Sunday 16 December 2018

If I was cross last week about feeling so ‘precious’ about myself, now I’m completely humbled by all the kind advice pouring in

Bairbre Power. Photo: Kieran Harnett
Bairbre Power. Photo: Kieran Harnett
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

At pain of revisiting a topic two weeks in a row, I apologise in advance but I just had to share the developments of the last week.

Who could have known that so many people suffer from vertigo or know people whose lives are affected by this annoying condition reportedly triggered by a middle ear infection? The vertigo 'vortex' as one correspondent with me so correctly described it wipes your confidence and leaves you feeling uncharacteristically vulnerable and 'precious' about yourself.

Last year I got rightly slagged on TV for boasting in my excitement of becoming a grandmother - how the world was my oyster and my vista was an open road now that the parenting years were done. I should have known better and I most certainly won't be doing that again.

I've written more than a few confessional columns over the years, from those early student days in the Drogheda Independent and Woman's Way followed by U magazine and then on to the Herald, Sunday Indo and Indo. People responded to pieces with cards and letters and there was always the anonymous ones written with vim and vigour, lots of anger or the occasional envelopes containing a note and a miraculous medal for good measure.

Last week, however, I was absolutely gobsmacked, and more than a little humbled, by the volume of people who took time out to write to me about my piece about the scares associated with the sudden onset of vertigo. What's obvious is that the medical condition is not restricted to midlifers like me and it's not simply a normal part of ageing.

Vertigo stretches across all ages and lifestyles and I've been reading and re-reading all the advice that poured in from as far away as Canada! A big thank you to Teresa Krijgsman from Toronto who read my piece online and kindly emailed to suggest I try a certain exercise.

Ten days on, I've finished the dose of prescribed tablets and I was feeling so good but then on Saturday, I had an even more dramatic, spinning sensation than ever before. I felt that I was falling backwards into a lift shaft and the world shifted sharply, right and left, at swirling 45 degree angles. Then it was off as quickly as it had descended silently upon me.

Before you think I'm now trying to turn this into a weekly medical column, I'm not.

I just want to record the sense of 'vertigo community' I discovered exists and to acknowledge the outpouring of support that sprang from one confessional story that I had lost my sense of being invincible, something I'm quite proud of, honing it as I did over the decades, only to see it disappear overnight.

My story was not 'click-bait'. It was a genuine declaration of shock and surprise and if I was a little worried that I might appear somewhat pathetic, I shouldn't have been. People are so kind and their reaction and thoughtfulness has completely restored my faith in human nature. There I was having a bowl of soup in Arnotts last Thursday when a lady stopped, leaned in and whispered in my ear 'I hope you are feeling better'.

A young woman in her 20s doubled back at the escalators to enquire what tablets was I on. Turns out they were the same as hers and anxious to share her experiences, she recommended that anytime I was planning to take a flight, I should start taking the tablets for a week in advance. Just to be sure. Within minutes of arriving at the ARC cancer fundraiser at the RDS, two young designers came up to me with advice having read the story in the paper that day.

Marian Finucane, who was opening the fundraiser show, offered another possible lead - all of which will be followed up. The emails have poured in from everywhere with words of advice. Some recommended the Epley Maneuver where you sit on the edge of your bed and turn your head 45 degrees to the side.

I also tried what's known as the half-somersault or Foster maneuver developed by Dr Carol Foster in Colorado. I discovered her video on YouTube, which demonstrates how you kneel and after looking at the ceiling, put your head on the ground in front of your knees with your chin tucked in and then turn your head in the direction of your affected ear.

Another pal emailed details of the Brandt-Daroff exercise, then came suggestions on acupuncture and another theory that it could be linked to neck injury. The reading list is extensive but now that I've waved my hand in the air and shouted about it, the very least I can do is try and explore cures and share them just as people have tried to do for me.

I work in a media world populated by lots of faceless keyboard warriors who are filled with vitriol and lash out from their anonymous perch at those who share genuine life experiences.

Fortunately, I experienced none of that last week and the moral of my vertigo part-two story is simple: it is not a sign of weakness to declare the truth about how you are feeling and whether you do it verbally or through discussion on social media channels like Facebook, you will undoubtedly find people who are feeling just like you and are prepared to offer their few bon mots of advice and help.

In my case, I was dizzy and scared initially and now it's a lifestyle blip that I need to handle and find a treatment for. I was fortunate indeed. I got to write about my fears which, in turn, pulled in people who I'm now emailing, joined across the time zones by a shared dislike of this dizzy headspace we find ourselves in.

Last week I discovered that it doesn't pay to park your fears. Verbalise them no matter what they are. People could be feeling just like you. Push that door open. You don't have to suffer alone.

Irish Independent

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