Choose to Fly

beth-and-me

Sometimes we don’t appreciate the value of something until we no longer have it, and this is especially true when it comes to matters regarding to our health.
It is all too easy to float through life not giving things like our hearts, our brains, our sight, our hearing, our legs, second thought. We take it all for granted most of the time, never considering the possibility that we may not have these things forever.
I don’t mean that we should necessarily worry about what might happen to us, but it is certainly of value to sit back and consider our blessings, and be thankful for each and every day we spend in good health.
Too often, it is not until we experience an injury, illness or serious condition that we stop and appreciate what we have. We become aware of our own mortality, of our body as a highly complex yet fragile structure.
I was reminded of this last week when I was invited to speak to a group of Meniere’s disease sufferers, who meet once a month to support each other and share ways to manage the symptoms.
Ménière’s disease is a rare disorder that affects the inner ear. It can cause vertigo, tinnitus, hearing loss, and a feeling of pressure deep inside the ear. It is far more complex however than any of these symptoms alone, and can cause great distress and disruption in the lives of the sufferers, as I discovered when I heard the group speak about the disease and how it affected their lives.

Things we take for granted, like being able to go the shops on our own without the worry of how we may get back if we have an attack, require much more consideration, and the mere thought of going anywhere alone can leave sufferers feeling immobilised by their fears and sense of vulnerability.
I found out about Meniere’s through one of my students Beth, who started coming to my classes over a year ago. She told me all about the condition, and of the limitations she may have in class, and I know how an attack can strike at any time which means she can’t come for a week or so.
When she first started coming to class, she would stand close to a pillar or a wall for additional support if needed, and there are certain things like tipping the head right back which she knows she has to avoid altogether.
However, I have been blown away, humbled, and delighted – all of these emotions at once – at her progress. She works with what she can do, she has gotten to know her own body (and mind), and accepts her limitations, without letting them stop her doing what she can.
She is the perfect role model for the Meniere’s Disease support group. When faced with a challenge, with a health problem for which there seems to be no obvious cure, it would be easy to give up, to accept that the things you used to do are just no longer an option.
The most difficult part is overcoming the mindset that feels disappointed, frustrated, tired of trying. To keep a positive frame of mind when faced with a disease like this is no easy feat. I have total admiration for anyone who keeps going when faced with adversity. Physically and mentally, Beth has had to dig deep and keep going in spite of it all. She is now riding a bike again, something she never expected she would do again once diagnosed.
In fact, she rides her bike to class – three times a week! And she does it all with a smile on her face. And she gives up her time to helping other sufferers find this strength too.
When I think of Beth, the Meniere’s group, and anyone who has ever suffered a setback, I think of this saying:
“You have two choices in life – let it defeat you, or let it define you!”.

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