This afternoon I ignored my “Don’t Go Into a Big Store” rule and I went into a big store. Occasionally I will do these type of things out of sheer determination to be normal. The result was the expected sensation. Entering the store with all its visual stimuli and sounds sets off my first warning sign – a loud pounding heart beat in my left ear. Thump, thump, thump. I try to walk up and down the aisles, knowing that I will only be able to get a portion of the items on my grocery list because I won’t last long. After only just a couple of store trips I have come up with a list of tactics that help me last as long as I can on the outings.
Tactic #1: Hold on to a shopping cart. I don’t lean on the cart, really. But just holding on to something in the midst of the dizziness somehow helps me feel slightly more stable.
Tactic #2. Look down or close eyes. I don’t know why, and perhaps there is a scientific reason for it, but visually taking in a busy scene of bright colorful items on a shelf adds to the dizziness. I am sure it is related to some connection between the visual, auditory and vestibular senses all not matching up and my brain trying to make sense of it all. Whatever the reason, minimizing the visual intakes helps me. I have actually heard of folks with SCDS who shop with sunglasses on. Worried that I will look like I’m on drugs or about to hold up a 7-11, I can’t seem to do the sunglasses thing.
Tactic #3: Wear earplugs or listen to soothing music on the ipod while shopping. This cuts out a portion of the noise that makes me dizzy, thus getting me to endure a bit more of the experience… which usually lasts a whole 10 minutes.
Today at the store I became aware that I have not only lost my ability to walk straight in a store, but also can’t seem to talk at a normal sound level. For whatever reason my brain can’t seem to handle my own loud, obnoxious, microphone-like voice at times when I am dizzy. I’ve become a “Soft Talker”. (If you are familiar with the Seinfeld episode of Cramer’s girlfriend being a Soft-Talker you can appreciate this.) I find my experience of being a Soft Talker at the store is equally assuming because the cheery lady at the register has lots of questions for me, and I answer each one of them in very quiet one-word answers. “Fine.”….“Yes, nice weather.”…..”No, thanks”……. I am really not much of a conversationalist no matter what her questions.
Which brings me to realize how much of my world no one can see and here, and will never see and hear. Those of us with SCDS walk around dizzy, soft talking and literally in survival mode as the world around us spins, tilts and thumps loudly in our ears. There is no explaining this to the well-meaning girl at the checkout counter or to my child’s teacher as I concentrate to make it through a student-teacher conference. If we do explain, we sound insane. Try, just try to tell someone that you can hear your eyeballs move. It doesn’t go well. And so those of us with SCDS, we simply go out into the big loud world when we have no choice and then quickly retreat back to peacefulness of quiet when we can… without anyone understanding the struggle.