One Who Helped Me Heal

Imagine feeling the following sensations periodically on a daily basis: 
light headedness,

Add to that:
 a sense of being out of sync with life, your environment, and those around you.

This all makes you feel
not understood.

Add to all of these symptoms, pain and headaches.
Along with the headaches, 
visual disturbances,
fullness in the ears.  

Along with the above symptoms and sensations,
that does not go away even as you sleep much of the day away,
loss of the ability to
the loss of 
short term memory,
and the inability to problem solve.

not being able to drive,
frequent public places,
 go grocery shopping
because you are overwhelmed by the sights and sounds surrounding you.

Add crippling anxiety to all of the above.

Intensify the debilitating effect of all of the above with the process of dealing with
 grief over the recent death of a child.  

Imagine that it is the dead of winter and the landscape seems bleak and bare.
Nothing seems to be blooming in your life, not even hope.  

This is how I felt though much of January of 2012 after a head injury from falling down the stairs of my home.  This fall sent me on a new journey of learning much about healing, hope, pacing, and patience.
I remember that one of the first pieces of advice given me after my injury by my chiropractor was, 
"Be patient with yourself."
I am not a patient person.

I needed a very special person in my life to teach me patience and pacing.  I also needed one who had the education and skills to properly diagnose my problems and give me the therapy I needed to heal.
That person was

Julie, a physical therapist with South Valley Physical Therapy, is a board certified neurological clinical specialist who specializes in all those symptoms that were robbing me of the life I once had.  To say that she was a God send to my life is an understatement.  I honestly do not know how I would have survived without the skill set that she used to diagnose my problems and to design a treatment plan that would give me both hope and healing.

In many ways, I consider that fact that I even found Julie Knoll nothing short of a miracle.  As I reflect back on my life over the past year, I am aware that I have suffered from vertigo and dizziness since early last summer.  Just as the symptoms of vertigo were finally abating some, I fell down the stairs and my problems with this puzzling symptom in my life were exacerbated.  If I count the number of doctors and tests that I had before I fell, I come up with at least four different specialists or tests that were done to try to find out what was going on in my life.  I was tested for seizures.  I was given MRIs and CAT scans.  I saw a balance disorder specialist.  I was sent to a cardiologist.  I had all kinds of tests, but I had no answers.  Interestingly, the Vestibular Disorders Association found in a survey of those diagnosed to have this disorder that 52% of those diagnosed had seen five or more doctors before they were properly diagnosed and treated.  

After already suffering from attacks of vertigo from an unknown source,  I fell and suffered a head injury.  After the head injury, when things just weren't getting better, my chiropractor,  of all people, sent me to an optometrist, Dr. Saxerud,  who specializes in visual mid-line shift problems.  This doctor confirmed I did not have a visual mid-line shift but told me I totally failed the test for vestibular disorder.  He recommended that I see Julie Knoll. He said she was the best person he knew of to help me with this problem, but he also noted that I would have to travel to Castle Rock, Colorado to see her.  That was not a problem.  Driving 85 miles to see someone who could help me seemed like a blessing.  At least I didn't have to go into Denver.

When I first met Julie, I was immediately impressed by her demeanor.  In fact, since I had been working on acquiring patience in dealing with my vertigo and headaches, I felt especially reassured by the quote on a plaque behind her desk.  I have superimposed it on this photo of the Pope John Paul II rose from my garden.  The quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson reads:  "Adopt the pace of nature, her name is patience."  I knew my healing would not be instantaneous, but I knew I had found someone who would help on the journey.

Julie exudes competence, self-confidence, wisdom, peace, patience, and hope.  She is able to build all of these same virtues in her patients.  As Julie began to review the intake form I had filled out prior to seeing her the first time, I was immediately aware of her great knowledge about the disorder for which I was seeking treatment.  Her academic knowledge was enhanced by her obvious possession of much successful experience in her chosen field.  While all of these attributes are greatly sought for in looking for any healer, I was especially struck by Julie's healing nature which was expressed by her care, concern, and willingness to truly listen and respond with ideas to aid in healing.  She didn't just come up with a treatment plan, she gave me other resources to help me on my path to health.  She suggested books to read, tips on handling times when I was experiencing symptoms, tips on traveling with this disorder, food choice that might make a difference, and advice on how to handle reactions to activities and medications.  She is both a gifted healer and teacher.  She taught me about the importance of exercise and diet to aid in recovery.  She suggested that I might explore dietary changes.

Every time I saw Julie, she gave me exercises to do to help me overcome my disorder and injury.  The philosophy behind the exercise program she developed in one of habituation.  In other words, I was to do those very things that made me dizzy in order to retrain my brain to accept those things that caused me to be out of balance with my body and my world.

As I think back over the past year, and especially over the last six months, I truly do not know what I would have done without the support, encouragement, knowledge, and help I received from this outstanding professional.  It is no small thing to give one a name for something that is disrupting one's ability to cope with what is going on within one's body and brain.  I learned that what I was experiencing had a name:  vestibular disorder.  I learned there was much to learn about the disorder itself, and I learned that the more you inform yourself about your disorder, the better equipped you will be to manage your symptoms and communicate effectively about your needs with family, friends, and health professionals.*

This past week, my husband and I traveled to the other side of the state to visit my mother.  The trip itself was horrendous.  The canyon roads that wind through deep canyons brought back intense vertigo.  The changes in altitude as we drove over mountain passes caused pressure and fullness in my ears that added to the vertigo and nausea.  I was fatigued, nearly unable to cope, my memory and concentration were disrupted as I struggled to regain some sense of equanimity in my mind and my body.  Thankfully, I knew this was temporary.  I knew what to do to regain some balance.  I knew it would take time.  I knew I needed to be patient, to pace myself, to rest.  I was reminded that I should build in a recovery day when I travel.  I was fine after resting a day.  I am not able to drive mountain passes yet.  I hope to be able to do so soon.

I know many will never understand the full scope of how this disorder has impacted my life, but I know that because just one person did know, did have the ability to diagnose and treat my symptoms, and listened to me while giving me help and hope, I am able to do those things I love to do again.  That person is Julie Knoll. I will be forever grateful for her.  She gave me the tools I needed to begin to recover my life.  Thank you, Julie.

*Quote from brochure published by Vestibular Disorder Association

Pacing - Part II

Tonight, I sit at my computer cognizant of my inability to put together the post I really want to write.  There are too many pieces and parts to it, and I have not significantly put together the parts in my mind to create the whole.  As I think of how I am unable to complete a task that would have seemed so easy a few months ago, I become even more aware of how much healing my brain still needs in order to do what I once was able to do.  I would be very discouraged about realizing that I can't formulate a clearly presented post on the topic about which I wish to write if it were not for the fact that I am

 not being 

For three days prior to today, I was so dizzy I could barely function.  When I get those dizzy spells, or the accompanying headaches, I begin to think I will never be well again.  

The search for answers about my symptoms:
Since my head injury on the January 2, I have been referred to several specialist.  One was an opthamologist  who ruled out a visual mid-line shift.  I had never heard of such a disorder, but it turns out that this can accompany head trauma.  The good news is that many people can reclaim their lives once they are diagnosed with visual mid-line shift by being fitted with prism lenses.  The sad news is that many of our soldiers are coming home with this problem which could be fixed by these lenses, but they don't have the type of insurance coverage to take care of the lenses.  Without insurance the cost is prohibitive.  Even with insurance, the co-pays can also be prohibitive.  I have been told there are 20,000 returning soldiers in Colorado Springs who suffer from head injury trauma and/or PTSD.  The services they need are many times not covered by insurance.

The opthamologist who ruled out visual mid-line shift did diagnose a vestibular disorder.  He referred me to a vestibular rehab specialist.  I met with this wonderful therapist in Castle Rock, Colorado, which is about two hours from my home, on Valentine's Day.  I was given a very through exam, and I was also assessed as to my risk factor for falling, and for the severity of my problem.  It turns out I am at moderate risk for falling again.  I also have a pretty significant imbalance in my balance system.  The good news is:  It is most likely quite fixable.  The bad news:  It takes time, and it could get worse before it gets better.

It turns out I am "visually" dependent.  I use my vision excessively for balance.  Since my fall, I experienced "visual motion hypersensitivity."  This is one reason I can't spend much time on the computer, on my iPhone using apps.  This hypersensitivity also means I can't drive, do much reading, nor can I tolerate spending time in crowds, or shopping.  I told my husband that WalMart make me crazy because it is too visually stimulating.  She countered with the bet that I would have no trouble at Nordstroms.  (He may or may not have a point there.)   I just know that when I am too visually stimulated, I get dizzy.

What I learned about pacing
  • I cannot go to a high school basketball game on Friday night unless I plan on taking it easy the next day.
  • Walking along a winding path around a lake that reflects sunlight off its waves on a Saturday morning while watching the dog dart back and forth in front of my is extremely visually stimulating.  That is why when I became dizzy on a walk Saturday morning, I should have spent the rest of the day resting.
  • One who understands pacing, would not have gone to a dedication ceremony on Saturday afternoon after becoming dizzy just walking beside a lake.  I did not understand pacing, nor did I assess my true condition well, so I went to the ceremony.  When I looked up on the stage during the dedication ceremony to watch a power point presentation flash photos across a screen, I became so dizzy, I had to leave the auditorium.
  • Mingling with the crowd of friends who had gathered at the ceremony also is not a good idea when one is dizzy.  Crowds make one more dizzy.
I spoke with my vestibular therapist today.  She was helpful in helping me deconstruct the cumulative events that led to my three day dizzy spell.  

Pacing oneself is truly a learning process.  I love to walk along the river walk in our town.  I love to go to the basketball games.  I love to spend time writing and reading on my computer.  I love to socialize.  I love to be in groups of people.  Those are the activities that defined me in the past.  I also think that if I feel good one day, I can jump back in where I left off.  

I am wrong.  
I have more to learn about healing.

I love this quote that my vestibular therapist has hanging in her office:

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is PATIENCE
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

That lesson, the secret of adopting nature's pace, is not one I will learn easily.
Patience is a hard lesson for me to learn, and to practice.

Humpty Dumpty Is Slowly Being Put Back Together

Free falling...
I'm free falling.
Bouncing down the steps, 
I found myself
Searching for something to grab.
Gravity took over.
I hit the floor with a thud.
I had a strange thought.
"This floor is very unforgiving."
My head bounced against a very hard surface.
I felt my teeth rattle.
I immediately yelled to my husband,
"I have fallen, and I am very badly hurt."
Mostly I did that 
I wanted to make sure I could still

Now, twenty-five days later, yes, it has been twenty-five days, I finally believe I will get better.

I have had two CT scans of my head and neck.  These show no permanent damage.  I have been in the emergency room four times.  During the time that I was recovering, I also suffered from a nasty sinus infection.  Were the headaches from sinus problems, from the fall, or from my neck?  Then, I had a terrible bout with the worst stomach flu I have had in years.  

I have seen and ENT doctor, and believe it or not, and ophthalmologist.  Both of the doctors have been extremely helpful.  I saw the ophthalmologist on the recommendation of my chiropractor.  Many head injuries cause visual problems created by a visual midline shift.  I presented as if this had occurred in me, but when I had the full exam, which was extensive, we found that I am not suffering from a visual midline shift.  If I had been, this condition is treated with prisms in the lens of eye glasses.  

As I said, this ophthalmologist was very through.  He gave many tests.  I failed the test that indicates a  vestibular disorder.  Since I have been struggling with dizziness since this past summer, this makes perfect sense.  The fall probably exacerbated a problem that was already there.  Thankfully, there is a specialist that deals with these problems in Castle Rock, Colorado.  I will be checking into an evaluation and possible treatment by her.

Next week, I will also be meeting with a doctor who treated me a number of years back after I suffered a brain injury due to a chemical exposure at work.  (That is a long story, that I will tell another day.)  He will be doing an evaluation to see what has been going on with me since my fall.  

At that time of my previous injury, I was treated with neurofeedback.  Basically, neurofeedback modifies brain wave activity.  When I first learned about this type of therapy, I was skeptical at best; however, because I was nearly unable to work because of my symptoms after the chemical exposure, I decided to give it a try.  I had excellent results, and after about six months of treatment, I was so much better.  I do not know if he will determine I need additional treatments or not.

In the meantime, each day brings new healing.  I no longer have excruciating headaches.  I am able to read more.  I am able to spend more time on the computer.  I am able to type and make my fingers do what my brain wants them to do.  I am less anxious and not as easily frustrated.  I tire less easily and can accomplish a few things around the house.  I find I am coping with life and those around me better.  I am walking again.   I am not driving yet.  I hope to drive again soon.  

I hope my blogging friends know how much you have meant to me.  I have not responded to your kind comments because I have not been able to do so.  Know that you have encouraged me and made me feel very cared for.  Thank you for the personal notes and emails.  

Blogging friends are the Best!  I hope to be back to my old blogging self soon.