When I was around 28 weeks pregnant with my youngest, I woke up in the middle of a rainy night to the sound of my 3-year old crying. This was nothing new in those days. I had a pitifully consistent nightly routine of waking repeatedly to calm and soothe him, as he was a very fitful sleeper (for reasons I now understand all too well). So on this particular night I converted to autopilot and rolled myself out of bed once again to make the dark and lonely trek up the stairs to his room, before he managed to wake anyone else in the house.
But something was very different this time. And very wrong. As I made my way through the pastel glow of the nightlight-lit foyer and up the carpeted stairs, I had a strangely difficult time finding my balance, and my head felt exceedingly dull and heavy. I had to use both handrails to get up to the second floor, and then fell clumsily and hard against the wall just outside his door. By the time I got to his bed, the dizziness was out of this world, and all I could do was kneel my swollen, big-bellied self onto his bedroom floor, lay my head on the side of his bed, and pat his bum until he settled himself back to sleep. The slightest movement of my head sent everything spinning in such a relentless and violent way that I began to feel terribly nauseous. Sensing that my little guy was peaceful again, I carefully stumbled and groped my way back to the main floor with one hand searching for a stable grip, and the other outstretched to catch a potential fall. It felt like I was being forcibly and unpredictably shoved from various angles while the walls continued to spin around me like a merciless amusement park ride. And the punishment just kept getting worse.
Within the hour, I was in an ambulance and on my way to the ER. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before, and being so very pregnant, it was especially scary. Turns out I did not have some rare and incurable disease, as my anxious and weary mind had started to conjure, but rather "just" a severe case of vertigo. I couldn't believe something as (seemingly) insignificant as my tiny inner ear was causing all of this mayhem!
After all the tests were run, and the diagnosis confirmed, the doctors were ready to send me home later that same day with simple instructions to rest. There really wasn't anything they could do, and no medications they could offer that wouldn't possibly endanger the pregnancy. But I was still feeling so miserable and felt so anxious at the thought of returning to a busy 5 and 3 year old and all the responsibilities of homemaking and motherhood, that I begged them if I could possibly stay longer at the hospital. As long as I was there, I knew I had a good excuse to do nothing and be responsible for no one but myself. My level of stress and exhaustion during those days was pretty intense most of the time, though I covered it well. Underneath, I was beyond overwhelmed and had pushed my mind and body much too hard for far too long, ignoring all the symptoms of trouble along the way and convincing myself that I could handle it. Graciously, the hospital staff had pity on me and let me stay. And thankfully - the vertigo has never again reached this level of severity.
Vertigo told me then - your life is out of balance, Amy. Pay attention.
Fast forward a decade to about a year ago, when I was experimenting with re-introducing gluten in my diet after being strict gluten-free for a number of years. Months went by with seemingly no ill effects, and I began to feel giddy with the thought of making various organic bready creations again with my very own sourdough starter. So many possibilities! As time clicked on, some mild vertigo came back out of the blue. I chalked it up to the change in weather, then the multiple days of rain, the heat wave, and then maybe the pollen count. Hormones? The demands of starting another homeschooling year?
The dizziness wasn't too severe as long as I kept my head in a neutral position, and didn't stand up from a sitting or lying down position too quickly, but it got more intense during the night whenever I turned my head on the pillow or rolled from side to side. As this and other more troubling symptoms began surfacing and worsening over the course of a year, I finally put it together that gluten was the culprit of it all. I immediately eliminated all gluten-containing foods from my diet again, this time permanently, and BAM - the vertigo disappeared, along with all the other negative side effects of this single food ingredient.
Vertigo told me then - your diet is out of balance, Amy. Pay attention.
Now fast-forward one more time to about a month or two ago. I was sleeping like a champ! Eating great! Exercising outdoors daily and continuing to build strength. Stress level was totally manageable. I was feeling confident and steady, focused and content with life. And yet, after months of freedom...the dang vertigo reappeared one day and stubbornly decided to stick around. What?! I was so puzzled. What am I doing wrong? Where am I out of balance? The only thing I could think of was that maybe it was a delayed reaction to a specific supplement protocol I had just completed. The spinning and dizziness was happening daily, multiple times a day, and was especially irritating when episodes began occurring at the gym as I went from a standing position to my back for floor work, and then up again, and even when doing simple stretches that required any kind of bending. I didn't say anything to anybody in these classes, but instead would squeeze my eyes shut, will my body to hold steady and the room to stop spinning, and wait for the dizzy spell to pass. This sort of thing has happened every.single.day, without fail, for more than a month.
And then this week, all week, it went away completely again.
What changed? Only one thing. Get this - last week about this time, I finally decided to take a break from posting so aggressively on Facebook. Those of you who follow along there might have noticed I was remarkably consistent with a post and story a day...for months...on a health-related topic. Some content was whimsical, but most of it was hard-hitting, and it was a challenge I thoroughly enjoyed...writing something daily that was well-crafted, organized, and engaging - inviting casual scrollers stop, read, and thoughtfully consider. But after so many weeks, I had reached a point where I was ready to step away from "production mode" and just rest a few days while my brain replenished its creative juices, and I focused all my energy into being a regular wife and mom who wasn't on a daily mission to educate the world, or at least my little corner of it.
Not a single vertigo episode all week. NONE. NADA. ZIPPO.
Maybe it has something to do with my vision, and the quickly scrolling screen. Maybe it's the intensity with which I think about my words, or stare into the blank page waiting for thoughts to come to life. Whatever it is, I know this much...
Vertigo told me this time - your passion is out of balance, Amy. Pay attention.
And I am.