MAKING ADJUSTMENTS as we grow older…as in learning the Epley Maneuver and refraining from housework

My daughter asked me to help her clean her Boulder apartment before moving out of her grad school abode. She knows I have a problem with cleaning and she also knows I have a hard time saying no to her. I vowed to do my best, however piss poor that might be.

First task I tackled was cleaning out the fridge. Not much was left, just a half-dozen items for the cooler for our drive across the country back to PA. I moved them out and then proceeded to wipe down the insides with a rag and a basin of hot soapy water. I pulled out the vegetable crisper drawers and scraped out the dried spilled muck. I scrubbed the door channels where the orange juice dripped. It was surprisingly rewarding to see the white plastic become clean and shiny. Wow. I might consider doing this at home. It feels pretty good.

As I wiped, I startled myself with the realization that I had never cleaned out a fridge before (except for a hotel’s mini fridge or a cabin’s fridge we rented short-term). How did I live through six decades and never perform this task? Oh, my husband! He cleans out the fridge! I contemplated feeling guilty, or feeling like I was a bad wife. But decided, not a bad wife, a very bad housekeeper.

My children accuse me of only making others look bad in my blogs, never myself, (often their father, who never reads them) but I disagree. I would not be admitting to this fact if that were so. We all have our gifts and cleaning a house is not mine.

My next job at cleaning the apartment was cleaning the ceiling above the stove. Since my daughter and son-in-law lived in a basement apartment in Boulder, the ceiling was low. I bent my head way back and scraped the grease spots off with a scrubbie. More success and feeling confident and rewarded with a white spotless ceiling. Next was the baseboards, where I had to drop my head and hang it down while I wiped. More feelings of accomplishment. I was beginning to like this cleaning practice and pondered taking a room one at a time at home and overhauling it, giving it a face lift like never before. I just might surprise myself and enjoy the results.

But that night, I climbed into bed and felt weird in the head. Dizzy. Uh oh.

The next morning, something was very wrong with my head. Without even lifting it off the pillow, the room spun. It was 8 am. The carpet cleaner was coming at 9 and my bed had to be stripped and the mattress moved to the kitchen so the bedroom rug could be cleaned. But I could not move.

This happened once before. Last November, six months ago. My doctor told me it was called Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) and probably occurred from flying home from Kenya, a change in altitude.

BPV is the result of a disturbance inside your inner ear. Fluid inside tubes in your ear, called semicircular canals, moves when your position changes. The semicircular canals are extremely sensitive. BPV develops when small pieces of calcium crystals that are normally in another area of the ear break free and find their way to the semicircular canal in your inner ear. This causes your brain to receive confusing messages about your body’s position.

It is a condition and seems to happen repeatedly once it starts.

Epley’s maneuver is the most effective BPV treatment. It involves moving the piece of calcium to a different part of your inner ear where it will no longer cause problems. I called in my son Bryce to help me. We got my laptop, logged on, found the website where a U tube video describes the maneuver step by step, and proceeded to do it.

We didn’t get very far. As soon as Bryce caught my head as I dropped backwards, and turned it, I felt extremely sick and in a matter of seconds, ran through the carpeted apartment with my hand clamped over my mouth as the vomit rose and dropped all through the carpeted apartment.

I pleaded with Bryce to go to the drug store and get me Dramamine to cope. Now the carpet cleaners were coming in 15 minutes. I was still in my underwear, propped in a seated position against the wall of the empty living room floor while Sierra moved out the bed. She was feeling stressed. We had to drive two cars across the country and I would be good for nothing. I couldn’t even tilt the seat back in the car because so much stuff was behind it. It would be a long drive home.

When this happened the first time in November, my doctor gave me two pages of balance therapy exercises to do twice a day- exercises designed to allow the patient to become accustomed to the position which causes vertigo symptoms. They involved spinning and moving your head in all sorts of horribly nauseating positions. I think the idea is to become desensitized to the movement. They took over an hour to do. Needless to say, I only did them twice. They were no fun. My kids yelled at me and told me I REALLY needed to do them now. In two months, their father and I would be heading out onto a mountain bike trip for 1500 miles and it would be a good idea if I felt balanced and secure. We just completed a 300 mile ride from San Francisco to Yosemite and when we had to do single track, I did NOT feel 100% balanced.

Things have been deteriorating over the last few years with my motion sickness. I have always been very sensitive to motion sickness even as a child, as was my mother, and can never sit in the back seat w/o becoming ill. But in the last two years, swimming laps began to make me feel sick. If another swimmer was in the pool, it was worse. The more I swam, the sicker I felt. I wondered if it was the fact that my GF’s pool was switched over from chlorine to salt treatments and I ingested too much. But I did notice that square or contra dancing made me sick too. I could not take the spinning anymore. As I sat out a dance two years ago, a physical therapist happened to sit next to me and told me about inner ear crystal displacements and advised me to go to a specialist and perhaps it was as easy of a fix as moving my head. I believed him but it sounded far-fetched. Now it is all making sense.

Then I read this…”BPPV may be made worse by any number of modifiers which may vary between individuals. Although BPPV can occur at any age, it is most often seen in people over the age of 60. Besides aging, there are no major risk factors known for developing BPPV, although previous episodes of trauma to the head, or inner ear infections.

About ten years ago, me the kids and I were in a very bad accident in my Geo METRO. It was demolished but we were ok, except that I hit my head. I went to a brain specialist and was put on Ibuprofen for a while to reduce the swelling. I had headaches for over a year. They also found that I have a brain malformation, Chiari Malformation, a congenital defect. It is a condition in which the bony space enclosing the lower part of the brain is smaller than normal and can cause complications. I always knew I had a very small head like a child’s when trying on bike and horseback riding helmets.

I read that “Symptoms of Chiari malformation may not appear until adulthood, causing severe headache, neck pain, dizziness, vertigo, numbness in the hands, and sleep problems. In some cases, a head or neck injury from a car accident or sports injury triggers the onset of symptoms.

So between having a malformed brain, a previous head injury, displaced crystals, recently flying, AND hiking up to 10,000 feet in altitude, no wonder this happened.

Why are we even talking about this? It sounds like some older person’s complaint about body deterioration but it is not. I do not feel old but changes keep happening to all our bodies, at all ages, whether it is in pregnancy, sports related injuries, trauma from war, all kinds of things. It is helpful to learn about our bodies and how to keep them healthy and moving and fit so that we can keep living our active lives regardless of our age. It is very important to know ourselves.

So now I understand a little clearer what is happening inside my head, my ears, my brain. I will do my balance exercises, even though I hate them, so I don’t fall off my mountain bike. I will also learn the Epley Maneuver better so I can dictate to whoever is with me, how to move those damn misplaced crystals back where they belong. I’m not going to stop flying and I’m not going to stop climbing mountains or hiking at higher elevations. But now I know how to better manage this condition. It is also probably for the best that I refrain from cleaning, (ha ha, now I have a viable excuse!) and not aggravate those crystals, as good as it was beginning to sound.

8 thoughts on “MAKING ADJUSTMENTS as we grow older…as in learning the Epley Maneuver and refraining from housework Leave a comment

  1. You have a great attitude about learning about changes in our bodies as we age, and I can totally relate. I think it can be more difficult for athletes like us to comes to terms with adaptations we need to make to keep doing the things with love. I’m amazed when I look at the long list of various conditions and symptoms I’ve had or have, but then I’m even more amazed at how many more ways my body works, some even better than before! Porter and I often say to each other about these vicissitudes “It’s just part of being in the body!” LOL!

  2. you are right. it is fascinating and it sure does help to get an education so we can help ourselves. keep going . don’t get discouraged. work within your limitations and adapt- then they are not limits, just a change, which is all good! xoxo

  3. Well,that was a long-winded excuse not to clean! Seriously, my mom has suffered through both the symptoms of what she simply calls “vertigo” and the therapy to supposedly help overcome it. She became nauseous and couldn’t deal with the difficulties of the therapy. I admire your determination to handle with it. Good luck and let me know what works best for you to keep doing all the physical things you love to do.

    1. thank you my sweet- i appreciate the advice and encouragement- i won’t be reduced to lying on a sofa, that is for sure- i just have to keep my head straight more- ha ha- i already resorted to taking Dramamine in order to go on roller coasters- whatever works- hope to see you soon- let me know if you ever up this way- have a few chapters to send soon and will wrap up this book!

  4. Hi there Cindy,

    This is Steve Krasnow form the AT Hiking for Health article. As we discussed, I have bad days but never a bad week. I always tell myself “when faced with intimidating circumstances it is better to control your thoughts than face your fears”.

    If you are ever in the DC area you have a place to stay.

    Thinking of you,

    Steve

    1. Cindy, In the interest of your well being please try to refrain from house cleaning. Obviously it is dangerous and potentially life threatening! If you find yourself inclined to pick up some cleaning products, step away from the scrub brush and bucket and go for a bike ride or hike until the feeling completely subsides. Your very life may depend on it!

      1. i rellay really really like this advice and have always considered you a very wise woman and mentor and guide so i will whole heartily take your advice. thank you my friend. I did feel myself slipping into new behavior that could have been extremely detrimental. xoxo

    2. you are sweet- thank you for reaching out- i appreciate your advice. i will just work with it and just choose to ignore what i can’t change- ha ha- hope to see you again sometime- have fun always

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