Tinnitus, Insomnia, & Anxiety
Toward the end of 2021, I started having a ringing in my ear. It would last for maybe only a few seconds then go away and I thought nothing of it. Then it started lasting longer periods, became even louder, and started affecting my sleep. December of 2021 seemed no different from the previous months.
We were preparing for Christmas and celebrated my husband’s birthday in Las Vegas. We had an amazing time. Then upon coming back from the trip, my daughter who was staying with her grandparents got a fever. I’m thinking maybe the flu but of course, I was concerned since COVID-19 was still around and kicking. By the end of that week, we decided to get her tested and she tested positive.
My heart sank. I was supposed to have my family over for Christmas and now that was not happening anymore. Keep in mind we hadn’t been together in almost the last 2 years due to the pandemic. Let me just say that when we can get together, I appreciate it a lot more. I started researching this ringing before and discovered it was called tinnitus. Not only was I concerned my daughter had the virus, but I was also worried for myself and my husband. I was concerned about work, concerned about my marriage, and I was concerned about our possible transition to a new home. All that weighed on me and the ringing got louder at night. By the end of December, I started having terrible pain in my ears. I went to my general doctor and found out I had an ear infection in both ears but worse in my right ear. And I felt like the ringing seemed to be coming from my right ear.
After feeling rushed from the appointment, I knew the medication would stop the pain but not necessarily the ringing since it started before the pain. I took the medication for 2 weeks and as I thought, the pain was gone but the ringing was still there. At this point, I had full-blown insomnia. I started not only being anxious about everything happening in my life but I also was anxious about never being able to sleep again. The body can only go 3 days without sleep so what was I supposed to do? I was scared for my life and worried I would now not be the best mother and wife I wanted to be.
My daughter healed beautifully from COVID-19 and thank God she had only minor symptoms. But the insomnia and tinnitus continued. My next step was to see an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctor. I thought this is it, this is where I get some answers. All to find that my hearing was perfect, sinuses were good, and I would have to live with the tinnitus as there was no cure or reason for why it started in the first place. I was also prescribed sleeping pills that the doctor was hesitant to give me because they can be very addictive.
I didn’t take it immediately because I too didn’t want to be on pills. I tried it for 3 nights and did manage to get some sleep. But it came with grogginess, headaches, and just the idea of being on sleeping pills drove me insane. I was searching google every day to find a cure, a doctor, a sleeping habit mechanism to heal me of my insomnia and tinnitus. I even considered holistic methods that swore it could help my tinnitus go away quickly. I became so stressed trying to find answers, that I became more anxious about everything.
I decided to write this blog because I couldn’t find a blog out there that gave me hope and let me know that I could make it through this experience. I finally talked with my husband, and I explained my dilemma about what to do next. He told me “Let’s try Jesus.” Now you can roll your eyes at this point if you want to but we know where our help comes from. Just before this conversation remember I said I was taking the sleeping pills. After 3 days of taking the pills, I decided I wanted a night off from the pills. That night, I had what was similar to withdrawal symptoms which entailed a terrible nightmare that woke me up as if I had stopped breathing. So of course, I didn’t sleep the rest of that night and after another google search, it explained that you need to gradually get off the pills. However, my ENT never gave me clear instructions on how to take the medicine. So I listened to God and said no more sleeping pills. And as my therapist says, if you are going to be up awake at night, be up and awake with the Father.
So I was in complete agreement with my husband and decided I would take a break from searching for answers and we focused on just praying to God, spending time in my word with God, and changing my sleep routine. One of my favorite scriptures in recent years is Philippians 4:6-7 (HCSB).
“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
I am a witness to God’s ability to overcome every thought we have about ourselves. The ones that tell you that you will never sleep, that the ringing will never go away, that your husband will leave you if you don’t get it together, or your child deserves a better mother. He’s bigger than all of it and cancels those thoughts with His truth. Now for those who may not turn to God as your answer, there is something for you too here as well.
You see in the process of me trying Jesus I learned that there were things I was doing that changed how I looked at insomnia and tinnitus.
1. I started to focus on God and not finding my solution. Taking time to talk to God and read the bible helped me strengthen my faith in Him. And I had some real talk with God, for example, “like God you really hate me right now.” If you ever get a chance read Genesis 32. In this passage, Jacob struggles with God and uses the phrase “I will not let you go until you bless me.” I’m not a preacher (not even a little) but I learned that the hard times bring us closer to God. We may even challenge God in what He is doing, but He has a purpose for what He is doing in our lives. And when we rely on Him and not our way, He ends up finding the solution for us.
2. I started to focus on solving my insomnia more than my tinnitus. There is a ton online about getting better sleep through changing your sleep habits. And while I believed they weren’t working at first, I knew I needed to be consistent in giving it a try. So I stopped watching screens an hour before bed, I made sure our room was completely dark, I did not take naps, I did a brain dump of my worries on paper before I went to bed, and made sure I was exercising. But the key in this is, as I was working on changing my sleep routine I stopped worrying about the ringing. I hardly noticed the ringing because my focus was on getting more rest. And if I knew I was not sleeping, I told myself to just rest. Rest my body and my mind.
3. I started to talk to the right people about what I was going through. Having someone to talk to is pivotal to existing in the world. Everyone is going through something and especially where the world is you must understand that You, yes You matter. First, I talked to my husband who is not the most emotional person but him letting me know that trying God was enough was just want I needed to start my healing. I also talked to a psychiatrist who was not the best in bedside manner but gave me two things I needed to hear: she asked me to find out my diagnosis from my therapist who I see bi-weekly and said I should go to a neurologist to make sure there were no mental or nervous system issues causing the problem. She also wanted to give me anxiety medication, which I thought was premature, but it got me thinking about the role anxiety plays in my life. I went back to my therapist and asked her if she ever had a diagnosis about me and she said “you have anxiety.”
This was huge for me because no one ever diagnosed me with anxiety. I had been seeing my therapist for months and I never thought I was diagnosed with anything except the need to talk to someone. And in talking to her more, I learned that anxiety can take on a physical form if not regulated. A friend of mine who is also a therapist then told me that when the body can’t regulate anxiety, which is designed to protect you, the body is in overdrive. A body in overdrive can’t stop, slow down, or relax; so it causes other symptoms to happen to the body. Hence, my insomnia and tinnitus. So it’s good to talk to people as they give you a fresh perspective, just make sure they are people who will build you up and not tear you down.
4. I continued to go to the doctor. While I believe God can heal me at any point in time, I also believe you need to use wisdom and go to the appropriate doctors for help. To control my anxiety, I took more time in between doctors to make sure I was creating healthy boundaries for my mental state. As I told you I went to a psychiatrist, and I also went to a neurologist. I wanted to rule out any tumors or issues internally that maybe I was missing. I’m elated to say that all the tests came back clear. And while the neurologist said he didn’t have an answer for me as to the tinnitus, I let him know I was sleeping again, the ringing didn’t bother me as much, and I’m happy with them finding out I was okay.
So while I still have tinnitus, I’m learning that my anxiety can make it worse. After that week of trying Jesus, I started to sleep again and haven’t stopped sleeping since. For someone who may be experiencing some of what I have gone through, I encourage you to change your thought process and what you pay attention to as you go through this challenging season. At one point I did not think I would ever get better but I’m living proof that I still have work to do but I’m not alone in fighting my battles. In fact, if you believe in God you will find, there is not much fighting to do at all.
#mentalhealthawarenessmonth #mentalhealth #tinnitus #insomnia #anxiety #faith