July 16: Letting Everything Go
Tinnitus Richter scale: Constant roaring = 6.5, increasing through the day to an 8 in the evening. Running water, washing up & brushing my teeth = 9.25. I scream in pain.
My response to the tinnitus reducing in volume reminds me of finishing a set of exams. Everyone thinks you’re going straight to the pub to party hard but in reality you’re too exhausted and emotionally drained. You simply collapse in bed; relief and celebration come later.
The reduced volume enables me to reach significant milestones but it’s still too high for these to be pleasant experiences. I’m also too shell-shocked at what I’ve lived through for the past six months to be happy that I reach these milestones or that the tinnitus has dialled down a notch.
I finally get a haircut, but I can’t rejoice. Instead large tears roll down my cheeks as the hairdresser makes my Rapunzel locks more manageable. If the tinnitus is permanent, will having my hair cut always be so painful?
An injured animal
In April and May I desperately wanted to slot back into my old life but now a new powerful emotion overwhelms me. I want everything in my life to go away.
I draw the curtains to shut out the world and mope around the flat. My body is drained of energy and I sleep for hours throughout the day.
My homeopath says this is a sign of deep healing and that the homeopathic remedy is working. She compares it to an injured animal isolating itself from the pack and hibernating in the woods in order to recover. She says I need to listen to my body; instead of pushing through and forcing myself to engage with life, I need to accept how I feel and retreat from the world.
I cancel all social arrangements for the rest of the year and come off social media; it’s such a relief.
I feel agoraphobic about leaving the flat; it’s just easier to stay indoors. I get my human interaction by binge-watching Netflix. The characters have become my best friends. They bring me joy.
My job is another matter. I’ve been putting it off for weeks but, now that the volume has reduced, I have to start some complex contract negotiations. They would be stressful at the best of times but I’m doing them on the phone from my kitchen table while the sound of my own voice still causes the tinnitus to increase. I hardly see or speak to anyone and I’ve become incredibly unsocialised. How can I be trusted with these delicate negotiations?
After each work call I calm the tinnitus down by lying motionlessly in bed, or sit and do embroidery.
Do I deserve this?
The volume reduction also has another unwelcome side effect. I’ve stepped out of the state of acute illness and now my conscious mind has become fully engaged. Even though the tinnitus is not as loud, I am increasingly disturbed by it and dark thoughts dominate my mind.
Do I deserve being tortured by the tinnitus? Is this punishment for something I’ve done?
I scrutinise every personality trait – the good and the bad – to try and work out if I’ve bought this upon myself.
Isolation, living in virtual silence and chronic insomnia means there’s no escape from this self recrimination.
Christ, it turns out Netflix isn’t enough. For the sake of my mental health I need to get out of the flat and hang out with my real-life friends.
Leaving the flat
I get the bus to my friend Amy’s. London’s noisy streets turn my legs to jelly and I’m almost crawling by the time I reach her door. I collapse on her sofa, hardly able to talk. My visit is short, she drives me home an hour later, but it was wonderful being briefly marooned on a different sofa.
I don’t give up and…..
I have a Friday night out!! In a pub!
Granted, I sit with my friend Nikki in an virtually empty beer garden and spend most of the evening in tears on her shoulder but we also giggle. Laughter is medicine for the soul.
Hip hip hooray I’ve socialised with someone who isn’t a fictional character and we’re not in my flat! It feels GREAT.
Tinnitus sound of the month
Sound of bubbles, squelching and big electrical sparks have become part of my daily life but now there’s a new sound.
When I swallow food there’s a double gulping sound behind my left cheekbone. It feels like one of my ears, nose and throat tubes is trying to find space or is becoming unblocked.
It always happens after I’ve seen my cranial osteopath and lasts a few days.
Over the coming months the double gulping sound moves along my check bone towards my ear. By December it sounds as though someone is manically playing a drum kit inside my left ear. Rap-a-tap-tap, rap-a-tap-tap-tap-tap.
Since becoming ill my left ear has felt heavy and full. This full feeling starts to subside when the double gulping sound begins and completely disappears a few weeks after December’s drumming.
My osteopath and I speculate about the reason for the double gulping sound but ultimately we’re both happy knowing that something is shifting. Physical improvements are happening.