In this self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh, we can look at it and see that he has his right ear bandaged, and without even knowing him, we can surmise that something is wrong with his ear. He has a bandage on his outer ear, and looking at the painting, one can has some empathy for him. But when a person has an inner ear disorder, there is no bandage one can wear that alerts others that we are having a problem. I think it is fair to say that Inner Ear Disorders are “invisible” to others. What do I mean by that? Well, if you had a broken arm, every one would see the cast on your arm, and they could relate to that. I you had a cold, or the flu, even without a bandage, others can understand that because they know what it feels like themselves to have this type of illness. But with inner ear disorders, for those friends and family members who have never had an inner ear balance problem, it can be hard to understand what if feels like to have vertigo, dizziness, or imbalance. Some patients tell me that they feel as though their family doesn’t understand their problem, because they don’t “look” sick.
For the person with the
inner ear problem, this can add to their stress and sometimes cause added
depression. Hang in there!!! If it is possible (and you want them to),
having a spouse, grown child, or your best friend come with you to
your doctor or physical therapy sessions can help that person better
understand your condition, and in so doing, be better able to offer you
the empathy, support, and understanding you could use. I have also had
physical therapy patients in Sarasota, Florida who did not have this
support network. They may live alone, or have no children or friends near
by. This is not uncommon here, where many people come only for the winter
months to escape the cold northern winters. Some of these individuals
decided to take the bull by the horns, and go and see a psychologist who
helped them learn better coping skills that they could apply on their own.
I really admired these patients and their commitment to do whatever it
takes to help themselves learn ways to better deal with their “invisible
disease”. Whatever the case, don’t be afraid to ask those around you for help.
We all need a helping hand at some point in our lives…Painting by Vincent van
Gogh, Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889