I woke up early Wednesday. 11:00 am. It was early since I hadn’t been asleep for even five hours yet at that point and it was the third night in a row that my sleep had been shorted. I was tired and I felt it, but that wasn’t all that was wrong.
I just felt wrong somehow. I made breakfast knowing that I would likely go to back to bed soon, and then I went upstairs to do some busywork. There was a dust storm in El Paso, the weather site I visited told me. It was a couple of hundred miles away, but there was definitely dust in the windy air here too. It was wrong, just wrong somehow.
The world kept coming unstuck. I’d think “I’m having vertigo” and then I’d check and the world wouldn’t really be spinning. It would want to spin, but not actually spin. It was a weird feeling.
After several hours of this The Wife came home from doing her busywork with friends and I decided to join her in the bedroom. When I got up from my desk I realized just how dizzy I really was. Walking downstairs was a conscious one step at a time procedure. The steps are never where they first appear when the dizziness gets set to ramp up into vertigo.
When I finally made it to the bedroom a few minutes later the world was actively spinning. “That’s just great.” I was almost relieved to be done waiting for it. I took Xanax and laid down at 5:30 pm, dedicatedly staring at the catbus and waiting for the spell to pass. It didn’t pass and I fell asleep instead. Fitful sleep that lasted for a good long time this time.
I woke up just now at 5:00 am on Thursday, almost twelve hours later. I missed dinner. I missed my WoW raid. I didn’t finish Wednesday chores. How was my day? I didn’t have a day. How was yours? Now it’s time to get the bins to the street before six so that the city will pick them up, and then I see if I can have real day today. Fingers crossed.
It’s afternoon, just got back from a walk. This is now the best day since the 10th of March (the last time I was out walking) It’s the best day since getting the jab (I love that word for being stuck with a needle. Fits perfectly) last Thursday. It will never cease to amaze me just how much of a difference getting out and stretching the legs will do for your attitude.
I suffered through vertigo again both Saturday and Sunday this past weekend. I spent all day today just trying to catch up on stuff I missed over the weekend. At least I got the laundry done. This turn to Spring will hopefully see a turn from the depressive trough I’ve been in for months. I’m trying not to see the weekend as a harbinger of anything negative for this year. It’s going to be sunshine and kittens 24/7. It’s just too bad I’m allergic to kittens.
I learned something new. I love it when that happens. When I was hospitalized for the night after having my angioplasty last year,
…I started to experience vertigo. I didn’t think too much of it, other than the irritation that I felt while trying to wheedle a Xanax out of the nurse because of the vertigo. The stress of having to argue with the nurse about a medication that the hospital could see on my charts as being a medication I have been prescribed adding to the anxiety of an approaching vertigo spell. Yeah, that was fun.
But still. I couldn’t figure out why I had that sudden bout of vertigo. No warnings, none of the normal patterns (not that surgery is normal) But then I remembered that they had me on an intravenous drip of normal saline for most of the day and the night, about 16 hours of normal saline by the time I started to feel the spinning. For a lot of Menerieans salt=vertigo and saline is definitely salt. I have been on a reduced sodium diet for decades now because reducing salt is also what they recommend for people with hypertension, another chronic illness that I enjoy.
Sixteen hours of saline fluid introduced into my system. Surely that wouldn’t cause vertigo, right? I mean, normal saline is the same sodium levels as blood, right? Why else call it normal saline? It turns out that this is not the case. Normal saline just means the saline solution most frequently used in hospitals, and the salt levels are not the same as the levels in the blood.
Each bag of saline contains the same amount of sodium as 20 snack-sized bags of potato chips.
I haven’t eaten an entire bag of salted potato chips in… well, it has to be at least a decade. I occasionally (once a month or less) get a snack bag of air-fried chips from Schlotzsky’s (another Austin original) along with my regular original sandwich (hold the cheese and add the guacamole, please) and unsweetened iced tea, and that is almost more salt than I need in a day. I know they changed that bag at least twice while I was there, which is a lot more salt than I needed.
The assumed harmlessness of introducing normal saline into the bodies of all of their patients has been a point of worry for many doctors. So much so that there have been trials conducted using other replacement fluids than saline solution,
For more than a year, the emergency room and intensive care units at Vanderbilt rotated the IV fluid used to hydrate patients. On even-numbered months, they used saline, and on odd-numbered months, doctors could choose between either lactated Ringer’s or Plasma-Lyte-A. Both Ringer’s and Plasma-Lyte have less sodium than saline, along with other electrolytes. Most of the patients on balanced fluids in the study got lactated Ringer’s.
When I read the phrase lactated Ringer’s I heard it in one of the voices from the show Emergency! from way back when. That was the show that first got me interested in medicine and emergency care. My mother would probably be horrified to learn that I was indoctrinated into the evidence-based medical system by a TV show that she let me watch as a child.
Lactated Ringer’s or the Plasma-Lyte appears to be the better way to infuse fluids into patients. Not world’s better, but statistically measurable improved results from not relying on normal saline for all the patients admitted into the hospital. If you also need lower saline you might ask for one of those two the next time you find yourself needing surgery. Here’s hoping that time isn’t in the near future.
It’s all the rage these days. You can’t swing a dead cat on the internet without hitting someone trying to sell you essential oil.
Our presenters will explain how to build a daily immune boosting routine, how to manage digestive issues, how to use oils during your pregnancy and so much more! Plus, we’ll have a special guest talking about why we created the Online Oil Oasis. You won’t want to miss a single minute!
Mother was into essential oils for the last few years of her life. Right up to the point where the cancer she refused to admit she had killed her. Part of her insistence on doing things the natural way was from her early education in Christian Science. At some point during her life she shifted god into nature and was convinced that living naturally, organically, was good for her. She did fine with that belief until she started denying the findings of science.
It is a common delusion. Much more common than Christian Science itself is. Most people think organic and natural signify good things until you point out to them that poisons are natural and organic. They are simply natural or organic poisons. Too much water can kill you, as the most basic example. Organic simply means that whatever the product is, it once was alive. Natural means that it can be found in nature. That’s it. That is all that the words mean.
An essential oil contains the smell of the thing. That’s all they are, the smell conveying particles of whatever is infused into the oil. There is no more and no less to the product being marketed as essential. Marketed as something you need or require, need or require being mistaken for smell (essentia) Essential, not essential. It smells like something, not you need that something.
The real problem I have with essential oils is the exaggeration of their effects. If the only claim that proponents of essential oils made was “this smells good, I think you’ll enjoy it” I wouldn’t be writing this at all. That’s not the case, though. The benefits of essential oils are exaggerated because exaggeration sells. Websites like this one make extraordinary health claims like curing colds, asthma, bronchitis, hypertension, liver congestion, heart palpitations, depression, and boosting your immune system (what does that even mean?).Other websites make fanciful claims like “restore your body’s natural energy balance” – a claim so bad it’s not even wrong.
Every time I go on a Meniere’s help group or talk to a layperson about my disability, almost without fail, someone will suggest I try some essential oils because they will fix whatever problem I’m complaining about at the time. Never fails. These days I have to actively restrain my own desire to lash out when whoever it is looks down their nose at me and pronounces the phrase essential oil.
I’ve tried essential oils. I still have some DoTerra oils that mom had amongst her possessions when we cleaned out her apartment. Tons of DoTerra branded products from vial purses to empty sample containers to dozens if not hundreds of different types of oils that she had read somewhere did this or that for her.
The Breathe formulation does open the sinuses when rubbed under the nose. Several of the essences in the formulation are known astringents. Astringents cause the skin to tighten, opening passages in the sinuses if you rub the oil under your nose. This is a known effect discovered by science. This isn’t because it is natural or organic, it is the chemical formulation that has this effect, an effect that can be duplicated artificially if needed. It’s simply cheaper to get the essence from the natural source. If it isn’t cheaper there are artificial manufacturers out there supplying the cheaper product. The chemical process will still work exactly the same, and you can save a buck at the same time.
The Digestzen has ginger in it. Ginger has long been used to calm digestion. I prefer chewing a Gin-gins to the grassy flavor of Digestzen, and excessive oil in the stomach is an agitant all in itself. Have a ginger ale. It’s all natural.
I can (and probably eventually will) go through every single oil that people offer to me as something that will fix my vertigo and dizziness. Mom offered me dozens when she was still with us. None of her magic concoctions worked. I wanted her concoctions to work, which is half of the necessary equation. The other half, science, simply wasn’t there to put the treatment over the line to make it effective. If it didn’t work when mom dispensed it, it isn’t going to work when a stranger suggests it. Zip it before I lose my temper and tell you what I really think of your woo.
I noticed it as I headed for bed this morning. Turning over in bed caused the world to spin, requiring me to focus in order to calm the spin. It wasn’t bad, but it was persistent.
It was also present when I woke up. As I moved about today, the spinning has gotten more persistent, tending towards nausea. So it is time for the Xanax again. The knee and the back are still painful from my bathtub flight last year, so I’m going to sit here and play World of Warcraft in my pained and vertiginous state. Because I’m going to do something today other than drool on myself. I’m hoping I’m not coming down with whatever sickness the Son brought home from college with him.
On Tuesday I started feeling the effects of an oncoming attack, but I was determined to raid with my group in World of Warcraft as scheduled. We managed to do our average best, although we didn’t clear the entire heroic level of Azshara’s palace the first night. On Wednesday I felt worse. The start of a two-day migraine set in, a knot of pain right in the center of my skull. I did manage to show up and raid again that day, but I wasn’t my best and it showed. Thursday the pain was so bad that I sat in the library with no lights on for the entire day, wishing the pain would go away. Even the monitor for the laptop set to the lowest light setting was bright enough to cause stabbing pain, so I just sat there listening to podcasts wishing I could do something else.
On Friday night the vertigo started. It was pretty mild, compared to vertigo attacks of the past. No projectile vomiting. No lying on the bathroom floor. The room would start spinning, and then I would re-orient myself by staring at a point on the wall for ten minutes or so. When I went to bed the vertigo was so bad and persistent that I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t focus on a point in the dark. So I took a valium and finally fell asleep. On Saturday the vertigo could not be dispelled any longer. No amount of re-orientation would make it stop, and I was beginning to get nauseous. Time for the Xanax, which I stayed on for the entire day and through most of Sunday morning.
I woke up about an hour ago. I feel dizzy now. Dizzy, not vertiginous. The lights are still too bright but they don’t hurt like they did Wednesday. I’ve got to go visit my ENT on Tuesday to get a refill on my Betahistine anyway, so at least I’ll have some symptomatic stuff to talk with her about while I’m there. I’m going to try the vestibular exercises that my physical therapist gave me as soon as I publish this. I tried them on Friday when the vertigo started and they just made things worse. Fingers crossed.
I missed raiding again tonight. Thunderstorms started rolling through Austin at about 5:30 pm and persisted until about 7:00 pm. After the first flicker of the house power during a storm we tend to turn all the electronics off. We turn them off and wait until the storm has passed. This is how we’ve approached dealing with power surges in Austin Energy’s lines ever since we lost electronics a number of years ago to a lightning strike that hit a transformer in the neighborhood.
But it wasn’t just the fact that I would have had to reboot the computer and do updates in a few short minutes that kept me from raiding tonight. I’ve been uncoordinated all day. Dropping things, knocking things off the counter that I knew were there and thought I would miss. Just a general sense of dizziness and disorientation that had me wondering if I would make it to raid tonight or not. When the thunder started rolling and the lights started flickering, I not only knew I would probably miss raiding tonight, but I knew that the reason I was feeling so unstable was the atmospheric pressure had changed with the storm front moving through, and that was probably why I was feeling so dizzy. This happens pretty reliably. I’ve tried tracking the barometric pressure in the past, but it doesn’t seem to be highs or lows that are the trigger, but the simple fact that the pressure changes rapidly.
When I went to do the new vestibular exercises that my physical therapist has me trying out, I could not do one of them properly, and this is the first time I’ve had this problem since starting the exercises. I can’t find any Youtube videos that replicate the exercise that was was given to me, the specific exercise that I’m having trouble with today. However, this video illustrates the basic mechanics.
I use my thumbs, and I close my eyes after centering on the target. Then I’m supposed to move my eyes to where I think the other thumb is and then open them again. If I’ve missed the second target I’m supposed to focus on the correct position, recenter, and then close my eyes again before moving my eyes back to where the first target was, repeating as many times as I think necessary.
I could not find the second target today. Dozens of repetitions and the target is never where I think it should be. Never happened before. I started doing this exercise a few weeks ago, and when my physical therapist showed me this exercise I was thinking I don’t need to do this, I know where my thumbs are. Using peripheral vision, I’ve managed to track back and forth between the two targets without a hitch every time I’ve tried the exercise. Then today, I open my eyes and I’m not looking where I thought I was.
I have the explanation for why I’ve been such a clutz all day now. It just doesn’t make me feel better knowing what the problem is. I’m going to have to do a better job of doing the exercises as often as needed and not just when I think I’m having a problem. At least the dizziness didn’t progress into a full-blown vertigo attack today.
I haven’t been tracking my vertigo spells on the blog. I don’t know why. I think I didn’t want to make everyone reading this suffer through repetitive bouts of vertigo with me by my documenting the episodes on the blog directly, each time that I went through one.
I wasn’t really able to type or even make noises beyond gagging on vomit between requests for someone to kill me in the years of suffering that I endured before being prescribed Xanax and Promethazine, which work quite well to subdue the worst parts of rotational vertigo.
…and after the attacks were over, sometimes two days later, I would be unable to do much more than sit up in bed and eat soup for at least a day. So I would have had to remember to go document the event while still recovering from the trauma of the event. Anyone who has had an intense illness can testify just how much they don’t want to go back and revisit just how hellish the event was later. “…and then I blew chunks all over the bathroom floor. Luckily I didn’t fall back into it when I passed out.” All the pain of a drunken bender without the entertainment of being stupid drunk first. Leave it in the past.
Now that I have a medication regimen down, I just have to deal with the fuzzy-headedness the drugs inflict on me. I’m stuck for hours, essentially staring at a fixed point in space so as to anchor the eyes on something. Oops they’re drifting left again. Find the Catbus plushy. No more drift? Okay, back to writing. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. For as long as is necessary. For as long as it takes to get tired and fall asleep.
This year has been really bad. The worst since I stopped working and could eliminate stress by not having to perform on a set schedule every week. The increase in symptoms started February a year ago and has slowly gotten worse. I’m pretty sure it’s the second ear failing on me, having gone bilateral then. If that’s the true cause of my current suffering, then I should level back out after a few miserable years, and hit a different long-lasting trough of capabilities. I’ll just have to take stock again then, see what I can still do.
In the meantime I’m going to start trying to document each time I get full vertigo. Since I can do it while sitting here trying not to spin, access to the laptop being a qualifier, I’m going to do my best to write something while the vertigo is kicking my ass. I’m going to do this because this blog is for me as well as for you, dear reader. It might be handy to be able to go back and check how bad the bad really was.
This time the vertigo popped right in the middle of the heroic Azshara raid boss fight my current raiding group has been working on for the better part of two weeks. It looked like we might have a good chance of getting her down this week, but I kept getting dizzier and dizzier and missing prompts to go here and there as the mechanics of the fight require.
Just too much screen movement for a day that the eyes want to pretend that the world is spinning around my head. I had to bow out and leave them to their work. Hopefully they did better not burdened by my inability to deal with so much motion on the screen. It’s taken two hours to get the spinning down to the point where I can sit in my adjustable bed and type this simple entry up.
I don’t know how many actual spells I’ve had this year, which is why I’m going to start trying to do this each time I have one. I know it’s the first one in October because it’s still the first week of October, or was until yesterday. But I had at least two in September, ditto in August and it was even worse in July. June wasn’t too bad but that was when the light dizziness really seemed to kick in, May leading into June, and I can’t figure out what is causing this constant near-nausea inducing dislocation and disorientation on a daily basis. It is maddening.
I’m getting blood tests done for allergies this time, betahistine will interfere with the skin tests and I’m not willing to stay off it for a week. I’ve also started some training in vestibular therapy while I’m in physical therapy for lower back pain. I’ll write more on that subject when I know more about it. I just want the dizzy to GO AWAY. But it won’t. So I’ll medicate it away when I have to.
October 9th – Still recovering from the vertigo last night. I’m going to miss two raids this week. Can’t be helped. I’m almost in a vegetative state today.
I’ve had several requests to describe what Rotational Vertigo feels like to me. It is actually quite hard to describe in a way that the average person might be able to visualize. When I’m pressed for time I frequently say something like imagine the worst drunken binge you’ve ever been on. Most people who casually ask the question are satisfied with this response.
But that really doesn’t do the symptom justice. For me, being drunk (even mildly intoxicated) can be vertigo inducing, has always been vertigo inducing. I don’t drink and go to sleep anymore. That almost never happens. If I feel like having a glass or two of brandy or cognac or other alcohol including a single beer, I’m generally up for the duration of the effect (8 hours or so) because lying down makes the vertigo worse.
So what is rotational vertigo really like?
First, imagine you are at the center of a merry-go-round. The merry-go-round is spinning. It doesn’t even have to spin fast, it can spin quite slowly, just enough that you can’t fixate on a single point in the background.
This is the key problem with the spinning. It isn’t real, but your body doesn’t know this. Your body doesn’t know that the balance mechanism in the ears is broken. So your eyes try to track the spin that isn’t there, causing your vision to dance back and forth (this is why reading can be a chore when you have a problem with vertigo) mimicking the spin the balance mechanism says is occurring.
So you are on a spinning merry-go-round. Now imagine that every stationary object you want to interact with is spinning at the same rate. There is no fixed point to anchor to (if you concentrate really hard you might just be able to override this. Maybe) so the handrails on the stairway, the walls of the shower, the glass of water to wash your pills down with dance madly around you while you try vainly to grab them from thin air.
Now imagine that this dance continues for the rest of your life; figuratively, if not in reality. Because it feels like forever. I’ve fought this thing for days at a time in the past, just because I’d already slept for what felt like days and I just couldn’t sleep anymore no matter how many pills I took.
I can’t describe it better than that. I don’t dare go looking for video to describe it. Just seeing video that includes rotation in the theater can bring on sympathetic feelings of spinning. I frequently must look away from films with rapid rotation (Gravity was torturous. Loved that film, couldn’t watch half of it. Go see Gravity in the IMax and sit real close with your hands trapped at your sides) or I have to hold my hands up in front of my face so that I can see that there is a stationary object in view while the rotation on screen persists.
So how should I treat it? is the question you are probably left with if you have this symptom. My treatment article is here:
However, dizziness and vertigo are so common that they rate a separate discussion from the general Meniere’s regimen that I describe in that post. Dizziness is the most common complaint that doctor’s hear (I recently had a month-long bout of mild dizziness. It looks like it might have been anemia. -ed.) and can be caused by dozens of different maladies. Take your pick. If the cause of your dizziness is one of those maladies, nothing I can say will likely help you with that form of dizziness. My apologies in advance.
Still, there are reasons why the ears themselves might be causing the dizziness, and if that is the cause then you can do things as simple as chewing gum or popping your ears by putting pressure on the eardrum (forcing air up through your eustachian tubes. Carefully) to make the dizziness recede. I usually do those two things before trying anything else.
If that doesn’t help, then there are various treatments for re-aligning the otoconia in the inner ear. Otoconia are little calcified rocks inside your inner ear that move with the fluid and the motion of your head. Sometimes they get stuck in one of the labyrinths of the inner ear and can be dislodged by performing various exercises that I’m not going to try to describe here. But the otoconia being out of place is frequently the cause of otherwise inexplicable dizziness and some forms of vertigo. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is one of the types of dizziness caused by the otoconia being out of place. I’ve tried a few of these treatments for persistent dizziness (dizziness that lasts several days) with limited success. The half-somersault maneuver looks like one of those kinds of treatments. That linked video or any number of other videos on youtube will give you an idea of how you might try addressing the problem yourself.
If the problem is the otoconia of the inner ear then this kind of treatment should alleviate the problem. If it isn’t the rocks in your head (I just wanted to type that sentence one time) then those exercises won’t solve anything and may make the dizziness worse. It is pretty straight-forward to just try these procedures if the vertigo doesn’t let up after a few hours. You are liable to find that it won’t help for meniere’s vertigo and dizziness. If you still feel dizzy it is probably a good idea to see a specialist before ruling this kind of treatment out entirely. An ear, nose and throat doctor will be able to visually tell if the problem is the otoconia by observing you during treatment. I have given up on them unless it is a specific kind of dizziness that I recognize as being different from the Meniere’s.
The one thing I have found that helps for vertigo and dizziness aside from drugs is finding a head position and/or a focus point to stare at. I personally find that turning the head slightly to my right and looking slightly downward is the best position for me. I have a catbus that sits near the correct position next to the bed. A friendly catbus that smiles its cheshire grin at me while I try desperately not to spin.
Staring at a fixed point in space, preferably staring at an object that is crafted to inspire trust and happiness, helps quell the spinning long enough for the drugs to kick in, or until the spell passes. One or the other of these two things will occur eventually. I hope you find relief from these miserable symptoms if you are having them. I really hope that if you are reading this right now that you discover what is causing your symptoms and that they stop for good. It is what all of us hope for.
All about Meniere’s Disease. Updated periodically.
When I’m questioned about why I’m retired already, or when someone airs doubts like are you really disabled? the subject of Meniere’s disease is bound to surface. It is bound to surface because Meniere’s disease is the answer to both questions. If you just stumbled across this article on my blog and want to know what is Meniere’s disease? I’ve never heard of it. I can understand that feeling. I’d never heard of it before its symptoms wrecked my life.