An earful (or a coffee cup full)

The long wait is over. The General Assignment resumes production today. The presses are back on schedule.

The focus of this entry is health, and the adjustments we are forced to make in order to ensure our little bodies stay healthy. It’s also about why, often, these adjustments can be difficult for the habitually unhealthy.

My close friends can tell you that, since I’ve returned home to San Antonio, a week doesn’t pass without me experiencing an incredibly painful ear ache that essentially renders me useless. I get nauseous. I get dizzy. I go through many, many Q-tips in ill-advised attempts to dig the pain out of my ear. Because that’s what it feels like — a knot of highly agitated nerves deep in my ear canal that are tied ever so tightly. I don’t know who else has regular experience with these kinds of things, but if you have, you understand how horrible they can be.

However, since I didn’t have health insurance for a few months, and because when I finally did get insurance, I was lackadaisical about addressing the problem, the ear aches continued, relentlessly. They came up when I was visiting New York in September. They came up at family functions. They came up when a friend was visiting for one night only and I had to tell her we couldn’t go to the VFW for Lone Stars as planned. That’s when I knew how much I hated them.

So, this week, I finally saw an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist. If you’ve never seen one, please, go, right now, just to get a look at the gadgets they have in there! Machines that measure the pressure in your ears and print small receipts with tiny little graphs on them! Machines that measure the waves coming out of your ears! I even did a hearing test, one of those, raise your hand whenever you hear the beep things. It was pretty much the best visit I’ve had at a doctor’s office since my pediatrician used to prescribe that very yummy pink medicine that looked like Pepto Bismal but wasn’t.

But here’s the best part — the doctor told me there’s actually something wrong with me. I may actually have a disease!

Um, ok, you may ask. Why does this make me excited?

Because there’s a NAME for what I’m feeling. And there’s something I can do about it.

The doctor believes I have something called Meniere’s Disease. In complex terms, it’s a change in fluid in the part of the inner ear called the labyrinth (there’s a problem with my labyrinth! Where’s David Bowie??). In simple terms, it means I can feel like crap at any moment, thanks to my ear getting funky. My doctor said the causes are up for debate: some people with the disease suffered from numerous ear infections as a child, which I did; others had previously experienced head trauma, which I haven’t; and there are others who suffer from the problem for no discernible reason.

There’s also no known cure. But one can take preventative measures.

Here’s where the bad news comes in. The doctor suggested four things I can do to lessen the chances I’ll get more ear aches: reduce nicotine use (no problem: I don’t smoke); reduce salt intake (eh, I can deal with that); reduce alcohol intake (oh, well…what?) and reduce caffeine intake (WHAT????).

I delicately asked what he meant by reduce caffeine intake, since I don’t drink every day and decided I would figure that one out on my own. He smiled, in a very kind yet you’re-out-of-luck kid way. One cup of coffee is fine in the morning, he said gently. After that….not so much.

In the doctor’s office, I wasn’t so concerned. He said I could still have coffee, right? And some alcohol is OK, right? No problem! So when the appointment was over, I promptly got in my car and drove to Starbucks for a latte. That evening, I promptly went home and had a little sip of wine.

Then, I moved on to Day 2. I bought my regular cup of coffee in the morning, and I did my best to stretch it out as long as I could. But around 3 or 4 p.m., I was desperate for another caffeine fix. Suddenly, I realized, this meant no more ice tea at lunch or the occasional caffeinated soft drink. No longer could I say “yes” when one of our editors, bound for an afternoon coffee run, asked if I wanted him to bring me back something.

Oh, dear.

On Day 3, I tried to wiggle out of my dilemma — I ordered a Grande coffee at Starbucks instead of my usual Tall. My doctor didn’t specify a size! But again, by the afternoon, I was ready for a ritalin shot. I held strong as far as caffeine goes. Then, that evening, I met some work friends for drinks and I promptly ignored the doctor’s orders.

But what’s more important? Caffeine fix, socializing over a gin and tonic or addressing my health problems?

These are the questions of our adult lives.

I still remember my first cup of coffee. I was studying for an economics midterm my junior year of high school at IHOP. I slowly sipped at it, slightly put off by the bitter taste but wanting to impress my friend Erin, who was already disappointed I’d never tried coffee before. I continued to sip as I studied microeconomics, the language of supply and demand, market failure and fixed costs. I barely made it through that class in high school, and I still have a rudimentary understanding of economics; but I have never, ever lost the taste for coffee I developed that night.

Now it’s strange, to tell the waitress not to refill my coffee cup after getting tacos. It’s strange to think, well do I really need a glass of wine or a beer to relax after a long day at work? I don’t have an addictive personality, but I do like ritual: the ritual of a cup of coffee or tea at my side; the ritual of a little drink with my dinner.

Part of me thinks I shouldn’t write about this at all, because anyone who reads this blog could possibly chide me when they see me entertaining one of the aforementioned vices. But, please, don’t get me wrong — I’m not going to give up all the fun stuff. The doctor also said that, if his diagnosis is right, my case doesn’t seem too severe. So, I’m following Aristotle’s lead on this one: everything in moderation.

Besides, there’s always a chance the doctor’s dianosis is wrong….right?

Oh, and for anyone wondering what a person suffering from Meniere’s disease looks like, here’s the pamphlet the doctor provided me.

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~ by viannadavila on January 17, 2010.

3 Responses to “An earful (or a coffee cup full)”

  1. Vianna, I truly enjoy your writing style. I think your character shines through with the words you choose. I don’t particularly like my own writing. I find it bland. So now I wonder if my character, too, is bland. Hmm…

    I’m sure you’ll find a manageable balance for your caffeine dependency.

  2. Well, CRAP, but good…. but CRAP!
    You’re such a wise lass..

  3. The dude in the brochure looks like Rick Perry

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