Rockin’ the vertigo

15 Feb

Towards the end of my vertigo therapy session, we were asked to pick a goal. Not a pie in the sky “I want to get better” amorphous concept of a goal, but a tangible, attainable goal. Some people chose getting back to driving (something I’d likewise love to do) some chose going out with friends more, etc. As for me? I had something very clear in mind: I want to learn to rock climb.

This is an incredibly difficult thing for someone without a vestibular disorder to imagine; it’s not an easy thing to begin with. But the vestibular disorder adds an entire level of difficulty that nobody else will experience. Think about it. I get 70% of my balance from my feet being able to sense terra firma, 25% from visual cues, 5% from my good ear. On the wall, I massively alter the foot stimulus, restrict my visual signals to the wall in my immediate range, and I have an entirely new piece of information to work with: my hands. In other words, this is completely disorienting. I had to relearn to balance form scratch–standing without tipping over is something I have to consciously think about. Rock climbing is an entirely different world to me and it serves as the crowning achievement of my vertigo therapy.

And today I made it to the top of that wall for the first time. 39 feet. I have an absolutely brilliant set of teammates giving me all the encouragement and support I need (literally–we’re all research chemists belaying each other,) and every night we recap about what we did well and where we’d like to be. This is one of the most wonderful things about research groups; the camaraderie is unbeatable. This event (the Mile High challenge–5,280 vertical feet between the four of us) has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in quite some time.


Thank you Codey, so, so much for snapping this shot! You rock!

As an individual, every climb I do is mine and mine alone. Other vertigo patients may commiserate or have similar stories and they may even climb the exact same route I just did, but this particular vertigo is mine. It is damage unique to my physiology and therefore it is something I alone on this planet will ever know. An outward manifestation of my own private world–my secret openly spread eagle on the lateral face of a wall. I think that’s pretty damn cool.


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