Using Your Journal to Help Understand Meniere’s Disease

Patients with chronic diseases have often found that keeping a daily journal or diary can help them understand the cause and effects of their illness.  This is especially true with those of us with Meniere’s disease.

Inspecting journal entries over a long period of time gives you a broader perspective on something than just analyzing it in the moment.  From this broad perspective, it is much easier to find patterns in your life.  You can find patterns indicating what causes brought on what outcome.

All my life, I have written in a journal.  Over the past 17 years, there have been three years when I have been battling the symptoms of Meniere’s.  All three times, Meniere’s has been dormant and something triggered the introduction (or re-introduction) of Meniere’s disease symptoms into my day to day living.  In all three cases, that something was stress.  As I read about my life before those triggers, I can see a storm brewing as more challenges enter my life from work or other influences.  From this, it is easy to see that a key component to controlling Meniere’s requires eliminating as much stress from my life as possible.

While stressful situations are one thing to record in your journal, they aren’t the only thing to track.  You should also track sleep patterns (amount and quality), what and how much of something you eat, and the drugs you are taking.  Also important is to record your daily activities.  Did you get into an argument with your boss or spouse?  Did you drink alcohol? What time of the day are you eating? Did you drink enough liquids that day?  Are you taking specific vitamins or other supplements? How much exercise did you get that day?  Recording those kind of things will cover the causes.

You also need to track the effects.  Record the symptoms. Keep track of intensity and duration.  Common symptoms to track would be tinnitus, vertigo attacks, and fullness in your ears.

Also keep track of what your doctor tells you during your visits.  Our memories aren’t nearly as good as we think they are.  Having a record of you doctors advice is a great thing to have–even months later.  Who knows?  Maybe you will find recurring patterns in what your doctor is telling you.

It really doesn’t matter what the format of your journal is.  Some people like the physical action of writing with a pen in a moleskine.  Others, would rather type into a word processor on their computer.  If you are one of the later, make sure you back up your computer regularly.  A lot of work can go into a journal and it can get lost in a split-second if your hard drive fails.  I keep track of my journal on a computer.  I start a new file with the beginning of every year.  At the end of the year.  I copy all my journal files to a CD for archive purposes.  Throughout the year, I have a program that automatically backs up my hard drive.

This journal will be a great help not only to you but also your doctor.  Take your journal with you on doctor’s visits.  If you doctor doesn’t show an interest in it, don’t let that discourage you from keeping your journal up to date.  It will be of increasing value to you.

Its great that you are keeping track of all this important information in a journal but it does you no good if you never go back and look at it.  Pick a period of time.  It might be weekly.  It might be monthly.  At that interval, open your journal and read the past month’s entries and see if anything stands out.

Besides helping to diagnose your Meniere’s triggers, keeping a journal has other benefits:

  • Stress reduction-sometimes writing your thoughts down can serve as the equivalent of venting or crying on someone’s shoulder.
  • Conflict resolution-when you rehash a conflict as you write it out, it can sometimes help you see the other side of the story and help you come to a quicker resolution.
  • Problem solving-sometimes writing out the details of a problem helps clear your mind and helps you come up with solutions as you write. I find this especially true when writing early in the morning.

What is your action plan?   You should commit to keeping a daily journal. That is the best way to recognize patterns, and recognizing patterns is a great help in determining possible triggers. It is a great way to recognize what is working and what is not.

Good Luck!