“Why can’t I stand up? What’s happening? Why does everything look like its moving? I can’t tell where I am! I don’t know which way is up! I can’t stop myself from falling! Oh, someone help me….”
There was absolutely nothing that my pre-disabilityhood could have done to prepare me for what I was feeling at that moment I fell to the floor. There was nothing that I could compare it with. It was the most frightening thing I had ever faced. There was this sense of complete emptiness – that everything I ever perceived had disappeared – I felt like an empty shell that was being filled with a foreboding sense of fear, total disbelief, of utter non-comprehension. I was dumbfounded, bewildered, shocked. It was as if I had dropped into a void that contained nothing. All that I had I had become had left me in an instant and replaced with … nothing… nothing familiar, nothing but different and foreign. My life had become a foreign language… I had fallen into a nothingness land I knew nothing about. There was only me, like a baby – yearning for someone to take care of me only there was no one there to take care of me. I had fallen with a whole bunch of what used to be’s that was no longer allowed to be used – everything didn’t fit anymore. This is where the foundational construction of the noise began. It was here that I had to begin constructing a whole new world, one without a blueprint from which to follow…
“HELP!!!” “Who can help me? Is there help? Oh my God, what if I can never walk again? What if this is something that will never go away? How the hell do I deal with that? Oh my God, Kris… What about Kris? What’s happening? I can’t stand up… I can barely crawl, why do I keep falling? Why won’t anything stand still? What the hell is that ringing in my ears? I have to pee… I can’t walk…. Is this what it feels like when you are dead? Am I dead? What’s happening? I have to get to the hospital, I need some help…”
Somehow I made my way to the bathroom and could barely stay seated on the toilet. I could not hold my upper body upright and my head bobbled all over the place. Nothing would stay still and everything I looked at moved. I could not stop my head from shaking and everything wiggled and blurred. It wasn’t like seeing double, it was as if I were looking through a wall of water – like that at an aquarium –everything floated in a three dimensional space. Even the walls were moving and tilting. There was no way I could walk seeing like this. There was no way I could walk.
“I have to get myself downstairs…” I needed a phone and ended up half sliding, half falling down the stairs on my butt and crawling while tumbling to find the phone. I kept falling over and running into things. I finally found the phone but didn’t know who to call. I laid there on the floor frozen in fear. “I have to call my doctor, but what’s the number… Oh no, I have to get to my address book… oh, I have to get to the kitchen….” On my hands and knees I crawled over the hardwood floor through the dining room and into the kitchen falling over several times. There was nothing I could do to stop from falling over. “ the address book is on the counter…how am I going to reach it… oh, God, please help me….” I crawled up to the counter and leaned my body against it. Using my free arm I attempted to reach up to grab the side of the countertop to try and pull myself. “I’m almost there….” I was half way up when I fell flat on my back to the floor. I laid there with a choir of desperate screaming thoughts rushing through my head. None of them made any sense to me. All I knew is that I had to get to that address book. Believe it or not, it never occurred to me to call 911… “Okay, I have to try this again, I have to reach that book”. I leaned myself against the cupboard again, reached above my head, found a tight grip and pulled myself halfway to where I could grab the countertop with my other hand and finally with tears streaming down my face pulled myself up … “finally, I have the book… oh God, the phone – what the hell…. I left it in the livingroom!” Then, I lost my grip and again crashed to the floor where I began to sob. I laid there on the kitchen floor too scared to move. It took several what felt like a lifetime minutes before I could gain the mind and strength to go back to the living room to use the phone. I mustered myself back up to my knees, grabbed the counter top and pulled myself up onto my feet. I grabbed the address book and began to fall sideways. I tightened my grip to the counter top to the point of thinking I would pull the cupboards off the wall. There was no way I could stand upright – I had absolutely no control of my body. I stood there hunched over the countertop trying to think of a way to get myself and the address book to the phone. I tucked the address book into my pajama bottoms and held on as I somehow managed to walk along side the countertop until I reached the end of the cupboard and to the doorway leading into the dining room. I reached for the back of one of dining room chairs and pulled myself to it only to have the chair slide and me falling onto the hardwood floor. Feeling completely helpless I again laid on the floor with tears of terror streaming down my face. I just could not make any sense of what was happening to me. It felt surreal, I felt unreal. Battered and bruised I somehow found the strength to continue to make my way to the phone. I pulled the address book from my pajamas and flipped through the pages to try and locate the clinic number but found I couldn’t hold my line of vision still. Everything I was seeing bounced and blurred and I could not control my eyes from bobbling around in my head. I slid myself along the floor and leaned against the wall to attempt to stabilize myself. I had to keep myself as still as possible in order to see anything remotely clear. This was impossible. Somehow, through trial and error, pressing one number at a time, I was able to dial the number to the clinic.
“Something is terribly wrong! I can’t stand up! I can’t see! What’s wrong with me?” The receptionist listened as I described what was going on and placed me through to triage where I desperately asked for help. I was given an emergency appointment for that same day. Ridiculous as it sounds, I drove myself the 50 miles to Madison to get this appointment. The drive was beyond anything I had ever experienced. As I look back on this I absolutely should not have been behind the wheel of a car. But in my mind at that time this was the only thing that I could think to do. My partner was not home and I knew better than to call him….
Before I could leave for my appointment I had to go back upstairs to get dressed. The climb up the stairs was actually a crawl and with each reach towards the steps I would flop onto my side and slide down. I grabbed the railing and by hanging on to it pulled myself to my knees and in this kneeling position worked my way to the top of the stairs. From there I crawled to the bedroom still falling over and crashing into walls. By the time I reached my bedroom I was exhausted and so afraid. I somehow found something to wear and to get dressed I laid on the floor and wiggle myself in to my clothing all the while feeling a complete disconnection from my surroundings. I tried sitting up to tie my shoes only to fall over when attempting to reach down to grab the laces. I kicked off those shoes and worked my way into a pair of pull on’s. “Oh for God’s sake, now I have to go back down the stairs and get out to my car!” With a sense of strength that came from who knows where, I repeated my way down the stairs, hanging on to the railing and sliding down the steps on my butt. To get to my car, an older model Ford Bronco, 4×4, 5 speed, I walked along side my front porch and hung on to it to keep myself from falling to the ground. Once at the end of the porch I found my vehicle to be about three feet from my reach so I reached out and just let myself fall to the hood. I grabbed on and then went around the front to the driver’s side door. The body of a Bronco is elevated so to get into it one has to grab the steering wheel for leverage and sort of jump into the seat. Once I reached this point I froze in fear of attempting this feat but all I knew is that I had to get to the doctor to find out what was wrong. So, I stood there with the drivers side door open, holding the steering wheel and with everything I had, pulled myself into the car only to fall over sideways into the passenger seat with the stick shift jabbing into my side. Still, rather than call for help, my habituation to getting help on my own kicked in and I grabbed the steering wheel, pulled myself up behind it and held on. Putting the key in the ignition, my foot on the brake, I pressed in the clutch, started the Bronco up, and blindly backed out of the driveway. Once on the street I thought to myself, “this is crazy, how will I ever get there like this?” Believe it or not, I could not find an answer to this and continued on with determination to find the help I needed. I put the Bronco in first gear and began a 50 mile drive to the clinic. As I drove, the road before me looked like a multitude of roads all trying to merge into one. The pavement seemed to move and all I could do was to concentrate on where I thought the road might be. I could not gaze far beyond the hood of my car because I could not discern what was up ahead. So I slowly worked my way using my memory of the roads. I truly believe the only way I was able to get to and from the clinic was the fact that I had driven those roads a countless number of times and the route was somehow ingrained in me, that and divine intervention. I stayed off the main freeways and traveled my way to the clinic through back roads and low traffic city streets. By the guiding grace of God I made it to the clinic without hurting myself or worse yet, someone else.
That journey took forever but I made it to the clinic. By way of sheer determination and reaching out to grab onto whatever I could find from my car to the entrance of the clinic, I made my way to the appointment desk. I stood there, my body literally shaking from the experience of my drive coupled with not knowing what was wrong with me and not knowing where I was in space. I had no concept of where my feet where. The only way I could tell what was up or down was by trying to connect myself with the vertical lines of my surroundings, even though my vision was so messed up, I was able to make this first adaptation.
As I took my place in the waiting room I could not hold back the tears and fear of what I was experiencing. With a foreboding anticipation I waited for my name to be called. Once it was, in a swirling maze of unfamiliar territory, I wobbled my way to the nurse, desperately grabbed her arm and together walked an unsteady and unsure path to an examination room. The nurse asked what I was there for and I told her what I was going through and silently wondered how she could not have determined this after the walk we just took to the examination room together. I explained to her that I just had surgery that I had developed an infection, was in the hospital, and was on antibiotics and that that morning I woke up as I was presenting myself to her now. The nurse took my temperature, my blood pressure and wrote down my explanations. The doctor came in and examined me and determined that I must have an ear infection and that it was causing me to feel “dizzy”. I explained to him that it wasn’t “dizziness” I was experiencing but rather a lack of being able to sense where I was in space. I also recall questioning the doctor about having any kind of infection after being on the antibiotics I had just completed. However, he maintained his position and I was sent off with a prescription for Meclizine, a motion sickness medication and suppressant of the vestibular system. I filled the prescription at the clinic and reversed my way into the incredibly frightening drive back home. Mixed with the swirling presentations what my drive was throwing at me was again, a feeling of unshakable impending doom, that feeling that things were never going to be the same again.