It is Thanksgiving. Thanks. Giving. Giving Thanks. Gratitude. What if when we heard the word, "Thanksgiving", our thoughts first went to gratitude? What if the practice of gratitude or offering thanks, could become so deeply a part of you, that every day, from this day forward, is "Thanksgiving?" What if you could create a practice for yourself that rewires your brain to experience happiness on a daily basis? The simple practice of intentionally giving thanks, everyday, can do that for you. It allows you to see every challenge you face from a place of "the half-full glass."
This Thanksgiving I am feeling much gratitude for my body; specifically, my ears and my ability to hear. I am a born communicator and lover of connecting with others; a healer and teacher. My work and passion as healer, health educator and coach, calls me to deeply connect and communicate with my clients from a place of authenticity, as well as in all areas my life.
I am thinking of 4 years ago when I was diagnosed with Meniere's Disease, a condition that causes violent vertigo attacks and hearing loss. Last month, it was 3 years since I left a job I loved, due to debilitating vertigo. At the time, I began to notice some hearing loss, but it seemed very minor compared to the vertigo which had crept into my life. It left me spinning; nauseous and either crawling or collapsed in place for hours, with no way to call for help. Being around fluorescent or LED lights and loud noises, triggered severe attacks. I went on leave from my work and reluctantly entered what felt like an enforced retreat; sequestered in my home. I wore dark Irlen prescription lenses in the dark of winter. I turned to the natural world in my meadow for company, calming and healing. I began meditating several hours daily, practiced qigong by my creek and gave myself Reiki self-healing. I stayed far from crowds, noise and bright lights. A trip to The Co-op was planned for Saturday evenings when the place was mostly empty. The vertigo entered my life as a hellish gift, inviting me to deeply connect to myself and my inner guidance. This teacher called, "vertigo", tore me away from everything I had previously thought to be my life and sent me hurtling into the unknown. I was in the back seat of the car with my soul doing the driving. Sometimes, we don't get a choice.
During this period, I changed direction. I could have let my soul die and succumbed to the misery, isolation and fear. At times I wanted to die. I couldn't imagine staying in a body that didn't even allow me to safely step outside my house. Deep inside, I knew that something significant was happening. I understood I needed to hang onto the rope of hope and continue practicing daily gratitude; finding every little spark of goodness and light. I had a warm home, food to eat, family and friends who loved me, awesome healers, the blue sky, stars, the sun, the moon, a pair of owls under my bedroom window, flowers, trees, birds, a flowing creek and my breath. At the time, some encouraged me to go on disability, seeing only the dysfunctional state I was in. I saw past that, trusting I would move through the worst of the worst, and I mustered the courage to step into the unknown. I pushed on with what had been my lifelong passion for wellness education and worked towards becoming a credentialed Whole Health Educator and coach through a remote program. Looking back, I'm not sure how I manifested any strength, as on top of the vertigo, I was healing from adrenal burnout which I was left with after two years of daily dizziness. I remained persistent in my practice of mind-body medicine, with a daily mantra of, "Everyday I'm getting better/I'm getting better everyday."
"Through misery and fear, I was given a potent gift of self-discovery. Something I previously understood only through intellect, was now experienced as heightened awareness, an awakened loving heart and full alignment with my higher-self. This good was all catalyzed from experiencing my life as I knew it, shatter to pieces."
The 15-month, Whole Health Educator Program, became a powerful source of healing. The cutting-edge, evidence-based program offered a treasure-trove of healing techniques. A special gem was the work of neuroscientist, Dr. Candice Pert, a leading proponent of the unity of mind and body, and the ability of emotions to affect health. Her research was based on how neuropeptides of the brain attach to receptor sites on every organ of the body, when triggered by thought and emotion. I integrated Mind-Body work into my healing process with great success. Being unable to tolerate the Meclazine prescribed for vertigo, I prescribed myself some powerful mind-body affirmations. As soon as I went into a violent spin, I would plant my feet on the floor, breathe deeply and repeat out loud, over and over, "I'm fine", "I'm safe." Within minutes, the room stopped spinning and the vertigo left. I discovered that the more I used this method, the sooner the vertigo left. In fact, after I started this technique, the vertigo episodes began decreasing all together and many of the foods that triggered the vertigo became tolerable once again. After two and half years of vertigo, the worst was over. The mind-body work taught me how much power we really have to effect what is happening in our bodies. Depending on our thoughts, we can make ourselves ill or well.
Gratitude practice became an essential piece during this period. Done as a daily practice, gratitude allows one to fully see the beauty in life and all the good filling our world. It allowed me to see and understand how the worst thing can become the best thing. This practice has some awesome research backing up its power.
This healing journey has been filled with beauty and love. I would never have imagined all the blessings and amazing new, loving friends who entered my life at that time. I discovered some of the deepest healing connection I have ever experienced. Through misery and fear, I was given a potent gift of self-discovery. Something I previously understood only through intellect, was now experienced as heightened awareness, an awakened loving heart and full alignment with my higher-self. This good was all catalyzed from experiencing my life as I knew it, shatter to pieces.
Though I was diagnosed with Meniere's, I must explain that it is considered to be, a "constellation" of symptoms. After working with many doctors and healers, it became clear that, yes, my symptoms fit that constellation, but I also had many experiences during the worst of it that would be impossible to fit into any category, medically. Sometimes, in manifesting specific symptoms, our bodies serve as vehicles for inner transformation. There is often no other explanation.
One of the physical effects of Meniere's can be a feeling that the world around you is unstable; like being on a boat, all the time. I developed this symptom about a year before the vertigo attacks began. Even though the vertigo left me close to two years ago, this feeling of being on a rocking boat has remained. I discovered 2 years ago, that if I put an earplug into my affected right ear, it prevents air pressure changes deep in my ear, and brings a sense of balance. The main problem with the ear plug is that it has prevented me from hearing and blocked my realization of how well that ear was functioning. I have tried at times to not use the plug as it is uncomfortable, but I seriously need it.
"I don't think any of us are ever ready to say goodbye to any working part of our body. At age 60, I have become quite attached to hearing and communicating. I have known for the past few years that my right ear has been failing, but I have never lost hope that it can heal; regenerate and be functional once again. With the test results of "profound hearing loss" and "deafness", I experienced a deep sense of loss."
This week, I went to a long-awaited appointment with a new E.N.T. and audiologist, to check out my hearing. It had been three years since my last test. Over the last 6 months, I have noticed a change in my hearing and felt an evaluation was past due. I spent 45 minutes testing with the audiologist wearing a headset in a sound-proof booth. I listened to several series of tones with both left and right ear; punching a button with each set of sounds I heard. My left ear was next tested in the "Word Recognition" part of the test. I would hear, for example, "Say the word, sidewalk." My job was to repeat back each individual word I had heard. Doing the same test with the right ear, I heard nothing but static and muddled noise. I recognized not one word or anything that even resembled a word. Hot tears rolled down my cheeks as I remembered how three years earlier, I identified several words with my right ear, during the word recognition test. Over these past two years, with my right ear plugged (and silenced) for stability, my hearing has quietly slipped away.
I saw the doctor following the testing. I so appreciated her warmth, caring and taking time to listen and explain. And, I loved that she encouraged me to keep on working with complementary medicine. She told me I showed all the symptoms of classic Meniere's which is a few years of vertigo attacks with diminishing hearing on one side. The doctor explained that I was now in, "The Burn-out" phase. Burn-out means, the vertigo has left and the affected ear is now deaf. She showed me the test graphs compared to those from 3 years earlier. In three years I had gone from 50% accuracy on word recognition with my right ear, to 0% at present. She said my right ear was now deaf with no standard medical treatment options. The wonderful news is that my left ear is working at a very high level, with 100% word recognition. The doctor explained that the constant feeling that things around me are floating and moving, is likely a result of a damaged vestibular nerve as well as the auditory nerve. The vestibular system regulates the sense of balance. She explained that with time, my left vestibular nerve may take over the function of the damaged nerve, causing the feelings of being on a boat, to dissipate.
I don't think any of us are ever ready to say goodbye to any working part of our body. At age 60, I have become quite attached to hearing and communicating. I have known for the past few years that my right ear has been failing, but I have never lost hope that it can heal; regenerate and be functional once again. With the test results of "profound hearing loss" and "deafness", I experienced a deep sense of loss. At the same time, I learned I have one awesome, functional, left ear that now does the work of two. For the moment, that ear is it; my only ear. I am so incredibly grateful for a working ear and my ability to hear. I would never have traded the past several years away for anything different. I exchanged one ear for a profound experience of inner growth, transformation and becoming who I came here to be. I cried rivers in that sound booth at the clinic and on my drive home. I acknowledged and felt my loss with the concrete experience of the hearing test. For now, I continue to live my life to the fullest as I grow and follow my passions. And, I will protect, pamper and cherish my left ear, giving deep thanks for all the gifts in my life.
My persistent, quest for evidenced-based research in the realm of healing, is an essential part of me. I am extremely grateful for my one functional ear and I am still the health researcher I have been for decades. I will continue practicing mind-body medicine and Self-Reiki; receiving acupuncture and N.U.C.C.A. when needed. And, I look forward to connecting with The Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment Center of Southern Oregon, as studies from The National Institute of Health demonstrate that deafness in Meniere's patients improved significantly in those who had undergone hyperbaric treatment.
Blessings to you for everyday to be a beautiful day of "Thanks-giving."
With Love and Gratitude, Sari