Before the Dx

I found an old account of the 2003 exacerbation — though I was still years from being diagnosed with MS, nothing else could’ve rightfully explained all of the neurological symptoms attached to this “vertigo.” Years later, knowing what caused this does not disappear the breathless fear I still experience when reliving it. I do not remember most of a month of my life, and for a year afterward suffered ruthless Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that I clawed my way out of with time and some excellent therapy.

March-April, 2003:
When the alarm clock went off, it went off like cannons throughout the entire scope of space; I rolled over but I wasn’t rolling but I wasn’t stopping. I opened my eyes to a super-sonic moving blindness that tore through my entire body.

I’m having a stroke I’m having a stroke I’m having a stroke

Was all I could think, then I began vomiting. I tried to stand, I fell. My eyes wouldn’t focus; when I opened them all I could see was a gray wheel throwing itself counter-clockwise. All I could hear were silence and alarm clocks. My alarm clock, the ringing in my ears, the wall, the wall, the wall and I just kept falling even after I knew I had hit the ground. I wet myself. I stood. I fell. I vomited. I moaned. I moved. I moaned. I vomited. I dry heaved. I dry heaved. I laid on the floor, I held my body perfectly still and heaved and moaned. I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t figure out how. I was more terrified than I could ever have hoped to conceive, and I thought I had felt it all. Having had guns pointed at my face was terrifying, was a loss of control I had assumed never could be surpassed.

I had to get to a phone. I had to get help. I had to get to the bathroom. I had to move, I had to get somewhere. I had to but couldn’t. I was certain I was going to die. I have never before in my life been more certain of it. Every change in direction took several minutes of violent adjustment. I moved one knee, one elbow at a time and crawled, dry heaving and falling over and pulling my body like a dying animal down the hallway (my taupe mile). I sincerely doubted that I would live to reach the phone. I moaned.

When I reached the phone, I dropped it three times. I couldn’t hold on to anything. I opened my eyes and dry heaved. There were no numbers, no keypad – just that arc stabbing sideways through my ears. I pressed buttons, examined the panel, dialed several times before it rang correctly. I called my partner at work and begged her to get me, to take me to the hospital. Of course, I had by then forgotten that she had no car. I told her to get a ride, get home, get me to the emergency room.

Nearly an hour passed. I have never felt such an agony that I could not control whether or not I was moaning. I moaned and rocked and held my body still. I opened my eyes, heaved. I closed my eyes, heaved. I cried and clawed at my face, at my ears, at my head. I held my head like a vice between my hands and waited, whimpering and moaning.

Car rides make it worse.

I was seen right away at the ER – this, of course, was the visit during which I was misdiagnosed and sent home with instructions “not to eat spicy foods.” I KNEW that was bullshit. But the worst had passed. I slept for 12 hours. When I woke, my partner was giving me antibiotics and propping me up on the couch. I spent the night in a delirium, slept in fits, then woke again the next morning feeling like shit. But since I’d been told I “might just have a bacterial stomach infection,” I went to work.

I should not have driven. I should not have tried to go to work. I was alert, but my eyes were so blurred I couldn’t see my data entry busywork. I tried to file, but kept falling over. I was getting strange looks from co-workers. I started to feel worse, but I made it until lunch; I went to my partner’s job. There, the car broke down.

I called into work as the second attack began. My partner took me home, propped me up, and sat helplessly with me. When I woke the next morning into the same relentless agony – and I mean “agony” in the truest, most serious way a person can – I begged her to take me back to the emergency room. Because the last ER doctor was obviously ignorant, we went to a different hospital. This visit was more surreal than the last — no one was in the ER, not even nurses. Then there was a fantastically obese nurse named “Matilda” who was rolling me over to stick a needle in my ass, and then, the doctor. “Viral Labyrinthitis,” he declared, and sent me home, still having the attack, but now sedated. I slept for 24 hours. I slept sitting upright. I slept sitting upright for another week.

I had four severe attacks, each lasting several hours. Over the next month, I had constant severe dizziness and stabbing ear pain. I have no idea what has happened to my body, but I know it is forever changed.

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