Just last week I posted the routine to which I was going to commit myself for the remainder of this year. Several of you left comments in which you encouraged me—gently—to be more realistic and not ask too much of myself.
How wise you are. Already my three-pronged plan has become too ambitious. In less than five weeks, I’ll celebrate my 78th birthday. And the truth is that I no longer have the energy and resilience I once took for granted.
Moreover, I deal daily with two physical problems that leave me tired much of the time. Today, I’ll share with you the ramifications of one of them—Ménière’s Disease. Next Thursday I hope to explain the impact of Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma.
I experienced my first episode of Acute Rotational Vertigo in 2002. Nothing occurred again until 2006 when my Ménière’s became, according to the specialist, progressive and intractable.
I spent the next eighteen months experiencing ARV episodes—with the walls, ceiling, and floor rotating around me. Nausea and vomiting accompanied each episode. I couldn’t walk without falling and so I crawled from room to room.
These episodes usually began with me suddenly pitching forward: down the steps, in the rock garden, out of bed, against windowpanes and the sharp corners of tables, toward the pot of boiling spaghetti. The pitch forward, prelude to the episode, came without warning.
The episodes were of varying length. The longest for me was twenty-four hours. Because of Ménière’s, I couldn’t drive. Read. Watch television. Work at the computer.
An operation in 2007 made those ARV episodes mostly a thing of the past. However, two weeks ago I experienced ten hours of simple vertigo. Not acute rotational. Just simple. And yet it had me crawling from bed to bathroom to kitchen. Mostly I kept my head on the pillow. Why? Because a boulder had lodged within my skull cavity. When I raised that heaviness off the pillow, I felt as if my head were going to tumble off my shoulders.
But that occurrence was, I hope, simply a fluke because neither ARV nor simple vertigo happens often anymore. I do have days in which I deal with about five variations of vertigo in ascending order: tentativeness, imbalance, light-headedness, dizziness, wooziness. When I have one of those days, I do little.
The more problematic side effect of Meniere’s is its headache. In intensity it’s like a migraine, but without light sensitivity. Precipitous barometric changes often trigger these headaches, which can last many hours. They leave me exhausted, as do vertigo episodes and wooziness. I sleep long hours after experiencing them.
Unfortunately, I live in an area known as “Tornado Alley,” which brings with it many barometric changes. So I have headaches often. In fact, I’ve had a headache everyday for the last sixteen days. During that time, desperate to assure myself that I could get something written this year and find an agent, I wrote last week’s posting. I think that’s called “whistling in the dark”!!!
But yesterday I read the following words written by the Buddhist monk Pema Chödrön: “Take the whole teatime just to drink your tea.” That line encourages me to live in the present and be within whatever I am experiencing. It encourages me to let go of control.
Surely, planning schedules for the future is a form of control and yet Ménière’s has tried to teach me again and again that I have control only over the way I respond to life. As you must know by now, I’m a slow learner. Still, I may finally be slogging along the road to reality. I feel myself ready to embrace what one of you suggested: “going with the flow.”
These are not new words to me. Other friends throughout my life have made the same suggestion. And I try. I do so try. Maybe that’s the result of the asthma with which I was born. Always there is within me a desire to achieve. To leave a mark on life.
So here’s to going with the flow. I’ll drink—a cup of tea—to that!
PS: If you’d like to know more about Ménière’s, click here. I experienced the four classic symptoms that are listed midway down the article.
Photographs from Wikipedia.