Equilibrium failed me. The stable world I had always taken for granted deserted me, suddenly and without explanation. Am I sick? Did I eat something bad? All I had eaten for hours was a bag of Chex Mix.
“OK now open your text book to page 151…” I had no idea what we were learning, something about manipulating a database. I couldn’t bring the words into focus. As the world began to spin around me, vision doubling, I thought, “How am I going to get home?” There was still 30 minutes left in the class.
I started sweating through my shirt. I had been getting dizzy for months with no rhyme or reason. Not like this though. Never like this.
“What’s wrong with me?” The thought desperately echoed through my mind for the rest of the class. No answers came. The answers wouldn’t come until much later.
Later, as the world settled back into the stable reality I knew and loved, my 24 year old self shrugged the whole thing off. I was still invincible back then. I would have to stubbornly suffer for a while before any answers would come. And bit more after that as well.
In the months that followed, my symptoms got worse. The dizziness would wax and wane but never go away. Slowly a clear pattern began to emerge. Clear at least to my girlfriend Megan. I was still stubbornly set in denial. Every time the dizziness passed I would dismiss it, convinced that whatever had caused it either went away or would reveal itself with time.
I kept telling myself that everything was fine. Every new day there was dizziness and a new denial. My ears felt like they were filled with fluid, but I didn’t have a cold. “Lower your voice!” became Megan’s anthem. I didn’t know I was yelling. I would soon learn that my hearing was affected, too.
Megan had been pressuring me to see a doctor for weeks. I guess I just wasn’t ready to let the problem become real yet. But everything was about to change. What happened next was undeniable.
It only took an instant to break me. After class one evening, I stopped and grabbed dinner from a nearby fast food restaurant, on my way over to Megan’s Apartment. We watched sitcom reruns as we ate our burgers and fries.
Suddenly, warning bells were sounding off in my head. Literally; my ears were ringing louder than I ever imagined possible as a sharp pressure started to ramp up. My stomach somersaulted as equilibrium swiftly dropped away. I fell to the couch and couldn’t get up. I couldn’t move as the intense nausea washed over me. Panic took hold as the room spun faster and faster. Megan sat and tried to comfort me, gently rubbing my hair. “It’s going to be OK, we’re going to get you help.” The shadowy shape of a problem that had followed me for months finally became solid as intense vertigo took over.
The world stopped spinning forty five traumatic minutes later. My armor of denial was destroyed, piled up in the corner. I collapsed on the bed. I had never known exhaustion so complete, my life force drained of all reserves. I promised Megan I would make a doctor’s appointment the next day and finally let the last bit of my waking consciousness fade to black.
The next day I got my Meniere’s disease diagnosis and was swallowed whole by an anxious abyss. My mind raced away from me in fragments; incurable, going deaf, change everything, helpless. It seemed so much worse than I ever could have anticipated and was delivered in the cold way you would imagine only a robot capable.
Our capacity for denial can seem limitless, especially when our health is at stake. Denial is a natural defense mechanism and one that exists for a good reason. It’s there to protect you, to give you the time you need to adjust to painful or stressful issues. However, if you don’t process what you’re going through, there is a point where denial becomes an obstacle.
After my diagnosis, I was in shock. Stubborn to the bitter end, I attempted a last ditch effort of denial, hoping my Meniere’s symptoms would magically disappear. They got much worse. After a week I broke down. I felt shame, anxiety, fear, pain, and with a heavy heart, I faced the cold hard truth.
This was my first big turning point. I suddenly knew, with a newfound clarity, that I would not simply resign to my fate. I made a decision and promised myself to do anything it takes to find my way back to health.
Looking back on my journey, it’s clear that acceptance is the first step you must take on your path to health. I know how hard it is. It can be terrifying but there is so much hope. It may never go away completely, but you can regain control of your life. Meniere’s disease cannot and will not ever be bigger than your dreams. Bravely take that first step and never look back.