This morning I sat up in bed and almost fell back down. The room was spinning – or was it just my head? I stood up and tried to walk toward the bathroom. The floor pitched up and down like a cruise ship in a tropical storm. Grabbing for the wall, I made it to the toilet, so dizzy my stomach churned. Whoa.
I sat there for a moment and as I absorbed the feeling of extreme vertigo, I knew what this was: Meniere’s disease. (From AmericanHearing.org: “Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear that causes episodes of vertigo, ringing in the ears [tinnitus], a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear, and fluctuating hearing loss.”) It runs in my family. My mom and my aunt both have it. I had been ignoring some other symptoms for weeks, like dizziness if I plopped my head down too fast on the pillow at night. My right ear had felt like it was full of something for so long – no doctor could ever find an infection – I couldn’t even remember when it started. I chalked it up to bad sinuses, but it’s a telltale sign.
How am I going to get the girls ready for school like this? The dizziness wasn’t getting any better, so I clung to the walls as I headed out to wake Emma up. She sleeps on the top bunk of a loft bed, and I looked at the steps I usually climb to shake her by the foot. This is going to be a challenge, I thought.
By doing everything a little more slowly I was able to rouse my sleepy 13-year-old and totter back to the kitchen. Luckily there are a lot of surfaces to grab – countertops, the little wooden island from Ikea – so I was able to get the morning routine started.
The worst of the dizziness faded after about 25 minutes, and slowly diminished as the morning progressed. The girls went off to school, Dan went to work, and I was on my own. Fortunately, today was my day off from work. By 11:00 I was feeling better, although any quick turn of my head brought on a sudden wave.
I reached my doctor on the phone, and he didn’t need to see me or refer me to an ENT. He agreed that it was pretty obviously my first episode of Meniere’s, which has no cure. My future will consist of managing the symptoms. To that end, he forwarded me instructions on rehabilitative exercises to help deal with the vertigo.
Mom was sad to hear my news. She said that she's dizzy all the time unless she is sitting.
I did some reading about it online, checked Facebook and email, read a little news. When I felt up to it, I got up to grab a shower.
I’ve been burning candles in the bathroom lately, as I’m getting ready for my day. The one in there now is called Nutmeg & Spice, from Bath & Body Works, and it’s heavenly. I’ve dabbled in candle making but I’ve never been able to achieve the “throw” of the Bath & Body Works candles. They had one called “Salted Caramel” at Christmas, and after the first one I went back and bought a sackful to give as gifts (and some to keep for me, of course). Today, as I lathered up in the shower, the fragrance sort of wrapped around me and I felt a jolt of contentment.
10 minutes before, I was shrouded in fear, wondering how this thing was going to mess up my life. Can I work in a preschool if I have Meniere’s? The episodes are unpredictable, how am I going to schedule things? What if it happens when I’m out alone – will I be able drive back home? Is Dan prepared for what this could mean in our relationship – that I could be useless when it acts up, and will need his care?
All of that was gone with a whiff of Nutmeg & Spice. All I felt was the peace and calm that a scent can inspire, this wafting weightless freedom, in rhythm with the steady fall of water from the showerhead, and I was so profoundly happy to be alive at that moment, so grateful that I could smell that smell and feel that water. Nothing else was on my mind; nothing else mattered.
Then I fell over. No, not really. Just kidding. I was fine.
The throw was even stronger when I opened the shower door, and I saw the three wicks glowing nearby. One good thing about having the kids grow up, I thought, is that I can burn candles without extreme paranoia. Yes, a good thing. Remember that when the 13-year-old is having a hormone attack.
We light candles for a lot of reasons: to give light, in prayer, on our birthday cakes, even (if you’re lucky) (and careful!) when making love. Candles separate the darkness from the light, literally and spiritually. Once adding scent to candles became more popular, we gained another reason to light them: aromatherapy. You can spray a scent from a can, or you can plug one into a wall outlet, but it’s not the same as lighting a candle. Candles have history. Candles add heat and light to the sensation of smell. Burning a candle is organic and elemental, and while it appeals to our most primitive instinct – survival – it also reflects our desire to become enlightened.
And that’s pretty much why I don’t use plug-ins. I light candles.
I’m writing this in the early evening, and I need to get dinner started. The happy weightless feeling from this morning has lasted all day, in spite of brief dizzy spells and the increasing awareness of the tinnitus that I’ve been ignoring. I did my Target run this morning, crossing quart-size storage bags, shaving lotion and pasta off my list. There was a special on Glade scented candles: buy three, get one free! So now my house smells like a Fall Hayride, and I feel fine. A little spinny-headed if I move too fast, but...
Oh my God. I really AM the lady with the spinning head!
Hello, hello... I don't like this place called Vertigo...