I had the best of intentions, I truly did! I was going to get on my treadmill and walk my bones strong! Well…the 100+ degree days have hit here in West Texas…Are you kidding me?
I was so frustrated I hadn’t begun this mission to ‘reclaim my life’ sooner. I was frustrated the treadmill is so bulky I can’t bring it inside. I was frustrated with myself. Then, I got mad, really mad. I know this may seem crazy to have this as my topic, but my anger made me think of an author who’s work I was introduced to while in school. She was a Swiss Psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. She’d written, On Death and Dying, inspired by her work with terminally ill patients. No, I am not terminally ill, but I do have ‘terminal dizziness’, so to speak. I’ll be dizzy until the day I die. It was her Theory, which I will loosely use here, discusses the dying process (as shared by her patients) and she felt we go through the same 5 ‘stages’, not necessarily in this or any particular order. Some of us will experience them all, some will go through them quickly or stages may overlap, but we all go through it. Anger is one of the stages, hmmm… We need to go through the process to get to the other side! Allowing ourselves to grieve the life we’ve lost, the part that ‘died’, allows us to go forward. I feel it’s a necessary step towards our healing. It gives us the ability and the power to go forward with is what is now our life. If you’re like me, you’ve lost something you used to be able to do. For me, it was the loss of my career, my independence, and to be honest, I lost me. In my career as an Occupational Therapy Assistant, I had the choice of the population I worked with, as we work with people from ‘cradle to grave’. I chose to work with children but was also very interested in the opposite end of the spectrum Geriatrics. I think as I cover these stages, you’ll discover that you are there or were there, somewhere in the process of grieving the life we’ve lost. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, and are commonly referred to as ‘The 5 Stages of Grieving’. I seem to waver between depression and acceptance, myself…unless I get angry!
Denial…This seems simple enough, what was your reaction the first time Vertigo took you down? For me, “What the hell is going on?”, “I’m not actually going fall…am I?”, or “This can’t be happening to me!”. Well, yeah, we can deny it’s not really happening to us all we want, but it has…Even when you ‘get’ what’s happened to us, we deny our ability to work. I tried, extremely hard, to go back to work, but the Vertigo continued to hit periodically and I never knew when. My work involves ‘modifications’, yet with all the changes made for me, it still wasn’t safe for the children or myself. I had to leave, yet I remained in denial for one-year longer before actually ‘retiring’. I thought if I got enough rest, enough good food, enough exercise, I could one day go back. Fast forward 7-years to me denying I should go on Disability, which I’m now on. That’s an awful lot of denial. It initially is a ‘protective’ response, which can drag on a very long time and in that very long time, one can become angry, I did.
Anger…This is what stirred up my remembering Kubler-Ross’s work! I was in the ‘thick middle’ of this a few days ago when I began this blog and have moved through it (again…). At what point do you get angry this has happened to you? How long should we let anger rule us? Are you angry with yourself for ‘getting’ sick? I was furious I got sick. I totally ‘blamed’ myself! My family felt I shouldn’t work with children because I caught everything! I was sick all the time, that was a fact, but my job was ME…My job wasn’t like work, per say, it was more like play. As a COTA, we are most often utilized as the one who actually perform therapy, while following a Treatment Plan as written by the OT. When I began this career, it was after being a full-time mom for over 15 years, but I was still a child at heart. If the child needed to crawl from work station to work station, I crawled with them. If their Sensory System needed to play, I mean work, the sky was the limit! I rolled, jumped, rode a zip line dropping into a bin of foam, did cartwheels, we raced in the halls on our bellies on scooter boards, put shaving creme all over a table or themselves…it was fun for me on a daily basis. I made great money, I was well respected in my community, and we were happy. Then I became sick…I started falling due to Vertigo and breaking bones…it wasn’t fun anymore, it was scary! Going from being the Therapist, to needing a Therapist was embarrassing, besides, I made a crappy patient (because I thought I should know more). This was my phase through anger, I’m glad it’s over and ever happier I’m able to get angry and cycle through it quickly!
Bargaining…Oh my gosh! Did I do some heavy bargaining with God! It’s almost embarrassing how much I did, but again, normal. “Lord, if you give me back my life…” “Dear God, I will do anything if you will give me back my life…”. I’m sure He was sick of hearing the same ole same ole from me. I think I’ve said it before, I’m a hot-headed, red-headed, hard-headed woman…Anger popped its ugly head back in during my unproductive bargaining period. I don’t know who you ‘call out’ to when you’re bargaining, but in the dark of night or the light of day, I prayed, cried, and yelled at God…And has He granted my requests? No, but something happened at the end of this…I came to realize, I wasn’t given back my ‘old’ life. I was given a ‘new’ life, a ‘different’ life and that’s finally okay with me. In my new life, I’m an Ambassador for VEDA (Vestibular Disorders Association), I’m once again ‘working’ (so what if it’s volunteer!) with people, all be it’s via the Internet. I feel I’m helping and that’s priceless to me!
Depression…Yes, this is a biggie for me. I also have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), so ‘getting over’ what caused it hasn’t happened in 30 years…THIRTY YEARS! I plug along pretty well, but there are triggers that ‘bring it all back’…like a bad movie on repeat. Dealing with the aftermath of the Labyrinthitis though does make one depressed. When your life changes so drastically, sometimes overnight, it’s normal to be ‘down’. It’s when that ‘down’ doesn’t resolve, you may want to talk with a professional (I did and do when I need it). I think most are able to cycle through this phase without the use of medicine, but I wasn’t. I take Cymbalta and have no shame in doing so. Your families may disagree, friends or acquaintances will put in their two cents, but are they living with what we are? I’d guess rarely do more than one family member or co-worker is dealing with exactly what we have? Baseline, that’s a decision between you and your doctor, no one else.
Acceptance...I finally got here! It took a long time, but I got through it. So what if I’m dizzy on a daily basis! So what if I’m on Disability! So what if people stare! So what if others don’t understand! I really don’t care! Not at all in a disrespectful manner, I just let it ‘roll’ off…Maybe, it rolls off so easily because of the hard shell I developed while dealing with all the crap Labs put upon me? I have accepted the life I’ve been given. In my new life, I grow Orchids and they are amazing if I may say so! I honestly don’t know what I’m doing right, they just seem to grow like crazy! They bloom twice yearly and I’ve had many grow multiple ‘spikes’ that have produced over 50 blooms on one plant. I’m happy, in my acceptance, I’ve reached out to others like me. There’s so many of us, it’s scary, yet reassuring. Finding others like me has been my Godsend and I am grateful for that. I would still love to get out and actually see people…in person…the old fashioned way…
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