‘That Same Old Feeling’
New Year’s eve, I was invited to a get-together at a friend’s.
The day was like most others: I woke in pain and feeling low. I caught up with a friend, and for a bit was able to forget everything going on – or at least push it from the forefront of my mind. After my friend left, I was going up to the house when a massive surge of anxiety and imbalance hit.
This wasn’t a panic attack. It felt like something had gone wrong inside my body, inside my head, and the anxiety was a response to that. I called my friend, saying I was thinking of going to hospital to get checked out. She must’ve thought it was anxiety, because she assured me I’d be okay. She suggested going to a 24-hour clinic.
I’d never been to this clinic before, and it was quiet, given it was 7.00pm on New Year’s Eve. I didn’t get the doctor’s name. He was an Indian with a calm, assuring demeanour. He examined me, and said he could detect nothing major wrong, and suggested that I’d perhaps suffered from an inner-ear infection. He gave me a prescription, whilst continuing to assure me I’d be okay, and said if I wasn’t feeling better in a couple of days to come back and see him.
I went home, had a little something to eat, and took the medication. It did little for the way I felt, other than to make me a bit drowsy.
The day had been hot, but the evening broke into storms. I drove to my friend’s while lightning split the sky, having to stop regularly to check directions. It wasn’t a night to be driving, but I had no option, and I didn’t want to go home and admit defeat.
By the time I got to my friend’s, whatever was going on had settled a little. That was it. The whole evening I remained edgy and on the cusp of panic.
We celebrated the New Year, but all I could think of was how I didn’t want to do this for another year. Something was going on inside of me – stomach pains, light-headedness, neck problems, anxiety – and nobody could give me answers. What annoyed me most was that everybody assumed it was just all anxiety, but I knew my body – or, at the very least, I knew my anxiety.
I drove home and commended myself for making the effort of going out given how I was feeling and how stormy it had become. When I went to bed, I had weird and vivid images in my head – ghastly, demonic images. This wasn’t something that I’d felt before. And I couldn’t put it down to the hypnagogic hallucinations, as I was awake.
For the next several days I was dizzy and light-headed. My friend drove me to the hospital, but upon seeing the line in Emergency, we went to the 24-hour clinic. I saw another doctor. He was extremely thorough, not only examining me, but having me do things like close my eyes and hold my arms out to test my balance, as well as tested my strength by holding his arm out and asking me to pull it down. He could find nothing wrong, and expanded on his colleague’s diagnosis, saying it was both an inner ear infection and an ear infection. He prescribed some antibiotics, and said once they took effect, I’d feel better.
The worst of my inner ear infections – twenty years earlier – had me feeling like I’d had a tough workout the day before, all my muscles aching, and the ground as if it was swaying. The spate of inner ear infections I’d had only months earlier had affected my balance. Not one of them had me feeling like this.
I muddled through the new year, and saw Dr Warren when he returned from his Christmas break. He had a completely different opinion: because I’d been starving myself due to my stomach issues, he thought I was probably running at low-blood sugar. He assured me if I felt lightheaded, I could have a jellybean to two for a quick boost but, otherwise, all I had to do was eat and I’d be fine. He also gave me a referral to check on the fructose and lactose intolerance.
I left Dr Warren’s clinic still scared, but also with a newfound confidence – as tiny as it was – that maybe he’d provided me with a diagnosis to what was going on, as well as a solution.