Relieved for a Disease

Chapter Eight: Our Bodies Give Us Information

I have been dealing with episodes of severe vertigo and a constant ringing in my ears, called tinnitus. The episodes of vertigo would arrive like attacks where one moment I would be feeling great, perfectly normal with zero symptoms, and then WAM! I would wake up in the morning and the whole world was flipped on its axis. It was impossible to stand or walk or even move my head to the side without experiencing a profound wave of disequilibrium.

The first day of the "attack" usually included vomiting, and the whole debilitating episode would typically last about three days. The only activities I could do for 72 hours was to lay in bed, sleep, listen to audiobooks, or binge on Netflix on my laptop. A trip to the bathroom was akin to climbing Mt. Everest in flip flops.

Because there were no warning signs (that I could tell) to predict the episodes, I became terrified to wake up in the morning. I would lie in bed staring at the ceiling, searching for any signs of the world spinning before I sat up. Am I dizzy? Am I normal? Will I be able to stand? Will this be a total shit day?

I became a victim of my fear of vertigo.

After going to a variety of healing professionals, I landed in an ENT (Ear, Nose, & Throat) doctor’s office. I told him my history and he immediately responded with, “You have Meniere's Disease”. I’ve never been so excited to have a disease in my life. I literally skipped out of the hospital, elated with the good news.

There is something reassuring about a diagnosis. Naming our pain is an act of validation. No, you’re not crazy. This is a thing and you have it. Yay! Not only that, I learned that I can control my symptoms with diet. It’s what we most crave — a label and a means of control — for reassurance.

The same is true for realizing the inside-out understanding of how we create our reality. What if we didn't have to worry about what to do with our negative thoughts or feelings anymore? What if there was an inside-out doctor who could help you with this problem? (Actually, there are. They are called transformative coaches and I am currently training to be one.) A conversation could look like this:

  • Patient: Why do I have these feelings that make me feel lousy, insecure, anxious, scared, depressed, or lonely?

  • Doctor: Basically, there’s this thing called “being a human being”, and you have it.

  • Patient: Oh, what a relief! How does that work?

  • Doctor: As a human being, you think. And when you have a certain thought, that thought gets lit up and brought to life by your awareness of that thought, or your consciousness. And then you experience your thought as a feeling that shapes your experience. And that experience becomes your reality. Essentially, you created your in the moment present reality from one thought, from the inside-out.

  • Patient: Wow. So, what do I do with that info?

  • Doctor: Well, there’s nothing to do really. The more you see that every feeling you experience is directly connected to your thinking, the less scared you will be of your external reality.

  • Patient: What I do about all of those nasty, unwanted thoughts?

  • Doctor: Well, what I do is to use them as information, as a navigational tool. When I’m experiencing negative thoughts or low moods, I become aware that my negative thinking is causing my low mood. It lets me know that I have drifted away from my center, from my inner wisdom, from my home base.

  • Patient: So there’s nothing wrong with the negative thoughts? They are just like data or information, letting me know that I’m not experiencing total mental health right now?

  • Doctor: Exactly!

  • Patient: Thank you! {Patient skips out of the office into the sunshine.}



Meniere’s Disease is caused by an increase in fluid that builds up in the inner ear, wreaking havoc on my vestibular system. The treatment is to reduce fluid retention in the body in order to stave off the symptoms, which is done mainly through diet. I like to refer to the Meniere’s Diet, scientifically, as the “No Fun Diet”, which involves eliminating four pleasure-giving substances: Caffeine, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Salt.

No tobacco? No problem! I do enjoy an occasional hard cider or margarita, but eliminating alcohol is probably for the best. Now caffeine, on the other hand, that one makes me sad. Like, I-just-spilled-my-vanilla-ice-cream-cone-sprinkle-side-down-splat -on-the-pavement-after-the-ice-cream-shop-just-closed, kind of sad. And then there’s salt. I have always preferred salt over sugar. Stick me in a room with cake, ice cream, and pastries and somehow I will gravitate toward the one bowl of tortilla chips in the corner and devour them in a heartbeat.

I am proud to say that I committed to the "No Fun Diet", and I am feeling so much better! It is still a struggle not to have that delicious, velvety smooth espresso every morning. But, I have not had one single episode of vertigo since I made the shift. Win!

And, my tinnitus? Interestingly, I have noticed that the ringing in my ears changes volume and tone depending on my salt intake. If I consume too much salt, like I did last night -- eating a delicious Italian meal with olives and prosciutto, oh so yummy! — the ringing in my ear increases in volume, screaming at a deafening level as if I was standing front row at a Rolling Stones concert.

For years, I hated my tinnitus. I would get so angry and frustrated that I couldn’t hear silence anymore. It messed with my meditation, with my walks in nature, with my sleep. Over time, I did get used to it, but I was still, clearly, not a fan.

What I realize now with beautiful clarity is that my body was actually giving me information. I was just ignoring it. Now I know that when my ears ring loudly, it just means that the fluid in my body is increasing and that I have to be more strict about my salt intake. When I get a little dizzy, I now know that having that itty-bitty piece of chocolate (caffeine) after lunch was not such a great idea after all. Our bodies are innately intelligent. How cool is that?

The same is true with our mental health. Just like the imaginary doctor in the above conversation illustrated, we can use our negative feeling as information. Instead of railing against having a negative feeling, as I did with my Tinnitus, we can stop trying to solve or fix our negative feelings. Instead, we can see that those negative feelings are being caused by negative thinking.

When I eat too much salt, my ears ring. When I’m thinking negative thoughts, my mind screams with a negative feeling. I see the temptation, and the danger in making this metaphor, that we then feel like we have to do something to fix our negative thinking. We love a great cure. It’s not a call to change our thinking or to think more positively. That practice is exhausting.

Unlike my disease that exists in the world of form, our thought exists in the world of the form-less. It is energy, it is before form. The same rules do not apply. We simply can’t eliminate negative thoughts like I can with salt. That would be exhausting and impossible. Have you ever tried not thinking about something? It only brings it into our awareness more! Don’t think negative, don’t think negative, Oh crap!, I just thought a negative thought, don’t think negative…

Negative thoughts will come into our awareness whether we want them to or not. The trick is in the seeing. That’s all we can do, is see. Oh, this feeling is coming from thought. I am creating this. And in that seeing, we can relax around the feeling. It will pass on its own. And, eventually, we will hear the silence once again.

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