It was around lunch time so the mall was full of people. I had just left a business meeting with my 85yr old father. Although I try to walk slowly to stay close to him, I usually end up a couple of metres ahead.
As we were walking down the lower part of Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall, I noticed the awning above had cast a striped shadow on the pavement in front of me. Without warning, my head & left ear tingled like a sharp electric shock, and suddenly, everything started to spin violently. I rapidly mumbled “f**k, f**k, f**k” and reached out to the left, stumbling towards a shop window.
Grasping the window with my left hand, I held my forehead with the other and pressed my head against the glass, to feel something stable & remain upright.
My father had now caught up to me and could see that something was wrong. I told him I was having a Ménières attack. There was little he could do to help other than stand nearby, watching with concern.
After a minute or so the vertigo started to subside, so I could now see the scene around me. A bench was a few metres away and I thought, “Maybe I should try to sit down?”, then I saw the face of a man seated on the bench. He was staring at me inquisitively, like I was a specimen in a bottle, or a drama show unfolding. I looked around and noticed a few other faces staring at me. Necks craned as they walked by.
Nobody stopped to help me; nobody looked sympathetic to my crisis. I wasn't bleeding. I wasn't old. I wasn't crippled. I looked strong, so why should anyone care? For the most part Ménières disease is an invisible illness, so bystanders have no idea of the terror that is being inflicted upon the sufferer during an attack.
The 19th century poet Walt Whitman wrote that most men lead “lives of quiet desperation.” This is tragically true of people afflicted by Vestibular disorders like Ménières disease. The isolation that comes from the ever present dizziness & hearing loss, punctuated by moments of frightening, spontaneous vertigo; surely there can be nothing so quietly desperate.
Dear reader, please remember my story and share it with others, so that people enduring Vestibular disorders won’t feel so quietly desperate & alone. Empathy & understanding go a long way.
If you are compassionate &/or can relate to my story please: