Taking Notes – Vertigo Experience

I’m taking notes for writing. Physically, I’m in a dark place right now. I have a serious inner ear infection, which doesn’t sound like it would mess someone up, but it apparently does. I’ve already vomited from it, I have difficulty walking, nearly fell over several times last night, and here’s the kicker, my thinking was all over the place and I couldn’t grasp words. It hit in about 8 hours to go from feeling ill and I should stay in bed to a very serious phone call to a nurse I know to see if I needed to go to the ER immediately. Most serious inner ear infections land in the ER because they are so frightening in their speed and severity.

I thought that I might be dying it was that serious and disorienting.

I’m feeling better, but still have problems thinking, and writing. For the life of me I cannot get my girlfriend’s roommate’s name right. I confuse write and right, now and know, and other such combinations.

And this is all from a little infection in my ear. But because it’s so severe it destroys my perception of reality and with it goes my cognition. So I’m taking notes on it.

And with this new perceptual world view, I’m taking notes on how it feels to have perception altered. It’s almost indescribable because words that we use in every day language is based on common perception. Language breaks down within the normal world. For instance, as an engineer I routinely use words in ways that no normal person could understand. I describe floor toms as boxy, headphones as claustrophobic, mixes as mushy or bright, kick drums as cardboard, snare drums as flat, reverberations as full or collapsed, compression as pumping or slow, and other such things. You probably have no earthly clue what I’m talking about when I listed those things. And in all fairness, it’s because you don’t have the evidentiary basis for my description. I would have to point out what a boxy floor tom sounds like, and then compare it to a good one. It’s the same way children learn a lot of words – pointing.

To put this into perspective, I’m sloshy, or swaying. And a host of other things.

Sloshy, it’s a water term. It’s like how it would feel to slosh a small aquarium. There’s the initial resistance to movement, then it gains momentum and crashes against the other side. It’s different than swaying. Swaying is moving like a pendulum, one where it slows as it reaches the peaks and speeds through the middle. Oddly enough, I can feel both of these at times when my mind short circuits. That I can’t describe in how it feels, really, I can’t. I think it is actually impossible for someone to convey it without the other person having gone through it. But they’re close enough individually.

I’m sloshy, I labor to move and then can’t stop. This is why I tip and could fall.

I shuffle. If I don’t move my feet, I don’t really know where they are. I know, but I don’t. The disconnect is the same as how a syllogism can prove you’re wrong, but you still don’t have the gut reaction to change your belief. Analytically I know where they are, and I fully believe they are there, but there’s a disconnect in my sensation of them that makes me shuffle. It’s so I don’t forget where they are and take too large of a step and lose balance.

The effect of these two simple symptoms is the host of physical attributes. Small steps, looking down on my feet, wobbly gate as the movement forward wants to continue moving, not able to maintain a straight line because the horizontal sloshing throws me off balance, and such things.

Vertigo – this is something often in literature as though people know what it’s like. Now having gone through it I can tell that when I’ve read it in Robert Jordan novels he simply uses it as a synonym for dizzy.

Sometimes the world does actually move with vertigo, but more commonly it’s the sensation that the world is moving, spinning, but not actually moving. When I stare ahead I can see my closet door perfectly still. It doesn’t move. But my inner ear is screaming that it’s spinning like I just got off of a merry-go-round. The result is more disconcerting than just spinning. It’s confusion. The mind doesn’t know what’s real anymore and it starts to desperately grasp at any detail to hold things together. For me it’s involuntarily shutting my eyes. They just close like a blink but hold together. But when I open my eyes, the world does in fact move for a few seconds as the brain literally rewrites new visual stimulus to match old vestibular experience.


And to say that the world is spinning is as much a statement of what one sense is saying to the brain, screaming even, and then a desperate desire for the rest of the world to line up with it. Honestly, it would be soothing if I was spinning right now. I feel like my mind would calm down. But that’s the major thing that does not come from simply reading about vertigo – confusion.

There’s confusion in the huh? sense, in the almost-grasping-something way, but these are analytical statements. Vertigo is a confusion of the senses. And when I was at the doctors it was paralyzingly intense. It was like screaming through my nerves. While confusion in analytical senses is boring and tiring, confusion of the senses is magnifying. The world grows in intensity and suddenly all five senses are fully apparent to the mind but one is not lining up and it spins faster and faster. The end product is vomiting. It’s as much a product of the spinning as not having anything centering. The body’s response is spasming. The nostrils flare far beforehand and air turns cold and each hair at the gates of the nose tickle like being tortured by an older sibling but the flaring is the same as the flaring that happens moments before someone normally vomits, it flares painfully and a new sensation is introduced. Then the floor seems harder and for a moment secure and stable like it’ll be the center focus of the mind but the ear still continues and as you move to a new location to try something else the sloshing happens and it gets worse so you climb up and head for the nearest trash can as more movement pushes the swaying sloshing ear further and further to the point that you could swear that there is an edge that it’ll slam against but it also seems endless in how far it can go and push your vision so that the world could be sideways though if you cocked your head it would never bring the world level so you take shuffling steps closer and your body sways side to side and knees feel weak knowing what is coming next and soon you sloppily run and grip the sides of the trash can and then, unlike alcohol where the purge feels freeing as the toxins leave the body and the mind can relax knowing that its safe, the sloshing doesn’t stop immediately so the stomach pumps more until the smell is just revolting enough to pull away from and return to the cold hard floor for stability while staring at the ceiling and notice that things are spinning a little less. Then the senses retreat and things feel a little more grounded.

That’s bad vertigo. It’s not the world spinning or dizziness, it’s so much more. Now I know what that feels like (the hard way). Now I hope you have an idea in case you ever decide to use it in writing.

What notes do you take in everyday life?


3 responses to “Taking Notes – Vertigo Experience

  1. Wow! That was absolutely fascinating. I mean, I’m so sorry that you had to go through this, but as a writer, I have to say it’s a great thing you’ve been able to describe. This is an experience no human being should ever have to go through and yet every writer should. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. Pingback: Isolated, Dissociated, Character Ideas | jameswilliaml·

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