As I’ve written before, I don’t usually dress up in costume on Halloween. But one year I did. It was the year my daughter wore a homemade clown costume, a hand-me-down from her cousin. When I told a friend at work that my daughter was going to be a clown, she volunteered she had an adult-sized clown costume I could borrow, so my daughter and I could both be clowns.
She wouldn’t let me say no. So I was a clown that year.
That was also the autumn I first had vertigo.
I distinctly remember my thoughts the morning I woke up with vertigo, because it was so unexpected. It happened during a frantic time at work. I was part of a large team of attorneys handling a major lawsuit that was in the throes of both discovery and settlement discussions. We spent our days scheduling depositions, producing rooms full of documents, and arguing coverage with insurance companies. I wasn’t sleeping well.
On this particular morning I woke up feeling surprisingly refreshed. “This will be a good day,” I told myself when I first awakened.
Then I sat up.
The room spun. “Low blood pressure,” I assured myself. “It will pass.”
I laid back on the bed, then slowly sat up again.
The room spun again. “I don’t have time for this,” I admonished my body. But the room kept spinning.
I stayed home from work that day, but the next day, because I really didn’t have time for this, I went to work.
The vertigo didn’t bother me when I drove, and I made it to the office fine. I could sit at my desk and read, and I dove into the papers piled up in my office. But if I stood up and looked down, the room spun. When I visited other peoples’ offices, I had to grab at their furniture or I would fall over when I tried to read while standing.
The vertigo also bothered me when I walked. I couldn’t always keep to a straight line. I had to attend meetings in other parts of the corporate complex, which were best reached by traipsing from building to building through the connected parking garage. This parking garage had safety mirrors, which, as I discovered, were set at five feet off the ground.
How did I discover the height of the mirrors? Well, I’m five-foot-one (probably five-foot-three in the heels I wore), and I walked into the mirrors in several occasions during those weeks. The blows to my head made me even more disoriented than my weaving gait.
Now, how does all this relate to the clown costumes?
Well, that was also the year I worked the Halloween party at my kids’ school. My son was in grade school, and my daughter was no older than kindergarten, maybe still in preschool. The party was an effort to keep the kids in a safe environment. Lots of candy. Lots of games. Parent chaperons to run the games.
I was scheduled to be one of the parent chaperons. After quickly donning my borrowed clown costume after work on Halloween night, I went to the kids’ school to run the bean bag toss game. It was mass confusion and sugar hysteria. Kids shrieking and running. Complete pandemonium. The noise reverberated in my ears.
After the kids threw the bean bags, someone had to pick them up to set up for the next contestant. That someone was me. But leaning over to the ground made the room spin. I spent the evening in spinning pandemonium, and soon developed a headache.
I know many people with vertigo are nauseated and completely incapacitated. I was relatively lucky. In fact, when I finally went to the doctor for tests a few years later (during my third episode of vertigo), I was told that I “compensated very well.” That meant I could convince myself the world wasn’t spinning when my inner ears told me it was. I guess that’s a good life-skill to have. But I’d rather not need it.
What Halloween reverberates in your memory?