Saturday, 12 July 2014

What is Labyrinthitis?

Imagine you've got room spin after a few too many sherbets, and you're on a waltzer, a rollercoaster and an airport travelator all at the same time.  Oh, and you're wearing ear muffs.  That's what Labyrinthitis is like for me.

A little understood condition, it affects the inner ear fluid and thereby your balance, often making the sufferer feel as though they are moving when they're not, or as if the rest of the world is moving around them.  Sometimes it feels as though the ground under your feet is moving away from you.  Ever felt like your train is moving at the station when actually it's the one next to you?  Times that by a few thousand.  It's horrid.

Stress makes it worse; standing up can make it worse, as can sitting or lying down (!); TV and computer screens make it worse; moving, even tilting your head a fraction, can make it worse.  Self-employed and do most of your work on a computer?  Yep, no chance, switch life off for a few days/weeks.

Noise is either amplified or muffled, sometimes both, weirdly.  The blood rushes loudly in your ears continually.  You feel nauseous most of the time.  You whisper or slur your words because what you're saying sounds so weird in your head.  You stagger when walking on the flat, and swing out erratically on staircases.  Escalators make you feel like your going to tumble forward any second; ditto heights, even the top of a flight of stairs.  You grip the handrail with white knuckles and look like a crazy person.  The anxiety makes it worse still.

You manage to watch TV for a few minutes, then the camera pans round or there's a flashing light and you half fall off the sofa or vomit again, maybe both.  You feel OK so you go out, but then you have a panic attack about it starting again; and so it does.  You worry about doing no work, so you turn the laptop on for ten minutes, and set your recovery back three days.  You go to get out of bed and veer off course into furniture or the door frame.  Even sitting on a chair you feel yourself going, and see the floor coming up at an angle to meet you.  You drop something on the floor, but don't dare try to pick it up because of what might happen.  The floor rears up towards you, and the wall tilts again in your peripheral vision.  You stagger, and fall.  Again.

This goes on for days, weeks even.  After the worst of it has gone the residual bit stays for weeks, or possibly months.  When it finally goes you live in dread of that single moment when there's an impossible movement just at the corner of your eye and you know it's back.  Here we go again.

This is Labyrinthitis.  I wouldn't wish it on anyone.


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