Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Years ago (10? 12?), I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease. The symptoms were extreme vertigo, nausea, and the “spins.” These episodes sometimes last for days, always at least one day. I can’t drive, sometimes I can’t walk, can’t even sit up in bed. Movement is horrible; prone is good – well, at least until I have to potty. It’s quite miserable. The worst part, however, was the knowledge that I would eventually lose the hearing in one, possibly both, ears.

The episodes were thought to be brought on by anything that was a vasoconstrictor, specifically alcohol, aspirin, salt, and caffeine. When diagnosed, I stopped drinking all caffeine immediately. I missed the occasional Diet Peps!, but didn’t really care about the coffee. (I drank it for the flavored creamer, anyway.) My diet was also immediately very low salt until my body would revolt, and I would go overboard on a bag of chips or something. (Your body just needs salt sometimes, you know?) I never get headaches, but I had been taking aspirin at the behest of my doctor to prevent colon polyps since my mom had died from colon cancer. As long as I didn’t get wasted, I could have a few beers here and there. My quality of life was fine (actually healthier), and I learned to control the circumstances that seemed to cause these episodes.

(Episodes, by the way, make me sound like a little old lady, don’t you think?)

Still, I would have three or four episodes each year. This is mild compared to other Meniere’s sufferers who have an episode every day for hours at a time. Gawd! These episodes seemed to be out of the blue, but if I thought hard enough, I could somehow link them to eating too much popcorn while watching a movie or sharing a bottle of champagne to celebrate a big event. But, still, they seemed random and strange.

At the urging of my doctor earlier this year, I finally made an appointment with an ENT to have my hearing level checked and just have a general re-assessment. I couldn’t remember who I saw the first time, so I just picked some ENT off of my provider list and made the appointment. As I talked to him about my symptoms, my episodes, my experiences, he would tilt his head or look puzzled and ask me more questions. Finally, we did a new baseline for my hearing test. Turns out my hearing is great. After ten+ years with Meniere’s, I should have some hearing loss in at least one ear, but not so. Then, they tested me for ear pressure. This turned a bit more interesting as one ear has a lot less pressure than the other. Then, they tested me for pET (patulous Eustachian Tube – or floppy ear drum). Ding, ding, ding!

My understanding of pET is that the Eustachian Tube(s) stay open instead of closing like normal people. Therefore, the person’s tube(s) can become dehydrated or an imbalance of pressure can occur. (This is actually more rare than Meniere’s.)

We won’t know for sure until my next episode, but it is likely that I was misdiagnosed all of those years ago. I don’t blame the doctor at the time because the symptoms are pretty much the same, but the cause is different. The problem with Meniere’s is constricted blood vessels. Like I said before, the problem with pET is dehydration or pressure imbalance. Oddly, the triggers are basically the same – alcohol, sodium, caffeine, (I’m unsure about aspirin) because they all dehydrate you. Of course, running long distances ('thon training!) also dehydrates you! This explains some of the unexplainable episodes! If I had been a good patient, my situation would have been re-evaluated years ago.

After my appointment, I went for a run. Sugarhouse Park was close by, and I had the rest of the afternoon off for my appointments anyway. (I saw my dermatologist, too.) I felt great during my run. It was all psychological, I’m sure, but I felt free. I was free from a deaf sentence (oh, that was clever…), and it felt great. I still need to watch my diet, and I can’t get dehydrated – that’s going to be hard as I train for a spring marathon, but….

So, the first half of my run was celebratory. Yay for me, right?!?! But, then quite UN-like me, I started thinking. If I had been misdiagnosed with Meniere’s all those years ago, what else have I been misdiagnosed with? I don’t mean physical ailments, because I’m pretty healthy (minus those 40 extra pounds that I’m carrying around). But, what have I done to myself? What have I done to others?

I’m a middle child, so I exhibit all of those behaviors. But, do I do that because I’ve told myself that I am that person or because I actually AM that person? I’m overweight, and I have no self control when it comes to sugar. But, really? Or is it just an excuse to be lazy and not have any accountability? (There – did I just "misdiagnose" myself aain – am I really lazy? – for Pete’s sake, I got my Masters while working full time, being a mommy, and training for a marathon.) How am I limiting my life, my self, my soul?

And others? Are they really who I have labeled them to be? Sometimes, people just make mistakes. Am I holding the mistake(s) over their heads and causing them to be “that” person in my eyes because I have “diagnosed” them that way? I am notorious for holding a grudge – and for what? – where is it getting me or them? – is it doing any good for me or them?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this in the past two weeks, and I think that this will be one of my goals for the new year. I want to re-evaluate my relationships with others and with myself and really try to see people (including myself) for who they are, not who I believe them to be. Maybe I will have been right all along, but maybe not. I owe it to them, and to myself, to find out.

No comments: