So I have to amend a tiny section of my first post. One thing most experts agree on is the factor stress plays on The Beast. Some have attributed stress to early onset, others to making symptoms worse, and still others suggest stress is the cause in some cases. I know without a doubt that stress played a HUGE factor in my case.
At the time I began to feel symptoms, ( and did not know I had Meniere's) I was under an unbelievable amount of stress. My mother was sick, I wasn't getting along with my dad, I was (and I stress was) dating an unsupportive man (not my dear hubby), and I was enduring untold amounts of verbal and mental abuse at a job I lived for. Even though by the time the "big spin" sent me reeling, the damage was done, I had symptoms off and on for over a year before I began to have symptoms all the time. At that point, I was transferred to another shift with a less aggressive and not abusive captain. I had been married all of 6 months when I began to have phantom ear infections. No fever, nothing showed up upon examination, but for weeks at a time I had ringing, fullness, pain and I felt like crap. Doctor visits left me with a handful of antibiotics, Advil, and more questions than I had answers.
It was just a few days after having run one of the worst calls of my career that the "big spin" happened. I was again on antibiotics for the phantom ear infection, and had missed work two shifts prior for a bad ear ache. I had seen a mother and her two toddlers killed in a nasty interstate roll-over just a few minutes after they had left the church from being baptised. The babies were wearing white. It was traumatic, and I spent the next day (as I often did on the weekends off shift) crying. The nightmares came later, but the total heartbreak for the father (who walked away) over loosing his entire family in one accident was all at once tremendous. It was the last call I ever ran. The next shift I worked was quiet, then my career was over. I walked out of the fire station for the last time, never to return, on my first wedding anniversary.
It was hard for me to walk, as my balance was even worse than now, and I was sick all the time from the dizzies. Looking back, I can see how the events leading up to the final straw were so clear, though at the time they were hidden behind a new marriage, the immediate loss of my father-in-law, the grief of my new husband, and my habit of trying to stay out of sight at work to avoid being screamed at (or have things thrown at me). I cried as if I had lost someone I loved. In a way I had. I had dedicated 11 years of my life serving my country through selfless service to my community. My body had paid a price, my mind paid a price, and I'm not sure but I think even my soul paid a price. You cant be an outsider for 11 years, you cant be the leper, if you will, and not feel as if you have lost a piece of yourself when its all at once over. I knew I wasn't welcome by everyone. I knew there was no reason other than I was "ill equipped" to be a "fireman" if you get my meaning. I also knew it brought me great joy and a sense of pride to do something to help others, even at my own expense. My dear husband couldn't understand why I was so upset over loosing a job where I was so often treated like a second-class citizen. Stockholm syndrome maybe? A impenetrable sense of duty? Stupidity? Fear? What ever the reason, I endured the stress, both physical and mental for a long time before my body had had enough.
So maybe stress was the deciding factor for my case. I cant say I would do it all over the same way if given a chance to go back. I can think of a lot of things I would change. I don't know if it would make a difference in how Meniere's factored in to all of this, but I have to wonder. Its been more than 18 months since I walked away from the fire service. (Walked, staggered, who's counting really? ) Though I still miss the excitement, and the pride of a job well done, I don't miss the abuse or the stress.