Reflections on the past, states of being, opportunity, and looking forward

16 Dec

As of last Thursday (December 13, 2012) my tenure with the Santa Rosa vertigo clinic is over. However, that hardly means my experience with vestibular rehabilitation is complete. The past ten weeks represented a crash course in coping with the rest of my life. Because of the experiences and training and ideas to which I’ve been exposed, I have been given a wonderful gift. At the risk of sounding cliche, the point of this class was to develop the serenity to accept that which I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Prior to attending or even signing up for this clinic, I was a mess. It may not have seemed it–I looked and behaved as I always had. Unfortunately, once my inner ear became damaged, I ceased to be the same person I was before. Everything had changed, from the way I walked and talked to the way I thought. This is a scary, scary proposition; losing yourself and then redefining yourself within a foreign world created by your own perceptions is no small feat. And the first step is acknowledging that you have to change. It meant conceding that my former way of  life was dead. This understanding is something I resisted, fiercely, for a very long time.

Attending this clinic did not cure my vertigo. I still see funny, and I still have to deal with all of the same problems that drove me into the ground before I took the semester off. What is, different, however, is how I choose to understand my condition. The vertigo is permanent. It is what it is. As difficult as that was for me to accept, and I mean really, truly, viscerally understand and bring that notion of permanent vertigo into my worldview, I am so much better off now that I can say that and mean it.

The vertigo is permanent. And it is more than that: it is a part of me. Just as my feet, thighs  lips, eyes, thoughts, smile, soul, etc.  are part of me. As a culture we spend so much time fighting our bodies because we have this obscure and often detrimental image of perfection. That’s something I’ve always felt to be a damn shame–to hate who you were so much that you would voluntarily elect to remove skin, bone–pieces of you–and inject silicone and botulism to attain some preconceived notion of what a human being should be. What you should be.

What I didn’t realize (or didn’t want to) until this clinic was that I was one of those people; I, too, was unhappy with my body and was willing to take pills, undergo surgeries, remove tissues, etc. to become something I was no longer capable of being. Just because this was my inner ear instead of my breasts and it affects my balance instead of how I might think tight clothing looks on my form does not negate the fact that I hated my body.

(In recent months, I’ve altered my views somewhat on the issue of cosmetic surgeries. People (myself included) often criticize those for undergoing cosmetic surgery because it’s unnecessarily done in the name of vanity. But what we critics need to understand is that to a young girl with severely asymmetric breasts or a man who lost a hundred pounds and wants to get a body lift to remove excess skin, vanity isn’t something that should be scorned. The pursuit of a better version of ourselves  is something we commend until it comes to one’s physical visage. Honestly, I’ve come to realize this to be an arbitrary distinction–to that person, this is a choice they have with their life that can effect the change they want to see in their world. How is that significantly different from spending years and incredible sums studying in school to better your mind because you were unhappy with your job? When done for the right reasons, with the correct intent, with understanding of the sacrifices required to attain that goal, the attempt to better oneself is an incredibly enticing ideal. For some people it works. However, if it does not, then you need to move on or suffer.)

I could not repair my vestibular nerve. It is damaged, and I will always have some degree of vertigo because of it. What this clinic taught me was to begin to love my body for what it was. To have compassion for what its been though and understanding for what it needs. It isn’t “other” to what I need. In terms of human interaction on this mortal realm, without the vessel that is your body, you have nothing. This clinic gave me the permission I didn’t know I was requesting to be kind to myself.

Over the past ten weeks, I had much to undertake. In ten weeks, I was asking myself to mourn the loss of my old life, understand who it is that I’ve become, demolish the distinction between myself and the vertigo, and learn to navigate the world as a new woman. That is a hell of a lot to ask, and I won’t pretend to be done with this process. Still, with the help of Omay and Christine, I have a solid foundation and have completed the first crucial steps in this transformation. I need not suffer. I will have pain. That is okay.

It is okay. That was another difficulty for me. Being used to a high standard of achievement, having that capability seemingly slip away and watch it do so… it’s a very hard thing to do. So when I would fail to make the same achievements as before, I would become angry at myself, depressed even, looking at all of this as an epic failure. The thing is? That’s okay. Being sad is okay. Failure is okay. In fact, I now think failure is one of our greatest assets–failure tells us far more than our success ever will.

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to attend this clinic. It is the last one that will ever take place and I cannot express how lucky I feel to have been a part of this experience. This is something that I will take with me for the rest of my life; it is something that gives me the power to actively participate in my life again. Things are different  absolutely. I won’t be able to do the things I used to in the way I am accustomed to doing them. And that is okay.

Every moment is defined by all of the moments leading up to it (almost like a recursion relation) and therefore this moment, the here and now, exists in perfection. Given the infinite series of past moments how could it be any other way? Just as you cannot change the past, you cannot change the present–it’s already here. It simply is. Where you do have control is how you chose to appreciate your present. That perception will affect your future. That is a very powerful tool. Moving forward, I will learn to live my life and love myself for what I am–not what I wish to be.

Now, dear readers, with the conclusion of my vertigo program I’ve reached a point where I do not feel the need to blog  every day. That does not mean I’m stopping entirely–I still plan to post relevant updates, developments, and musings as I feel necessary. There will be many things in my future related to my vertigo, to be sure. But for now, I will leave this here and I’ll catch you all on the flip-side. Thanks for reading, and I wish you health and wellness.


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