By Catherine Richardson, a senior journalism major from Cincinnati.

For 23 years I have had no broken bones, no major surgeries and no chronic illnesses – knock on wood. When I came to college I knew things in my life would change; I just never expected that to be my health.Since my freshman year my weight has dropped dramatically, the circles under my eyes have darkened and I get headaches almost every day. The cause of these changes can be identified by one word – stress. I haven’t been treating my body with the respect it deserves because of my stress level. I have a poor diet, I don’t get enough sleep and I don’t exercise.

This spring semester my stress level has escalated because I’m not only trying to finish up college, I’m also on the prowl for a job. Over Christmas break I began my search for a summer internship and also for the possibility of a job after graduation. My parents’ constant nagging wasn’t helping my stressful situation, but I managed to get my rsum sent out to some businesses. I headed back to Eastern refreshed and ready to start yet another semester, but I never expected to have a health issue when I returned.

I remember waking up in the morning not feeling like myself. I stood up and was immediately overcome with dizziness. I sat back down on the bed and said, “Whoa. That was weird.” I tried once more to stand up, but the dizziness was making me feel nauseous. I didn’t get out of bed all day except to get food or to use the restroom. It was that bad. All I could do was lie down in bed and stay perfectly still. Any slight movement and I felt like the whole room was spinning and whirling around me. The next day was the same thing – intense dizziness. Every time I moved my head would feel like it was spinning. I was once again bedridden.

After the two days passed I was still dizzy, but the nauseous feeling was gone and I could walk around my room without stumbling over myself. But something was still not right. My head felt fuzzy, I wasn’t hungry, I was constantly going to the restroom and any quick movement made my head spin.

I had never been so afraid in my life. Why was I feeling like this? What could be the cause? Do I have a tumor or something? All these thoughts began to pop into my head. I was stressing out and worried.

I called my mother and described what my symptoms were, and she thought I had an inner ear infection. I didn’t believe this was the case, so I went to the Student Health Services Building. They were nice but no big help. Still with no answers I went back to my room and picked up the phone. I called my mother and told her to make an appointment with my doctor.

I wanted to have a professional opinion from my own doctor back at home. I was really nervous when I went for my appointment because I had no idea what the diagnosis was going to be. After the examination he came back into the room and basically said I had a mild case of vertigo and that I had nothing to worry about.

But worrying is what I did. I didn’t understand how I could wake up one day and have vertigo. I needed to know what caused it and if it would ever appear again. I began to look online for some answers and I called my doctor for more information. My doctor said vertigo is more common than most people realize. He was right. Over 90 million Americans 17 and older have experienced a dizziness or balance problem.

Now that I know what vertigo is and I understand the causes, I don’t really think about it that much, but there are occasions when I do. Sometimes when I first get out of bed and stand up I feel like I might get dizzy, but so far I haven’t had any dizzy spells since January. I hope I never have to feel the way I did for those two days when I was bedridden.

So some of you are probably wondering what vertigo is and what are actually the causes. Vertigo simply is the sensation of dizziness. The causes, however, are not quite as simple, as I found out. Although I would love to blame my stress as a cause, it’s not. The most common causes are from your ears – inner ear infections and things of that sort. My case of vertigo was brought on by a viral inflammation of the balance nerve located in the ear. But there are many other medical causes even as serious as a tumor. If anyone thinks they may have vertigo or something similar, I suggest you go see your doctor, or better yet, an ear, nose and throat specialist.

Every day I deal with stress, but I tell myself everything will get done and will be OK. When I get out of bed in the morning, I’m just happy I don’t have a major dizzy spell.