Losing My Balance and Finding My Way: Year One

Image Credit: Adam Brown

Just over a year ago, the world started spinning and never really stopped. This sudden disabling condition radically changed my life and I'm still dealing with the fallout. I thought this would be a good time to reflect on the past year and talk about what I hope is to come.

The doctors seem to have run out of ideas as to finding the cause of the dizziness and giddiness. Giddy. That's what they call it when you lose your balance. Sounds more fun that it is. The common theory is that I have nerve damage in my auditory nerve that could've been caused by any number of things from a virus to toxicity buildup from some of the medicines I take for other conditions. We'll most likely never know. Instead of trying to figure out what happened, we're now focusing most of my energy on vestibular therapy to retrain my brain.

I get false information about my position in space from both my inner ear and from my eyes. My eyes have trouble tracking and focusing on moving objects, or on anything if my head is moving. This makes is hard to balance when I change direction or turn my head. My inner ear is just having its own party and prank-calling my brain: You're upside down! Haha, just kidding. You're sideways! Haha. I can't trust either of these systems and have to develop strategies to keep my balance in spite of the false signals.

Vestibular therapy involves a series of exercises that seem ridiculously simple, yet are completely exhausting for me. For example, focus on something on the wall in front of you. Now look up, then back at the object. Make sure you focus. Now look down, then back at the object. Do this for one minute, rest for one minute, then repeat the whole thing for 3-5 minutes.

Afterwards, it feels like I took the SAT in 5 minutes. Since I have to manually control my balance, instead of my body doing it automatically, it takes a lot more brain energy and causes fatigue. It looks like I may have a long road ahead (they have me scheduled for a year of therapy) but I'm going to work hard to speed that up.

When this condition started a year ago, everyone thought it would go away any minute now. In my mind, I'd be recovered and back to work by this time. To realize that the work to recovery has only just begun is frustrating and depressing. I really appreciate everyone who has been checking in on me and keeping my spirits up.

So, what have I learned during this first year?

Quality over Quantity: I've had to slow way down and can't get as much done as I use to. I've had to let go of that. If it doesn't get done today, then it'll get done later. Everything is better if I do fewer things and focus on doing them well, instead of worrying about trying to complete every task on my To Do list.

Sometimes Today Sucks, but that's OK: I have good days and bad days. On the bad days, I try to remember that it's just a bad day and there's a great chance that tomorrow will be better. One day at a time. I'm allowed to have bad days.

I Can Do More Than I Thought: Becoming disabled and losing my job shook me up. I haven't been unemployed for this long since I started working at 15 years old. After I finished feeling sorry for myself, I realized that a shake-up could be a good thing. My mind is open to other ideas for putting my talents to use and making a living. While this is scary, it's also liberating. I'm working on some business opportunities under my own terms, and it feels pretty good.

Thank you for taking this journey with me. Now that I'm getting the hang of therapy, I hope to get back on a regular posting schedule. I've got a lot to say and there's much to talk about. In the meantime, be good to each other and don't forget to be good to yourself.

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Works on this page credited to Adam Brown are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.