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As of this post, I have been suffering through a bout of vertigo for five days. This hasn't been the worst case I've endured (it is dragging its way to No. 2 though), but it has been among the most frustrating and worrisome.

Vertigo, at its worst, is the Hitchcock movie with the world spinning in front, behind and everywhere around you. It is the visual effects of a bad hangover without the preceding fun drinking contests. It is breaking into sweats and nausea from just sitting up in bed. It is disorienting, exhausting, frustrating, depressing and frightening. Once it takes full hold of you it is impossible to predict how bad it is going to get or how long it is going to stay. As I have been host to this unwelcome and spontaneous guest, off and on, for nearly 7 years, the effects no longer surprise me, it is just the reason for the visit that always does. More times than not, the reason is a mystery. That mystery grows more unsettling as the episodes reappear. Today I wondered about the other feelings vertigo has brought on for me and do they happen to others?

Paranoia. When you are struggling to walk erect and look straight ahead are people only seeing that you are wobbly and your eyes are dancing like a mosquito flies? If they think that of you, are they believing that you're high on drugs or alcohol or just some kind of a nut? People can't see you're fighting vertigo as simply as they can see you're coughing and sneezing and fighting a cold. Thinking someone is staring at you while you have vertigo intensifies the effects because as you fight harder to appear "fine," like a drunk at a road stop would, the stress that is a part of the condition builds. Your brain's battle to find balance rests on eggshells and the slightest, otherwise normal, misstep becomes magnified because you don't know when the vertigo is going to leave or whether it is really the sole problem.

Fear. Imagine going to a store to buy something simple like a birthday gift for your brother and the moment after you walk into the Target you stop. And stare. For a moment. Lost. Having completely forgotten what you are there to buy. Is this the feeling victims of Alzheimers first confront? Are people staring as you, standing stock still and on the verge of tears, search your spinning brain for clarity and recollection?

Insecurity. When you are an actor and you are hit with vertigo on the eve of a stage performance or a television shoot and there is no drug, no pain killer, no needle, that can clear or minimize your confusion what do you do? When you are a speaker, a politician or anyone whose career revolves around public presentations do you have to retire to the sidelines? I've tried meclizine, exercises, prayers and none have I found it to be 100% effective in defeating this malady. This is not to say, however, that I won't give up the fight.

If you don't all ready, consider those you encounter who suffer from migraines, or alzheimer's or vertigo. Seek for yourself games and activities that stimulate your brain and relieve the stress in your lives. Embrace Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? and help a child or your child with their math and science homework. Such pursuits are not frivolous. They are key to maintaining a healthy life. I memorize lyrics to a song even when I don't have a performance to give. I schedule a massage now and then even when my back feels perfect.

I do this because I now consider vertigo synonymous with fear and I will find a way to stop my head from spinning.

Chris Haley - 5/7/2012 9:55 AM

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