“Kind of, yeah. But with more chair spinning. And electronic stimulation.”
At the end of the day I’d be exhausted and useless and a little wary about returning. But once I got to the waiting room, I found that I was looking forward to the session. For that week, my life was the least complicated it’s ever been. I was doing nothing but staring at dots and lasers, spinning in chairs, forced by each task to remain in the present. By the third day, I’d established a sort of patter with the staff, trying to make small talk while dabbing at my routine ultrasound-gel facial with a Kleenex after each electronic-stimulation session—of which there were several a day. Then the dots, walking up and down the hall, the chair spinning, checking my balance on the foam mat after each exercise, and the goggles on alternating days.
Toward the end of the third day I hit a slump. I felt listless and a little snarky, though I perked up when I noticed that spinning in the chair didn’t make me as dizzy at it used to.
“So, what does it mean for my daily life that I’m getting better at spinning in a chair?” I asked, a little more pointedly than I had intended.
“I’m not trying to get you better at spinning in the chair,” the doctor explained. “This fires the neural pathway so that you’re better at knowing where your body is in space.”
On one of my breaks between tests I passed the main doctor in the hall.
“Hey, let me grab you for a sec,” he said.
He pulled me into an empty exam room and asks me to stand in front of him.
“Close your eyes. I’m going to snap my fingers and I want you to point to where you think the sound is coming from.”
I closed my eyes, heard his snap, and pointed.
“Ok, now open your eyes.”
My finger was way off-base, many inches away from where he had frozen his hand post-snap. We did several rounds of this, on both the left and right side. Each time I was terrible at it.
“Ok, now I’m going to shine a strobe for a sec.”
He took a tiny flashlight out of his pocket and flashed it on the side of my face. “Ok. Now again.”
This time, I hit his hand almost every time with my eyes closed.
I was flabbergasted.
He brought the younger doctor in to show him what we were up to. “Add that to her regimen.”
I slept really well that night, and on the fourth day I had more energy than I’d had in quite a while. I felt strangely “switched on.” The exercises had gone from intriguing to routine to boring, and I began trying to chat with the doctor to pass the time. Between spins in the chair or counting dots, we talked about everything from the effect of social media on the brain to the secret to healthy skin (vitamin C, he said). I noticed every time he asked me to complete an exam, he ended the request with “for me.” As in, “Ok now, cross your legs in the chair for me.” “Stand on the mat for me.” “Focus on this dot for me.” I wondered if this was taught in medical school as a way to soften the authoritarian tone of a command, perhaps to bridge the gap between doctor and patient. I didn’t ask him. We had another day to go and I didn’t want to start making him feel self-conscious about it. My balance on the foam mat had improved. I wasn’t falling over any more when I looked up. We’d added the snapping to our regimen.