That may not sound like a big deal, but for me, it was huge.
The struggles with vertigo and dizziness since October have kept me far away from the indoor pool. The last time I went swimming, I experienced dizziness while swimming, as well as vertigo (false sense of the ground moving or slipping away) when in the locker room.
About a week later, I almost passed out on a subway platform when on my way to the animal shelter.
That particular episode of weakness, dizziness and vertigo landed me in the hospital overnight. The total lack of control one feels when experiencing these symptoms easily leads to panic. By the time I arrived at the Emergency Room in a cab that late October evening, I was barely able to walk without stumbling and wavering like a drunk. Doctors saw me immediately.
But, tests revealed nothing seriously wrong and I was sent home the following day with a prescription for "Zoloft" (an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drug) which I never bothered to fill. The possible side effects of the medication included "dizziness" and it made no sense to potentially exacerbate a problem I was already experiencing big time.
Research on the Internet, as well as a previous 9-month bout with this affliction back in 2002 led me to believe the problem was mainly due to an inner ear fluid imbalance -- a fairly common problem apparently, but one which we rarely hear anything about.
Since that time I have been forcing myself to do those things that seem the most "scary" when dealing with this kind of problem. -- Long, brisk walks (with the dogs) in the park. Dancing with special emphasis on turns. And oddly enough, a "balancing" exercise that involves walking with my dogs on a fairly narrow, short, stone wall in the park. The wall is about a city block long.
The first time I stepped on the wall (which ranges from about 2 to 3 feet high), my legs went immediately weak and I was sure I would fall off. A feeling of panic washed over me.
But, with both Tina and Chance slowly walking in front of me, we were able to prevail and walk the entire length of the wall.
When finally reaching the end and jumping off, I felt this enormous sense of relief -- and victory. The ground suddenly felt very solid under my feet. I felt almost 100% of "normal!"
Since the first "wall walk" about three or four weeks back, there have been many others; each one getting just a little easier.
I realize it probably looks a little odd to passers-by. An older woman with two dogs balancing and walking on a short, narrow wall (like some kid), but it was really something important to do. -- like a kind of physical therapy. If balance is the problem, then it is balance that has to be addressed. That means doing scary or even crazy looking things.
But, I hadn't been on a subway alone since that frightening day back in late October. Nor, had I been to the indoor pool again.
But, yesterday I felt particularly embolden, especially since taking my dogs on a two hour, almost 3-mile hike in the park in the mid afternoon.
Last night, I thought to myself: "Why not? It's time to try again!"
But, I was nervous when packing my swim bag. Anxious questions began to pop up in my brain:
What if I start wavering on the subway platform? What if I go dizzy when walking down the narrow, winding staircase at the city pool? What if I get dizzy while swimming again?
I could not be sure about any of the questions -- or their answers.
But, in the end, I pushed them out of my head. It simply wasn't a time to give into fears and anxiety. If exercise was the thing making me feel better and stronger over these past few weeks, then exercise was the thing to embrace and not avoid.
I focused on the music playing through my Walkman while waiting for the train on the subway platform. I was careful to enter a subway car that would leave me closest to the street exit when getting off at 59th Street. The worst thing would be to get caught in any kind of crowd getting off the train. -- That is what happened back in October.
The subway ride went amazingly well. I was able to make a quick exit from the train, avoid a crowd and get on the street within a mere minute or two.
But, that was only the beginning.....
When arriving at the pool, I experienced some initial feelings of vertigo and dizziness when in the locker room. But, I attributed them to mostly anxiety.
The unsteady feeling continued through a quick shower and making my way to the actual pool.
Am I crazy? I wondered. Jumping in a pool when I feel so unsteady and off balance?
But, I jumped in anyway.
The real "test" would occur once I was actually in the water. I had come this far and there was no sense in chickening out now. If worse came to worse, there was a lifeguard stationed at the pool.
The water was almost shockingly cold, and one had to immediately start swimming in order to warm up.
Once swimming, a feeling of great relief swept over me. -- Everything felt normal!
I swam for about 40 minutes. Far less than I normally did over last summer, but it was like a dream come true. No dizziness. No feelings of nausea, "fading out" or panic. It was just so wonderful to be in the water again.
Back in the locker room and shower after the swim, things continued to feel great. The anxiety and unsteadiness of earlier in the evening was gone.
I realize it is probably foolhardy or presumptive to say I am totally "cured" from the vertigo spells based upon one successful swim.
Nor, would it be accurate to say that the recent progress in battling this (apparently inner ear) affliction is based entirely on exercise and "balancing therapy."
About two weeks ago, I saw a commercial on TV for an over-the-counter product designed to address "ringing in the ear."
I don't have ringing in the ear, but since the condition is related to inner ear circulation problems, I figured I would check it out.
The next day, I read the label on "Lipo-Flavonoid" (a dietary supplement, rather than drug) and it was also indicated to be helpful in dizziness/vertigo associated with the inner ear.
I had nothing to lose by trying it.
And indeed, the only thing "lost" since purchasing and using this product are the intensity and length of the vertigo spells.
Its the first time I would say a product advertised on TV turned out to be really helpful!
The funny part is, the product wasn't even advertised to be helpful in inner ear balance problems and/or vertigo!
How odd is it, that sometimes the remedies for afflictions that plague or debilitate us are right under our noses?
Under our noses in the sense of our own bodies that need to be challenged and worked or a simple (fairly inexpensive) supplement on the shelf of the local CVS.
One is tempted to wonder, what good are doctors and hospitals for the simple problems that commonly ail people or can seriously disrupt our lives?
More often than not, the real cure is ultimately within us.
I am (hopefully) "Dizzy Lizzy" no more.