The last three consecutive patients who have consulted with me have invited their spouse to attend the session and share with me from their perspective. Since I make house calls, I could sense the feelings of relief from their respective spouses at not having to drive the patient to another appointment for vertigo.
That said, the spouses had still taken the day off work to be part of the session and support their partner’s recovery. I love that!
I had a chance to learn more from their respective spouses about the difficulties they face trying to understand the Vestibular Health issues that their partner is living with.
Most of my patients have heard mixed messages from multiple healthcare providers, lack a clear diagnosis for their symptoms, have been told by some providers that they will “be fine,” and of course, they look fine.
As a result, it can be confusing for the spouse to understand the frequency, intensity and severity of their partner’s symptoms, and the level of disability that Vestibular Health issues can create.
In this case, I feel it is important to share the nitty gritty details of the whole situation.
Your partner, spouse, significant other and others in your close support system cannot feel your symptoms. Often people living with Vestibular Disorders look totally normal and fine, which causes confusion for those who love them.
In fact, if you don’t open up, use your voice and share your experience, then your loved ones really have NO CHANCE of understanding what you are going through, what you need help with, and what their role is in supporting you.
I have made it a practice with my Beloved to share my symptoms with a smile on my face, to clearly ask for specific help and never to be nasty with him when I am feeling bad.
After I have recovered from an episode of exacerbation of my symptoms, my Beloved and I add more notes to our running lists of:
Strategies to reduce an Active Migraine
Strategies to reduce Vertigo
Strategies to reduce Anxiety
If you suffer with migraines, dizziness, vertigo, or any Vestibular Health issues, I highly recommend for you to request for your spouse or partner to help you keep track of what causes your symptoms and what strategies work to reduce your discomfort. I have found this to be very helpful when I am having vertigo or a headache, because my brain gets foggy and I cannot figure out what to do sometimes.
In terms of sharing the details of my situation with my Beloved, I share the facts by verbally communicating my current symptoms and I make specific requests for help.
The wife of one of my patients recently touched my heart when she said that she did not really understand what her husband was going through until he had the courage to share.
He was still pushing himself to go to work, drive their kids to activities, help with homework and do all the things he normally did. But every so often, she would find him crying, shaking and complaining of his vertigo symptoms.
She did not realize how badly he felt inside or how much he was having to “push himself” just to complete his normal daily activities. When he said that he may need to resign from his job due to his vertigo symptoms, she began to understand how bad he must feel, but still he looked fine to her.
He made a bold move and decided to write her a letter to explain and share with her all that he was feeling inside.
In his letter, he shared with her his experience including vertigo attacks and panic attacks that he was experiencing. He told her of his growing fears that his life would always be like this and never improve, after almost 6 months of severe vertigo.
I have to say that the strategy of writing a heart-centered letter to your spouse, partner or close support system is one that I have used as well. Last year, I wrote a very long letter to a few key members of my family to explain to them what I was going through and ask for their support.
If you feel misunderstood or disregarded by your spouse, partner or close support system, perhaps you can share your experience in a love letter? That will give your loved one private time to reflect on what you shared and reference your words in the future.
One very unsupportive comment that I have personally heard uttered from the husband of one of my patients is, “She is just doing this for attention.” That comment left my patient tearful and feeling isolated.
I have heard many other cases of misunderstandings that occur within couples when one of them has an invisible disability, like a Vestibular Disorder.
It may appear to the spouse that the person complaining of dizziness or vertigo is trying to avoid working or other responsibilities.
If you are a spouse or a partner of someone who is complaining of dizziness or vertigo, and you suspect your partner may be doing this for attention – especially if multiple doctors were unable to identify the root cause of your partner’s complaints – I suggest that you ask more questions and make more of an effort to understand what your loved one is going through.
I believe it is possible that you may not yet understand their full story.
One final key point about sharing is that I do NOT take out my discomfort, confusion, frustration, worry or despair on those who are closest to me. I believe that self-control is a result of many years of effective mental health counseling for anxiety and depression.
If you find yourself lashing out at those you are closest to when you are “feeling bad,” then I highly recommend mental health support and/or a support group. Those feelings are important to address, but in a very careful way so as not to cause permanent emotional damage to the people who love you.
I wish you all the best in reaching a place of greater understanding by using effective communication tools to share your experience with your loved ones. I have a lot of helpful tips for caregivers that I will share with you over time in future blogs and multimedia e-courses.
This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content and any comments by Dr. Kim Bell, DPT are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The details of any case mentioned in this post represent a typical patient that Dr. Bell might see and do not describe the circumstances of a specific individual.