Friday, December 9, 2011

Another little miracle

My experience over the years has taught me that it is invariably a good idea to wait and think before I hit the “send” button. Today I had the same experience all over again, and I am so glad that I waited those few moments before I made the “send” or “not send” decision.

Let me set the scene: I came back from Thailand a couple of weeks ago and promptly spent five days in the hot room. I expected it would be a tough process for my body to rediscover this stuff all over again, but it seemed to be going quite well until I turned over in class one day to lay on my stomach, and that's when it hit me. Vertigo.

I have had a few occasions in my life when the room was spinning or I was a little dizzy, but never anything like this. The hot room was moving rapidly around me, the floor was rolling underneath me – it was all I could do to hold onto my mat to stop myself from rolling off the edge. And then there was the nausea. It was quite a package.

I spend the entire floor series of class lying on my front just praying for the room to stop moving. At the end of class, I wait until everyone has left the room and then shuffle on my backside across the carpet to the door. Standing up is out of the question.

At first I suspect an electrolyte imbalance – understandable given my absence from the hot room for so many months and then five classes in as many days. Yes, that's it – electrolytes. I can even feel the pins and needles in my fingers to support the case. A coconut water, and a heavy dose of potassium when I get home should do the trick.

I stand up carefully and feel much better. After a few minutes I can walk and things settle down and I can make my way home. Driving seems OK as long as I keep my head still. Later that night, as I go to lie down in bed, it starts all over again. It gets worse as I roll over to one side so I try to sleep propped up on pillows with my head upright.

I believe that things get better in time; I cannot always support this position and I don't think it will work with everything, like cholera or frostbite or a gunshot wound, but my experience has been to wait things out – be patient; don't over-react. Fortunately my wife did not have this “wait and see” attitude, otherwise my children would never have survived past infancy. An absence of medical insurance also encourages this action. So I wait.

After four or five days, there has been no improvement; I am still incapacitated and my approach seems to be suspect. The next day I start the internet research and begin to suspect some kind of problem in my inner ear.  As I read more and see more stuff on You-Tube and consult with my friends at the studio, I am convinced that I have the most common form of vertigo, called BPPV, or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. It is a relatively harmless condition caused by the dislocation of tiny crystals of calcium in the inner ear (sometimes called “ear-rocks”) disturbing the whole sense of balance and resulting in a serious case of vertigo. It is amazing how messed up one can be by just a few specs of debris breaking off from some other place in your ear and settling in the wrong place. Normal life is interrupted.

Fortunately, more research reveals that there are some relatively simple exercises that can be done to dislodge the debris and restore the proper functioning of the inner ear. I try the exercises and after about the second or third attempt, I begin to feel some relief. The exercises induce vertigo and severe nausea, but in time that all goes away.  There might have been other, more serious causes for the vertigo, but in this case I am convinced that it is this common BPPV.  

So back to today. I wake up this morning and the vertigo is so much better but I feel like crap. Some alien body has invaded my relatively healthy system: my head aches like crazy; my mind is all over the place; I cannot focus or concentrate; I feel myself slipping into a substantial well of self pity; I am miserable. I want to do nothing but enjoy my suffering.

I have promised my friend that today, ten days after the onset of this rotten vertigo and about five days after my fix, that I will go back to yoga – no backbends or movements that might induce the vertigo again, but at least I will take class. But my mind is working hard to find all the reasons why this is not a good idea.  It has only been a few days since I "fixed" the vertigo; it could easily return; this is just way too soon.  This is downright dangerous.  I compose the text message: “sorry but I cannot make it today; I feel like crap and I am not going to the 6 pm class”. I hit “send”.

On my phone, you have to hit “send” twice. The first time gets the message into a queue and the second one actually dispatches the packet of bits into the ether. I never hit the second time. I stop myself and think about it. Many years ago, when I was in the corporate world, I made a rule for me and the people who worked with me that read something like this: 

“If you receive an irritating e-mail from somebody who needs to be straightened out, and you are just the person to do it, then compose the message but wait 24 hours before you send the reply. Do not hit “send” when your emotions are high.” 

 I remember that rule today and stop myself from hitting the second “send”.

I know that once I send the message off into the ether, that would be that; I would be off the hook. Then I would be able to get deeper into my misery and refine how sorry I feel for myself. But I would not be “straightened out”.  There is a nagging uncomfortable truth that pops up in the corner of my mind and will not go away. The truth is that I know, deep inside, that I really need to go to that class. It is going to be hard work and my head will ache and I will feel sick and my vertigo will come back and I will be hot and sweaty and, and, and...

And I knew that I would feel better at the end of class. I always have and I always will. There has never been a class that I have regretted taking, and there never will be. I know that to be true. So I didn't hit the second “send”. And I went to class. And Jayna helped me. And all the students in the room helped me too. Because that is what always happens.  And the headache went away in the first breathing exercise.  

Like Robbie says, "It's only a miracle if you turn up to receive it".

It's good to be back.