Coping - "living with it"

Usually I'm in a good mood. Sometimes I'm not. Usually I cope. Sometimes I only put up. Like yesterday. Yesterday was a bad day. Plenty of self pity. Plenty of anger. Plenty of "nobody understands me." I was a sad puppy. Woke up in the morning and before you open your eyes it's there. Like it has been for years. Many years, many many years. The ringing, the beeping, the whistling. I did something stupid. I started reading some messages others had posted. How rotten their life is. How messed up they are.

One in particular grabbed me. Fired up my wordprocessor and wrote them a letter. A "try not to feel bad letter." Couldn't follow my own advise. Made me feel even crummier. Yesterday was a bad day. Yesterday was a bad bad day. Yesterday was yesterday.

Today is a good day. I woke up. Before I opened my eyes it was there. The ringing, the beeping, the whistling. I hear I am alive for yet another day. Bonus. Others have to look in the mirror first. Sunshine. My son had a birthday sleep- over. Lots of kids. Lots of noise. Lots of they're all gone home now. Lots of quite again. A total stranger sent me email. Off-the-wall remark about scallops. I cracked right up. Hadn't laughed for some time. Song playing through my head. Grabbed the banjo. Wrote a new song. Today is a good day. Today is a very good day.

Usually I try to cope. Usually it works. American Heritage Dictionary: "to cope - to contend with difficulties and act to overcome them." I coped for years. I'm a decent coper.

My biggest cope coup: Old vacuum loud. North American design. Criminal engineering. Bought central vac. Suck 'em up real good. Only whoosh. Airport in basement. No more portable 747. Wife loves it. I now whoosh a lot.

Loud noises hurt. Remember to bring kleenex. Yellow plastic earplugs look stupid. Bring them only to races. Toronto Indy in two weeks. Will bring many. I like music. Tried the violin. Sound too close to ear. Fiddling not for me. Banjos are loud. Don't wear the finger picks anymore and learned to frail. Still sounding loud these days. Might try electric guitar. Has volume control, like keyboard.

Work at home. Quite basement office. No one to talk to. Listen to talk shows. Topics about other people's hard times. Showhosts on high-horses in world-saving mode. Depressing. Shortwave, good antenna. Can't understand misery in foreign languages. Nice music. Feel positive.

Cooling fan in computer loud. New ad in magazine. Whisper quite ballbearing fan. Cheap. Must try. Staring at screen all day. Reading glasses now. Toward end of day rest eyes. Fall asleep. T time-out. Wake up hour later. Feel good.

A strange, but not typical, couple of days have passed. Today, another day later, it's back down to earth. I just read the things I wrote yesterday, pretty weird, but to the point. At least, for me. Let me recap what I meant so far. A single word does it: attitude. You can be positive or negative. I'm your typical middle aged guy. Every trip to the barber gets me a better view of the vacant real estate on top my head. Here is positive: why waste your hormones growing hair? Here's negative: there's more face to wash. A bit of humour goes a long way to feeling less bad folks. If you think they're pretty sick, I apologize. But here's a couple of one liners that work for me: why don't T'ers buy shells - they can always hear the ocean. If there is a hell, at least we'll get eternity less fifty years for time already served. Ok ok, enough already.

What else can you do to become a better coper? How about mind stuff like meditation, self-hypnosis. Or, if you are religious, prayer. It gets your mind of things that bother you and make you feel bad. Modern times have given us a tremendous advantage. We all know how to tune out. Huh? Sure, every time you see a commercial on TV you instinctively disregard it. It becomes your clue to go to the bathroom or get another coffee. Look at the folks zipping up and down the highways, they've masterfully tuned out the speed limit signs. I'm not saying tag along at two hundred kilometers an hour, but take the hint. It's not so bad to say hey, why don't I just not go along for a while. Do something else, divert your attention. Here's some attention diversions that work for me:

Music - I can really get lost in it listening, or especially playing an instrument. Don't play any thing? Start doing it. Pick an instrument that is not too loud or one that has a volume control. If you don't catch on right away, that's ok. Try picking out simple melodies so you have feedback as to what you are trying to play. All the nitty gritty fancy chords etc. get in the way of starting musicians.

What's the idea behind getting into music, or any hobby where you can do some heavy duty "disappearing?" In one word - distraction. Getting your mind of your tinnitus. Reading, watching movies, sports or whatever can do just as well. As long as it offers the opportunity to get lost in it [the hobby].

Tuning out, I mentioned it before - powerful stuff. You walk into a store. Clerk comes up, "may I help you?" Be brutally honest, the question might as well have been "would you like a hundred dollar bill?" You grunted "no thank you" without further listening and totally disregarded the salesperson. Start working on some mediation and pretend your tinnitus is one of them pesky salespeople. I gotta share this one though. Over the weekend I dropped by a store in Ottawa. A young fellow came on over when he saw me trying out something. His big-smiled opening line was "have you been hassled yet?" Theory just shot to heck, how can you tune that one out eh. Anyway, I'm sure you get the point.

Distractions, tuning-out, whatever you want to call it works. It works well enough for audio masking experiments. Tried that last week at some audio lab at a university in London, Ontario. Too bad it didn't work for me. Although I must say I was super disappointed at the small variety of masking tones available. A grand total of four tones. Same noise, only at different frequencies. Hopefully other places offer a wider selection. I do have one extremely effective masking technique: the shower. THE SHOWER, LORD YES, THE SHOWER. Ours has a sixty gallon tank, enough for a solid thirty minutes of no beeping, no whistling bliss.

Something that don't work: booze. I don't mean a couple of cold ones on a hot day. I don't mean a nice glass of wine before you go to bed. In fact, some will have you believe that's even good for you. No, I mean sucking 'em up until you see gorillas coming out of the wall. It's tempting, just to try to see if that makes it go away. You know darn well of course that it doesn't. Drugs, the street type, are even stupider. They are not ways of coping, they don't even qualify as putting up. If that's you're thinking, drop everything right now and run to the nearest doctor. Get help, emotional help - immediately. Thinking of harming yourself ? - GET HELP IMMEDIATELY!

So far it doesn't look like there are any medications that make tinnitus go away. Some of the drugs might make it easier to help you cope. If any of the things in the above paragraph sounded familiar, make sure to discuss them with your doctor. If you haven't been to one about tinnitus before, you might want to phone first. Interview them if they are familiar with tinnitus in the first place. Nothing worse than the blank stares in they don't know what you are talking about. If you're bothered enough to go and see one, the last thing you want to hear is that you are a geek.

Sleeping. For as long as you're a sleep, you can't hear it. Trouble sleeping? Try the meditation stuff some more, or sleeping pills. Sleeping is something you cannot do. You can only allow sleep to happen to you. Don't get in the sandman's way with bad thinking.

What's the outlook on new medications? I hate to say it, but as a layman, I am pretty negative. Anything having to do with the function of your brain seems to be virgin territory for most professionals. Think of it, one wrong guess and who knows what happens. Vision gone, feeling in your toe gone and stuff like that. If somebody gets awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars suing over spilt coffee, even if it was their own fault, guess how excited medical people must feel about trying something new in this field. Perhaps not fair to the many many folks in medicine that are trying to do their darndest and I do appreciate all their fantastic efforts, but it's all part of my personal "keep sane" scheme.

Yet some day, some how, some one will come up with a cure. Be sure of it, just don't expect it tomorrow. In the mean time, "live with it." I hope some of these ramblings will make sense. If there's something you haven't tried yet, by all means do. You have nothing to loose!

This article was first published in July 1996 on the alt.support.tinnitus newsgroup on the internet and is Copyright 1996 Bart Veerman.

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