Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Getting Fit, overcoming obstacles.

Despite suffering from often debilitating vestibular issues-I often feel like i've been whipped around in a tilt a whirl at 75mph and then hit in the head repeatedly by a 2x4, polycystic ovarian complications, searing migraines and several unknown health problems-I am pushing forward with my health goals. While Nic stayed home to work on our heating dilemma (we had no heat or hot water!) I took myself to the gym. Despite feeling dizzier than normal , whatever normal is, I ventured out, optimistic that a good run would assuage my symptoms. So, I get to the gym, the room seemingly spinning out of control, and boarded a treadmill. I'm pretty good and functioning despite the dizziness, but the introduction of the shakes and a rapid heart rate were a little worrying. I ran 2 miles, hoping that fatigue would bring my body down to a manageable level. Not wanting to push any farther this fussy body of mine, I hopped off, cleaned down my machine, and went to the locker room to rest for a bit in the cold darkness.

The dizziness isn't new. It's something I've been dealing with for the better part of 2 years. Part of why I gained my weight was the misguided suggestion that I might be diabetic, or at the very least, hypoglycemic. If i don't eat, i get dizzy and shaky, so with incessant dizziness, I was eating all the time hoping it would stop it. It didn't, and 10lbs later, I decided to stop gorging myself toward the hope of a cure. I made a Doctors appointment early in the morning, since it was a fasting test. I get there, and they tell me the test will take several hours, and that I cannot eat the whole time. Every 5-10-15 minutes, they would bring me in, give me some nasty orange soda concoction, take vials of blood, and send me to wait some more. The test started at 8am, and concluded at 1pm. My Dad had offered to take me, and he walked me to the car and gave me a juice box to recover my strength. My arms, hands and feet were sore from all the needles (I have difficult veins, I'm told). So after about a week, I discovered that while I am insulin resistant, I am not diabetic, my heart is in great shape and my the only issues appear to stem from my head. I would need yet another doctor with another set of tests. I met with an ENT (ear nose and throat) to start off-they would see if there was a problem with my sinuses or ears. A few CAT scans and an MRI later (and more money! whoo hoo!) they discovered that my brain looked good. No sign of any head issues that they could see, which was good. Before they shipped me off to yet ANOTHER specialist, a neurologist, they wanted to perform some more tests to check for other problems such as menieres disease and the like.

This next set of tests was something akin to a form of humiliating torture. They put you in a room and test your hearing. I was better than average-surprisingly so, with my cat-like hearing. Then, they put me on a table and give me a giant set of goggles to wear. I'm sure I looked like a hot mess with this black contraption strapped to my head, as little flecks of light moved about in some circus-disco-epileptic fit of rage. I could feel the headache starting, which I was told was perfectly normal. Well, it's not an ocular problem. I wear contacts, but, my reflexes are on point.

So far, so good. Well, as far as what can be expected.

Then they put these ear plugs in my ear that are hooked up to water tubes. Oh, and they leave those sweet-ass goggles on me, I'm guessing so I look dead sexy as I lay there, flinching from side to side during these tests. They run hot and cold water thru these tubes-and I tell ya, the pain involved is akin to being stabbed in the ear with a hot poker. Heat doesn't register in the ears as hot-it registers as severe, punched in the face by a fist on fire pain. After those happy moments of seemingly unending ear torture, I'm sat up and put in a chair and spun in circles. Then I have to do the sobriety walk. Goggles, still on the head and I'm being asked to call out what I see and where. At the end of several hours of medical testing, I am told by the kindly -albeit I suspect slightly sadistic-staff, that they will call me with the results. Luckily, my mother had gone with me, because after all I had been through and the vomiting that immediately ensued in the poorly sound proofed bathroom, I needed someone to drive me home so I could curl up in the fetal position in the backseat of the car. My mom had gone through the testing years ago, and it turns out her issues were caused from toxins in her bloodstream from lawn chemicals, but at least she could empathize with my plight and post-testing misery.

After several days, I received a phone call from the Dr. telling me that I was cleared of all serious problems, but that I did have a vestibular weakness in one of my ears which would cause me to suffer from imbalance, dizziness and other minor inconveniences. They said that it wasn't enough to cause severe problems, and that the vestibular issues coupled with a neurological condition is probably the culprit. Their guess was that I was suffering from vestibular migraines, but that a neurologist would know for sure. They said stress and environmental problems could also cause my symptoms.

Oh, and I was also warned that new tests would await me should I make THAT appointment.

I'm still trying to sort out my issues, and after my own personal assessment, I am going to see if I can help myself through diet and exercise. I'm cutting out caffeine, as that seems to exacerbate my condition (caffeine adds the oh-so-delightful shakes to the mix), and I'm going to eat only healthy, clean foods and see if that helps. I'm working out and doing balancing exercises, since that should help improve the vestibular nerve weakness. I'm functioning, and I can work just fine.

And despite what seems like a lot stacked against me, I know I'm lucky in so many other ways. My mom always told me to be strong and to look for the bright side in every situation, and that no matter how bad it seems, it will get better, and to be thankful that it's not worse. If we don't know what it's like to suffer, or to be miserable, we can't appreciate all the good that life has to offer. We can't appreciate our successes if we've never experienced failure. She said it's easy to live and find happiness when life has you on a pedestal and everything is going your way, but you really discover who you are when you are crawling up a mud wall. That it's our adversity that defines our true character. My mom has always been able to put things in perspective for me, and she's never let me wallow in pity. When I would complain about something I didn't have or couldn't do, she quietly say things like "You have never had to study for anything, yet you get A's. Be thankful for that" or "You have such a pretty singing voice, not many people can really sing" or something simple and silly "At least you have straight, white teeth". She forced me to focus of my strengths, gifts and abilities, and not on my deficiencies or insecurities, and to appreciate the good, no matter how little of insignificant it might seem. She's taught me to approach my obstacle with pragmatic thought, perseverance, and a sense of humor. And I carry that with me though every trial and tribulation, and when times are good, I remain humble because of her, and remember the real blessings in life. I might have my fair share of worldly issues, from work and money, to health and vanity, but when it comes right down to it, those miserable times where I was-or am-climbing up that mud wall, I know that what really matters I have in spades. An awesome family, unshakable faith, the most amazing friends, a great husband, hell, my pets even kick ass-and no matter how dizzy I get, or discourage i might be for a few minutes, in the back of my mind, they are there, supporting me and loving me, no matter what.

I give Nic a call and tell him that I'm dizzy, and he tells me he'll meet me at the gym to follow me home, so I feel safe. That's all I needed to hear. I was dizzy, and I knew I would be dizzy running or dizzy sitting on the couch at home, so with my fitness goal in mind, I get back on the treadmill and keep on running.

1 comment:

Sharon in Chicago said...

I was catching up with old posts and noticed this one. I can sympathize, cause I've been through many of the tests. My ultimate diagnosis was low grade meniere's, little impact on my daily life, but when it hits, it's not fun.

If you're watching your diet, consider cutting back on salt/sodium. Others with more severe meniere's tell me it makes a difference for them.

Best of luck!