What Meniere's Disease Has Given and Taken From Me

Man standing in nature with his arm raised, holding up his hat
Man standing in nature with his arm raised, holding up his hat

Back in the day, before being diagnosed with bilateral Meniere’s disease, vestibular migraines, and benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), I was pretty active and adventurous. Yes, I had to walk to school and back, both ways, and the snow was up to my waist too.

Seriously, I was pretty active. I was always on my ten speed bike. It was not uncommon for me to ride fifty miles in one day. I would pack up my bike with my camping gear and take off the weekend and ride back home. I basically lived on my bike. It was my transportation to school and work, to the beach at Lake Michigan or even to the free concerts in the park. Throw in there my love for cross country skiing, and you begin to understand why having Meniere’s has changed my adventures.

Nowadays I can’t even imagine trying to ride a bicycle. Because my balance is far below the normal range, it would prove to be dangerous. I always think about a three wheeled recumbent bike. I think that might be doable, at least physically, but not so doable for my wallet. If the opportunity ever arose, I would definitely take one for a ride! It has to be a recumbent one due to my knees have been so beat up.

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Back in the day, I earned my master’s degree in Experiential Education, which involved working with groups in team-building activities and the theory behind the process. It ranged from rock climbing, high ropes courses and adventure camping to building trust inside the classroom. It all fit perfectly into my adventure lifestyle and into my own classroom.

Yes, I was “the professional student.” By that I mean I was always in school — from kindergarten through high school, to college and graduate school, and then also in the classroom as a teacher for 28 years. My professional student days came to a screeching halt in 2004 when the doctor ordered me to take medical retirement due to the severity of the Meniere’s, because of the toll it was taking on my life and body.

Back in the day, my love for the outdoors evolved around camping, backpacking, hiking and more! I managed to hike part of the Appalachian Trail, backpacked around the North and South Manitou Islands in Lake Michigan and even took a road trip to Montana with camping and exploring along the way. In Montana I tried my hand at archeology at a dinosaur dig.

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I managed to even “attempt” white water rafting. I was quickly tossed overboard and drifted downstream by myself. Never attempted that adventure again.

Nowadays my cross country road trips have been shortened to just and hour with a purpose — the doctor, the store or the recreation center. Flying is difficult. It’s not so much the actual flight, but the process of navigating through the airports with my walker. The visual stimuli can make it mind-boggling to focus on the task at hand.

Nowadays my outdoor adventures consist of sitting at my patio watching a fire pit flickering in the twilight. Planting in our wildflower garden, harvesting herbs, potatoes and garlic are adventurous activities also. Meniere’s has taken many things away from me that I loved doing. But at the same time it has given me more adventures, just different ones than I expected to be doing at this stage of my life.

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