Vertigo in Vancouver

Vertigo in Vancouver

Vertigo is the strangest of sensations.  It’s almost otherworldly. 

I had my first and hopefully last bout of vertigo for a period of around 6 weeks last year after my beloved and I moved to Vancouver from the sunny shores of Australia.  We decided rather hastily on a very cheap, yet not so cheerful itinerary for our journey from Sydney to its northern equivalent which involved 3 flights, a whole day in LA traipsing around Santa Monica and Venice beach with our cabin-sized wheely suitcases and my guitar (I believe many locals were expecting us to set up our busking outfit kerbside!), and a middle leg that seemed to take us backwards from LAX to Phoenix, Arizona.  Never again!

By the time we actually arrived in Vancouver at midnight on the same day we left (how was that even possible?!), I didn’t know which way was up, which continent or hemisphere I was in, what my nationality was and what the heck we’d just endured.  And this from a woman who has spent her fair share of time on long-haul flights as a touring performer and global resident.  We were utterly exhausted and completely discombobulated.  It’s a big enough deal to be relocating your whole life to another hemisphere and saying goodbye to your nearest and dearest, let alone drawing the event out to such dramatic lengths.  The zen meditation colouring-in book that my dear friend had bought me for the journey wasn’t really helping much during the final leg.  I was having mad fantasies of the pretty birds and mythical goddesses I was colouring-in coming to life, jumping off the pages and carrying me off to an enchanted land where everyone’s sole activity was to sleep.  Very, very soundly.  I was delusional.

Nevertheless, we crashed out in the paradisiacal king sized bed of our airport hotel after a shower that seemed to rival any spa treatment I’d ever had, and after a full night’s sleep, a little meditation and a big breakfast, were filled once again with the unbridled excitement of what awaited us in our brand new life.

Fast forward a few days as we were settling into the Airbnb apartment we’d rented in Kitsilano for the month, and I began to notice some abnormal occurrences of dizziness in my everyday life.  In the past, I’d had the occasional dizzy spell if I was giving blood or when I stood up too quickly during vinyasa practice, or during my stint as an aerial artist spinning through the air on the Spanish Web (more on that in blogs to come and no, that isn’t me rehearsing on the web.  Thank you random person for your example!).  I have low blood pressure so these occurrences were to be expected and I had learned to look after myself such as rising slowly to stand from bending down, or lying down while having a blood test.

However these particular dizzy spells were occurring without any obvious triggers.  For example, when walking down the stairwell at the front entrance to the flat, I often crashed into the walls a few times as though I was drunk.  But it was the middle of the day and I hadn’t had a drink in about 10 years!

The attic level apartment accommodated a bathroom with a European style open shower in a bathtub.  It was positioned flush against the angled edge of the roof, complete with wood panelling and a cute window to peer out of while you were showering.  Well the window was only cute if you are as petite as I am at 5ft 1.  My partner found that his 6ft frame was only able to stand fully upright in the shower directly under the alcove of the window.  Anywhere else in the shower proved too low for him so he was cemented to one position for his daily washing and couldn’t even turn around very easily.  Hence this shower was most certainly not as spa-like as the aforementioned.

Nonetheless, after a few minutes of enjoying the warm water on my body, I often experienced very heavy sensations of dizziness, during which the room started to spin.  The pokiness and wobbliness of these bathroom experiences reminded me of showering on my parents’ boat back in Moreton Bay in Queensland.  A passing barge or large vessel would leave a trail of waves that would toss the boat about for while, and the echoes of that water world would pass through one’s being for days after being back on solid land.  Just as I’d done as a teenager after returning home from a week on the boat, I sat down in the shower to get my bearings. 

For a week or so, I passed these experiences off as jetlag or fatigue from the long journey, but after observing my wobbliness in a couple of local yoga classes, and having bouts of dizziness while actually lying flat on my back in bed, I knew something was up…or down…or not quite right.

I did what any modern human being in the age of the internet and lacking full access to local healthcare would do: self-diagnosis via google.  I learned that my symptoms were probably as a result of vertigo which involves disturbance of the crystals of calcium carbonate within the inner ear fluid, a condition that was no doubt caused at some point during my recent flight fest.

I recall a hilarious attempt to ascertain which ear was primarily affected which involved me lying on the bed with my head hanging over the edge and rolling from one side to the other in a sort of absurdist choreography.  I recalled carrying out similarly bizarre movements during my short foray into Five Rhythms Dance while I was living in London in my boho early 20s.  Needless to say I was left feeling even dizzier and the results of my amateur experiment were inconclusive.  I went with the assumption that both of my middle ears were equally unbalanced, as I’m sure my five rhythms had been all those years prior.

Doctor Google explained that most benign forms of vertigo will disappear within 4 to 6 weeks so I thought I’d give myself that period of time before I got really panicky and booked in to see a doctor in the flesh.  I decided that there must be some sort of spiritual significance to this spinning, dizzying feeling, as though I were being transported somewhere while standing or lying still, or that my spirit was stuck in some other dimension than the one my body was occupying in the given moment.

On another such occasion of spinning-bathroom scenario, whilst I stared out at the majestic snow and cloud-capped mountains surrounding my new city, the idea befell me that perhaps I was still caught between two worlds; that not all of me had landed in Vancouver yet.  Just like those mountains, the physical majority of me was quite clearly grounded on the Vancouver earth but my upper echelons, my summit if you like, was lost somewhere in magical, mysterious clouds of other lands and times.  Etheric crevices and peaks of my head and heart were perhaps still stuck back in Australia, where my family, friends, colleagues, communities and tribes remained.

No wonder I was dizzy.  The up and down, here and there, future and past hadn’t quite merged into one yet.  I was arriving and departing all at the same time.  Aren’t we, in fact, always in this simultaneity, with every breath and moment of existence?

Six weeks later the vertigo did in fact disappear.  I’m a woman with her feet, head and life firmly planted in Vancouver now, and yet my heart will always roam across the world, dizzying playfully between my many homes and loved ones.  The here and there seemed to have found a beautiful rhythm.

And tomorrow I will ski atop one of those sublime, snow-capped mountains.  Or at least, attempt to.  Despite booking a lesson, I suspect there may be another head-on incident to reflect on come day’s end.

It should be an adventure!  Stay tuned…





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