What My Vertigo Taught Me to Reconsider
I came up with the idea for this column at 5:45 a.m., when I’m usually just falling into a deep REM cycle. (Sleeping has never come easily for me.) I wish I could say I was up at that ungodly hour (mornings also never come easily to non-morning people) because I simply couldn’t sleep, but the truth was that my vertigo was acting up. My bed felt like a canoe in choppy waters, and for some reason, sleeping with my BiPAP on has always exasperated my symptoms.
For several months last winter, I experienced bouts of vertigo every morning around 6 o’clock. Vertigo was foreign territory to me at the time. I developed it after a mild bump to the head and a few other freak occurrences, and after that, it made a nice little home in my inner ears. I later came to learn that vertigo is also genetic, and my mother has suffered from the same problems for decades. So, more often than not, we were struggling during those early morning hours together.
For some reason I’ll probably never know, those dizzy spells disappeared for a while. I’d still have triggers — motion sickness, grocery shopping and having to look up at the shelves, allergies, and so forth — but I was finally able to get some solid shut-eye again. As evidenced by the subject of this column, my reprieve didn’t last.
Lying in bed (or my canoe!) that morning, I did what every vestibular doctor or therapist has taught me about “reversing” vertigo. Find an object straight ahead and focus on it to help balance your equilibrium. While I did this, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Figures. I was overdue for something like this to happen.”
I paused, crinkled my eyebrows, which only made me dizzier, and questioned the validity of what I had just told myself. I was overdue? Since when did not having vertigo in the morning make me due for something bad to happen? I realized the answer was simple.
Living with SMA has taught us to become so programmed to expect bad things to happen. To an extent, I do believe it’s important to always be prepared in order to properly handle whatever life throws our way. But somewhere the line needs to be drawn. Somewhere along the way, we have to remind ourselves that we are worthy of experiencing the good, too.
In spite of my dizziness, delirium from not sleeping, and preposterousness in thinking I was “overdue” for my morning bouts of vertigo to return, I started laughing. By telling myself I was overdue for vertigo, I was basically saying I deserved to feel that way. I deserved to feel miserable, to lose sleep, and to watch the room sway from side to side. I couldn’t help but laugh at how ridiculous that sounded. I had begun to let SMA take the reins of my thoughts and coax me into believing this is what I deserved because this is what SMA is supposed to be like.
Before I let myself get too carried away, I gave myself a good pep talk I desperately needed that morning. And it went something like this:
Girl, stop thinking you’re entitled only to bad things happening in your life. Stop believing the lie that SMA is robbing you from experiencing joy and normalcy. You’re dizzy. So what? You can lie here and conjure up all the reasons why your life isn’t fair or you can laugh about how easy it is to get caught up in the lies you tell yourself. The choice is easier said than done, just like most things in life worth pursuing. But the moment you decide to shift your perspective on this so-called “bad stuff” is the exact moment you choose not to let this disease win. So, which option are you going to choose from now on? And when are you finally going to commit to it?
Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.