I feel like a hypocrite.
I had a bad day yesterday and I realized that I struggle to follow my own advice more often than I’d like to admit.
When my symptoms flare up, knowing what to do is only part of the equation. Actually doing it is the hard part. It’s amazing how fast I seem to forget everything when things get difficult.
I end up having to learn the same lessons, over and over again.
For example, I believe that it’s so important to give yourself permission to have a bad day, to rest when rest is what you need more than anything else. It’s a core part of my Meniere’s disease philosophy. Bad days are a part of the deal and resting is not laziness, it’s medicine.
But no matter how well I understand this, or how prepared I think I am, or how much I’m able to achieve when things are good, I’m never really ready for a difficult day.
They always catch me off guard and I have to learn the lesson all over again.
Meniere’s disease is a lot of things, but an easy teacher is not one of them.
The upside is that I do learn a lot about life, and what really matters, from living with Meniere’s disease.
And then I learn it again.
And again. And Again.
Rest is the Best Medicine:
On Saturday night I didn’t fall asleep, I succumbed to exhaustion.
I’m still not sure why, but sometime around 6:00 pm, things had started to go down hill. Maybe I pushed myself too hard at the gym… Or maybe I wasn’t careful enough with my diet.
Whatever the case, I wasn’t feeling well as Megan and I were getting ready to out to dinner with family. The restaurant was usually good at accommodating my low sodium diet. But everything doesn’t always go according to plan. They mixed up my entrée and I’m fairly certain I ended up consuming a lot more sodium than I should have.
I watched TV for a while later that night but had trouble focusing. I couldn’t read either. So I went to bed early and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. I slept like a rock for nine hours. I hoped I would feel better in the morning, but I woke up feeling worse.
It’s always so hard to wake up exhausted, especially after a good night’s sleep. When it happens, I usually hold out hope for my morning coffee to make things right. Caffeine only triggers me in higher doses and a cup of coffee in the morning never gives me any problems. But this time, it didn’t help at all.
As the day dragged on, I started having other symptoms, too. My Tinnitus was blaring with several different tones and my right ear was starting to feel full. I felt off balance.
I knew I needed to rest, so that’s what I forced myself to do. But it was difficult. I struggled through every minute of two movies, three episodes of House of Cards, and 2 other hour-long TV shows.
“It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority.” – Mandy Hale
Intellectually, I knew that a day on the couch with Netflix was what I needed to feel better. But it didn’t stop me from feeling guilty and useless and lazy. For the entire day, I was at war with myself emotionally, experiencing the whole range of despair: boredom, loneliness, anger, frustration, and apathy. No matter how hard I tried to relax, I struggled to be at ease.
In the end, my decision to rest paid off. I do feel somewhat better. But I’m left with an emotional hangover, wondering how many more times I will have to learn this lesson before it finally sticks.
Lesson Learned: Above all else, we have to take care of ourselves. Sometimes that will mean resting, even when we have important things to do. Other times it means pushing ourselves to do more than we thought was possible. We have to be brave enough to make our health and our needs a priority, even when it’s difficult.
I’m Grateful for Perspective:
More often than not, I find being happy is a matter of perspective, not circumstance.
Living with Meniere’s disease makes it easy to feel sorry for myself. I’ve spent so many hours grieving for the life I’ll never get to live. But it’s a trap, a vicious cycle that leads to nowhere. And it’s not the only way forward.
In my experience, Meniere’s disease does not prevent me from being happy. It’s always just a matter of perspective.
If feeling sorry for yourself is easy, then having gratitude is incredibly hard. When things aren’t going well, it’s difficult to find and focus on the good in a bad situation, though I personally believe that it’s always possible.
I’m keenly aware that a lot of the guilt and shame I felt yesterday was because I knew it could be so much worse and still felt terrible. I wasn’t starving, I wasn’t dying, or even having vertigo, but this kind of thinking is another trap, and another lesson I’ve had to learn over and over again.
Telling yourself to be grateful that your situation isn’t worse is not really practicing gratitude. It’s not even a good coping strategy. The pain and discomfort you are experiencing is real and telling yourself that it could be worse invalidates your own experience. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Gratitude is thinking about, focusing on, and truly appreciating what you do have. It is a proactive approach, rather than a reactive one.
“Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them” – Epictetus
The problem is I’m out of practice, and it didn’t occur to me until halfway through the day yesterday. I felt lazy, so I tried to think about how much I had achieved over the last week, month, and year. I focused on how much I would get done if I allowed myself to rest. It wasn’t a miracle solution, but I started to feel a bit better.
I know I could have done more, too. Eventually I’ll learn.
Lesson Learned: We need to avoid the trap of feeling sorry for ourselves and remember that thinking “It could be worse” is not the answer. Instead, we should find and focus on the things we are grateful for, the things we truly appreciate. If happiness is a matter of perspective, then gratitude offers the best view.
Play the Long Game:
It’s often hard to remember that with Meniere’s disease, I’m playing the long game.
Whenever I have a difficult time, I’m always in a rush to get better, but it’s not always in the cards. Healing can take a long time, and sometimes the only thing I can do is endure.
What I went through yesterday was nothing compared to what it was like early on in my diagnosis. Back when vertigo attacks were happening regularly, when I was too sick to function for much longer periods of times.
I got off easy this time, but was reminded of another lesson I’ve had to learn more than once: when all else fails, I have to endure. It’s the choice I can always make.
“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” – Dale Carnegie
At the height of my discomfort, I made the decision to meditate. Lately, I haven’t been meditating as much as I used to, and I’ve started to notice the difference. I’ve felt my anxiety creeping back up and my stress levels becoming less manageable. But I figured if I was too tired to exercise my body, I could at least exercise my mind with meditation.
Again, it wasn’t a miracle fix, but it definitely put me more at ease. It made me feel more patient, more content, and more comfortable waiting it out.
It will never be easy, but one day I will learn to endure.
Lesson Learned: It’s important to take the long view with Meniere’s disease. Sometimes things will be good. But at other times we will have to endure, and through that endurance, we will find success.
Living with Meniere’s disease isn’t easy. It requires creative solutions to difficult, sometimes impossible problems. It takes discipline and courage. It forces you to face your darkest fears and your worst nightmares.
But it’s possible to live a good life with Meniere’s disease. Having Meniere’s does not prevent you from being happy or content. And while it may force you to endure hardship, you will learn a lot of important lessons along the way, if you are open to receiving them.
It’s ok to rest for as long as you need to get better.
You deserve to be happy. You always have the choice to find and focus on the good in a bad situation.
Play the long game. Difficult days are inevitable, but you can endure.
There is always so much hope.
Meniere’s disease will never be bigger than your dreams.