As shock settled into understanding, my brain set up a defensive perimeter.
The anguish slowly gave way to detachment. If I closed my eyes, I could almost see my psyche sectioning off the pain before it could crush me with its weight.
In this cold place, I watched my brain go to work, protecting me, like a parent covering the eyes of a child. The tears would come later.
It’s remarkable, in a way, how the brain can protect us in times of overwhelming stress.
Yet the truth remained. Kevin was gone.
And it was only a matter of time before my body and mind would catch up. I could feel Meniere’s disease waiting in the wings, preparing to strike.
A few weeks ago, one of my closest friends passed away unexpectedly and it’s thrown my life into chaos.
A low-grade depression has pervaded every aspect of my day. My sleep has taken a hit, my stress levels have been through the roof, and Meniere’s disease has once again reared its ugly head.
Luckily, I haven’t had a vertigo attack. But the brain fog, dizziness, and sense of unbalance have only made a difficult time that much more difficult.
I’m in the thick of a challenging grieving process, and yet, this time, I also feel deeply introspective. I have an internal awareness that I’ve never had before.
This ordeal has shown me a part of myself that needed help long before this tragedy occurred.
Chronic illness can disrupt our lives in so many different subtle ways when you don’t know what you’re looking for.
I realize now, that there is something to be learned from all this pain.
Alone in a room full of people:
It is painfully obvious now, that I’ve become introverted to the point of isolation.
I’m alone most of the time. In the moment, I’m perfectly capable of occupying myself and I’m almost never bored. But facing the loss of one of my few close relationships, I’m acutely aware of the toll this social isolationism has taken on my life.
I wish I could just blame this on Meniere’s disease. I’m sure it played a role to some extent. But I also realize now that I’ve allowed my social life to erode, bit by bit.
When you live with a such complicated condition like Meniere’s disease, it’s easy to isolate.
But it’s the wrong decision. Strong social connections and Meniere’s disease are not mutually exclusive.
We can improve our quality of life in a meaningful way by making the time and effort to cultivate new relationships, and by fostering the friendships we treasure the most.
I wish I realized this sooner.
Family is everything:
I’m lucky to have such a strong, close relationship with my family.
I also know how easy it is to lose that connection when you live with a difficult chronic illness, especially when the people closest to us can’t understand what we’re going through.
A few days after I got the news about Kevin, Meg and I ended up visiting with my family in Maryland. The timing was coincidental, the trip was planned for months in advance. But it was sorely needed.
Living with chronic illness is hard enough, and yet, every single one of us will face disaster, stress, and difficulty, at some point or another.
Having the support of your family can carry you through these difficult times.
As close as I am with my family, I realize I’ve neglected some of these relationships, too.
We must never take our loved ones for granted.
Fight for what you want:
“One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do. Do it now.” – Paulo Coelho
As my long-time readers know, I’ve never let Meniere’s disease stand in the way of doing something I truly want to do.
But as I’ve slowly become more introverted, something far more insidious has happened. I’ve started saying no to more things, more of the time.
It’s rarely a conscious act, but I’ve allowed Meniere’s disease to become an excuse: my twisted rationalization for staying at home, where it’s safe and I’m comfortable.
But this life comes with no guarantees.
At the scale of the universe, we’re only here for a blink of an eye, and we must make the most of the time we have.
I’m making an effort to say yes more often.
Saying “yes” will mean something different for everyone, as we all have our own unique limitations, unwanted as they may be, but I hope you’ll join me.
The past few weeks have been difficult, but in hindsight, I’ve coped with the loss better than I thought I would.
I had the opportunity to spend quality time with his family, and to speak and share memories at the memorial service. It was difficult, but it gave me a sense of closure that I desperately needed.
At the end of the day, I’m still standing, and trying to learn something from all this heartache.
I know that’s what Kevin would want.