Friday, April 4, 2014

D is for Dizzy by Aubrey Wynne

Welcome to Unwritten's part of the worldwide A-Z Blog Challenge!! Every day in April (except Sundays), we'll have a new post related to the letters of the alphabet from A-Z. Our theme here on Unwritten is "I Will Survive". I hope these stories will inspire and uplift you. Comments are VERY appreciated!

D for Dizzy
Aubrey Wynne

We can laugh about it now but two years ago my world fell apart. My sister, best friend and muse battles Chronic Dizziness with chronic migraines. After a dozen incorrect diagnoses and twice that many tests, we finally had answers. During her struggle to identify and conquer this condition, my life was put on hold. Who would travel with me? How could I travel to Italy or Ireland without her? Who would talk me through my plotlines?

Looking back, it began on our Alaskan cruise in June. We hiked a mountain path and looked over the edge at the breathtaking scenery. It made Mindy’s head spin. Literally. We chalked it up to vertigo. The ship hit some rough waters for about a day and the vertigo came back. Motion sickness. Once home, everything returned to normal.

Shopping in an English village
The following November, we took a trip to South Carolina to celebrate my 50th and my little sister’s 40th birthday. Our rental house had a long pier that jutted out into the water where dolphins often played: great spot for morning coffee. With no handrails (only a rope), Mindy’s vertigo returned. In December, she had a blinding migraine with a racing heart. The ER ran tests for heart attack and stroke. Nothing. They called it a panic attack.

My sister, one of the most level-headed people I know, refused this label and looked for more answers. A specialist found that a varicose vein in her leg had burst. The symptoms matched her earlier episode. Then she found out she had multiple kidney stones. They were removed. Next, a surgery for a cyst on her uterus. All better.

Wrong. The tremors began. I got a call from one of her kids telling me she was curled up on the couch, shaking uncontrollably and incoherent. Her family doctor began tests for every scary disease imaginable: brain tumor, ALS, MS, immune deficiency diseases, neurological issues, Meniere’s. Nothing. Again, they labeled it panic attacks.

In the end, it took a year and a trip to Mayo Clinic to get a proper diagnosis: Chronic Dizziness, coupled with migraines, brought on by extreme physical trauma to the body. Symptoms: dizziness from motion, fluorescent lighting, noisy/crowded places; tremors; inability during episodes to speak or think clearly; white fog impeding vision; low sodium. She could not drive--the traffic passing by would shut her down and bring on the white fog and tremors. Shopping at the grocery store became a nightmare.

Walking calmed her and reduced the symptoms. Her family, lost without the glue that held them together, stepped up. They took over errands, set up a treadmill in her office that sported a computer shelf. She could walk one-mile per hour and still work at home. For the first time in her life, Mindy knew exactly how much we appreciated and loved her. When she lost faith, we swallowed our tears and anxiety and found a way to make her laugh. Throughout the long fight, she found a bright side: we no longer took her for granted.

My sister endured a quiet hell during the next year with a courage that made me feel small. She researched
her symptoms and found a way to improve each episode.  Crocheting helped her focus and stay calm while in a car. We were able to visit my sister again who lived in another state. She began driving short distances during slow traffic times.

Today, Mindy still finds her life altered by her condition but has returned to a normal life. She can drive up to an hour without incident. Grocery shopping is back on her weekly to-do list. The tremors are gone. The crazy energy we all depended on is back and just in time for her son’s wedding in the Fall. We are planning a trip to Ireland in the summer of 2015. I want to shout from the rooftops, “She’s back. I can breathe again.”

Never take your loved ones for granted. Let them know how much you need them. If you get a second chance to show how much a dear one means to you, it makes it that much sweeter. 


Aubrey Wynne resides in the Midwest with her husband, dogs, horses, mule and barn cats. She is an elementary teacher by trade, champion of children and animals by conscience, and author by night. Obsessions include history, travel, trail riding and all things Christmas.


  1. This touched the heart. Your love for your near ones reflects and there's a great message too.

  2. Unbelievable at the things we've never heard of that causes so much misery. I can't even imagine how much hell your sister went through. Thank God she's getting better.

    Sharing our stories here has the potential to help others searching for a diagnosis. A family support group is priceless.

    Thank you for writing this story.

  3. Thanks Leona and Ruby. I'm so lucky my story had a happy ending.

  4. Aubrey, this post means a lot to me on many levels. In 2011, I went on vacation to the beach and got severe sunburn. Within 3 weeks, I was in the ER with a racing heartbeat, dehydration, and chronic dizziness and panic attacks. I was put on beta-blockers, and referred to doctor after doctor. I started suffering migraine with aura. I had every test, saw specialists, talked to psychiatrists, was given reason to fear everything from MS to Lupus to cancer. Every test, I dreaded a positive, but would cry in frustration when it came back fine. Physical doctors told me I was sick because of anxiety. Mental doctors told me I was anxious because I was sick.

    After over a year of tests, they diagnosed me with vestibular neuronitis, a chronic inner ear disorder similar to labrynthitis. I was put on medication. I slept all the time. I gained 30 pounds. They told me in 2-3 years, I'd recover. I didn't believe them. Everything was a dizzy, panic,foggy thing. I was only 30 when I got sick, and it was crushing to think of all the things I'd maybe never do. I couldn't stand crowds, lights, noise, the grocery store. I ran out of Target in fear. I'd have panic attacks riding in a car. I'd wonder if I was having a stroke, like my mother.

    By the end of 2013, I was partying at clubs with friends and even went on an audition again. Then, I caught a terrible cold/flu that was going around. I just didn't seem to get better. Two courses of antibiotics and a course of steroids cleared it up...but all my symptoms came back, worse than ever. I now can't ride in a car at all; I can't tolerate motion of any sort without disabling panic attacks and the "white fog" you speak of. It's terrifying. I've been stuck inside for four months, The ordeal to get me to see a doctor is an all-day, draining experience, and everyone has a different guess, a different referral to a different doctor. The latest diagnosis was BPPV, although vertigo and motion sickness were the only things that fit that diagnosis. My primary care doctor keeps testing me for rare illnesses virtually nobody has and scratches her head.

    I'd say this has stolen some of the best years of my life, but I hope that's not true. I hope it's made me appreciate everything small a little more. It's easy to get depressed, because there is no hope or end in sight some days. Your post brought a little light into my day, a little piece of hope that said "This happened to someone else, and it was hard, but that person is still around."

    Thank you for sharing, and giving me just a little bit of extra hope and encouragement.

    *~ A.


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