The culinary project for which I was hired has been postponed indefinitely; so with me not feeling well anyway, I wanted to talk to my boss about my options (basically, I quit. But i'd be interested in discussing the project If and When it starts back up). There's really no need for me to be in the kitchen when another chef is on staff (who was there when I started), the menu is so small, and nobody orders much food anyway. I went in to talk to my boss, and while I was waiting for her I sat down on a bench and leaned my head against the wall. The GM, an angry little man, stomped over to me, hands on his hips. "So are you feeling better?", he barked down at me, scowling as he hovered. I knew what he was thinking. He thinks i'm lying about the vertigo. It wouldn't be the first time people haven't believed me.
I've had this condition for 10 years. It was initially triggered by an ear infection I got after snorkeling off the coast of the Bahamas. Later, various things triggered it (jumping off a high dock into Lake Lanier 20 feet below; mild concussions brought on by sports activities; and lately, stress). I remember sitting in my supervisor's office 9 years ago showing him a doctor's note saying I shouldn't be driving a car and him looking at me like I was bonkers, saying, "I've never heard of this condition". Which reminds me of a food writer several years ago who infamously declared on Twitter that writer's block doesn't exist. So - just because you've never experienced it or heard of it, it therefore doesn't exist? He later apologized for the comments after a deluge of backlash. I had a friend (at the time she was one of my best friends) who thought I was making it all up just so that I wouldn't have to hang out with her. To say i've had some toxic people in my life is an understatement - but that's another blogpost for another day.
Vertigo is not uncommon. A lot of people experience feelings of uneven equilibrium if they have a head cold or sinus infection. It feels as though you're on a raft on choppy waters in the ocean. Sometimes the waves are smooth, sometimes you're in a storm. I call it the Boat Ride from Hell. Usually the symptoms are temporary, your body recovers and fights the infection, and normal living is resumed. Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, which is what I was diagnosed with 9 years ago, is most often caused by microscopic crystals in the inner ear which have dislodged and are floating freely. There are physical therapy programs designed to help scoot those crystals back into place (Brandt-Deroff and Epley are some). These exercises have been known to help some patients - they did "cure" mine in the very beginning. They don't help me anymore. I've been to specialists, ophthalmologists, ear/nose/throat doctors, had an MRI "just to be safe" as my ENT explained it (and at a whopping out-of-pocket cost of $300 which I could ill afford at the time). I had one specialist insist that I had a major sinus infection and put me on steroids, which did nothing but keep me awake for 4 days and make me even more stressed out. The bout I had 2 years ago, brought on by stress, lasted 4 months. After reviewing the MRI results with my ENT, which showed nothing wrong with my head, I told him that I would be seeking solace in Eastern medicine. This made him chuckle, adjust his glasses, and mutter, "Whatever you want to waste your money on". And that's when I bobbed and weaved into an acupuncturist's office.
Did it help? Sure. It wasn't a miracle cure - but then again, none of my incredibly expensive Western medicine and programs worked. Getting acupuncture and cupping therapy (glass suction cups with heat moved along the skin to help promote blood flow and good ch'i or qi) helped relieve the anxiety and stress brought on by the whole situation, and it did eventually alleviate the symptoms. My body gets used to the symptoms and I don't feel them again for some time.
My acupuncturist, a lovely American woman from Illinois, has an office in a massive villa which is home to a holistic retreat of sorts located in Saigon's District 2. D2 is where a lot of Western expats live. It is reminiscent of Miami. My Dad grew up in Miami, so I spent a lot of time there as a child. I don't particularly like Miami - or D2 for that matter. There are great big groupings of villas in "compounds", and their residents are very insular. It reminds me of Walden Two, in a way, or that terrible movie The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio. Everyone seems so artificially happy (I do have friends who live in D2, so I'll probably get a bunch of crap for this). I live in District 1, in an area which reminds me of Greenwich Village in New York City. Give me New York any day over Miami. But I will say this about D2: when i'm at the villa, with pins poking out of me every which way and no audible traffic sounds coming from the dusty streets outside, I do feel a sense of calm.
And perhaps this is what I needed all along, a sense of calm. We bustle about our everyday lives trying to cram in as much as we can into such a short daily schedule. We often complain that there is not enough time in the day to do all the things we need to do. Every single time I get sick, I remind myself to slow down and enjoy things. And every single time I recover, I fall right back into the race.
Some of my Facebook contacts tend to populate their timelines with so-called inspirational quotes and memes, but fail to actually apply them to their own lives. They scour Facebook all day long and smugly armchair philosophize on every topic. I feel badly for those people. Having said that, I did see a quote this morning which rings true:
ENJOY LIFE NOW. THIS IS NOT A REHEARSAL.