The Q-tip Quip

For years, when I would complain of not feeling well, Dave would listen to me the first or second time and then suggest I not focus so much on the ailment. Although he meant well, this usually did not go over well with me. Whether it was my inflamed sinuses or a migraine headache, a shooting pain or blurry vision, or my favorite – my fuzzy ear, his solution almost always involved positive thinking. I accused him of not caring. He said if I cared I would get it checked-out and not just complain about it.

So I did just that. And after two rounds of a heavy-duty antibiotic, I got the “all clear,” yet I still felt something going on in my ear. My doctor was puzzled, so she sent me to an ENT specialist. I just knew it was going to bad. I had gotten an ear infection after swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, and then we heard about bad bacteria being found in the body of water. I just knew the antibiotics weren’t working. I could feel it and I was scared.

As my family physician suggested, I went to the Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist. He took one look in my ear, and simply said, “Quit using Q-tips.”

I sat there a little dumb-founded. It seemed as though the appointment was now over, but he said it like an aside.

“That’s it?” I asked.

“Yep,” he replied, “your ears are trying to heal themselves and you are not letting them.”

No, something else is going on, I thought. Does this guy even know my plight?

Trying not to seem like the hypochondriac that my husband has lately insinuated me to be, I inquired about the feeling of cotton moving around in my ear and the associated pain I felt. His response was, “The ear canal is supposed to have skin.”

Yeah? And? I sat there a little confused. The questioning, and almost angry look on my face prompted him to explain that what I am feeling is skin trying to form, and the lack of it means I have nothing protecting my ear canals. “Quit using Q-tips and go enjoy life,” he instructed as he walked out the door.

I was definitely dumbfounded.

The first thing I did when I got in my car, was cry. Is this guy for real? What if he is wrong? These were my immediate thoughts. Next, my thoughts revolved around the amount of money I had just spent to be told I was fine. I felt happy about this, being fine, yet scared of the notion that he could be wrong. And although I was sure that Dave would be happy to hear this news, I was just as sure he would not be thrilled about the cost.

I started thinking of ways I could spin this, to make it seem like less of a waste of money somehow, and after running a few different scenarios through my mind, I laughed at myself. “This is no excuse to go backwards,” I said to myself aloud, and when I got home and Dave asked, “What did the doctor say?” I sobbed and said, “Quit using Q-tips.”

The doctor’s words rang around in my mind for days. “Quit using Q-tips and go enjoy life.” Why did this make me so mad? No – he’s wrong, he has to be, I kept thinking. Doctors are wrong all the time. And then it happened. My “light-bulb moment” or “burning bush,” if you would, of how what I think, really does create the life I have – physically, socially, and of course, mentally. I could clearly see that I had two choices – I could go on a mission to prove the doctor wrong or I could go on a mission to enjoy life. Damn-it, Dave had this all along, for which I called him a “moron,” many times.

The following days and weeks, whenever I felt that feeling of cotton moving around in my ear, instead of thinking it was some antibiotic-resistant bacteria multiplying close to my brain, I imagined my own skin cells, diligently organizing all the tools needed to repair my inner ear. When I felt pain associated with the process, I visualized healthy cells attaching themselves to my skin, much like nailing a stud to a wall.

Two and a half years later – a full 30 months after that appointment with the specialist – I am happy to report that my ear issue seems to be solved, all by not using q-tips, and I’m sure, changing the way I was thinking about it. I have experienced other sinus issues for which I have also found a solution that does not include decongestants, which I will be sharing about soon.

Until then, may our perspectives positively develop into something good!