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Well Becoming

a blog about being well, becoming well, staying well - and flourishing. Written by a professor and family doctor living between Liverpool, UK and Granada, Spain

Off Balance
Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sometimes you can be moseying along, feeling pretty good about how you are coping with life – and then everything goes pear-shaped......

 Well, that’s happened to me. I was making steady progress after my cycling accident when, one night on my way to the loo, I suddenly realised I couldn’t walk straight. The world seemed to be turning round and round. I couldn’t work out what was up and what was down. My head was spinning. I had to hang on to the wall for dear life. The next morning was no better. Walking downstairs was too terrifying to contemplate, so bum-shuffled instead (which confused the dogs no end.)

 And no, before you ask, I hadn’t been on the ale.

 It was vertigo. It’s common after head trauma. The collision dislodges the tiny stones in the inner ear (otoliths) which are responsible for balance.

 It’s better now. I’ve had time to reflect on my responses to this, and how they might make sense for different sorts of unexpected problems.


  1. Panic. Yes, I’m afraid so, panic is the first thing you do. It’s pretty inevitable when something unpleasant and unexpected happens, no matter how calm and capable you like to think you are. My precarious night-time trip to the bathroom was accompanied by various silent expletives, ‘You cannot be serious’ and ‘What the **** is happening’. It was not funny, not at all. I was scared. I was knocked off balance - literally and metaphorically.

 2. Find a place of safety. If you can, find somewhere out of harm's way, to ride out the storm. For me it was lying on my back in bed, moving as little as possible. I didn’t know what was happening, how long it was going to go on, whether it would get better or worse. But just lying there I had a sense of calm, of acceptance. In Gabrielle Roth’s words, I was ‘finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence’.

 3. Distract yourself.If you’re stuck somewhere bad and can’t do anything about it, then it’s good to take your mind off it all, distract yourself. Switch from right brain (feelings) to left brain (thought). I decided to try and remember the names of the main characters in The Wire. I got lots of them – McNulty, Bunk, Daniels, Avon and DiAngelo, Bubbles and the brilliant Omar Little. For some reason I couldn’t recall Stringer Bell (psychoanalysts will have their theories, I’m sure).

 4. Find support. You need someone who’s there for you, who can calm things down a bit and help you think about what to do next. For me that’ was the easy bit. I just told Sue and she was there like a shot.

 5. Seek help. You still need someone to help you fix the problem, or at least manage it as best you can. Within 24 hours I was in touch with the wonderful Nova Mullin, balance therapist from our local hospital. She has exactly the right combination of wisdom and confidence, assured me it was going to get better and started me on exercises I could do even with my neck in a brace.



As I say, I’m a lot better now. I can do White Crane Spreads Wings again in my tai chi class - though not yet with my eyes closed!

 I wonder if this makes sense for you. How did you respond, the last time something unexpectedly horrible happenened?







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