I woke up to my head sliding down the pillow. I sat right up on my bed, trying to gauge what’s happening. Holding the wall on my left, I realised and feared it’s intensity. I shook my sleeping sister. “Sri, wake up! It’s an earthquake!” She reluctantly turned to the other side.“Sri, just wake up!” I held her shoulders and made her sit, her eyes still closed. Next moment, I dragged her out of the room with myimbalanced footsteps. Reaching the stairs and waking up now, Sri asked, “What happened Di? What are you doing?”
“It’s the quake, can’t you feel? We need to get everyone awake and out of the house. C’mon, what are you waiting for!” I could barely standstraight. I looked up on the wall, fearing cracks might show up any moment.
“Di? Di?” Sri raised her voice, “Calm down,” she held me this time. “Nothing is happening, no earthquake, everything is still, everything isokay.” I shrugged her hands off me in shock. I didn’t believe her. I went straight to washroom with my wobbly steps to check the water inthe tank. It was still. This is the moment I freaked out. I was down on the floor. “Sri, something is happening to me, this isn’t normal.” AsI spoke, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. “Didi? Di? Wake up Di. Di!! Maaaa…..” I heard Sri’s voice faint away.
I woke up, embarrassed. I convinced mom I was fine. But Sri owed me answers. She has seen me having head spins before and she knewthis was different.
“You scared me!” Sri said with a stern face .
“I know it sounds weird but when I was down on the floor, my vision changed.”
“What do you mean by ‘your vision changed’?” Sri asked.
“It changed from being still to oscillating from one corner to the other. Say a full 180 degrees. And that was happening very fast, like inseconds.”
Sri listened to me with a deep frown, intrigued.
“So imagine this: the TV, cupboard, fan, sofa, everything in this room in your sight is oscillating at 180 degrees per second, non-stop, onloop for 30 minutes. This continued till the time mom popped that medicine in my mouth. And, during that vision thingy, my eyesbecame tired, too tired to keep them open but closing made me feel worse. I don’t remember when I fell asleep though. As of now, I feelfresh as morning dew.”
After intently listening to me, Sri asked “Which brand of weed were you high on?”
3 months later
I woke up to my usual morning alarm and sensed something weird in my head. It felt like magnet. “It’s happening again!” I feared it morethan a real earthquake. That day my world-spinning episode lasted for an hour and a half. I puked as well. The entire time I felt I am on aroller coaster. Well, I don’t hate roller coasters but just imagine that ride for 1.5 hours!
“Hey, are you not coming for the rehearsals today? Tomorrow is the show.” My dance partner enquired.
“Not too well. Don’t worry, we’ll do fine tomorrow.” I assured, upset for not making it.
After a medical check-up, I came to know about this phenomenon of vertigo attacks. Vertigo is commonly mistaken as fear of heights- in real, termed as Acrophobia. Well, I have both.
Post examination, the doctor suspected my vertigo attacks triggered from spondylitis and put me under medication.
But things didn’t go much as planned.
I had 7 attacks in the next 1 month- the duration of episode increased each time and so did the intensity. Earlier, it just happened after Iwoke up in the morning but now, it triggered anywhere, any moment- made me feel extremely vulnerable. But I was still doing okay, tillthe day when it lasted for 4 odd hours and made me feel dizzy for the next 2 days. That was the point when it gradually started to getinside my head.
“I am not supposed to have these attacks in the medication week, at least. The tests are fine, I don’t have spondylitis or brain tumour. Theyoga is not helping, now the medicines are giving in. I have consulted 3 doctors in 4 weeks and I still don’t know what the hell is wrong with me..”
“..You know the worst part? It’s deciding my day for me, I returned home midway en-route office, I missed that meeting I so looked forward to, I missed that movie, that rehearsal, missed having cup of coffee with you, missed my flight, our trip… only because I couldn't bloody stand steady on my feet. Last day when I was having the attack - I told myself if this is going to be my routine, then I’d better learn to live with it. I went towards the washroom, lost balance and hit my head hard on the wall. I tried. But..” covering my face with my hands, “I think I am starting to get depressed.”
He just hugged me tight.
Doctor: How long has it been since the first episode?
Me: 10 months.
Doctor: Hmm. Listen very carefully what I am about to say. Alright?
Me: Uh huh (nodding my head)
Doctor: You have Meniere's disease. I am disappointed that this couldn’t be diagnosed earlier and you had to suffer through the months.However, not too disappointed ‘cause it’s a very rare disease. Fewer-than-1-in-a-million rare. It is chronic and most likely will last a lifetime. No cure is found for this condition, yet. Harvard is still on it.
Me: Okay. So? (was too spellbound to utter anything else)
Doctor: You feel anything odd in any of your ear?
Me: Yes, there is a fullness in my right ear and a ringing sound which increases post-attack.
Doctor: Yes, that is called Tinnitus. Very common symptom. Vertigo attacks can trigger from a number of health conditions (like Spondylitis). But your attacks are extremely intense and are caused from imbalances in your right ear. And with each episode you’ll lose your hearing capacity. Once you are completely deaf, the episodes will stop.
Me: And there’s no way to stop that?
Doctor: (writing prescription) I am afraid - no. You’ll lose your right ear eventually. However, the vertigo attacks can be controlled(turning the prescription towards me). Have this twice, everyday.
Me: For how long?
Doctor: Forever. These have no proven side-effects. The powers go from 24 to 2000 mg. It’s enough for your lifetime.
A rare disease - not curable – being deaf in right ear - lifelong medication - that was one of the saddest day in a very long time.
Me: “I am happy that I know about it now. Thank you for taking me here, I wasn’t sure myself.”
Him: “Ice cream? Okay, but first let’s buy you cookies.”
“Being deaf doesn’t really go with my image, does it? I mean I could have had high power in my eyes or sinus or injured ligament. Butdeaf? How does it sound, really?” I asked Sri.
She looked at me with a straight face and said, “hashtag: get a life”
“You know, last week I was on the other side of the table and was having a bad day with the tinnitus. I couldn’t understand clearly what my colleague was saying. It was a funny story I could decipher from everyone’s face. I occasionally laughed, having no idea about the topic. I tried to read her lips but gave up in the end. I just couldn’t admit that I can’t hear properly and I take medicines for that.”
Sri sat next to me. “I have started missing out on conversations, Sri, especially in a crowded place - I try to make sense hearing the keywords and when it gets too frustrating, I just leave the place and walk away. I subconsciously lean towards my left to hear properly.Sometimes, I feel I am losing my left ear as well. I am not sure if I can ever get used to this!”
After a pause, Sri said softly, “Even if you didn’t have these ears sticking out of your face - you’d still slay people when you’d walk past them. So, don’t have to worry about your ‘image’ - just don’t miss your medicines.”
3 years later
Sri saw me sitting on the bench, turning back. We were meeting after 6 months in park of a different city, we were both very excited. Asshe approached, she called me 4-5 times. “Di? Di?..” Others responded by an awkward stare to her random ‘Di’ but I didn't. She stopped calling out. Her grin instantly turned into tension, fearing the worst. ‘I knew she was hiding something when she said everything was fine,’ Sri thought as she approached. She got upset. Standing right behind me, she called me once more. “Di?” I didn't respond this timeas well. Her bright eyes glistening with excitement had now become moist. Her throat choked. She gently put her hand on my shoulder.
I turned, elated. “Heyyyy…, I was interrupted by her tears. “Hey wassup? Everything okay?” I asked her, putting off my AirPods.
“You were listening to music all this time?” Sri enquired.
“Yes - is there a problem?” I looked puzzled.
“Bloody hell - I thought you have become deaf in both ears, I was calling you out loud!”
“Sorry baby bro!” I apologised sincerely.
“How are you?” Sri asked, almost angry.
“I am ummm.. good. My attacks have considerably reduced to hardly 15 mins. Right ear has been the same since a year now. Doc says what's gone is gone – but it’s a good sign that it is not getting worse. Dosage of medicine hasn’t been up since. So, I guess I am doing better than how it started. You?” I asked.
“Good. New college, new friends. So far so good, too.” Sitting down now, “By the way – Paragliding huh? That’s rocking! But how did that happen? Are you even allowed to do that in your condition? Plus, I thought you feared heights most after cockroaches,” Sri teased.
“I guess once you learn to live with your fears and weaknesses, they also learn to live with you. So, we have made amends with each other.It’s much like the annoying relatives we have– since we have to live with them, might as well do it with a smile. And please don’t even mention the word ‘rocking’ - I like my world still.”
We both smiled at that.
“But, I am really very sorry about not hearing you call me,” trying to explain myself out of guilt, “Actually this thing has noise cancella..”
“I don’t care, Di,” Sri interrupted and snatched my AirPods. “There is price for my tears - These are mine now.” Putting them in her ears,she replied to my guilty-turned-agonized face, “Hashtag: Sibling things.”