I am laying on the ground with the world spinning around me. I grip the earth with my hands, the grass blades poking me between my fingers, but the sky continues its kaleidoscopic whirl over my head. My stomach knots into a hard ball and I vomit onto the earth under my cheek. Failure.
I’ve failed again. I’m not tough enough. I’m not strong enough. I’m never going to be good enough. I can’t even handle riding on a merry-go-round much less do anything more important in my young life.
I must have been seven or eight at the time, although this was an experience repeated many times, so it is hard to separate one memory of nausea from the thousands of other memories of nausea. Spinning rides predominate amusement parks and playgrounds across the United States and probably all across the world. Tilt-a-Whirl. Teacups. These amusements have almost never been amusing to me.
I laughed along with the other children when we would go to these places. I pretended not to be sickened by the spinning that took forever to stop in my head. You play along, as a child. You don’t want to be the spoilsport. The stick in the mud. You don’t want to be teased for being different, so you conform to the norms expected of you and never question why they are norms if you can’t achieve them. You pretend not to be ill, until you can’t pretend anymore.
That is pretty much the story of my life. From my earliest memories until my later years, I can’t spin in place or watch anything spinning without getting a sympathetic spin in my stomach. It is mesmerizing and nauseating at the same time. I can’t walk a straight line or balance on a balance beam. I injured myself any number of times on trampolines before learning that I really just needed to stay clear of them. The same with diving into the water. Anything more than just pointing the head down in midair and hitting the water is too much body positioning to keep track of for me. I have no idea how many times I’ve spun or which side is up if I try to do anything more than point at the water during a dive. I have no idea if I’m balanced or not. No idea how to stop the internal spinning once it has started.
I am a constant victim of my vestibular system. I have been almost since the day I was born.