Denial is my go to move. It’s kind of my thing. Eventually I get past it, but at first, it’s always denial.
I’ve denied adversities, big and small, with the best of them, but my confrontation with Meniere’s disease is one for the history books.
I was diagnosed by a terrible doctor. He was right, and it felt so good to finally put a label on my suffering, but that didn’t make him any less terrible.
I was scared, and I asked him a million questions. I just wanted to understand. But he didn’t see it that way. He didn’t see the terrified young man in front of him whose world had just been turned upside down.
My doctor said, “You don’t believe me? Are you questioning my expertise? You have Meniere’s disease. Are you a doctor now?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I left his office that day beaten, scared, and hopeless. I started into a slow spiral of depression. It was one of the lowest points of my life.
Naturally, I did what I do best; nothing at all!
In a fierce effort of denial, I decided my doctor was wrong. I spent a lot of time in bed, waiting for my symptoms to magically go away.
But of course they didn’t, and I got worse, much worse. Eventually I started taking action, but I learned something valuable from this experience.
Things may seem bad, and they probably are, but there will never be a better time to start taking the steps necessary to heal. The only good time to start is now.
Healing takes time, especially with a complicated vestibular disorder like Meniere’s disease. There is no magic pill to make it all go away. It requires finding the right doctor, significant lifestyle changes, discovering your unique triggers, and so much more. It’s a slow and painful process that will ask so much of you. But the sooner you start, the closer you are to success. The worse your symptoms get, the longer it will take to find relief.
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you don’t stop.” – Confucious
You also don’t have to change everything all at once. In fact that would probably backfire. The new habits wouldn’t stick. Instead, start taking baby steps. Even the smallest steps will get you there if you take enough of them.
No matter how bad your symptoms are, there is always some small step you can take. Maybe it’s the decision to get out of bed. Maybe you can get the smallest bit of exercise. Maybe you can try a new approach or treatment strategy. Or maybe it’s just making the decision to keep fighting; to not give up hope.
Strive to push yourself 1% harder each day. If it seems too small a goal, believe me, it’s not. Your efforts will compound. The payoff is huge.
As you go forward, make sure to keep track of your progress in a journal. Aside from helping you find your triggers, a journal can be a powerful tool for motivation.
Keep track of your progress, your efforts, and most importantly, your wins. Each small win will motivate the next. You will undoubtedly face setbacks along the way, but reviewing your successes will give you hope and the will to persevere.
It will also help you to build and develop a routine that works for you. A good routine will automate many of the decisions you have to make each day for your health.
Living with a chronic illness like Meniere’s disease requires constant vigilance and a high level of discipline. But a daily routine can make it that much easier. It eliminates the need to constantly make difficult decisions.
Take exercise for example. When I’m not consistent, I usually end up having a conversation with myself about the merits of getting exercise when I’m perfectly content to stay on the couch and watch Netflix. Netflix usually wins that argument. But when exercise is part of my daily routine, I don’t decide to work out, I just do it. It becomes a normal part of my day.
By slowly increasing your efforts (remember 1% more every day) you will build a stable routine and develop new habits that stick. When trying to make meaningful changes, slow and steady wins the race.
It took a long time, and endless trial and error, but eventually I found strategies that worked for me. My symptoms started to improve. It didn’t happen all at once. I got better slowly, little by little.
But it all started with a single decision. The decision to let go of the denial and face the challenge head on. To take small steps towards health.
What small step can you take today?