Sunday, 10 May 2020

Dizziness

What has dizziness got to do with depression? Well, to tell you the truth, I'm not sure. All I know is that for me it began right slap bang in the middle of my clinical depression. I remember one morning in particular: I was bringing two mugs of tea up to the bedroom when I suddenly fainted and the tea went all over me and the carpet. From that moment to the present day I have remained chronically dizzy.



Everyone understands what it's like to be dizzy. You get up from a chair too quickly and your head spins. Things feel out of kilter: the world is 'on the huh' as they say in Norfolk. However, most dizzy spells are short lived and normality soon resumes. But what if normality doesn't resume? People who feel dizzy all the time are often diagnosed as having chronic subjective dizziness. This is what I have. Dizziness can be caused by anxiety and depression but is more commonly thought to be the result of a  problem with the inner ear. The problem is that neither of these things can be verified very easily. I have been for a full range of tests at the hospital and the conclusion was that there might be a problem with my inner ear. The treatment for this is a range of vestibular exercises designed to re-correct the imbalance. Typically it involves moving the head while staring at a fixed object on the wall or standing on a cushion and repeating the exercise. I practiced these manoeuvres for several weeks but nothing seemed to change.

I have had to accept, barring a miracle, that dizziness is now a part of my life. It affects everything I do from the moment my feet touch the ground when I get out of bed in the morning till the moment  I return to bed in the evening. It affects all movements throughout the day. It affects my spatial orientation. It affects my hand-eye coordination. As a result, I have become clumsy. My trouser pocket snags on cupboard handles, my trailing hand knocks over things, my feet trip over doorsteps.  Making a simple cup of tea is no longer simple. The tea caddy is never quite where I think it is. Picking out a tea bag from the caddy often involves a number of tries. All my life I've done these things automatically. I've taken them for granted. Things have always been where they are supposed to be. Not any more. As a result, I now have to concentrate very hard on things which previously were purely instinctive.

One of the worst things is my spatial orientation in relation to my head. The clothes line in the back garden, for instance, is a constant danger for me now. In the past, I just instinctively knew where it was even if I wasn't looking at it. It was just there. Now I'm never sure whether it's to my right or left and, as a result, I often get caught by it.

But, by far the worst thing is when I get outside the house and garden. Walking the short distance to the Co-op is now a major expedition. As I proceed down the pavement - the whole street feels out of sync - like I've been drinking. The terrace houses seem to tilt slightly and the sky spins. There is a slight hill that I have to go down and this causes the dizziness to increase. But the worst bit is when I get to the road junction near the shop. At this point, four roads converge and traffic can appear from any road. The Co-op is on the other side - so I have to cross.  This simple manouevre, that a young child could perform, throws me into a panic. Because I can no longer judge distance and speed - cars frequently catch me out. Sometimes I get half way across and have to suddenly retrace my steps. Or I end up standing in the middle of the road with cars buzzing me on either side. Because I feel anxious the spinning sensation increases which makes my disorientation worse. The whole thing makes me want to cry.

As a result of my dizziness, I am now agoraphobic. I used to love walking and hiking and cycling - but now, apart from work and short outings, I'm fairly housebound. It's a horrible thing. If anyone has any suggestions about dizziness, I would love to hear them.