It's two a.m., and I found myself sitting upright, back against the wall adjacent to my bed. I'm perched like an obstruction, which I am sometimes to myself.
It's been ongoing, the middle-of-the-night battle with the Spotify white noise track that I've chosen. Sometimes I hear "extras." I'm woken up by the desire to make a distinction: are those extra bubble-like beats part of the track or something only in my ears? Am I amassing another symptom, or is this the old one just manifest differently? Would it be different because something new is happening in my body, or because this is how the original symptom self-transposes audibly in deep nighttime? I've survived most nights after landing at the conclusion, "Don't know, must also don't care." Perhaps I'm deluding myself. Perhaps that's not how I survive most nights. Perhaps how I survive most nights is after beginning a panic attack and trying to push the panic and anxiety down by breathing. I haven't popped a Xanax for the tinnitus. I haven't popped a Xanax for a long time. A part of me is proud of myself. It thinks: there is a part of my body going wrong, and a part of my mind going right. The pull towards opposing directions: balance?
Sometimes, even when there's nothing wrong in the day, I breathe just to remember that that is all my life is. A series of breaths. As long as I can string them together, I will be alive. (I think I got that from my yoga teacher, Magali.)
This fear of the tinnitus is, obviously to myself, a sign of my fear of death. I don't think it's anything extraordinary when I put into context my relatively new role. My daughter is still young. My body is primed to want to protect itself, so that it can see her life through. If I chop what's going on into bits, I can have these portions on my plate: unexplained tinnitus, fear of what it means, understanding that I will likely never have it explained, a yearning to live, a hope that the unexplained does not necessarily indicate fatality. A slow deterioration - give me fifty more years, that's all I ask - is fine.
I've set an age goal for myself, inspired by my father (who doesn't have tinnitus, to my knowledge), because it makes what's in my body feel more like a challenge I can better navigate overcoming. (My father sets an age goal because he expects his own life at 80 to be more burdensome than worthwhile). I know this doesn't make sense. Having a goal for when I die doesn't mean that what's happening in my body will comply with it, especially when the source of woes is unknown, and therefore possibly untouched, unfixed. But what an age goal does is it tells me to breathe until I get there. Breathing is not that easy. Carrying a breath forward can be tense. I view each day, whether or not I like it, as a a snowball. Rolling a snowball (that's not simultaneously melting) gets taxing. There is beauty and self-applause in the endeavour, but it is also taxing. At 80, I want to let go. The snowball can roll back and crash on me.
Maybe I'm able to write tonight because I've just gone to a new GP, to start over. And so, in a way, I'm returning to "thinking about" the tinnitus, whereas before, I had become more passive, got very close to giving up. I didn't intend to start back at square one (or square 101, which looks a lot like square one), but I was having a lot of chest pain over the weekend, and I just thought I'd be an idiot to not get that checked out. It turns out that at the GP, my tinnitus came up, and since that's what's persistent and not the chest pain, the doctor was interested in addressing the tinnitus instead. It wasn't that she dismissed my call to pay attention to the chest pain and not the tinnitus. (I think I said that, admittedly in a relatively muffled tone, three times. I tried, Tinnitus, I tried to push you down.) Rather, she said that because my heart had been cleared with various cardiac tests before and the chest pain had seemed to clear up significantly by the time I saw her, it wasn't the main thing to worry about. (But do, she said, send her my previous tests, so that she can review the data. My chest pains are something to keep an eye out for and address if they happen again.) I'm not upset by this approach. I'm just wondering if I really spoke that loudly about tinnitus during the consultation. I thought I said I could live with it. Maybe my subconscious has a different dialogue with people when I speak.
The people who both scare me and whom I feel I need the most are the ones who can hear my subconscious.
I can never say what I really want to say because my words are never the things I really want to say.
(Which also makes me wonder what I'm writing, to you, to me, when I write this.)
I've moved to sit in a sort of no-man's land in my home. The end of of the "hallway," a space in front of, and therefore connecting, all three bedrooms, and therefore at least three choices and desires. All three rooms are felt differently to my mind: the small bedroom, where we sleep, is the one blasted with white noise each night. It is the place where I acknowledge the reality of my tinnitus and take some control. The middle bedroom, where there is a grand piano, is the one where I never blast on white noise but instead appreciate my husband's music. The last bedroom, the largest one, is the room that I avoid because the tinnitus can never be "taken out" there. It is also the place where I discovered my tinnitus.
I have a strange relationship with that room. Its view is beautiful. I can see ships, islands, another country - but I can't stand what the room does to my mind. It is big, and the loudest setting on my iPhone's speaker can't cover it. (Admittedly, I've never tried a Bluetooth speaker.) When I go in, all I can hear is my head. It is engulfed in the home's most spacious room, and yet it feels the most squeezed and restless.
Here, slouched in front of these rooms tonight, I feel and foresee the audial and emotional range of my daily life. There is a slight tremor and great tension whenever I walk into the biggest room. There is beauty of music in the middle room. There is practicality and conscientiousness in "our bedroom" (from which I can hear the white noise blaring right now).
One very annoying thing about waking up in the middle of the night is that, by the time I come to a conclusion about what that new noise is (or accept that I have no conclusion), I feel hungry or thirsty. And my ENT says no eating or drinking in the middle of the night. It could aggravate the tinnitus.
I'm perched like a friend watching over myself.