Take Five–the final meeting

13 Dec

Wow… My last meeting of the vestibular group. Correction: the last meeting of this vestibular group.

Something they didn’t tell us when we began 10 weeks ago was that Omay is retiring. In fact, today was her last day. And because of this and other developments, the vestibular neurotology panel is disbanding.  Frankly, I’m kind of shocked and really sad. I know I’ve bitched about it, but I this was an absolutely wonderful experience. Anyone suffering from a long term vestibular disorder needs something like this–it’s truly a game-changer and it facilitates the paradigm shift that you need to go through. Without this program, I’m not sure where I’d be right now. Undoubtedly depressed and self-loathing to some degree. It deeply saddens me that this is the end of the road for this clinic; it really should be something that several healthcare facilities across the nation provide. I am incredibly lucky to have been a participant in the last round of treatment. I don’t believe in fate or divine intervention in determining people’s life opportunities. But if I were the type of person that did, this would be one of those moments that I would chalk up to the big guy or whatever supreme force looking out for my well-being. For the chance to be a part of this, I am incredibly grateful and incredibly indebted to those responsible for setting up this opportunity.

I will do a few reflections on how I’m doing as a result of the program over the next few days, but in keeping with “proper” form, I’ll give a rundown of the skills from session 5 today.

The concepts introduced in our last meeting were relapse prevention, personal warning signs, a review of your options for responding to any problem, and mindful symptom management.

Relapse Prevention

The truth about vestibular damage, temporary or permanent, is that it makes you more susceptible to future vestibular disturbances. If your symptoms clear Which mine will not, but still,) it can be incredibly worrisome if you experience relapse. There is no way to guarantee relapse won’t happen, so the best tool we have is to be aware of our thought patterns in the event of relapse so that we don’t fall into the same patterns of destructive thought that brought us to the clinic in the first place. Mostly this means ID-ing cognitive distortions and challenging them with wise mind as well as employing the battery of mindfulness and meditative techniques to cope. Nothing is permanent–not even recovery. But this, too, shall pass.

Personal Warning Signs

A very important part of coping with this disease is recognizing what your body is telling you and how you behave before an episode. Everybody who has vertigo experiences it differently, but there are always signals and a cascade of retractions both physical and psychological that foreshadow trouble on the horizon. My biggies are a pinching in my right ear correlating to changes in barometric pressure, mind fog, and rapid onset of fatigue, and when I recognise them, it means I need to back off and rest. That is the hardest thing to do when you’re used to going full bore most of the time, but pushing it can make the whole thing far worse than if you allow yourself to take care. Listen to what your body is saying, because it’s not the enemy and it isn’t dead weight you have to drag through your life. It is your companion, your vessel, and your portal to this world. Treat what it has to say accordingly.

Review of Options for responding to any problem

I went over these in a early post, but just for review, there are four options to address any problem you may encounter:
-Change it
-Accept it
-Leave it
-Stay Miserable

The choice is yours.

Mindful Symptom Management

This… this part completely vindicated an observation I made early on about DBT being very much like Buddhism. Honestly, DBT is Buddhism for the masses. It doesn’t have to be a spiritual thing, and you can dismiss it as some post-colonial bottled up version of Eastern religion  but if you’re suffering a lot and have a bias against Eastern modalities, get off of your high horse, shut your mouth, and open your mind. You might just learn something. This is the final skill we learned in this group, and it is the parting sentiment crowning the twelve years of experience Omay and Christine devoted to this program. It is the four noble truths–reworded, but no less true:

  1. Life contains pain and suffering. (i.e. The truth of dukkha)
  2. Although pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. There is a cause of suffering that must be understood. (i.e. The origin of dukkha.)
  3. Feeling better is possible. An end to suffering is possible. (i.e. The cessation of dukkha.)
  4. Conscious, wise mind living is the only sane approach to life and to the end of suffering. (i.e. the method to the cessation of dukkha, or the Eight-fold path.)

Whatever your sentiments on this philosophy, it seems to work for those of us suffering from this vertigo. It is something I intend to practice a great deal more, and if nothing else, that provides a great deal of comfort.

Post title in honor of the late great Mr. Dave Brubeck.

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