A Descent Into Madness

Labyrinthitis and its Symptoms

When I first heard the term "Labyrinthitis" from the attending doctor at my local emergency clinic, my first thought was, "Um. Isn't that a David Bowie 80's movie with Muppets?" But upon mulling the term over, it seemed to make sense: when one is trapped within a labyrinth, or maze, they have no sense of direction. How appropriate.

It began on the rather benign morning of January 16th.  A Wednesday. Per my family's usual routine, I awoke at 6am to get my two youngest kids dressed and ready for Preschool and Kindergarten, and realized I felt a bit light-headed. Nothing alarming, just a little "woozy," as I call it.

My wife is a Kindergarten teacher, and so each morning drives my daughter to her preschool, then takes herself and my son to school/work.  My job as a professional writer/insurance agent provides me the luxury of working from home. So, on the mornings I awaken to notable discomfort, I am fortunate enough to be able to lie back down for a few moments in order to give whatever medication I might have taken for the problem time to work. Usually, after 10 - 20 minutes, I'm feeling better and it’s off to the shower to start my day.

However, on this particular morning, that was not to be.

After my family left at 6:45, per my usual procedure on days like this, I decided to lay down, just to close my eyes and to try to clear my head. Apparently I fell asleep, because 3 hours later, I opened my eyes to the sound of my cell phone ringing, and feeling much worse.
I sat up quickly to answer the phone, and immediately I was overwhelmed with what I can only describe as extreme vertigo and startling nausea. I lay back down, hoping to stop the room from spinning. Yes, *spinning*. As in, "I-just-spent-a-full-two-minutes-on-a-park-merry-go-round-which-was-revolving-at-mach-2" spinning. I shut my eyes. *HRRRPPP!* Nope, big mistake. Not being able to see when one feels as though they are spinning like crazy only provokes nausea to rear its ugly head like a 100-foot tsunami. I opened my eyes, fixated my gaze upon my dresser, and begged for mercy.

Thankfully, the more still I was, the more quickly the room's revolutions slowed. When it finally came to a halt, I sighed in relief. Then, genius that I am, sat bolt upright again to see whom the call I missed was from.

I'm an idiot.

"Oh, just the drug store," Thought I. "Probably just to tell me a prescription is rea . . . *OBBUUHHH!*"

Once again, I felt myself thrown into the bottomless pit of vertigo. Nausea swept over me like a wet towel, as it enrobed me with panic. At this point, it was too late to try my "lay back down/fixate on something" trick; I needed a bathroom, quick. I leapt from my bed and hobbled straight for what I determined was most likely the master bathroom. Thankfully, it was, and I somehow managed to fall against the door jamb, army crawl across the wall past my shower, and made it to the commode just in time.

Vomiting is bad enough. It's worse when you're not sure where to aim.

After much effort, I managed to make it back to my bed through a combination of fixating my eyes on one stationary object and moving at snail speed. Once I arrived, I picked up my trusty smartphone in order to research what in the world could be causing me such amazing unpleasantness.

I googled "dizzy," "vertigo," and "nausea" in several different combinations. Eventually, I came across an article entitled, "Why Am I So Dizzy?" in (of all things) a pregnancy forum. In my chronic desperation, I investigated. The answer given was that the dizziness was "likely due to dehydration" and was "common" with pregnant women. I, being a 36-year-old man, was in fact NOT pregnant, but I supposed my condition might be related to the dehydration. So, I prepared myself for another journey back into the bathroom in order to get myself a cup of water.

Moving slowly and carefully, I made it to my bathroom sink and tried drinking about 4 oz. of water from my cup. Ten seconds later, upon no noticeable effect, I drank another 4 oz. Convinced I had just cured myself, I trudged back to my bed, expecting to take a short nap and awaken 100% restored.

An hour later, I awoke feeling the same. I sat upright, albeit slowly and carefully this time, and once again found myself feeling the effects of a super-charged, sadistic Tilt-A-Whirl. I again clumsily bolted for the bathroom. After losing the "cure" I had earlier administered myself, I took some aspirin and chose to get back into bed, stare at something until the spinning again subsided, and do what work for the day I could via my Android.

I made my colleagues and friends aware of my infirmity via e-mail and updates. It took a long time to construct the text to my satisfaction, as everything I wrote about what I was experiencing sounded as though I was whining about a simple mild inconvenience, but was still taking a "sick day." Sure enough, within the hour of sending out the notices, I get a response from a former colleague/friend ribbing me about being a hypochondriac.

I can assure you, my dear readers, if I were to pull a hypochondriac moment, I surely wouldn't select this infirmity to befall me, or even my worst enemy, for that matter. Imagine being cursed your whole life with a ridiculously sensitive stomach for *any* kind of motion sickness (air, car, sea, etc.) In fact, just ask any of my in-laws about my lovely experience aboard the fishing vessel "Wharf Cat."

Now, imagine yourself having an infection that causes the world to spin *relentlessly* any time your head is rotated or moved more than an inch per second.

I cannot stress this enough -- I actually found myself comparing the experience to Dante's Inferno, going so far as to note to myself that all of the condemned must feel this way at all times. With that revelation, I instantly wanted to live a much more pious and righteous life!

Remember Brando's classic line: "The horror . . . the horror . . . "? Well, I now understand his reference.

Am I being dramatic? Am I exaggerating for comedic effect? Very much on the contrary. I *still* feel as though I've understated what I endured that dreadful day, and -- though mercifully to a lesser extent -- for the following two weeks.

My official diagnosis was finally pronounced later that evening, thanks to both my wife and mother insisting I visit an urgent care clinic. That's where I first heard the word "Labyrinthitis," and then took the time to read about it in its Wikipedia article. My treatment: take 25mg of Meclozine (sold over-the-counter as Bonine and Dramamine Less Drowsy Formula, or Dramamine II) and rest.*  Thankfully, by the next day, I was already on the mend. But it took almost two whole weeks of rest and caution before I felt completely back to normal again.

It's a simple inflammation of the inner ear, Labyrinthitis. It sounds like such a trivial thing, yet never have I felt more debilitated in my life; not even when I came dangerously close to hospitalization with gastroenteritis, or when I had to perform four stage performances of "Room Service" with the worst case of Flu I'd ever experienced.

Everyone has irrational fears of something, whether they readily admit to them or not. I have 4: snakes, balloons bursting near me, rubber bands being aimed at me (last two courtesy of my older brother during our childhood,) and being stuck on something which churns my stomach and not being able to get off. Coupled with the migraine headache that came and went every half hour with this condition -- seriously, it was the worst physical discomfort I've ever had.

Please forgive the epic soliloquy; I find myself typing away on my laptop with an insatiable need to talk about the ordeal. And in truth, it actually is making me feel better to talk about it. Lucky you, the reader, for getting to skip happily at my side as I lurk back down Horrid Memory Lane.

I certainly hope this entire read about the ghastly woes of Labyrinthitis hasn't come across as self-pitying or a "woe is me" moment. I suppose I just feel somewhat traumatized by the whole thing, and I consider my readers to be my source of comfort when I need a listening ear or two . . . or seventy thousand.  So, whom better to talk to when one needs to talk, hm?

Don't worry. I'll be back soon enough talking about my standard mindless drivel and unsuccesfully attempting to get a cheap laugh. Until then -- "Boo hoo hoo. Wah, wah, wah."

- Schmendrick

*NOTE: This article should in no way serve as guidance to seek the same treatment as I was given. If you experience symptoms similar to those of Labyrinthitis, seek the advice of a doctor before attempting any treatment.