Recently I was doing a yoga DVD and I got my first taste of vertigo. I think it happened when I was doing one of those poses where you’re bent over, your head near your shins, and you lift one arm straight up, then you twist your neck to look at the ceiling. That seems the likely culprit, but it didn’t hit me then. No, it didn’t hit me till I was doing flat-on-my-back poses and then I lifted my head, and bam!—the room spun and spun and didn’t stop till I’d thrown up the plain non-fat yogurt I’d eaten for breakfast and was left dry-heaving.
Ugh, I don’t want to talk about it.
Positional vertigo is potentially a chronic condition and I’m learning to manage it. It generally only happens when I’m lying down and it passes quickly if I close my eyes and remain very still. However, I am a writer. I want to keep my eyes open and get a better look so I can describe my vertigo, maybe fit it into a poem. The room spins. Jeez, what a cliché! Can’t I do better than that?
But seriously, who does this? Who wants to extend and deepen a physically and emotionally disturbing experience for the sake of art? Well, there may be a lot of us, but I can only speak for myself.
I wonder if it is a particular type of domestication that makes me want to translate experience into words, into something beautiful with meaning beyond the event itself. If I were a bird or a raccoon, wouldn’t experience be enough? You now—if I were wild? Don’t we all hunger for something pure and unfiltered, emotion rather than thinking about emotion?
Nonetheless, I think this vertigo—for me anyway—is not so severe and I hesitate to call it a sickness. For me it’s like menstruation or insomnia, chronic aches and pains, not illness but condition. Not a problem but an issue.
I’ve heard it said that in the past, women referred to their periods as “a visit from a friend.” I just can’t think of menstruation or vertigo or insomnia as my friend. It’s more like a visit from a co-worker, someone you might not choose to be with, someone you may not particularly like. Maybe you don’t dislike them, but you’re not all that happy when you walk into the staff lounge at lunch time and find yourself alone with this person. Yet you keep getting thrown together so you learn to live with her. You learn what sets her off, what makes the atmosphere prickly, what makes things run more smoothly. You may never enjoy being with her, but you accept that you’re in this place together for the long haul. Neither of you is going anywhere. You never look forward to being with her, but when you look back, you’re grateful. She gives you the best stories.
Post script: This was written some time ago, and I’ve been managing the vertigo well. Haven’t had a flare up in months.