I’ve been a little slow to blog lately on the progress of my inner ear virus, mainly because I wanted to spend the remainder of my maternity leave just focusing on my daughter! My New Year’s Resolutions were to:
1. Take the focus off my symptoms, no matter how shitty I feel, and try to focus on doing things I love.
2. Stop Googling Inner Ear symptoms–it doesn’t solve anything and only makes you feel worse.
3. Learn from what’s happened to me.
I’ve (mostly) stuck to these resolutions–there are still good days and bad, but I’ve tried to listen and learn from others through this journey, and I firmly believe that your outlook is influenced by where your energy is focused. If I continue to focus my energy on my symptoms, difficult as it might be to ignore them, then my whole world revolves around “feeling shitty.” If I try to focus on what I love, than all of a sudden, my ability to cope improves.
I started blogging about this when it happened, in hopes that through Social Media, that I could connect with others who may have had a similar experience. Little did I know that there were others following my blog, and that so many people cared about my progress and well-being–and have followed up from near and far to see how I’m doing. Words cannot express my gratitude for so many people reaching out with their caring words. I have connected with so many wonderful people who’s lives have been turned upside down by this illness, and it really has really put things into perspective for me.
So, for those that have asked how I’m doing….. My left ear still has about 25 – 30% total hearing loss….most of it in the high frequency. This is the least of my worries, and although frustrating, I’ve adapted. At the beginning, my high-frequency loss was “severe,” meaning that over 80% of the high-frequency hearing was gone!!! Now, that number is down to about 40%. The lack of hearing the hum of cars going by, initially, scared the crap out of me–sometimes I couldn’t tell what direction a car was coming from! But now, I can hear enough from my left side, to safely cross the street. Labyrinthitis leaves permanent hearing loss for 1/3 of people, and if my hearing doesn’t return within a year, it’s probably permanent. So, I’ve got 6 months left of hope, but I’m not worried! Worst-case scenario, I just get a hearing aid. Or, I continue to function as I have been–as mentioned, I’ve adapted.
The ringing in my ears is still there. My left ear still has a permanent high-frequency noise that sounds like crickets. It’s annoying, I’m not going to lie. But, for the most part, instead of 1,000 crickets, there’s maybe 100. So the volume of the ringing has gone down. The ringing in my right ear is a lower frequency–it comes and goes depending on the day–and I’m pretty sure it’s related to my jaw. I am confident that it will one day, go away.
My anxiety levels, thankfully, are almost normal. This was one of the worst parts of the whole experience. Because of the hearing nerve damage, there has been a pathological signal coming from my ear, which conflicts with what the rest of the brain is interpreting. If my eyes say one thing (i.e.: my head is straight), but my ears are saying another thing (i.e: my head is tilted), the body protects itself by going into “fight or flight” mode, and a horrible, uncontrollable anxiety results. Thanks to time, and the chiropractic neurologist that my sister and I see, my brain has started to adapt to these messages, and slowly, it’s on it’s way to working properly.
I believe that the physiological anxiety from the inner ear damage, on top of being postpartum, contributed to my insomnia. Currently, though I still don’t sleep as well as I used to, my ability to fall asleep has improved considerably. When I wake up in the night, it’s not as frequent. Sometimes I can fall back asleep and sometimes I can’t, but overall, I’m getting more sleep than before.
Crowds, driving, and busy environments are slowly improving. A month ago, I had a horrible time at a crowded event. This happens because when environments are busy, your brain is doing all it can to process the information about your surroundings, so other cognitive tasks go on the “back burner.” However, just last weekend, I lasted an entire day at a crowded event, and felt 85 – 90% of normal. I would say that’s huge progress, considering that I had trouble following basic conversations around Christmastime. When I enter busy stores, sometimes I feel involuntary tension in my neck and face (physiological anxiety–my body is just trying to keep me from falling over), and generally, I turn into Homer Simpson (my brain slows down completely), but I’ve learned not to panic, and I’ve realized–I NEVER liked shopping to begin with anyway!!! So really, it’s not like the experience ever used to be enjoyable 🙂
Since all of this happened, I’ve been surrounded by a lot of people who have cared and have been there to help. A lot of these people have helped me to open my mind to the spiritual side of healing. I now believe, that as a society, we are barely scratching the surface of how our bodies are able to heal themselves, and how our minds are a crucial part of this healing. My sister Lisa, who has become infinitely spiritual and totally believes in miracles, has recommended some great books and meditations. One of these books changed my life: Anita Moorjani’s “Dying To Be Me.” This book is a true story of Anita Moorjani, a woman who battled end-stage cancer for 4 years. She was admitted to hospital in February of 2006 and given hours to live. She slipped into a coma, and her family was told to say their goodbyes. Anita then had what has been classified as an “Exceptional Near Death Experience,” which brought her great clarity and a new perspective on physical life. She repeated conversations that her family had, that were in other rooms, that she could not have heard. She had a choice of whether to stay on the “other side” or to return to her body. She chose to return to her body, because she knew if she did, her cancer would be gone. She woke up from her coma, and within 2 weeks, her body was free of cancer. Medically, her recovery was not explainable; oncologists from all over the world have attempted to understand her case scientifically, and it is nothing short of a miracle that she is alive today. My sister and I listened to her speak in Toronto last month, and she has changed my perspective entirely on life. I highly recommend this book!! It changed my life, and it will change yours!
As another part of my mind-body therapy, I’ve been doing Myofascial Release Therapy with an incredibly gifted therapist named Sarah Wong. Sarah, like my sister Lisa, has given me an enlightening perspective on healing and spirituality. As Anita Moorjani says “Life doesn’t happen TO you. Life happens FOR you.” What seems like a terrible, frightening situation, is often really a blessing in disguise. If this illness did not hit, I would have missed out on opening my mind on this incredible new perspective. Although I haven’t seen the entire “reason” why this has happened, I now feel an incredible peace that I did not feel even a few months ago.
Finally, this experience has allowed me to fully appreciate everything that my sister Elaine has gone through over the past few years. Elaine has been battling what has now been diagnosed as right-sided Meniere’s Disease–a disorder of the inner ear that causes hearing loss and repeated vertigo attacks. Elaine’s hearing loss is worse than mine, and her symptoms at one time left her unable to even shop for groceries. In her four-year battle with this inner ear disorder, Elaine has not given up on trying to get healthy. While on her journey, Elaine has continued to work at a high-demand job, raise a wonderful son, and has nursed her husband back to health when he was hit with esophageal cancer last summer. When traditional medicine failed Elaine, she opened her mind to chiropractic neurology, and this avenue of rehabilitation has been by far the most effective we have both found. By tapping into the infinite potential of the human brain, your body learns to function properly again. So, now Elaine and I make the 2-hour trek to Peterborough once a month, for our rehabilitation. The great news is, I can now do the drive by myself! My ever-supportive husband had to be our chauffeur a few times, and now we are independent again 🙂 Although I wish we were both better, knowing how isolating this condition is, I am glad that Elaine no longer has to face this alone. And I’m proud to say, that Elaine can now make it through multiple hot-yoga classes each week without the room spinning!!
So that’s it for now…I definitely didn’t intend for this post to be so long! Thanks for reading if you made it this far!