Spending two weeks listening to my heart beating left me nearly insane

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For the past ten days I’ve been suffering through an ear infection. Both ears. Until just a few days ago they were both completely closed. For the most part, I’ve been deaf.

The only things I’ve heard for the past ten days have been the sound of my pounding heart, and the kind of high-pitched brain feedback you might get after spending an evening standing beside the speakers at a particularly loud punk concert.

At night, I’ve been waking up every thirty minutes in a panic, I’d have to run outside and take deep breaths of the cold air to calm down. My blood pressure has been extremely high, 154/100 last Thursday and 152/98 this past Monday. During the day I’d lose my balance when I was walking, when I sat at the computer or watched TV I’d get nauseous.

But now, thanks to three trips to the ER, one clinic visit, non-stop antibiotics and a nasal cortisone spray, I have roughly 75% of my hearing back in my left ear, and 25% in my right ear.

It has easily been the worst week of my life. But I think I made it worse by insisting on being alone.

On January 25, I came down with a cough from an irritated throat. My girlfriend has a six-year old son in grade one, which is basically a Level Four bio-hazard facility, so when he got sick, and then my girlfriend got sick, it wasn’t unexpected that I’d get it next.

But, a few days later, the infection went from my throat and into my ears. On the weekend I felt a little groggy, and my ears were definitely closing, but on Sunday the sound started. At first it was just a little feedback. Annoying, but nothing too obnoxious.

By Sunday afternoon it was like lightning was being shot around in my head. The sound was intense and loud. I thought I was going crazy. This was what brought on the first trip to the ER. The sound mostly turned itself down, or at least went from a live wire through my brain to the sound you hear while walking past a transformer. Only inescapable and constant.

So, for the rest of the week, because I was worried I might be contagious, I tried to stay as far away from people as possible, especially from my 26-month old son.

Which may have been the worst thing I could have done because, from what I’ve learned over the past few days, the only thing worse than being trapped in your own head is being trapped in your own head while trapped in your own apartment with no stimulation or human contact.

I think that’s why my blood pressure got so insanely high, because I was having nearly constant panic attacks and there was no one to touch, or to touch me to bring me back to reality.

When I was alone, which was most of the week, I’d start to think the situation might be permanent, which is when I’d lose my breath and start feeling claustrophobic.

I visited my girlfriend on Thursday, after my second trip to the ER, after our son had gone to bed. I was sitting on her couch, trying to explain what was going on. I started getting a little panicked, but she started rubbing my shoulder and things just seemed to get better.

Over the weekend the antibiotics and cortisone spray kicked in and enough of the hearing in my left ear came back that it gave me some hope. But having a mixed level — some hearing in one ear, not so much in the other — actually seemed to make things a little worse. It’s like sound was reaching one eardrum a split second before the other, and it was making me feel ill.

The ER doctor, on Thursday, told me to get checked again on Monday, so after waiting in the ER for four hours on Monday afternoon, I ended up at a local clinic the family doctors in this region have every evening. I don’t know why, but I always forget about the clinic. If you have a family doctor in the area, you can use the clinic. The wait is generally less than an hour, and it’s first come, first served.

Both the ER and the clinic were filled with babies and kids with deep coughs and runny noses. I hate watching kids cry.

The clinic doctor told me my ears appeared to be getting better, but was worried about how long the infection has been holding on. It turns out, because of the diabetes, the longer this goes on, the better the chances for permanent damage to my ears.

I already have an appointment scheduled with my family doctor for next week, so he can look at my diabetes and kidney functions (down to 37%). I feel like the level of hearing I have now is the bare minimum to prevent any further panic attacks. But if the infection is still in there he’ll have to refer me to a specialist.

Thank Ankotarinja, the worst seems to be over.

I thought the way last year started — with me breaking a bone in my foot, but spending a month hobbling around before having it treated — was the most ridiculous start to any year of my life. Turns out it can always get dumber.




About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression when I was nineteen, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. It's now 2022, and I have an 8-year old son, and a 12-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at saltedlithium.com....
This entry was posted in Bipolar, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, crazy people with no pants, Depression, Diabetes, Health, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Mental Health and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Spending two weeks listening to my heart beating left me nearly insane

  1. thordora says:

    Oy. What a rotten thing. Hope yr better! (and yes, girlfriends make every thing better :p)

    • Gabriel... says:

      Hi Thor. I’m not sure how much better things are getting… both ears, when I wake up, are almost entirely blocked. But after an hour or two I can hear again… at least at the 75-25 level since Saturday-ish. To give credit where it’s due, on Monday, after I returned from the clinic, I asked my girlfriend to massage my face… and she did. I’m pretty sure that, after five minutes, she did more good for my right ear than a week of antibiotics.

  2. zoom says:

    You’re the third adult I’ve heard of with an ear infection this week. I’m an *expert* on ear infections. No kidding. Ear infections and growing avocados, those are my two areas of expertise. Were you taking aspirin for the pain? Because that high-pitched sound inside your head is a symptom of an aspirin overdose.

    I loved your line about Grade One being a Level Four Bio-Hazard facility.

    Hope you’re feeling better.

    • Gabriel... says:

      I love avocados… guacamole is one of the greatest things ever and, dammit, it’s not on any menu of any restaurant around here. I think one of the grocery stores nearby has avocados, so feel free to send me any guacamole recipes.

      On the first Sunday and Monday, when the noise was at its worst, I was taking handfuls of whatever I could find, including some year-old Naproxen, so I might have been overdosing on XS Tylenol. But from Tuesday on I’ve only taken a regular dose at bedtime.

      When a young kid gets sick around here, unless they’re bleeding from their eyes or projectile vomiting, the parents will still ship them to school. They have to, no one around here can afford to take a day or five off work to babysit a kid with a chest cough. I’m sure it’s the same where you are as well.

      So a single ‘virus infected kid’ can take out any number of random families. Growing up, if I was really, really sick, mom would tuck me in, make sure I was warm and had a bucket, then head off to work. But that was because, most of the time, she worked close to home and could come back either to check on my at lunch, or if I called because things had gotten worse.

      But if all I had was a cough and snot running down my face, it was off to school to spread the cheer.

      I’m certain most of the Cold War biological weapons programs got their start from a game of ‘pat-a-cake’ on the morning school bus.

  3. PiedType says:

    “A Level Four bio-hazard facility” for sure! And the kids themselves are a Level Three. I think the entire school/illness thing has gotten much worse as more and more parents are having to go to work and can’t afford the “luxury” of staying home with sick kids — so they send them back to school before they should.

  4. Pingback: My ears are worse, I might be losing my mind, so here’s a video | …salted lithium.

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