Over the years there is one main thing I have learnt which helps with my symptoms Distractions.
When my mind is occupied it really helps me feel better. It does not matter which symptom is heightened, when I am distracted it helps keep my mind of that symptom/s. Ok they do not totally go away but it dampens them down a bit!
What distractions do I use?
Well the kids are a good distraction! That is why I do so many craft activities at home with them. I do sewing, painting, creating things out of boxes, drawing you name it! I try and go out and about with them but that is very hard when my symptoms are bad. I wish I could do more with them but I am working on that, it has certainly got better over the years though. I would love to be able to take them to the local play park, go for walks, cycle with them, pop in to town with them, go for lunch, many many things besides. But they are my WHY so that is enough to get me out of bed in the mornings!
Reading or writing
Reading is a great distraction although I find sometimes its hard to follow a book if my visual symptoms are bad, the words tend to jump off the page and I get double vision, so its hard to focus. I read medical books and subjects around mental health, nutrition etc. Writing is another good distraction I use, I love writing poems, I write my symptom diary and I write down ideas of future blogs etc. Unfortunately I cannot do many write ups on the computer as it is one of my biggest triggers, but if I take regular breaks its about doable. For example this blog has taken me some time to write!
Walking or exercising
A difficult one this one! When I am really bad with my symptoms I cannot hardly walk across my hallway without a walking stick, let alone go out for a walk outside! But I know it is vitally important I stay active even on my bad symptom days. So sometimes I have to force myself to go out for a walk. Other exercise is limited due to head movements and I cannot jump around in an aerobics class! So instead I do a very relaxed mindful pilates, which has very slow head movements and is the best thing for my vestibular conditions. It is what my consultant calls my daily physio, just like VRT but I think its better then that for me personally. It is a great distraction for me and its wonderful for mindfulness.
This one is easier said then done, the thought of leaving my four safe walls of my house is so daunting. However I notice that when I do go on holiday I feel much better. Being in the sunshine is very good for the vitamin D levels and feel good factor! I am ok once the plane journey is out of the way…. I am still very dizzy and have vertigo and anxiety on holiday but they are definitely reduced. Just being away from the business of daily life is important and helps symptoms so much. When I was on my blow up Flamingo on holiday in Greece last summer (photo of this blog article), I felt better, although not after! But whilst I was bobbing up and down on the water and drifting around the swimming pool, for that time I was distracted and in a world of my own.
Crafts or drawing
When I knit, sew, draw or create things I go into a world of my own, it takes my mind off to places where I have no stresses. So I tend to try and do new projects every month, it could be redecorating a room in my house, creating a new throw for my sofa or crocheting items! No matter what craft it is, having a project on the go is a good thing.
This is something my Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapist kept going on at me about a few years ago! I wish I had taken it up when she said! I started meditating half heartedly in 2013 but over the years have got into a bit more of a habit and now do it most nights. It is the only thing that calms my anxiety and in turn helps with my other symptoms. It transports me into a world of calm and peace. Learning the art of meditation and trying to calm the mind is a practiced skill and I am far from mastering it! But any type of meditation, even if you are just lying there listening to your own breathing and trying to centre yourself is great. I notice massive difference the next day if I do not do it the night before.
I find working one of the biggest challenges I face daily and running a business is hard work as it is, let alone suffering from a chronic illness. However I can safely say my work is one of the things that has saved me in my darkest hours. When I feel my most dizzy I get creating gifts (I run a gift company) or I distract myself by concentrating on something for work. The only issue is that my job entails a lot of computer work. Yes my work distracts me but it also exhausts me so I have to be very careful and choose my working hours wisely, otherwise I can be in bed for days if I am not careful.
My blog and support group
I created this blog in January 2017 and its been an amazing journey. I have met the most amazing people and lifetime friends through it. Although it is “on topic” of course and a constant reminder of my symptoms, I find helping others and supporting others so rewarding and a great distraction from my own symptom ridden world. I created a private support group on Facebook in August 2017 (Mummy Seeing Double Support) and its been the most amazing thing I have ever done. I dedicate a lot of my free time (I do not have much free time but I try and create some!) to helping others. I will never stop supporting others and one day I will leave this earth knowing that I did good. However I am only at the very start of my Mummy Seeing Double journey and I have so many ideas. We have our first support group meet ups happening soon, one in the USA and one in the UK which is super exciting. I am also hoping to do more talks in hospital balance clinics going forward to give people hope.
All my hobbies I have really covered above and more eg gardening and cooking, but I am always on the look out for new hobbies to cram into the small pockets of time I have. I am currently doing an online course studying Mental Health and Nutrition. I would like to eventually qualify as a Nutritionist (focused around vestibular and mental health) and I would love to become a CBT therapist. I would also like to publish my own book in the hope it will spread awareness and help/support others. Watch this space! Hobbies are a great distraction! If you do not have a hobby then find out what you can do to help distract you.
I would love to hear from you about what you do to help distract you away from your symptoms.