Anyways. This is about all I can manage for now. Tired of chasing the laptop around.
… as an aside, if I decide to wear a crash helmet, I want this one!