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. After running a few different scenarios through my mind, I laughed at myself. “Oh my gosh, Susie,” I said aloud, “this is no excuse to pedal backwards!”
The doctor’s words rang around in my mind the whole way home. “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.
Then I saw this cloud make a face at me:
Opening the gate, I had a “light-bulb moment” – 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.
The thing is, my self-esteem must be good, in order for me to accept this truth, and therefore, tell Dave the truth – the complete and simple truth – without including my rationalizations or justifications.
And when Dave asked, “What did the doctor say?” I sobbed and said, “Quit using Q-tips.”
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 believe, changing the way I was thinking about it. I am grateful that my pride stepped aside just long enough for me to see that change could do my thinking good.