August 16: Holiday – Yoga, Swimming & Tinnitus
Tinnitus Richter scale: the constant roaring evaporates into the summer breeze and sunshine. Bliss.
If a Victorian lady had been struck down by an inner ear ailment, she would have been sent to the seaside for six months to live with relatives and convalesce.
I get two weeks annual leave and an EasyJet flight.
I’m petrified by the prospect of a busy airport and the sound of a jet engine. My sister suggests buying some noise cancelling headphones. I initially dismiss the idea as covering my ear, even lying on a pillow, traps the howling screams inside my head and makes it ten times worse.
But it’s an inspired suggestion. The tinnitus has now reduced to a level where I can bear it being trapped inside my head for short periods and the headphones prevent unexpected sounds from triggering spikes in its volume.
Yippee I can go on holiday!!!
Week 1 — Spain
Google is a wonderful thing – there really is something for everyone. I find a quiet yoga holiday run by a Spanish-British cranial osteopath (Manuel) in the beautiful town of Trujillo.
There are only two other guests. I’d normally find this dull but it’s perfect for my current condition. Any more would be too noisy.
I started going to a restorative yoga class at the end of May. The classes were incredible easy (I barely lifted an arm off the mat) but they exhausted me and I slept for hours afterwards.
How will I cope with a three hour class every day? But there’s no need to worry. Manuel’s osteopathic background means he’s incredibly knowledgable about the body and its healing system. He understands my condition and tailors the classes perfectly.
Sometimes the postures make me dizzy. The room spins around and I become very light headed. But I don’t fall; Manuel’s always there to ease me onto the mat. I feel very safe under his watchful eyes.
I realise how much the illness has changed me. On holiday I normally love exploring new places and talking to strangers. But not anymore.
I feel too agoraphobic to socialise. Instead I’m blissfully happy doing embroidery in the hotel garden and spending the evenings with my new-found best friends (aka fictional characters on Netflix).
I talk to Manuel about my slow progress. Rather than saying physical treatments will help my ear, he says “Discover your heart’s desire, follow it and then you will heal”.
At first I think this is a bunch of new age mumbo jumbo but it gets me thinking.
An enlightening sunset
I give up Netflix for a night and watch the sunset from the town’s medieval castle. Sitting on a rock away from the noise of the other tourists, I have a solitary beer and cry tears of gratitude.
A few months ago I felt close to death but now I’m in Spain, I’ve climbed to the top of a castle and I’m watching a beautiful sunset. Incredible.
I ponder Manuel’s cryptic words.
I’m not sure I believe following my heart’s desire will cure the tinnitus but a heavy darkness fills my soul at the thought of returning to the life I lead before I got ill.
A question keeps whirling around my head. What am I actually getting better for?
I need to make changes. I don’t know when I’ll be strong enough or what those changes will be but I know they are needed.
Week 2 – France
Hooray at last I get to live like a Victorian lady!
My aunt and uncle sent a WhatsApp message (infinitely less romantic than a note delivered by horseback) inviting me to stay with them in Provence.
A tranquil week in a remote farm house with loved ones to look after me. Perfection.
We spend our time sitting on the veranda chatting and enjoying yummy bread, cheese and wine. I’m being nurturing back to life.
The tinnitus is almost unnoticeable when sitting outside. The constant roaring sound turns into an unpleasant grinding sensation behind my jaw but it doesn’t dominate or overwhelm me. I still feel jittery and talking makes me tired but afternoon naps feel like luxurious siestas rather than symbols of defeated.
Swimming with tinnitus
The farm house has a beautiful open air pool.
There is something magical about diving into a swimming pool. Your hands hit the water and you’re submerged into a silent world of refreshing blue calmness. But not with tinnitus.
As I plunge into the water, the tinnitus is amplified and starts screaming at me. My head spins from the shock of it. I rush to the surface where once again it dissolves into Provence’s light breeze.
If the tinnitus is permanent, has the magical stillness of being under water been lost forever?
Convalescing in the modern world
The concept of convalescence has been lost in the frenetic pace of modern life. You’re either healthy or you’re sick. There’s nothing in between.
I return home feeling so much better. If two weeks helped me turn a corner, what could six months do?
I don’t have six months. I have a mortgage and a job with looming deadlines.
On the plus side, the holiday taught me that I need to be surrounded by friends and family to love and nurture me back to life. Hopefully my improved health will now enable me to see my loved ones more often.
But let’s face it, it would be so much nicer and more healing to live like a Victorian lady and spend the rest of the year in Provence convalescing with relatives.