I’ve always been amazed at the way the brain can compartmentalize traumatic and stressful situations to keep you functioning.

It’s protected my sanity on more than one occasion: after the death of close friends and family members, after my Meniere’s disease diagnosis, and most recently, over a difficult past 12 months.

Stress has kept my nervous system at redline for a while now.

If my body was a car, the engine would have blown months ago. Looking back, I find it remarkable that I was able to function at all.

In the past 9 months alone: My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery while pregnant with our first child. My son Zack was born healthy, but when he was only a few weeks old, my wife started an IVF cycle to preserve her fertility followed immediately by 5 months of difficult chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

During this time, I was diagnosed with GERD and Laryngopharyngeal Reflux, and my grandfather passed away after losing his own battle with cancer.

And all the while, I was raising a newborn, taking care of my wife, working as much as I could, and helplessly watching as the medical bills piled up faster than I could generate income.

In hindsight, it’s a miracle that my health didn’t break down completely. My symptoms spiked and fluctuated constantly, but I never crossed that tipping point I expected at every turn.

Now months later, things have finally calmed down – my son is in daycare, my wife is back to work, and I finally have time to catch up on all the projects I’ve ignored – yet I’m really struggling to get back on my feet.

After pushing myself so hard, for so long, through all this stress, I think it’s all catching up to me now that I have space to breathe.

And once again, I’m faced with the need to rest and recover when all I want to do is charge forward.

It’s hard to rest:

When you live with a chronic illness like Meniere’s disease, you live with unwanted limitations that make demands on your energy levels, mental clarity, and overall ability to function.

Managing your symptoms often requires a delicate balance. Small changes to your routine or lifestyle can have major consequences on your health, and when things go off the rails, rest is a necessary part of getting back on track.

But for a lot of chronic illness patients (like me), it’s so hard to rest and recover without feeling lazy and useless. I struggle with this more than I’d like to admit.

Even when I go into a situation where I know I will push myself past my limitations, where rest days are part of the plan, I still find it hard to slow down and allow myself to recover without feeling guilty.

And it’s even more frustrating when the need to rest catches me off guard, especially when I should have seen it coming.

But on difficult days, rest isn’t laziness, it’s medicine.

It’s an important lesson that I’ve had to learn over and over again, and it’s just as challenging this time as it’s been in the past.

Getting back on track:

Before anything else, I need to give myself permission to rest and recover.

It’s going to take time to get back to where I want to be, and that needs to be okay. It’s not the first time I’ve been knocked off course, and it won’t be the last.

Living well with chronic illness doesn’t mean that every day is perfect, or that your symptoms are managed at all times.

It’s about playing the long game, always making the most of the hand you’ve been dealt, and recognizing that despite your unwanted limitations, you are never actually powerless.

Our power lies in the choices we make. Actor Michael J Fox put it best, “I often say now I don’t have any choice whether or not I have Parkinson’s, but surrounding that non-choice are a million other choices that I can make.”

So, I’m going to start making better choices. I’m going to get back to the healthy habits and routines that have always helped me thrive in the face of Meniere’s disease.

And I’m going to force a new perspective: I don’t have to rest – I have the opportunity to work on myself while I recover.

Rebuilding healthy habits and routines:

Every time I’ve faced adversity, post Meniere’s diagnosis, the decline always starts slowly.

Maybe it’s a couple missed days of exercise or meditation. Or too many early morning appointments where I don’t get enough sleep. Maybe it’s one too many meals with a little bit too much sodium.

Whatever the case, my quality of life usually doesn’t fall apart all at once. But one bad decision, one lapse in discipline, begets the next, until suddenly my health begins to breakdown uncontrollably.

And when the cascade begins, it’s hard to fight back against that kind of downward momentum.

Small changes for the better suddenly feel insignificant and meaningless.

Even when you give it everything you got, it can feel like you’re just going through the motions, that nothing is helping, and it’s all pointless anyways. It’s how I feel today, as I write this post.

When no single choice or action moves the needle very much, it can all seem so hopeless.

But more often than not, it’s these small, seemingly insignificant changes, that start to add up over time and become the foundation of wellness.

It’s a simple idea, but it’s not easy to work on yourself in this way.

Final thoughts:

In some ways, it feels like I’m starting over. But it’s a choice I’m making – not something that’s happening to me.

I’m getting back on track with my diet and working to remove triggers in a more disciplined manor. I’m exercising again, even though I’m fighting an uphill battle against fatigue. And I’m going to jumpstart my meditation practice, go to bed earlier to make sure I get extra sleep, and focus on reducing stress in as many other ways as I can.

It’s going to take time and a lot of work to start to feel better again, but that’s okay.

Because I’m still standing. I made it to the other side of the craziest year of my life, and there’s only one direction to go from here.

  1. I am happy to hear that things are getting better for you and your family Glenn! I pray that your days ahead continue to bring peace and calm. Thank you for inspiring so many of us…This is just what I needed to read today.

  2. One thing you don’t mention, Glenn, is stepping back and letting yourself be grateful. Yes, you’ve had more challenges in one year than many people have in a decade, but there have also been huge positives: the birth of your son, your wife getting through her chemo and radiation, her return to work, and all of you starting life as a new family. Just remember to add those thoughts to your meditation practice. Maybe try squeezing in a weekly calming yoga class to your exercise routine? Namaste.

  3. Hi Glenn
    I live in Cape Town South Africa and have been following your posts for a few years. So sorry to hear that your wife and you have been going through so much stress. I wish you both only good health in the future. You have a gorgeous little one. Have had Menieres for about 5 years . Every day headaches and regular spins which warn me that the BIG seizure is coming. Deaf in right ear and 24/7 tinnitus in that ear. However I will not let this illness take over my life and do everything I can in between. So good health to you and your lovely little family.😘😘

  4. Good morning Glenn,
    This latest article describes my life currently to a “T”. I had my first vertigo incident after over 3 years of not having any. I was traveling for work, tired, stressed, just worn out. I spent the night naked on the bathroom floor in my hotel, 300 miles from home, unable to get to my phone, and the most scared and alone I have felt in a very long time. Fortunately from a health standpoint, I am still eating well, keeping weight off that I have lost over the past 18 months, and just trying to finally take care of me. But rest does not come easy for me but my body is screaming at me to get some. I need to take up meditating again to help.

    But I look at everything that you and your family have been through. I cried for you reading this article. My pain feels petty. Fortunately I am not feeling depressed as I am working on making “me” whole again.

    Thank you so much for sharing. The world that we as Meniere’s sufferers live can sometimes be a very difficult one.

  5. Thank you for this. You saying “But on difficult days, rest isn’t laziness, it’s medicine.” really made me sit back and have a different view on rest. Thank you

  6. Hello, Glenn: I’ve not commented here on your site before, but have been reading it for some time. Today you absolutely articulated the “conversation” I had to have with myself just this morning! We DO have choices, and we can’t try to make them all at once. I’ve been allowing myself way too much screen time, staying up too late, and not eating right. Way too much sugar, chocolate, and salt. On the plus side, I’ve just been “discharged” from my vestibular therapy, although I know the time will come when I will need it again. Just wanted to say thanks, and BIG congratulations to you and your lovely family for jobs well done!!

  7. Hi Glenn,

    I just wanted to leave my story here in case it proves helpful to others w/ inner ear problems who come across your page. I have struggled w/ recurrent seasonal sinus infections, usually worst in the Fall/Spring transitions.

    I woke up one morning last fall w/ a full feeling, a sense of hearing loss, and a loud whooshing sound in my right ear. After a week, I went to see an ENT, who, after tests showed mild hearing loss in that ear, put me on a 10-day course of steroids, out of an abundance of caution/in hopes of knocking out any potential ear problems. In the midst of the steroid treatment, I had to fly back and forth cross-country for work on a high-stress assignment. I began to experience difficulty sleeping; the tinnitus was constant and unchanging. When I returned for Halloween (I have 2 kids), my condition hadn’t improved. I took another hearing test, which showed the hearing loss persisting. The ENT asked me if I had heard of Meniere’s Disease, handed me a prescription for dyazide, told me to maintain a very low-sodium diet, and asked me to schedule a brain MRI to rule out any neurological cause. I got on a plane and flew back across the country to complete my assignment. I almost bailed on the work because I was so distracted and stressed by the ear troubles that I couldn’t concentrate or sleep. I was too weak to continue distance running on a regular basis (a hobby), but I meditated 2x/day, did my best on a low-sodium diet, took the dyazide, dabbled in CBD (it didn’t seem to help at first), and made it thru the job.

    I googled Meniere’s, hydrops, tinnitus, etc. a thousand times and took in way too much information. Having read that there might be an autoimmune contribution to Meniere’s, I went off dairy, tried to limit sugar, stopped drinking alcohol. (I had already dropped caffeine for the tinnitus.) I began to experience regular bouts of dizziness, would have head rushes when getting up, had my first full-scale vertigo attack and fell over in front of my kids when I was trying to act like everything was cool. I despaired. A lot. I felt worse. I started taking CBD more regularly, every 6 hours. It kept my mood positive and helped me sleep a little better. I took a month off of work and started contemplating a different life. Toward the end of last year, I started getting acupuncture 2x week. It helped calm my nervous system a bit. Early in the new year, I began seeing an osteopath, who did some alignment work, some cranio-sacral therapy. All of these things made me feel marginally better physically/psychically. Occasionally, the acupuncture seemed to make the tinnitus increase in pitch after 24 hours, which made it less intrusive. Based on something I read somewhere, I started taking Magnesium Citrate supplements before bed. They helped me sleep and seemed to, like the acupuncture, change the pitch of my tinnitus to something more like ringing and less like whooshing. I began to experience occasional half-days of fairly inobtrusive tinnitus and spells of non-dizziness.

    By my next ENT visit (same practice, different doctor), I was actually on a run of 24 hours of feeling only mild symptoms. After a hearing test showed a mild uptick in my hearing in the right ear, the (new) doctor said “I’m not gonna call it Meniere’s. You have Meniere’s-like symptoms, but I can’t tell you why, and there’s not much to do about it.”) He suggested I stay on the dyazide for the time being and stick to the lo-so diet. I told him I was struggling w/ increased anxiety and that it seemed to make the condition worse. He said he couldn’t help the emotional part, but urged me to stay off google; he handed me a few psychiatrist referrals.

    I went to see my wife’s psychiatrist and he put me on a very low doze of fluoxetine (prozac), urged me to take it at bedtime bc it might help w/ sleep. About 2 weeks later, I found myself sleeping and feeling better. Continued the 2x/week acupuncture and 2x/month osteopath. The tinnitus was very up and down, as was the dizziness. But the trend continued toward improvement. A month later, my tinnitus was mostly high-pitched enough to ignore, although the feeling of fullness would sometimes increase toward the end of the day. But ever so gradually, my symptoms diminished. I went back to running– on the treadmill in the winter, to lessen the risk of sinus infections– which seemed to help. My next ENT visit coincided w/ me tapering the dyazide. Doc said that was ok if I was feeling better. I asked how it was that I was improving– what was causing it? He had no official diagnosis, just the suggestion that I might’ve had a severe infection that took months to heal on its own. I’m still improving, to this day. Feel about 98%.

    Anyway– to reiterate: the first doctor name-dropped Meniere’s and sent me down an anxiety wormhole. The 2nd doc, who was considerably less warm & fuzzy, owned a more honest take: “I have no idea; let’s watch it and see what happens.” Somehow that ended up giving me hope. Ultimately, it seems (I think, but I’m still superstitious) the Meniere’s diagnosis was wrong. I had symptoms that overlapped w/ Meniere’s, but my condition (at this point) seems not to be chronic. Sharing just in case there’s something of value in my experience for others. To recap, what I tried:

    Dyazide: really not sure if this had a material impact
    Low-sodium diet: again, not sure– I stayed on it for months, during both bad and good cycles
    Meditation: mildly helpful psychically, neurologically
    CBD: the first sleep aid/mood aid that helped derail the circular anxiety of symptoms
    Running (cardio): when my balance wasn’t terrible, the endorphin rush seemed to help my mood
    Acupuncture: recommend, for mood, balance, and marginal improvement in tinnitus
    Osteopathy/cranio-sacral therapy: recommend, for the same
    Prozac: very much recommend as leverage for breaking anxiety/depression cycle over symptoms
    Magnesium citrate: seemed to change the quality of my tinnitus, but that may have been a coincidence
    Googling symptoms: don’t recommend
    ENT: really depends
    I also started taking D, B-Complex, Zinc, Fish oil, and Quercitin with Vit C (for sinuses/allergies)

    As the spring allergy season ramped up, I also started taking Loratidine on the worst days, to try to prevent sinus infections from taking hold.

    I was grateful for the community I found here and elsewhere during my darkest days, but if you’re suffering, I’d recommend taking the comments sections with a grain of salt or sodium-free substitute. Obviously, the best and worst- case testimonials are most eye-catching.

  8. I have been cursed with this “Meniere’s Disease” since January 2001 and today am deaf in the right ear and near there in the left. I was told low sodium would help, well, did that, no difference, the plugged ears and vertigo continued in spurts over the years. Told not to drink coffee because it was a diuretic, well, then given a powerful diuretic which drained potassium and in 2007 destroyed my right ear due to the intense pressure. I could feel the pressure on my eardrum. Learned later that the body tries to retain fluid in sensitive areas, including the ears, so the water pill during an attack was a double negative that was not positive. I tried the anti-vertigo medications, only made it worse. I discovered later that Ibuprofen helped with vertigo some because it deadened the nerves a bit. I have found the medical community to be ignorant when it comes to logic and Meniere’s Disease and in my case destructive in that my right inner ear was completely destroyed due to the water pill.

    • Hi Martin, I’m so sorry to hear how much difficulty you have had with your treatment! Unfortunately, triggers vary greatly from person to person. Excessive sodium and coffee (though it’s the stimulant nature of caffeine that can cause issues, not the diuretic effect) are two of the more common triggers, but they certainly do not apply to everyone, and they are but 2 of many possibilities.

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