“Change is the only constant in life.” ~ Heraclitus
Change. It happens every day to each and every one of us. People we know change, situations change, life changes. But what happens when, without warning, you are the one who changes?
In the fall of 2008, I was diagnosed with a chronic medical condition called Meniere’s Disease. I could no longer perform at the job I loved, drive a vehicle, or make plans without planning to cancel them. The diagnosis not only changed my life, it changed who I was. It took a long time before I could accept the changes I needed to make in my life. But it took longer to accept the changes that were happening inside of me.
My memory was something I had always prided myself in. I could remember dates, phone numbers, names, places. Imagine my horror in returning to work after several months, walking into the office and struggling to place a co-worker’s name. It was humiliating. I could no longer concentrate for longer than a few minutes and became easily distracted. Where I once felt able to handle any conversation, I now struggled to keep it flowing. I missed important appointments I’d noted by memory only to have it fail time and time again. For the first time in my life, I had to use a scheduler. I also needed to use reminder alarms to check the scheduler on a daily basis.
I looked in the mirror and recognised the face, but no longer knew that person. The person who had been there was gone. It felt like I had been shut out from my own self. Why was this happening? Why was my own mind alienating me? The feelings of intense frustration, anger and helplessness were overwhelming. It was difficult enough to live with other people looking at me differently, but to have my own consciousness do this to me? It was the worst form of betrayal I had ever felt.
It wasn’t easy to get to know the new me. In fact, I didn’t like her at all. Mentally, I felt dumb and slow. Emotionally, I was angry and bitter. The new me was a very unhappy person. I was miserable much of the time despite the brave face I put on. I was also in denial that this was even happening. I spent a good deal of time angry with myself. Why couldn’t I remember like I used to? Why did I need someone to explain things to me? I asked myself again and again why I was making myself feel different.
It took me several years to realize the answer. I was making myself feel different because I was different. I had to accept that. For my own sanity, I needed to accept that. I was no longer the person I was before my illness. It wasn’t my fault. Why was I blaming myself for something I’d had no control over?
I needed to learn to love myself again, and I began to do just that. Taking it moment by moment, I became mindful of my thoughts. I ensured that my thoughts remained on a positive track and I would no longer do any mental or emotional self-harm.
I can now say I am in love with myself again. There are still tough moments. But it is, and always will be, a process.
I invite you to read more of my struggle with Meniere’s Disease in the post How Living With A Chronic Illness Improved My Life.