Pockets of Blue

musings of my mind

Emotional Vertigo

One of my earliest memories from childhood is lying on the couch, covered with a blanket, with an aching body from the flu. Sometimes, when especially out of it, I would enter a kind of hallucinatory state where the room would tip and shift, and I would daydream about cubes and spheres in the room expanding, contracting, and bouncing around. The empty space in the room would take on a life of its own, rotating and breathing as a single unit. Really weird stuff, and probably a by-product of my 103° temperature and various medications.

When you’re a kid you seem to be rather susceptible to various diseases, especially when being exposed to them on a daily basis at school. I haven’t gotten the flu in years, and the only instances of coming down with more than a mild cold have been when traveling. Yet I sometimes still experience vestiges of the visions from when I was a kid.

They’re most acute when engaged in an intense, emotional conversation or situation, usually with Katherine about our highly personal innate flaws and expectations. When she’s sitting across the dining table, or on the bed, at times it’s as if the space between us is expanding and contracting in that same breathing manner. At its worse she’s perceived to be yards away, and the table surface, walls, and ceiling between us stretch out three of four times, then condense again moments later. The more intense the conversation, the more space gets warped. It’s like the emotional part of my brain is disrupting the cerebellum.

For the years in between, I never experienced this. Probably because I would unconsciously shield myself from emotional experiences, avoiding deep relationships, and relating superficially with others. I doubt this vertigo had anything to do with it, but it was definitely not anything I would experience, save perhaps occasionally for the exceptionally low moments of undergrad. Now I embrace it, for it is proof of a richer existence. You’ll never learn anything about yourself when avoiding commitment, whether it’s in love, friendship, or work. Open up and be opened up.

Edit (5/28/12): Here’s a very powerful talk exploring this: http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

1 Comment

  1. Hey, Alec.
    Mom mentioned your post to me over a month ago, and I finally got around to reading it. Great post. I think we all have emotional vertigo of one kind or another–I think of the poet Ezra Pound’s line in The Garden: ‘and you are all dying slowly of a kind of emotional anemia.’ His comment, in that instance, bespoke of a universal curse made apparent in human indifference to the plight of others, and I think he was right on. Anyway, your last line is also exactly right. There’s a great Steven Stills line that goes: if you cannot let yourself be known, you are hiding and not whole. Sad but true.

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