My balance disorder hit me in a way it had never before on my way from Copenhagen to Venice in 2009. Vertigo, migraines, horrific dizziness and nausea, blue spots clouding my vision, a high pitched throbbing in my ears, hot flashes, the sickening sensation of falling backwards, all the while with sobering mental cohesion. I couldn’t lift or turn my head without my eyes spinning in their sockets, before blacking out. It scared the crap out of me.
Vertigo describes the medical condition by which the vestibules of the inner ear become displaced, completely annihilating the body’s ability to comprehend balance. In extreme cases like mine, the seriousness of my debilitation results in dangerous fainting spells, amongst other (brutally unpleasant) symptoms. Trains and buses are even worse than cars, but boats and planes are in a torturous league of their own. The second I set foot on any water vessel I go dizzy with nausea and faint, lulled into a heinously painful limbo of not-quite-conscious queasy.
I am an avid traveller, an actor and dancer, a singer and puppeteer. Being a dizzy performer defines the spotting technique quite nicely; ‘The goal of spotting is to attain a constant orientation of the dancer’s head and eyes, to the extent possible, in order to enhance the dancer’s control and prevent dizziness.’ Basically, you are training yourself to look at the same spot, before turning again. But how can one spot, when one has no balance? The answer is : slowly. Dancing is a much slower learning process for those with balance disorders, as it is that much more challenging to perform in a kind of topsy-turvey alternate reality to the rest of the dance class (who aren’t suddenly veering off to the left, crashing into things and can attempt turns more than once without needing a sobering lie-down in the corner).
In my stomach-churning-stupor, this dizzy dancer remembers little about that trip to Venice, one of the most beautiful places on earth. A human-made entity that defies the natural world; the real-life Atlantis, barely above the surface. I’m queasy on boats at the best of times, the curse of motion sickness haunting my existence. Here, disembarking a water vessel makes no difference. Nausea is everything, everywhere. The endless swaying momentum is inescapable. Closing my eyes only muddles my inner ear more; I feel as if I’m on turbulent stormy waters on a ship out to sea, sinking, lurching, bobbing, rocking. My spotting ability had hit zero. I’d picture myself standing somewhere stoic, a football field, or perhaps lying flat on the cool cement of a basketball court at night. Envisioning this brings microscopic relief, until the sound and smell of dank water slapping against mossy stone is too strong to ignore. What I would have given to ‘sountenu’ or step out of my swimming, spinning, sickening head, and appreciate all this place has to offer. But I couldn’t. I was very, very unwell.
I try to sit steady; a fresh wave of crippling nausea engulfs me. I collapse, nearly concussing myself in the process, unconscious for some minutes. Eventually, my condition worsens, and I need to be hospitalised, where I would wait for hours to be diagnosed by an Italian doctor as suffering from a U2 song. In fact, my degenerating condition would force me to return home a fortnight later.
But first I needed to get to the hospital…
… Alas, Venetian-hyperbolic-irony: THE AMBULANCES HERE ARE BOATS.
Like Lorraine, when people are affected by balance problems, they need help – access to understanding, information and support. They need assistance to cope with the associated symptoms of their condition.
Vestibular disorders affect an estimated ONE Million Australians. That means 1 in 20! While these conditions are not life threatening, they are common and life changing.
Please make a tax deductible donation to Whirled Foundation today, so we can continue to help people just like Lorraine.
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