I’m not sure when I discovered I developed vertigo.  It may have been the annual task of cleaning the chimney the wood stove used.  The Chimney was at the end of an addition of an old farm house, my ex-wife now owns. That addition was two stories on one side and three stories on the other.  The chimney was on the three story wall.  The roof slope was too steep to walk up.

The addition  was connected to the main house. The roof lines were offset.  I would climb the extension ladder to the roof of the main part of the house that had a slope could walk up (5/12).  I would climb to the peak then slide down the edge  to the roof peak of the joining room. I would scoot across that peak straddling the peak to the chimney on the far end. I would then stand up to reach the top of the chimney and proceed to clean the chimney as I straddled the steep peak. Not a fun task.   When I was done and back on the ground, I would often find my legs week and shaking. I thought it was due to the tension I of standing is such a fixed spot while I clean the chimney, but realized later that the shaking legs were the onset of vertigo.

The first time I identified it as vertigo was later when my youngest son and I took a day hike up Mt. Osceloa  in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He was probably  14 or 15, the young reckless teen years; I was in my 40’s.  The trail started out in woods and was not too steep.  About a mile later, it started going over rocks and near cliffs.  My son would run to the edge of the cliffs and call: “Hey, Dad, look at this!” and I could fee my legs shake and my mind would visualize him going over the edge, crashing in the scrubs and rocks below. 

As my heart rate would return to normal when he retreated from the edge, I realized the true experience of vertigo.

Fast forward 30 some years later, and I still get the same feeling watching my wife on scaffolding 24 feet above the cement floor in our new home finishing the trim on the tongue and grove wood ceiling. Or watching the same son fall on a snow field and slide down a mountain in the Chicago Basin.

My vertigo is somewhat manageable as I get the same feelings on the top of a five foot stepladder today. 

But I prefer both feet planted on earth and not near a cliff.