Dizzily waiting for a diagnosis

It’s Friday evening and it seems that half the women I know locally have gone to see Jason Donovan in “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” I am babysitting for one of them (and glad to escape the endless talk of Middle Earth and Super Mario from my boy) which gives me the chance to write something ‘meaningful’ here.
So I thought I’d start at the beginning, of at least the year 2011 when my life took an unexpected turn.
April 2011 found me still in the midst of my own self-imposed mid-life crisis. After twelve years as a secondary school history teacher I had made the slightly rash decision to give it up to become a doctor. Many women respond to having children by wanting to work fewer hours; my response, fuelled by a fair amount of post-natal depression, was to do something even more stressful and demanding.
And stressful and demanding it turned out to be, so much so that at the end of the first year I decided to leave medical school and retrain (again) as a paramedic. My husband, as you can imagine, was delighted with all this to-ing and fro-ing! By April 2011 I was a qualified ambulance “technician” and very much enjoying driving the ambulance at high speeds and ignoring the inner voice saying “go back to med school, those doctors are wearing nicer clothes than this uniform.” What I wasn’t enjoying were the migraines and fatigue but I put this down to working twelve (sometimes fifteen!) hour shifts.
Spring Bank Holiday 2011 saw us going camping with friends to Whitby. I am not a fan of camping but Mr C (the perpetual Boy Scout) loves it and the children (then aged 3 and 6) relished the freedom so off we went! One morning I woke up with pins and needles in my arm and the pins and needles lasted all day but I assumed I had slept on it during the (uncomfortable) night. I felt flat and lifeless for most of the weekend but didn’t really think anything of it (I had often felt lifeless since the birth of the children, especially the second one who, at age 3 had never slept for longer than three hours at a stretch.) When we got home I had a nice hot bath and when I got out I fell over. I assumed the bath had been too hot and that I had fainted which was odd but not scary.
Then two days later I started feeling dizzy. Every time I moved my head the room started to spin. After a day or two I couldn’t get out of bed, nevermind drive an ambulance. I couldn’t watch TV, use the computer or even read (my own idea of hell.) A trip to the doctors got me a diagnosis of labyrinthitis and a prescription for seasickness tablets. I got out of bed and tried to function but I kept falling over in the supermarket (all those colours made my eyes roll and over I would go) and falling off chairs when I tried to talk to someone. The medication was changed and I seemed to get a little better (the vertigo was periodic rather than constant) and the googling started. I remember looking at the list of other possible causes for vertigo and seeing Multiple Sclerosis at the bottom. My best friend’s mum has MS and I remember chuckling at the very idea – I wasn’t THAT ill! With the Internet, a shelf full of medical textbooks and the wisdom of my lovely neuro-physiotherapist friend I was pretty convinced it was BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo.) Another change of medication and the GP agreed to refer me for tests. I had been ill for six weeks but it gradually got better until I was only dizzy when I moved my head too quickly and back to work I went…
Six weeks off work however is no good for someone who is going through a crisis of identity, and I had decided to go back to medical school (Mr C didn’t speak to me for four days – four days!) So in September 2011 I had an appointment with the ENT department at the hospital and a new “school” bag for starting my second year of “fast-track” medical school. I felt positive and focused but couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel energised.