Well, it’s official. I’ve got Meniere’s Diease, or, as I like to call it “Constant Diet of Extruded Corn Meal Covered In Dehydrated Cheese Powder” Disease.
It sounds all exotic and lethal, doesn’t it? Meniere’s Diease. I like to say it with an exaggerated French accent just so I can pull as much drama as possible out of having an inner ear imbalance caused by addiction to food the color of traffic cones. I don’t mean to diminish the pain and suffering others have endured because of this disease; I feel deeply sympathetic. I’ve lived with this feeling of low grade nausea and discomfort for four years now and it is no picnic. It’s just that now that I know how I came to acquire this disease (my own poor eating habits), I don’t feel compelled to be all grave and serious when I talk about it. Which is surprising for me, because I usually know exactly when it is appropriate to take things seriously. Like when I need to ask a convenience store clerk if he carries a snack product with the word “Doodle” in its name.
Though the origins are debatable, most doctors think it’s caused by an imbalance of sodium in the body. The symptoms range from vertigo, a fullness in one ear, dizziness, tinnitus, hearing loss, and lovely little thing called nystagmus, a “jumping” in your eyeball when exposed to stimuli. And, in keeping with my fanaticism for collecting all things odd and rare, I’ve managed to add all these wonderfully uncomfortable items to my curio cabinet of health.
Two years ago, I started the process of trying to figure out why my ear hurt when I slept on my left side, and it has led me through a series of tests, including an Audiogram (in which I learned I had lost some of my hearing in my right ear) an MRI, an ECOG, and an ENG, and, most recently, it led me to the doctor who said I was exhibiting pretty classic symptoms of Meniere’s Diease. I cannot relate in words how incredibly RELIEVING it is to finally have something to call this annoyance AND to have something to do about it.
Of course, though I am willing and ready to make the necessary adjustments in my life, I am none too happy about it. Plain and simple, I have to lower my salt intake. And, as my doctor pantomimed by shaking her hand in the air above an imaginary plate of food, it’s not just the salt I put on my food I have to reduce. She said I would need to lower my intake of processed foods and prepackaged foods. And when she said this, I thought to myself, “Now wait a minute. I’m a most-of-the-time vegetarian who cooks for herself using mostly organic ingredients. I NEVER eat processed foods…. unless, of course… you count the metric tons of salty snacks I eat. mean, I guess you could consider the onion and corn pulp that’s been dehydrated, salted, and flash fried into the shape of a ring “processed food”. Oh. Wait a second. I eat METRIC TONS OF PROCESSED FOOD.” Have you heard about my love for all things curled and cheesy and salty? It is an unnatural love. And I don’t even want to tell you what I would do to get my hands on a certain brand of cheddar cheese goldfish crackers. Let’s just say it might involve a criminal investigation.
The most recent visit to the doctor’s office included an audiogram (wherein the lover-of-all-things-spreadsheet-able in me ignored the fact that the graph was of my own hearing loss and got all hot and bothered by seeing it mapped out on an x and y axis anyway). There was also the requisite wait in the lobby while I filled out an intake form.
And maybe it was because I was feeling extra grumpy that day because that morning I’d woken up with some more classic Meniere’s Disease pain, or maybe it was because the receptionist gave me an incredulous “Are you nuts?” look when I told her no, I was no longer with Regence, that I don’t have health insurance… but I felt I needed to correct the third grade vocabulary word spelling error on that intake form with a bit of vengeance.
The intake form was worded to determine whether or not my ear pain might have been caused by something like exposure to repetitive loud noises in the workplace, certain diseases, and/or trauma to the head. REALLY BAD trauma to the head.
I present to you now, compliments of my camera phone and the mood lighting in the doctor’s office, the most specific question I have ever been asked on a medical intake form:
“Have you ever experienced the following: A sever blow to the head?”
I may have lost my hearing, Doc, but my eyesight is still pretty fucking sharp.