Level-Up: Part 8

Every Sunday I record my health achievements and discoveries for the week here. To find out why I decided to start doing this, you can read an explanation in the first post of the series here.

You would think that a week in which I went to the pub for lunch with some friends and then spent close to a couple of hours standing around chatting with my former colleagues in their spookily familiar offices would be my biggest challenge. Strangely, it wasn’t. Although, my escapades the night before certainly made that afternoon more tiring than it necessarily needed to be.

The problem with having such a badly wired vestibular system is that other parts of the body have to work harder. My body pools its resources so that I can balance myself as well as possible. It’s a little like that old adage that when one of your senses fails, the others become stronger. My eyes, along with my legs, arms, torso and neck do much of my balance work for me.

My left hip and right ankle are really sore at the moment because I’ve been trying to walk more. I walk in an odd way and they’re struggling to get used to this new way of walking. When I’ve had to stay still for a while or when I’ve been particularly dizzy, I get a lot of pain and tension in my neck because my head’s been trying to keep itself from moving with the movement my brain perceives. My eyes struggle in the dark because they have to strain more to see where I’m going. This, as you might imagine, makes me more off-balance because my eyes are otherwise engaged in, well, seeing!

Late on Thursday afternoon I remembered I had something I was meant to take to the post office that day. It was one of those things that just couldn’t wait. It was getting dark and having not gone for a solo walk in the dark since my illness set in, I was in two minds over whether I could actually manage it. Charged with a shock of adrenaline I decided to go for it, with mixed results.

The walk to the shops was more difficult than usual but, as it wasn’t yet completely dark, my eyes steered my right. I was also having a text message conversation throughout the entire walk, which made me feel that I had an imaginary arm to hold on to and regularly made me laugh, distracting me from how wobbly I was really feeling.

By the time I was ready to leave the sky was pitch black and my vision significantly reduced. I immediately decided I couldn’t make my way home and sat on the post office wall to consider how I was actually going to solve the problem. I might also have had a quiet cry while I sat there. I felt too embarrassed to call a taxi, despite my far-away cheerleader trying to convince me it wasn’t failure. I watched people rushing past me, all with somewhere to be, and I felt jealous. It’s an emotion I rarely let in anymore, because it’s so destructive. I wanted to rush off home too, but I couldn’t even stand at that point. I was reminded that it was the choice to rush that I was envious of, and that I was choosing to sit until I was ready to move off again. This helped.

It struck me that I couldn’t stay there all night so I set off again, slowly and carefully. My route had either a flat side of the street or one with more streetlights. I chose to stay under the lights for as long as possible to help my eyes out. Thanks to a few extra stops on the way, tentative steps and my cheerleader turning tears into laughter all the way, I made it. I was totally exhausted, but I got home.

It may have been a bit traumatic and it probably wasn’t my wisest decision ever, but it’s another barrier broken down. It’s another thing that’s moved from the “I can’t do this at all” list to the “I can do this with help sometimes” list. And that’s got to be worth a little embarrassment, a few tears and a couple of extra days of tiredness.



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