Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Story About Me

I'd like to tell you a very personal story about me. This is not for a pity party; its so others can hear it who may need to know they aren't alone or for some to maybe better understand those they love.

          Three years ago, I had a really hard time sitting through my classes in college. I would often feel dizzy, sick to my stomach, and clammy. It was a fight to just stay in my chair for fear of becoming sick, let alone paying any attention to what was going on in the classroom. When I would drive down a certain bumpy road, I would experience pain and nausea, too; so I would drive out of my way to avoid that road. I would have awful ringing and pain in my ears, and most of the time I had to really concentrate when people were talking to me so I could hear what they were saying. I knew there was really something wrong when I would have really bad vertigo spells without any warning. It was Christmas time and I was shopping by myself when I had my first vertigo spell. It came very quickly and felt like I was being pushed over and spun; I had to hold onto the shelving in the store so I wouldn't fall over.

I went to my family doctor, and he told me I had an ear infection. He sent me home with antibiotics and told me to come back in 2 or 3 weeks if I wasn't feeling better. The second time I went back, he said there was still fluid on my ear and gave me a stronger antibiotic and numbing drops for my ears. The third time he gave me two antibiotics that you would usually get if you went to the hospital for something more serious than my diagnosed ear infection. I called my doctor after the medicine still didn't work, and he sent me to an ENT.

The ENT checked out my ears and asked me about my symptoms. He took an x-ray of my head and had my hearing tested. We sat down and talked and he told me I had Meniere's disease. He told me that he actually suffered from the same disease and so did his mom. His mother's illness went undiagnosed, and she became deaf. When your doctor sits you down and tells you that you have to change or you will go deaf, it kind of hits you like a ton of bricks.  

This is the way my doctor explained it to me: a person who has Meniere's doesn't regulate sodium properly. Their body retains too much, and it causes fluid to build up in their inner ear. This helps cause the ringing, hearing loss, and vertigo. He told me I had to keep my sodium (salt) intake at 1500-2000 mg/day.  Most people don't look at sodium on food labels (normally just fat, calories, carbs, and protein); I never did. Other things like caffeine (ironically, I started to drink coffee a couple of months before all of the big symptoms like the vertigo and ear pain started), alcohol, and stress make it worse.

As  you can expect, I went into a sort of denial stage; then I got depressed; then I went overboard on the whole sodium thing. I ate like a rabbit for about 2 weeks and then rebelled. I also found out that "sweets" don't have a whole lot of salt in them, but that didn't do me any good, either. I finally set myself straight and went to the grocery store one day to just read labels on the foods I normally eat. I quickly realized that I was going to be doing a lot of cooking in the future or go deaf. My dad was really supportive of me (I was living with him at the time). Our new diet also helped his high blood pressure! 

After changing my diet and cutting out my coffee, my hearing slowly improved (not to a perfect level, though) and my vertigo virtually went away. The thing that I was most happy about was that the pain in my ears went away. I must admit that I have met other people who have this disease at a far worse level than I do. My ENT told me that we caught it early, but that isn't the case for some people. I met a woman who had to take all kinds of pills and LITERALLY had to always eat like a rabbit.

Another confession: I don't always do my best with the whole salt thing. Sometimes I'm more lax with my diet, and I can definitely tell. I really like popcorn and eating out with my friends or my husband. And my body lets me know I did wrong. Every now and then I'll have a vertigo episode, or I'll have that pain in my ears.Then I hop back on the wagon. Lately, I've made a commitment to doing better all of the time. Yes, I can go out to eat, but not frequently. Yes, I can eat at other people's homes who do not have the same diet as me. As long as it doesn't happen all the time, I'm okay.

With my renewed commitment, I'm going to share with you all how I alter recipes or make things on my own (with my favorite low-so cook book). Like I said earlier, most people don't even look at labels whether they have a health complication or not. Eating less salt can help you avoid high blood pressure (healthier heart!) and can help you and your family avoid obesity.

I'm sorry if you think this post was too long or was too personal. I needed to get this off of my chest because I believe that maybe, just maybe, I can help someone else who felt just as helpless as I did.


thecaillouets said...

I dont know why it took me so long to connect that both you and Melissa have the same thing. I definitely plan on trying your recipes and hope that Melissa can find some support in you. We listen but no one really understands until they go through it themselves! I have started trying to cut out salt and trying to feed my family better. Love you, Jeni

Katie E. said...

Wow, thank you for sharing this. It made me think about some things that aren't adding up, because Aaron has what we have always assumed was a whey allergy. However, his symptoms are identical to what Dr. Internet and Dr. Google told me. I don't know if he has more than the whey allergy, but we need to check it out. So I am going to bring it to his attention and maybe this is part of what has been going on with him. So thank you Jess.

Saying I do said...

wow, thanks for sharing. I'm so sorry you have to deal with this, but it sounds like you are very strong and dealing with it as best you can. Kudos to you, you are an inspiration!