I have shared in this space before that I have Meniere’s Disease. This is an autoimmune disease that affects the ear and can cause ringing or tinitus in the ear or ears, vertigo, and hearing loss. You can read more of my experience with these things here, here and here.
About a year ago I also shared my new bionic ear in a post called It is What it Is. Because of the Meniere’s and a recent “attack” I lost significant hearing in my right ear – so much so that it required a hearing aid. I’ll be honest and have to say that was not the easiest pill to swallow. It made me feel old, feeble and a little “less than”. I got over it, though, put on my big girl panties and used my “bionic ear” to help, especially in crowds, restaurants and around groups of people. That worked fine until last summer when I guess it just didn’t any more.
Last summer I had another big bought of Meniere’s. I had to go to my doctor in order to get some help for the severe vertigo. If you have never had vertigo, then I am glad for you. It is likely hard for you to understand how debilitating it can be. I’m not saying that to get sympathy, but to explain one of the symptoms and let you know that it’s not something you want to put on your bucket list. In fact, if it weren’t for the vertigo and how it completely can hault and bring me to a complete stand still, I would not really worry with going to see my doctor.
When you go to the ENT with Meniere’s they always, always, always, require you to go through a hearing test with the audiologist. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want it, don’t care to know about your hearing, or kick and scream to avoid the process . . . you just have to do it. Sooooooooo, last summer when I sat in that little sound proof booth (more on that later) I could tell it wasn’t going to be great news. I was used to it by then so didn’t think I’d really sweat it. That particular bout of Meniere’s had caused another big loss in my hearing. So much so that the almost newly purchased, and not cheap I might add, bionic ear, no longer worked. It wasn’t helping at all and could no longer help me in that ear. Well, my frugal and thrifty self was pretty bummed that I’d spent all that money for nothing. It wasn’t really worth getting upset over more loss of hearing. My other ear is really quite awesome so it’s all good.
Recently, I had to go back to see my doctor. This time, basically to stay on top of things and avoid another pesky bout. And, once again I was forced into that darn awful hearing booth by my treacherous audiologist. So, here, I’m going to explain a little about this, just in case you’ve ever stayed awake at night worrying about the whole hearing test process. First of all, you sit in a little sound booth in a chair and you are given a little gizmo to hold in your hand. You are told to push the button any time you hear any sound. Then the audiologist puts headbands on your head with devices that go in your ears. She then proceeds out of the booth to her side behind a glass window.
There are a few different ways that you are tested here. You are given sounds at different pitches, levels and volumes in both ears. Then they put some sort of sound in one ear, like waves crashing, wind blowing, or static and only provide the “test sounds” in the other ear. Then they switch it. Note: you will know if you aren’t hearing certain sounds as there will be noticeable dead times between the test sounds. Then, comes the icing on the cake. Word recognition. During this part of the process I am given static sounds in my left ear (my good ear) and the audiologist tells me to repeat the words I hear back at her. So, it goes something like this:
Say the word cat.
Say the word pool.
Say the word dog.
Say the word wind.
You get the idea. I think she went through a list of about 16 words. Guess how many words I recognized?
Zero. None. Not One. Zilch.
I knew it was pretty apparent I’d had another significant hearing loss. I had always been able to repeat the words or at least guess if I wasn’t 100% sure of a couple.
So, why am I telling you all of this? Not to whine or tell you how tough I am. I’m okay with the loss of hearing in my right ear. Just remember that if you want to sit by me in a restaurant or church! It’s to tell you how to use this example for yourself.
I saw a different doctor this time and it was remarkable how much time she spent speaking with me about the autoimmune disease, it’s responses to stress and lifestyle. We discussed what I do for a living, my personal health practices, philosophy and lifestyle. Oftentimes autoimmune diseases flare up in response to inflammation in the body. As I am careful to eat an anti-inflammatory diet, eat salt only if I don’t know about it, and limit trigger foods, we talked about how the body’s inflammation occurs from another big trigger: Stress.
When I experienced my very first bout with Meniere’s Disease, it was at the onset of my father’s health decline. We were making some fast, serious and life-changing decisions and plans for my parents. Another time I had a big bout was following a move from one home to another. We made the move to a new house that would be more accessible for my mother, since my father had passed away and my brother had also recently died. That bout put me on my back with a spinning head for days. Not fun. And these last two times of big hearing loss have also come at times of stress.
I don’t consider myself a “stressed out” person. I’m pretty good at dealing with stuff. I know life is not easy and it’s definitely not fair. The older you get the more you see others, and maybe yourself, having to deal with some really stressful times: illness, whether it be your own or a loved one, death, loss of job, lifestyle, divorce, loss of relationships, or other big or small life changes. Even if we think we are “dealing” and handling what life throws our way, sometimes our body just doesn’t react the way we want. It puts up its hands to fight, but just can’t do it. That’s when inflammation can enter the body and show up in other ways. For me, it’s in my Meniere’s.
I feel as if I have been sharing a lot more recently about self-care, mindfulness and creating well-being for oneself. I’m not the only one. This is a BIG topic everywhere and expecially in the wellness field. Not to sound pat, but self-care is crucial for your overall health. I think it’s so important that you need to make it a big part of your lifestyle. You need to be your job. You need to take care of yourself. Your job each and every day needs to be taking care of yourself in this area.
I have gotten much better at this. I’ve talked about my non-negotiables and some of them deal with self-care. I need time alone in the mornings. I avoid fast foods and drive-thru foods because that’s not taking care of myself to eat that way. I make time to exercise. I also do my best to get sleep. I’m not always successful at this one, but I do my best to get in bed at the same time most evenings. I also try, try, try not to worry. I think sometimes I worry myself with trying NOT to worry! I have 1 Peter 5:6-7 plastered throughout my house. “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
So, I do try to do these things to take care of myself and keep the stress monster under the rug so I can, in turn, take care of those around me.
This ended up being a really long post, so kudos to you if you are still with me. The point I’m really trying to make here is to Make Yourself a Job. Just like you do your job at home, in your workplace, or in the community, do it for yourself also!
I am such a big believer in this aspect of your health that all of my new programs include a portion of self-care. In Better & Beyond, launching Monday, we have weekly homework that focuses just on YOU. In 1:1 Mentoring, we focus a ton on ways to prioritize yourself. Even in the new seasonal meal plans I am creating I am including mindfulness to go along with the meal planning. Your health is NOT based on one single thing. It is multifaceted. In order to have your own personal balanced healthy lifestyle you have to have nutrition, fitness AND your heart or self-care.
If you aren’t treating yourself like a job and making yourself a priority, no one else will. Your health will not be at its best and stress can take a toll somewhere. Let’s not let that happen.
Enjoy Your Day!