Situational Vertigo

The inner ear is responsible for a lot more than it gets credit for. There are little crystals in there that are in charge of balance, and if those tiny crystals get jarred or unsettled for any reason, then your whole world is rocked. That may not be the most medically correct definition, but it is the best one I can offer for the condition known as vertigo.

I had vertigo in the hospital while in labor. Nodding desperately when the nurse offered me a little something in my IV to “take the edge off” prior to the epidural, I thought the drug might make my world better, not worse. But within seconds of a drug called demerol hitting my IV, the walls of the room began to wobble back and forth, up and down, as if my hospital bed was a roller-coaster car. I squinted my eyes shut, but even the blackness behind my eyelids was rudely gyrating. All I could do was hold on to the hospital bed and wait it out.

There have been other, less dramatic, bouts with it, in which I can sense that those crystals are having a little unauthorized party in my inner ear. They get all shaken up, knocked loose, swirled around, and I get all woozy and dizzy until the party is over.

Sometimes vertigo strikes altitudinally, (a word I just made up, according to the squiggly red line that just appeared underneath it in my blogging software.) Last spring, I stood atop Red Mountain in Birmingham, AL, at the feet of Vulcan, the huge statue symbolizing the city’s roots in the iron and steel industry. The view was stunning. Photos by my dad.


Here I am, keeping my back to the stone wall, inching around the narrow observation deck you see in the above picture, with a weird smile on my face that seems to say, “I am not 100% comfortable with this. But hey, I’m smiling. Sort of.”

vulcan against wall

Before me, all of Birmingham sprawls. Below me, visible through the see-through metal grate under my feet, is a drop of several hundred feet…

vulcan looking down

Above me, (dare I look up?) is a gigantic Roman guy. Okay. Gulp. I’ll look up. Carefully….

vulcan looking up

Whoooaaaa, baby! Vertigo!

There are other times when vertigo is not drug-induced, or inner-ear induced, or altitudinally-induced. It is sometimes situationally-induced. Things happen in life, and you find your world spinning and rocking and changing – yes, like a ferris wheel – and there’s not much you can do but hold on until things settle again.

That is exactly what moving has been like for me. We have completed stage 1 of the move, the most labor-intensive and mentally exhausting stage. In inner-ear speak, that means that the little crystals (not the ones in my ear, but in my psyche) are still rocking and rolling. I am a gypsy woman whose family is currently living out of boxes, standing at the precipice of a big life change. I am a pilgrim on a journey. Nothing like a move to bring about remembrance of the past and contemplation of the future. A perfect storm for situational vertigo.

But here are two antidotes to that condition that I have found:

1) I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. Psalm 16:8. Knowing that God is with me, right beside me in the midst of this craziness, settles the shakiness. I face nothing alone.

2) Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. Psalm 73:23. That’s David, talking to God. Any child would tell you, if they could, that hand-holding brings much assurance, much security. Not only is God with me, but I am with God, through Christ. Charles Spurgeon, famous British preacher from the 1800’s, said this about Psalm 73:23: “Here is comfort for the tried and afflicted soul; vexed with the tempest within – look at the calm without. ‘Nevertheless’ – O say it in thy heart, and take the peace it gives. ‘Nevertheless I am continually with thee.’ ”

That is how I can hold on to the rail and look up at Vulcan on the observation deck.

That is how I can hold on to God and look ahead to the future.

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