Flash forward to early May 2006. By then, the tinnitus was often so ear-splitting that I’d debate hitting my head against a wall to knock myself out. I’d lost 70% of hearing in my left ear. The specialist had told me I’d ultimately lose all my hearing in both ears and become totally deaf. Occasional vertigo sent me tumbling to the floor. This type of vertigo lasted only a few seconds or minutes. Nothing rotated. The world briefly whirled, then settled in place.
Throughout those years, the specialist dealt simply with what presented itself as it presented itself. First I learned about tinnitus. When I lost hearing, he told me that was Ménière’s. When dizziness started, he added that to the list.
After the May 11, 2006, incident, he didn’t explain why the vertigo had suddenly changed and become something quite different from what I’d been experiencing. Nor did he give me a name for what had happened. I don't think he or any other doctor knew why. Moreover, I suspect he had no term to offer me.
I found the descriptive words acute rotational vertigo episode in a posting by someone who had Ménière’s. I learned that some people with the disease face this symptom often, some never, and some only once. I googled the disease only after encountering this new type of vertigo. I hadn’t done so earlier because Ménière’s wasn’t affecting my life much during those six years.
As the summer of 2006 passed, I found words for each of the seven distinct aspects of Ménière’s that I'd isolated in my thinking about it. On any given day, I could be lightheaded . . . tentative . . . slurry . . . imbalanced . . . woozy . . . dizzy with simple vertigo . . . terrorized by acute rotational vertigo.
This vocabulary spans the gap between “It's nothing to write home about”—lightheaded—and “Get me to emergency!”—terrorized by acute rotational vertigo.
The night Ménière’s high-jacked my life, I wasn’t searching for words to pinpoint what was happening. I was alone in an alternate world that was spiraling my life out of control.
My biggest fear was that I’d have an episode that wouldn’t go away—that rotational vertigo would become my new reality. For the next sixteen months, a strong sense of foreboding took up residence within me.