May 13, 2009

Finding Balance Again

2009 1513 page29 capIZZY AND UNBALANCED. WHILE IT COULD BE ARGUED THAT THESE WORDS have always described me to some degree, they were never part of an actual medical diagnosis. Until recently.
After doing nothing more earth-shattering than rolling over in my sleep, the world suddenly spun out of control. My stomach bravely found an escape route. Remember the old challenge in which you try to pat the top of your head with one hand while rubbing your tummy with the other? Piece of cake. A real challenge is trying to stand up when your head is doing loops and your stomach is looping counterclockwise while the whole world tilts as you dry heave. Try that!
Clutching unmoving objects firmly with both arms in order to keep from listing painfully into the tub, I fervently hoped that whatever this horrid feeling was would go away, but it didn’t. I was constantly dizzy, nausea back in play every time I moved my head: I assure you that it is very difficult to keep your head still while . . .
What to do? I vacillated between waiting it out and seeing the doctor in the morning, or heading to the ER right then and there. I hate that, when you don’t have all the information necessary to make the right decision, but you know that you won’t have any more information until the decision is already made and it’s too late to use it in making the decision you needed to make in order to . . . Oh, no, not around again . . .
2009 1513 page29I slowly looked up dizziness and nausea on the Web and immediately felt viscerally informed of both. I decided against the ER, not being able to think of anyone who had later wished to have sought immediate medical attention because of these symptoms. I spent the rest of the night sitting up on the couch (so as not to roll by mistake). Every once in a while I’d either try to touch my nose with my index finger or recite the Gettysburg Address—things I’d grabbed out of thin air as methods of determining if I was further “losing it.”
“Labyrinthitis,” the doctor pronounced the next morning, “a textbook case.” Labyrinthitis. A word of which neither I nor my spell-check had ever heard. I made a mental note of it as the nurse shot me in the hip for the nausea. As for the dizziness, there was nothing to be done for it, and it would have to run its course. In the meanwhile, keep still and rest, resume activity only gradually, avoid sudden position changes.
I was seriously out of balance. Sadly, it wasn’t the first time, and probably won’t be the last. Aren’t most of us playing a constant contest with balance of some kind or other? We talk glibly about the importance of living a balanced life, eating a balanced diet, maintaining a balanced perspective.
But it’s not always so easy to tell when your life is out of balance. Signs can be subtle. And cumulative. And easily adapted to. If you tilt just ever so slightly, bit by bit, over time you may not realize you’ve tilted at all. Which explains how so many of us wind up so “suddenly” sin-sick: it’s actually been a long time coming.
Maybe we need to do what our Doctor says: settle down in silence, stop all extraneous activity, and focus on what really matters until things stop spinning. In the quietness, God speaks. And it’s only in stillness that we can finally hear the Word that restores a godly equilibrium. 
Valerie N. Phillips is associate director of the women’s residence hall at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, where she has ministered to collegiate and graduate women for more than 25 years.