Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Here's a funny story about hypochondria: while I was busy barking up the whooping cough tree, I completely missed a legitimate illness that was right under my nose. Here are the clues, extracted directly from my recent blog posts:

"I was too tired to focus my eyes."
"My eyes wouldn't work properly, and I couldn't concentrate worth a hoot."
"in what could now be called full-on zombie mode."
"I am in a constant stupor."

I've saved you the suspense of guessing what was wrong with me by conveniently titling this post with its name, but if you want to play along, here's the story of how I finally clued in to the fact that something was amiss.

By last Wednesday morning (that's 4 days after the onset of symptoms), I had finally gotten a full night of sleep. Yet still, I had this weird disconcerting feeling of being in a dream. It was hard to put my finger on what was wrong, but things just didn't look right to me, like there was a discrepancy between what my eyes were seeing and what my brain was registering. The best way I could describe it was feeling "spacey."

The symptoms were really vague and very subtle, but after days of scrutinizing them, I concluded:
  • Feeling spacey is the primary symptom.
  • At times, when it gets bad, I notice things look like they're subtly rocking, vibrating, or bouncing, and I can feel a faint sensation of the same if I close my eyes.
  • It gets worse in the evenings and after being active.
  • Bright light seems to make it worse—staring at a computer monitor is no fun whatsoever, but oddly, if I get really close to the monitor while reading, I almost feel normal.
  • I have had little to no appetite and on bad days I'm downright nauseated.
Like any good hypochondriac, I turned to the Internet for a diagnosis. What I found was a disturbing number of people who developed the same symptoms mysteriously and never lost them, spending years in a state of unreality. Some people got this way after a neck injury that somehow affected blood flow to their brain. Others just woke up that way one morning. I discovered some migraine sufferers experience similar symptoms, and I spent a day believing I had some incredibly long-lasting migraine.

By Thursday afternoon, I had changed my self-diagnosis to labyrinthitis, based on the fact that it's a fairly common condition that often arises after an upper respiratory infection, which I had just had. On the next Tuesday morning (yesterday, and, if you're counting, 11 days after the first appearance of symptoms), I went to the doctor, who also diagnosed labyrinthitis without any prompting from me.

He said some things that were reassuring and some things that were not: For example, people usually get better on their own, but it was a little unusual that I wasn't getting better yet. He also noted that usually labyrinthitis causes a spinning sensation, so my spaciness and occasional rocking feeling are not exactly par for the course.

To me, this says we're either wrong and there's something else going on entirely, or I'm just a weird bird who can never do anything the normal way. He says if it doesn't improve, he recommends I see an ENT in DC who specializes in vertigo.

Insert witty conclusion here while I go to bed. My eyes are tired.