#HAWMC- Day 1 What Drives You?

hawmc_background_coverToday marks the beginning of WEGO’s Health Activist Writers Month Challenge.  I will attempt to follow each prompt every day to bring awareness to chronic illnesses.  Be sure to check out WEGO’s Facebook Page for more blog posts during this month.  Don’t forget you can always follow my posts on my Facebook Page too!

Today’s #HAWMC prompt is:  First, let’s get to know each other! What drives you to write about your health? What do you want other Health Activists to know about your condition and your activism? Reflect on this for 15-20 minutes without stopping…GO!

What drives me to write about my health?  Since the prompt says to write for 15 – 20 minutes I’m going to write stream of conscious, if I repeat myself or have grammatical errors please forgive me.

I started writing about my health for the same reason I still write about it, to help others who feel alone when faced with the same conditions I have been faced with.  I’ve found support through my blog and I hope I give the same.

I try to bring awareness about Meniere’s Disease, Chronic Migraine, and Bipolar Disorder and let other’s who have these diseases know they are not alone.

I also have other illnesses that I mention along the way.  Like Degenerative Disc, Hypothyroidism and others.  I’ve also recovered from Avascular Necrosis in my hip and like to give others with this condition hope.

What drives me is my illnesses and my love for others.  My compassion for others and myself.  I write because it helps me and in turn I hope it helps others.

What do I want others to know about my conditions and activism?

Well there’s an awful lot to know about my conditions, as there is more than one condition to cover.  I’ll pick just talk and see what comes out.

Meniere’s Disease – Meniere’s is diagnosed by the symptoms, there is not definitive test for it.  The symptoms are: Random attacks of Vertigo, Fluctuating hearing loss, the feeling of fullness in your ears, and tinnitus.  If you have all of these symptoms and they have ruled out other illnesses then by process of elimination they diagnose you with Meniere’s Disease.  The progression of the disease can be different for different people.  It is normally only in one ear, it can attack both ears. I have it in both ears.   It used to be thought that the disease would “burn” itself out.  As the patient lost more hearing the vertigo got better, until there was a leveling out period where the patient no longer has vertigo.  As can be seen with me that is not necessarily the case.  I am deaf now and still have vertigo often.  There is not sign of a “burn out” for me.   I do want everyone to know that this disease does not progress the same for everyone.  just because I lost my hearing does not mean other people will, I still have vertigo, but that doesn’t mean other people will.  I’m in a very small minority.

Bipolar Disorder – I want people to know that people aren’t crazy when they have this.  Being Bipolar doesn’t stop me from living a normal life.  I want people to know that not everyone is the same with this too.  I am lucky.  With medication and therapy I am doing very well, and have been for years.   Others are not so lucky.  Medication does not work for everyone. Everyone with this disorder has to work hard.

Chronic Migraines – I want people to know that migraines are not just a headache.  They are so much more than that.  They make you sick all over.  Having a migraine for more days during the month than not can put a huge damper on life.

It takes a lot to face the world with a smile on your face when you are faced with these illnesses and more, but with the help of mindfulness and a support from those who care about me I get by better than I could ever imagine.

This is some of what I want you to know about me and my illnesses and why I write.  I hope you will join me on this month long journey.  Wish me luck that I can accomplish this goal of posting every day this month!

Making friends?

I keep being told by my therapist that I need friends.  People I can spend time with, not just friends I text, email, message, blog with…..   She wants me to have local friends.  We’ve lived in this area for over 2 years and I don’t really know anyone.

My question for all of you is, How do I make friends?

I’m chronically ill, I can’t drive, I don’t go anywhere without my husband, I have a very hard time hearing in public places….

Where do I meet people who are willing to get to know me through all of those obstacles?

I don’t go to church.  I did look for a Buddhist temple in the area and there are a couple of places, but they do not practice the type of Buddhism I do.  I don’t think I’d feel comfortable there.  It’d be like a Fundamentalist trying to go to a Catholic church, they are both Christians, but they are very different.   (well it might not be that different)

I don’t work, so I won’t meet people there.

I don’t have kids so I won’t be meeting people through my kids.

I looked for a support group where I’d fit in, I can’t find anything.  Before you suggest it, no I’m not going to start one, I would not be able to be reliable enough to do so.

I really think it would be best if I met people who have chronic illnesses, I think they would be more understanding of my “eccentricities” 🙂

My husband works in a small office where there isn’t anyone to really become friendly with.

I’ve met the neighbors on each side of me, one is an elderly couple who prefer to keep to themselves, the other is a family who are always busy.  We don’t really fit in with either.

So, any ideas?   I’m not adverse to meeting people, I just don’t know how.

My  biggest problems are: I can’t go out alone, can’t drive, and my hearing issues.

Really, I’m looking for suggestions.  Any body got any??

Confessions of a Chronically Ill Deaf Woman

confessions

I have some confessions that I thought some might relate to, they can be a little embarrassing to me, but I’ve decided to tell all.

I envy people who look sick.  It’s just hard to be as sick as I am and look completely normal most of the time.  Others have no idea what I go through.  I know on the outside I appear normal.  I know it’s hard for people to understand why I can’t do things.  Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand.  Sometimes I feel if I looked sick it would be easier.

I’ve played the sick card.  This is very hard for me to admit.  There have been rare occasions when I simply haven’t wanted to do something and I’ve said I was too sick.  Normally that is something that would make me sicker.  Something I might want to do, but I know if I do it I’m going to pay the price afterward.  So instead of trying to explain this it’s easier to just say I don’t feel well enough to go in the first place.  Now I do admit there have been very rare occasions that I simply have not wanted to do something and said I wasn’t feeling well enough.  I can think of one.  There was an outing with Stuart’s work and I knew I’d feel uncomfortable around all of those people so I played the sick card.  Stuart went and that was really all that counted, but I felt very guilty about saying I was too sick when I really wasn’t that day.

When I get mad at my husband sometimes I’ll “take my ears off”, ( I’ll, take off the processors to my cochlear implants) so I can’t hear him.  Yes when I get mad I act like a child.  “I can’t hear you, lalalala”.  I’m sure it infuriates him.  I’m acting like a child.  And at the time, I don’t care.

I’m addicted to the internet and I don’t feel that is a problem.  I am basically housebound.  I can’t leave without someone else.  I rarely go anywhere other than to the doctor or the occasional outing, that is normally just errands.  I don’t have friends close by since we moved.  Even before we moved I had very few that I saw on a regular basis.  I keep in touch with my friends through the internet.  I read, I write, I research, I email, even my TV is through the internet.  Some people may think I spend way too much time on the internet, I don’t think so.

I really don’t miss working.  If I’d had the dream job I’m sure I’d miss working, but truthfully I didn’t like my job.  I dreaded going to work.  I don’t miss it at all.  I don’t like the fact that I can’t work.  But missing my job?  No not at all.

I care what people think.  I keep being told, “who cares what people think?”  Well I do.  Why?  I have no idea.  I don’t like this part about me, but I really care about what people think.  I don’t want people to think I’m lazy, that I’m pretending to be sick, that I’m a hypochondriac….  Yet I don’t like to go out looking bad.  I don’t want people to think I can’t take care of myself.  I don’t want people to think my husband isn’t taking care of me.  I care what people think when they come in my house.  (as if so many people come in my house)  I care what people think when they ask me what I do and I can’t give them an answer.  I don’t “do” anything.  I even dress up a bit just to go to the doctor.  Especially my therapist.  She is a lovely woman, so put together, and I want to look all put together too.  So I actually dress up a bit to go to my therapy sessions.  How weird is that?

I often don’t know how to talk about anything other than health issues.  My life revolves around my health, and most of my friends have chronic illnesses and their life revolves around their health issues so we don’t have a problem talking.  But when I meet other people, when I need to make conversation with people outside of my chronic illness circle, I’m a bit lost.

Often I have no idea what someone just said to me, so I fake it.  When there is small talk being said and I miss part of it because I just can’t hear, I nod and smile a lot and hope I’m not smiling when someone just told me something sad.  It is way too hard for me to constantly ask people to repeat themselves, especially in a setting where I know I probably won’t be able to hear them anyway.  Often when I’m with Stuart I just stand there and smile and let him deal with the conversation.  It’s hard on me, not being able to participate, but it’s harder to struggle through it.

I love my recliner.  I never thought I’d be a middle aged woman who spends most of her time in her recliner, but I do.  I love this chair.  I got it when I got my hip replaced, I don’t know what I did without it!  I get through my vertigo attacks much easier in the recliner, I don’t have to lie all the way down, I don’t have to sit all the way up, it’s just so much easier.  It’s my comfort spot, it’s where I write, read, watch TV….and that’s okay with me.

I don’t shower of bathe regularly.  Taking a shower or bath is an ordeal.  I have a safety issue with both.  Taking a shower is harder for me because I often get vertigo when the water hits my head, even using a shower seat with a hand held shower head doesn’t solve the problem.  Taking a bath is easier, but it’s much harder to get in and out of the tub.  I’ve also had vertigo start with me in the tub a few times.  I have to have someone with me when I shower or bathe.  It takes a lot of energy out of me.  I often have to lie down and rest afterward.  I never thought I’d say that I’m lucky I have dry skin and hair but since I do it’s not that big of a deal if I don’t wash my hair for a couple of weeks.  No, I’m not gross, I do wash up.  But taking a full on bath, takes a lot.

Sometimes I’ll wear the same “clothes” for days.  When I don’t feel good I wear the same clothes for days.  By clothes I mean a tee and shorts or sleep pants.  I will move from the bed to my recliner and back.  Who needs to change clothes?  Truthfully, I don’t think I could if I wanted to.  But sometimes I don’t change clothes simply because it’s easier.

I’m hard to live with.  I get grumpy, grouchy, moody, bitchy….but I’m also loving, happy, joyful…. Let’s just say, I’m confusing.

 

Are there confessions you have?  Want to share?  Do you share some of mine?  I’d love to hear!

(photo by and of W. Holcombe.  All rights reserved)

Stop apologizing

I don’t often reblog a post from so when I do you know the person said something I think is important.  What Denise, from Hearing Elmo talks about is important.  We have to stop apologizing for our “normal”.  Please check out her site for many more important topics, Denise is an amazing advocate.

The other day my iPhone died before I was getting ready for bed. I was a little shocked, because I rarely have it just “die” on me. The new ones have batteries that last much longer – even if you are a frequent user of the device like I am. I stood there with dead […]

via My iPhone Lasts Longer Than I do — Hearing Elmo

What’s it like to have a Cochlear Implant?

me with CII got my first cochlear implant (CI) in July of 2011, and my second in September of 2013.  When I was going through that time I wrote some about it but I’ve never talked about what it’s like to live with my cochlear implants (CIs).  A friend of mine asked me a few questions about it recently.  I’m here today to answer some of those questions.

What exactly is a Cochlear Implant? – To put it simply, a Cochlear Implant is an electronic device that can help provide a sense of sound to someone who is deaf or severely hard of hearing.  Let me see if I can explain this in my own words.  There is a part that is on the outside of the head that consist of a microphone a processor and a transmitter.  There is part that is on the inside that is the stimulator and the electrode array.  Sound comes into the microphone and goes through the speech processor to the transmitter  (the microphone and processor are the parts around the ear, the transmitter is the part that is on the outside of the head – it is held on by a magnet connecting it to the receiver/stimulator).  The stimulator is in my head, between the skin and the skull.  When the sound comes in to the stimulator it is then sent to the electrode array it then send impulses to the auditory nerves.  For a better explanation please go here.   (you can see the microphone, processor and transmitter on me in the photo at the top of the post – yes mine are orange -, and in the second photo below)

Cochlear Implant

This is a photo of the receiver/stimulator and the array. The array is the wire it is what goes in the cochlea of the ear and sends impulses to the auditory nerves. The stimulator is right on the inside of my head.  The transmitter connects to the stimulator by a magnet.

cochlear implant 2

This is a photo of a microphone, processor, and transmitter. You can readily see the microphone that hooks around the ear but there is one at the top you can’t really see. Many processors have microphones that are not readily seen.

Why did you get cochlear implants? – I lost my hearing due to Meniere’s Disease.  My hearing loss happened fairly quickly.  I was diagnosed bilateral in November of 2009.  In 2010 I got hearing aids, within 3 months of having my hearing aids I couldn’t understand anything out of my left ear.  That sent me on the tract to getting my first CI. (July 2011) By the time I received my first CI, the hearing in my right ear deteriorated to the point that my hearing aid no longer worked.  It took a little while, but I soon got my second CI.(September 2013)  Why did I get cochlear implants?  because that was the only way I would be able to “hear” anything.

How does a cochlear implant work? – I’m going to quote this straight from the National Institute of Deafness and other Communication Disorders site.  “A cochlear implant is very different from a hearing aid. Hearing aids amplify sounds so they may be detected by damaged ears. Cochlear implants bypass damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. Signals generated by the implant are sent by way of the auditory nerve to the brain, which recognizes the signals as sound.”

Do you hear the same with a cochlear implant as a you do with normal hearing? – No.  Some people can understand words and sounds immediately, other people can only hear clicks and whistles.  It is a completely different way of hearing and your brain has to be retrained.  When I was first activated I could understand a lot of words from the start, but everyone sounded like they had been sucking on helium.  A lot of Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse voices were around.  Soon my brain started to remember what certain sounds sound like and I started hearing things the way I used to, for the most part.  When I hear something I’ve never heard before things can sound very odd.  Sometimes when I meet a new person their voice will get that cartoon sound until I get used to them.  The longer you use your CIs the better you hear with them, so 10 years from now I should hear better than I do now.

Do you now hear like everyone else? or is it odd?  What is your hearing like now? – This is the big question isn’t it? What is my hearing like now?   First I’ll tell you about challenges I have that a lot of people with CIs have, then I’ll tell you about my personal challenges.

I often can’t hear when someone speaks behind me.  If there is noise in the room I have a very hard time hearing.  (the newer CI’s are better for this, even though I have a newer CI I still have a hard time)  In groups it is very hard to keep up with what everyone is saying.  I am much better at conversing one on one.  I find I it is much easier for me if the person is facing me so I can read their lips while they are talking to me.  Between the two of those I do pretty well, but put me in a crowded room, and I’m lost.  Heck, put me in a room with more than one person and I can get pretty lost.

I think I might be able to hear better if I had more practice, I’m not sure.  Most of the time I only talk with Stuart.  I talk to my doctors.  I talk with our roommate, but I have a very hard time understanding him.  His voice is deep and I simply cannot understand most of what he says.  It makes things difficult, and sad.  But for the most part I don’t see anyone else.  Since we moved I haven’t met many new people, it’s hard to get used to groups and hearing other people when I don’t have the opportunity.  However, it’s also really hard to put myself out there in those situations because I get so lost and confused.  It does make meeting new people even more challenging.

Unlike most people with cochlear implants my hearing fluctuates.  Some people with Meniere’s who get CI’s end up still having fluctuating hearing.  Normally this happens when we have vertigo, our hearing will change and we need to get our CI’s adjusted.  My hearing doesn’t fluctuate just when I have a vertigo attack it happens every day.

Let me tell you what an average day for me is like.  I’ll get up and put on my cochlear implants, at first it takes me a little bit to get used to suddenly hearing sound.  Everything sounds a bit loud.  Then things will normally calm down and my hearing is stable for a few hours, but every evening my hearing will change.  It’s hard to explain what it sounds like, it gets hollow sounding and can sound way too loud.  I’m always telling Stuart to please be quieter.    Sometimes my hearing will change throughout the day.  I will often say, “I’m having a bad hearing day.”  I’m thrilled when I can say I’m having a good hearing day.

When I take my CI’s off the world changes.  Suddenly the only thing I can hear is my tinnitus.  (When I have my CI’s on the sound of the outside world helps me to not notice my tinnitus as much.)

I don’t know sign language.  I am working on learning some, but I haven’t been able to take a class.  At times Stuart and I can only communicate by me reading his lips and the little bit of sign language we know.

What is a challenge you wouldn’t normally think about? – This one is easy, having the headpiece suddenly fly off  because I got too close to something metal.  I have a bracelet that I wear sometimes and if I put my arm up around my head the CI headpiece (the transmitter) will jump off and stick to it.  It’s kind of funny, kind of annoying.   Other times when I want to lie down the headpiece won’t stay on.  This is annoying, especially when I’m sick.  I deal with vertigo better when I can hear what is going on around me since I can’t focus on anything, but during an attack I need to lie down, this often knocks my CI off and I can’t hear anything out of one ear.

Does it hurt? – Well the surgery hurt, but it wasn’t so bad.  It is actually an out-patient surgery.  Does it hurt on a day-to-day basis?  Not really.  If the magnets that are holding the headpiece to my head are too strong it hurts, but then I can change that.  I have screws that are very close to the surface right behind my ears.  One ear is worse than the other.  Most people don’t have this problem, normally when it heals fat and cartilage form around the screws and you don’t notice them, for me the screw is right up against the skin.  Sometimes this hurts.  Sometimes my processor and glasses will rub on them.  My sun glass arms are thicker than my daily glasses and they will cause that area to hurt.  If I can lie down on it, it hurts a bit.  Other than that, no it doesn’t hurt.  If I didn’t have the screw issue I really wouldn’t even notice I have them on.

Now I just have to share the funniest thing I’ve misheard due to my hearing loss–  Once I asked Stuart what Jesus was other than seen as a prophet and son of God.  The answer I heard was, “Jesus was Jimmy Buffett”  I busted out laughing.  “Whaaat?  Jesus was Jimmy Buffett??”  What Stuart actually said was, “Jesus was a Jewish Carpenter.”  I still get the giggles when I think about Jesus being Jimmy Buffett!

Blog Posts I’d like to Share

Ok, so I planned to enter more posts I’ve read that made an impact on me, but if you’ve read my last post you know I’ve been going through a mess.  I started this post before I started having the run on vertigo, and I really wanted to make sure everyone saw these wonderful posts.  There is a lot of good information out there and I’m ever so eager to share some of the things I’m learning.  (BTW, I’m feeling much better!!)

Recently I’ve been reading some really great posts and articles on-line and I’d really like to share a few.  I wish I’d written some of this great information.  So please take the time to read:

Markovich Photo Art

Markovich Photo Art

From ADD and So Much More, Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CMC, MCC, SCAC takes on the subject of Loneliness ins a must read 3 part series:  Part 1 – The Importance of Community to Health  Part 2. –  Sliding Into Loneliness  Part 3  – When you’re longing for Connection

On Living with Hearing Loss, Shari Eberts asks the question Why is it Still OK to Make Fun of Hearing Loss?  If you have hearing loss, know someone who has hearing loss, or simply want understand the hearing loss world, you should check out this blog post and much of Shari’s blog.

Bipolar Barbie-Q takes on how it feels when you are in the throws of depression.  (this is a subject I plan to cover soon myself, but you need to read her post, it’s raw, and full of passion, and will give you a great understanding on how complicated depression is.  I’m the Queen of Run-On’s.

 

I hope you have a good read today.

 

 

 

Update On My treatment

dandilion flower

My treatment for vertigo as laid out by the doctor at John Hopkins was to continue working with my migraine doctor to get my migraines and migraine associated vertigo (MAV) under control, go to vestibular rehabilitation therapy, and to have gentimiacin injections (a medication intended to purposefully damage the inner ear to stop dizzy spells in Meniere’s disease).

As you might recall I wasn’t thrilled with the doctor I saw in our city, and was not going to allow him to do the gentimiacin injections.  However, he did send me to vestibular rehab.

I’m still seeing my migraine doctor (a neurologist who specializes in headache pain), we are working on getting the migraines under control.  I can’t say I’m having fewer migraines but they do seem to be less intense.  It’s hard for me to tell if my vertigo is caused my MAV or if it’s a Meniere’s attack.  (If the vertigo is caused by MAV then  gentimiacin will not help.)  You may recall that I had seizures in February that caused me to be hospitalized.  My neurologist told me that one of my medications, Topamax, which is actually used to control seizures, can sometimes cause seizures.  It appears this may have been my problem.  I’ve since stopped taking Topamax and the seizures have subsided.

The vestibular rehab is going well.  I haven’t been to a lot of sessions yet, but so far so good.  When he did the initial intake exam he found I have still been having symptoms of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), and he treated it with the Epley maneuver.  This is something that the doctors I have seen ignored, the nystagmus (involuntary movement of the eye) is very slight, and the doctors didn’t see it, however, I felt like they didn’t believe me.  (I can’t remember if I mentioned these symptoms to the doctor at John Hopkins so I can’t say he ignored them.)  After this treatment I have had very little BPPV symptoms.  On the way home from the first visit I had a bad vertigo attack that last hours.  Since then my treatments haven’t caused an increase in my symptoms after leaving. During the treatments I often get a bit overwhelmed and wonky, but Ryan watches out for this and makes me take a time out.  I still have a few sessions to go before being reevaluated.

Now, about the doctor situation.  I will be seeing a new doctor on the 22nd, next Tuesday.  It’s kind of amazing how I found this doctor.  Advanced Bionics (AB), the company who makes my cochlear implants (CI), are going to have an event talking about new products just right down the street from me on Friday.  When I was sent a notice about it I decided to email to the AB representative for our area and discuss some of my issues.  I told her about how difficult it is for me to hear on the phone and wanted to know if they had a new product to help better with that.  They don’t, but I we both think most of my troubles there is lack of practice, since she has been a speech therapist for years she gave me good exercises to try to get me used to the phone.

I decided to tell her my predicament with not being able to get my CI’s program updated (called mapping) here when I have problems, even though there is an office that provides this service.  (they will only map CI patients who were implanted by their office)  As luck would have it, her husband works for this medical group.  He is an otolaryngologist.  He is new to the office and is working to get things better there.  He gave me suggestions about things and I decided to tell them about my problems with the doctor I’ve been seeing.  He told me he would be happy to take me on as a patient, or he recommended another doctor in the group.  He just wanted me to have a good experience there.  Wow.  I decided to go to see him.  He is very willing to confer with the doctor at John Hopkins.  He is also going to work to get my CI’s mapped at that office. Their rule is so people won’t go to a hospital just a few hours away and then expect them to do the follow up work.  I think it’s more complicated than that, but that’s a big part of it.    The big issue with me is that I wasn’t living here when I was implanted so I should be able to be seen there.  Is that just a lucky thing or what?  I’m so happy I reached out to her, you never know who may be able to help.

How am I feeling about my treatment?  Good, so far.  I’ll discuss it with my new doctor, but right now I think I’m going to put off the gentimiacin injections.  I’m doing much better right now and I just don’t want to take any chances that the vertigo is coming from my migraines.  I have been thinking we may as will have the injections in the ear that registered a 4 on the caloric testing. (the normal reading is a 21).  Since it’s that far down I want to know if it could help to go ahead and do the gentimiacin. We’ll see what he says on Tuesday.

So, that’s where I’m at right now.  Very grateful everything is going so well.

dandilion puff

photos by W. Holcombe 2016 all rights reserved.