Monday, January 23, 2017

Author's Life: #MenieresDisease and Anxiety, Living in a War Zone

 
I was diagnosed with Meniere's Disease in 2015. I likely developed it in 2002 with the initial onset of vertigo, but went undiagnosed because I was outside the normal range of diagnostic criteria. Since my symptoms were mild, life went on in a haze of normalcy until I began losing my hearing and experienced severe vertigo episodes twelve years later.
Two statements that were spoken in the midst of several important medical discussions stuck out to me like booming thunder. "Meniere's Disease is one of the worst diseases you can have that won’t actually kill you." and "Meniere's is a disease of random punishment."

I've heard Ménière’s Disease compared to living in a war zone, i.e. you know that you'll be under fire at some point but you just don’t know when. Having a disease that makes you feel as if you could be attacked at any moment causes psychological distress. A study conducted by Dr Kirby and Professor Yardley at the University of South Hampton found that those with Ménière’s Disease have a much higher incidence of post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), health anxiety and intolerance of uncertainty to distress than non-sufferers.

My last severe vertigo attack occurred over five months ago, thanks to finally finding a medication that helped. My restricted activity level has been lifted, I have only mild background vertigo and I can resume normal activity. Most days I’ve been vertigo free, but still I haven’t been able to fully enjoy these days. I'm constantly anticipating an impending attack. I’m on edge which leaves me irritable, anxious, argumentative and insecure.

I realize its the anxiety... the worry that an attack will occur is nearly as debilitating as the actual attack. While I'm trying to take advantage of these good days, I'm also on guard waiting for the onset of more vertigo. The fear of vertigo, of this random punishment, prevents me from living a normal life. This is what is meant when the symptoms of the disease include anxiety.

Seeking help for the anxiety is important. Each Meniere's Disease sufferer is treated through a wholistic approach since the symptoms vary for each person, but all should be sure to address the reality of anxiety. I find relief from the anxiety by journaling and quiet meditation. I also challenge myself to do something every day I couldn't do while on restricted activity. Anxiety may not go away entirely but it can be manageable.
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