In 1999, our family went to Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh and rode on a stupid roller coaster called the Steel Phantom. I was so damn mad at that ride when we got off. I was crying because my neck hurt so badly. I swear we all had whiplash. I found out that the Kennywood people re-vamped it after many complaints. It wasn’t too long after that “Ride of Misery”, that I started having problems with my ear.
One day out of the blue, my right ear started feeling like swimmer’s ear. It felt full. Well, I had been swimming in our pool that afternoon. That night when I rolled over, it felt as if water was leaking out of my ear. I was sure my pillow was soaked. Nothing. It was such a weird feeling. This went on for a few days. It felt like someone jammed cotton in my ear.
I woke up one day and everything was spinning. I mean, around and around and around. It ended up being for 36 hours straight. I had to crawl to the bathroom. I had to crawl down the stairs when everyone was in school or at work. I threw up non-stop. I crawled back to bed. I crawled. The one thing I did realize is that my vaccum cleaner wasn’t doing a very good job. I was up close and personal with my carpet. And the toilet. I think vomiting is just so….sickening. I was about to name my toilet, we became such good friends. It was there for me. Tammy Toilet,
I really never thought I was going to get better. I was just going to be a spinning, vomiting, crawling cry-baby for the rest of my life. The carnival ride of death. I took Dramamine and threw it up. I was a mess. Finally, after 36 long, tortuous hours, I felt a bit better and called and made an appointment with an ENT in Morgantown. I explained the tortuous event, which he named Vertigo. Vickie Vertigo. I remembered the Jimmy Stewart movie, Vertigo. He suffered from acrophobia, a fear of heights. Vertigo can be triggered by looking up or down. My vertigo was triggered because I looked.
Actually, according to earsurgery.com, Vertigo is described “as a sudden loss of normal balance or equilibrium. The room may suddenly begin to spin and rotate at high speed. Focusing is difficult, and if the vertigo continues, nausea and vomiting may occur. Vertigo is commonnly caused by acute labyrinthitis (a viral inflammation of the inner ear), benign positional vertigo (a condition due to abnormally floating crystals in the inner ear that stimulate the nerve endings of the inner ear), delayed symptom of head injury, or result of cervical spine problems.” In a nutshell, I am screwed.
So, back to my visit to the ENT. They put me through some weird tests. They put a balloon in my ears and put water in them, and then blew them up or something. Seriously? Can you imagine the first person they did this to. “Sir, what we are going to do is put this balloon in your ear, and blow it up and then put some water in it.” They tried to make me dizzy. Thanks alot. I had hearing tests and another where they shut the light and watched my eyes. I don’t know. I guess I should do a google and write the procedures here for you guys to understand, but I’m not feeling it this morning. Anywho, they said my eyes move too much (nystagmus) and that I had Meniere’s Disease.
I had a disease? Hell, a disease sounds contagious. He told me to come back the next time I was having an episode. Sure, I will just have my husband peel me away from the toilet and let him drive me to Morgantown right in the middle of spinning like a top. This was rotational spinning that would not stop. The ENT told me that Meniere’s Disease is marked by four main symptoms: progressive hearing loss, tinnitus, ear fullness and vertigo. All wrapped up with a bow on top and given to me. Nice….Oh, and he added, “Stay away from caffeine, salt, and stress. And don’t climb any ladders.” Funny guy.
So, I went home and did some research. It said that Meniere’s Disease was rare. I joined a forum and found out that it wasn’t rare at all. I made some good friends from Nova Scotia and Saskatoon, Canada and Upper Michigan. People all over the damn place suffered from symptoms of Meniere’s Disease. I started an online group on Yahoo, The Meniere’s Disease Club, which now has over 2,000 members world-wide since 2000. So, no, it isn’t rare. Dizzy is dizzy.
Each person with Meniere’s Disease may have different symptoms. Some lose their hearing over the course of a few months. Some lose it gradually. Some don’t lose much at all. Some people have vertigo attacks daily and can no longer work. It can be a debilitating disorder. I have only had 2 full blown vertigo attacks. I do, however, also have BPPV, which is short for Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. It sometimes starts at night, when I lie down to go to bed. If I roll over, I get dizzy. Basically, BPPV is vertigo induced by head movements. Well, hell, just put me in a whiplash collar and send me on my merry way. Great. It was bearable when I was a stay-at-home mom, but when I have bouts now, I can’t really look down at the kid’s desks, or turn my head. And I veer while walking down the hall.
I noticed that in the grocery stores, my buggy veered to the left. When I drove my car into the garage, I veered to the left. Don’t know why. I veer. I can’t walk a straight line if my life depended on it. I hope I never get pulled over and asked to walk a straight line, because they would be hauling my butt off to jail for DUI. It would have to be DWM, for Driving With Menieres. It is such a stupid disorder.
Another symptom of Meniere’s Disease is tinnitus. William Shatner has tinnitus. “No! JIM!” Tinnitus is noise in your ear. Mine sounds like a high pitched whine. According to Wikipedia, Tinnitus is usually described “as a ringing noise, but can take the form of a high pitched whining, electric, buzzing, hissing, screaming, humming, tinging or whistling sound, or as ticking, clicking, roaring, “crickets” or “tree frogs” or “locusts “, tunes, songs, beeping, or even a pure steady tone like heard in a hearing test. It has also been described as a “wooshing” sound, as of wind or waves.” I guess mine would be described as the “pure steady tone like heard in a hearing test.” Fun stuff I have.
The only good thing about having Meniere’s is that I can sleep on my right side and not hear a dog barking. Or someone breaking into my apartment. I also am affected by the change in barometric pressure. My right ear begins to hurt before it rains. Sometimes my ear hurts so badly, like a pencil is being shoved in my ear slowly. I also feel the sensation of a bug crawling deep in my ear. I just want to jam a Q-tip in there, and kill it. And you know how your ears pop when you travel into a higher altitude? Well, my right ear won’t pop. It just starts hurting. I think my head will explode when I travel by plane to visit my daughter in France next spring. Again, fun stuff.
So, this is my life. Thank goodness my Meniere’s symptoms are very mild. I make fun of myself, so that helps when I have flare-ups. I haven’t crawled to visit my friend, Tammy the toilet in years.
If you have any of these symptoms, hold on. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. Damn roller coaster. At least when someone calls me a “dizzy blonde,” it really will be the truth.
Update: March 2014….just wanted you to know that I haven’t had a full blown vertigo attack in years, but have a lot of postitional vertigo. I have found that my salt intake is a big part of whether it gets worse or not…also, I have come to the conclusion that diet plays a big part of mine…I can’t eat a turkey breast sandwich from Subway anymore….I think it may be the salt…Weather and change of seasons or a quick change of barometric pressure seems to give me ear pain…everyone with menieres has different little triggers, you have to experiment to find yours….but I believe diet is the culprit….for me.