That time I convinced myself I might be dying

I still remember it, along with the fear I felt when I first noticed it. It was hot. August, I think. I had spent the night at my college boyfriend (Dave)’s dorm. It started when I woke up in the morning.

When I tossed and turned, changing from one side to the other, I felt dizzy. But it was a different kind of dizzy than I had ever experienced before. It wasn’t the kind of dizzy you feel after spinning yourself around and around. No, it was a whole new breed of terrifying.

I immediately felt like I might throw up. I went back to my own dorm, wondering about what I should do. I began to realize that the sensation occurred when I would lay down, or stand up after laying down for a while. The room would spin. Almost like my brain was on a merry-go-round. Since I was the girl who thought a bruise on my knee could turn out to be a severe blood disorder, you can imagine how panicky I was.

I probably called my Mom. I’m sure I told all my friends. I definitely called our “Wellness Center” on campus. I remember filing in that evening, half afraid of what was wrong with me and half relieved to know someone was going to talk to me about it.

A nurse practitioner looked in my ears and decided that I had Labyrinthitis–a disorder caused by irritation and swelling in the inner ear. I thought it odd, since I had no pain in my ears, but figured it must be true, since after all, my head was spinning and inner ear issues caused that. She sent me on my way, assuring me, it would clear up in a few days.

But it didn’t.

The next trip to the Wellness Center got me some eardrops, and an antibiotic. It must have been a bacterial infection, since it seemed my ears looked a little red. I was to put the drops in a few times a day. Meanwhile, my head still spun. And, every time I thought it might be easing up, it would happen again and scare the daylights out of me.

I decided to take a Yoga-lates class one evening. There was a lot of changing positions involved, and I remember on one particular move where we had to lay down, the spin came back. Round and round like a whirlwind, I shot myself up. While everyone lay in silence, calm and together, I sat up, panicked. The instructor came by and whispered to me, asking if I was OK. “Yeah I just feel sick, I’m sorry.” She was very nice, and told me if I needed to leave, it was OK.

Leave, I did. I called Dave, frantic. I was getting both annoyed and increasingly worried. One night in particular, I broke down. I truly thought I was losing brain function and that I was dying. Many may laugh upon reading this, but the fear was very real on this particular night. The days flying by, summer turning to fall, and the spins still happening, I had convinced myself that my very worst fear was coming true.

That is until one time, I went to our family doctor–who, in after telling me I had beautiful skin and didn’t need to be on “the Pill” (he was religious) suggested Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).


I’ll attempt to explain it in understandable terms. In everyone’s head, or the inner ear rather, there are these little balls, or censors, that help control our brain’s perception of movement. So, when you look to the right or left, these things help tell your brain “Hey, you switched positions. Eyes, adjust accordingly.”

Well, for some unknown reason, it’s possible for these ball things to fall out of place from time to time. This correspondingly throws off the body’s perception of movement. Which is why when I changed positions, there was a delayed response from the brain, creating the Vertigo, or spinning sensation. I mentioned to him my fears of dying, that I had a tumor. I also mentioned what the other doctors had suggested could have been an infection.

“They were barking up the wrong tree,” he said.

He said there were a few exercises or ways in which I could move my head that might pop these suckers back into place. If the vertigo was making me dizzy, he suggested I take an over-the-counter pill for car sickness. Before I left that day, he assured me that we can’t control what the future brings and that we should trust God.

Then, as quickly as it appeared, right around Halloween, it was gone. Like a ghost. One day I felt the room spin, the next, everything was back to normal. No matter which was I spun or jerked my head around, the spinning was finally gone, and I was relieved.

To this day, the vertigo has never returned. It has been 5 years. While it turned out to be nothing major, it makes for a story.

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