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A Grain of Sand

“A tiny crystal in your inner ear, smaller than a grain of sand, moved the wrong way and pressed on the nerves that tell you which way is up,” the earnest young ER doctor explained. I had been sitting quietly at my kitchen table when the world turned into a gigantic tilt-a-whirl ride, with no up or down and everything in motion…

That was Thursday midnight two weeks ago. Six rather dramatically unpleasant hours later, it took me another hour to travel, inchworm-style, the 20 feet to the phone and dial 911. By then I was severely dehydrated and still unable to turn or lift my head. But—and this is the miracle that has made it all worth it—as soon as my mind stopped functioning (severe vertigo and its paroxysmal consequences will do that to a person) another “I” took over.

Even as the non-stop and spectacularly wrenching “consequences” began, I heard a calm, clear Voice—my own voice, but not my mind’s voice—say, I am not sick. My body is having a challenge, but I am not sick.” That mantra, repeated at intervals, became a solid, upright pole to cling to in the midst of inner and outer chaos.

That same Voice coached me through every minute and every inch of the next six hours, telling me just where to place my convulsing body, how to manage to change positions, etc. etc. Every minute, every inch. And when, under its calm direction, I began that endless inchworm crawl to the phone, this Inner Coach cheered me on. “You do realize, Pat,” it—I—said, “that this is heroism. Let others climb mountains; this is your heroic moment. You will save your own life by getting to that phone. And you will get there.”

Then this Inner Coach—I—told me just where to place my hands, feet, knees, hips… how to keep the living room carpet free from, er, consequences… how to dial 911 in the dark and just what to say… how to get to the door and unlock it… where and how to position myself so the EMTs wouldn’t open the door onto me. It—I—used my voice to give precise directions to the thoughtful EMT who packed clothing, my purse keys, phone… all without my being able to open my eyes or lift my head. It gave vital information to the EMTs in the ambulance and then to the ER staff. My mind and body were nonfunctional, but I was very functional indeed.

The three days that followed were an amazing series of lessons in rebooting my beleaguered nervous system. I learned to walk again by ignoring the chaotic evidence of the senses and focusing on what I knew, inside, to be true. (Sound like a good overall strategy for living life??) My world appeared to be moving, tilting, but it was not. My nervous system seemed to be unhooked from my arms and legs, so I had to trust my that my body did, indeed, know how to walk, and let life take over. (Ahh. Trust in life’s processes. Seems to me I’ve heard that one before, too.)

It took awhile till my walking style graduated from “very drunk toddler” to something approximating adult locomotion, but it did, and here I am back home. I still have some inner swinging sensations and trouble focusing visually, but that’s improving daily. Most of the time I don’t think about walking, or balance, at all. Except to be very, very, VERY thankful they are back…

On my follow-up visit to my own doctor, he informed me that he’d done a little research and believes my case made medical history; he cannot find another case of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (such a big name for a tiny movement of a grain of sand!) with symptoms as severe as mine. “A freak,” he called it.

I call it grace. As my dear process buddy Sheri put it: “Pat, many of us have an intellectual understanding that we are one with our larger Self. But you LIVED it.”

Yes. I did. In an intensely visceral sense, I lived it. And that Voice, clearly MY voice, yet not my mind’s voice, gave me what I needed to live through it.

Worth it all? You bet.

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