For eleven days, now, I have been pretty well constantly dizzy. It’s especially bad when I stand up, or walk around. And I’ve been to a few doctors about it, and they pretty well agree about what’s wrong. What sucks is that it doesn’t seem to be terribly treatable.
Here’s how it’s been explained to me. When people stand up from a sitting position, blood should rush to the feet, and we should all feel light-headed. But there’s a nerve cluster by the carotid artery that regulates blood flow. Blood vessels are sent a signal to constrict, reducing blood flow downward. Most people experience a drop in their blood pressure of a point or two, but it’s very minor, and mostly we don’t notice it. We’ve all experienced that occasional vertigo when we stand too quickly on a hot day. But mostly, the human body has that situation covered.
But in my case, that nerve cluster seems to have been damaged, a kind of neuropathy, probably because I’m diabetic. So when they take my BP from prone, then sitting, then standing positions, three measurements in rapid succession, they record a drop in blood pressure of sixty points or more. And it lasts awhile; twenty minutes or more. And so I’m dizzy all the time, especially when I try to stand to do something.
And it sucks. It’s makes life pretty miserable. I’m directing a play right now, and rehearsals are an endurance contest, an exercise in just hanging on. Driving is possible, though difficult. I do tend to drive like a little old lady; very carefully. My Mario Andretti days are over. Except Mario’s 74 years old, so maybe I drive like him still!
I was up for a couple of hours last night, just thinking about this. And of course, the first reaction, the immediate human reaction, is self-pity. Why me? Why this? After fighting polymyositis to a draw four years ago, with the subsequent loss of muscle tissue and fine motor skills, now this? It doesn’t, to be honest, feel terribly fair.
But why not me? What makes me so frickin’ special? Everyone gets sick, everyone suffers, everyone dies. That’s the reality of life on this planet. Being dizzy a lot isn’t that bad, considering some of the alternatives. God is great and God is good, but God isn’t particularly nice, nor gentle. His divine plan includes hurricanes and tsunamis, malaria and smallpox, non-Hodgkins lymphoma and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. As He shouted to Job from the whirlwind, he populated this planet with behemoth and leviathan; monstrous creatures with unimaginable destructive power. And they’re needed. And also the smallest of bacteria, which kill so many more, so insidiously. And they’re needed too. Why? Beats me. But arguing against His justice seems a trifle pointless. We’re here to cope.
Meanwhile, I need to stop this cowardice and self-pity and get on with things. And I don’t mean major accomplishments. I mean cooking dinner tonight, serving my wife, who serves me so loyally and uncomplainingly. I mean making the bed, and tossing in a load of laundry. I mean driving an auto-less ward member to a crucial appointment. I mean going to rehearsal tonight, and going again tomorrow night, and serving these wonderful actors who had the courage to audition for a theatre production.
Above all, I need to be able to laugh at this. When I texted one of my sons with the news, his reply was ‘I’d tell a dizzy joke, but I’m afraid you’d fall down laughing.’ That’s the spirit! So, any dizzy jokes come to mind? Is there a dizziness joke website, perhaps? Of course there is. (“I’d see a doctor about this, but I don’t know ver-ti-go”).
We’re here on earth to serve each other, and serve our families, and serve our friends, and forgive and love and serve our enemies, even. And you can’t get a note from teacher excusing you from that assignment. We have to push forward, move on, show some courage and humor and get things done.
And that is what I intend to do. So no pity, please. Laugh at me and laugh with me, and tell me what I can do for you. Deal?