Coping with a chronic health condition

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    Hi all,

    So this is a bit of a unique challenge, and I’m very much struggling to manage my anxiety over it. I have been suffering from tinnitus for a few months now, a high-pitched constant tone in my left ear and a low buzzing in my right ear. If I’m out and about, I can’t hear it, but as soon as I am anywhere quiet or silent (like, for instance, home), I can immediately hear it, and my anxiety builds. Tinnitus is not exactly harmful (physically) or painful, but for some reason, these constant sounds have been affecting my psychological health intensely.

    I had got to a good place with my tinnitus, but recently it has become louder, and my anxiety has once again soared. I just wondered if anyone has any advice about how to manage this anxiety. I’m likely to have the condition for life; I understand that, for many, the tinnitus and/or the associated anxiety get much better. But at the moment I’m so anxious about these sounds that prevent me from experiencing quietness; I worry a lot about it even when I’m in a noisy place, as I fear going home! A lot of recommendations for self-treating anxiety suggest meditating or finding a peaceful place, but such advice is simply painful for me as I can’t sit in a quiet or silent place without hearing my tinnitus, which heightens my anxiety!

    Does anyone have any advice on how to take a good perspective on this? Thanks for reading. 🙂

    Rock Banana

    Mindfulness meditation. Hearing your tinnitus does not “heighten anxiety”. Well it does, but it’s not quite that simple. Let’s have a look:

    You hear the sound -> You make sense of the sound -> You judge the sound to be “scary” (this is just thought) -> You start getting anxious.

    Underneath that feeling of anxiety, there’s probably beliefs and ideas about what it means to have that sound too.

    But here’s the thing … you’ve got this health condition. it’s chronic. and you’ve got tinnitus. You either deny that and battle against reality, get anxious and do everything you can to run away from what is really happening, or you come to accept it, you listen without judgement and become relaxed in the face of it.

    Primary suffering is the pain or symptoms or whatever in and of themselves, secondary suffering is all the additional pain and anxiety you are throwing on top of this with thought, making the experience so much more unpleasant (perhaps even making it unpleasant at all) than it needs to be.

    There are lots of ways of changing this, meditating is one. Mindfulness meditation. You could actually do this with music on or something like that to begin with to learn the practise so the sound of your tinnitus is less loud, or in a relatively noisy environment. Then start to do it in quieter and quieter environments until you do it in silence (and listen to the sound of the tinnitus). Or if you’re feeling a little bolder, just sit in a silent room and be there with the sound, however you feel, for ages. But you will need to bring a very mindful awareness to it for this to be particularly useful – looking at the thoughts, beliefs and anxieties from a distance instead of being consumed inside them. And that’s an awareness that requires some learning, perhaps by meditation, perhaps by other means (cognitive behavioural therapy and so on).

    A lot of people have tinnitus and are not bothered in this way, it’s time to take responsibility for the anxiety you are CREATING, accept the way things are now and then opt to creating something different, however long that takes and whatever that entails. To be honest the commitment to change your response is more important than the “how to” as you will figure that out later on down the path.

    And….remember, it’s an old cliche, but it could always be so much worse. You have tinnitus, which I’m sure isn’t what you’d choose and you’ll probably never absolutely love it (although who knows?), but you could have much worse. That’s not to underplay what you’re experiencing now, but as somebody who also has an illness I like to remind myself of that a lot. Helps me be grateful for just how good things actually can be seen.

    • This reply was modified 8 years, 1 month ago by Rock Banana.

    Dear Penguin:

    Will a sleep machine help? Such that creates static sounds or rain falling, train sounds- to listen to when you are home, by your bed at night?



    Great advice, Rock Banana. As someone who deals with anxiety over situations that are out of her hands, as most are I am slowly realizing, this post was very helpful to read. Thanks Penguin for putting yourself out there and asking for help. As for my two cents, I can honestly say mindful meditation has basically saved my life. My inner life. To be able to see situations as they are and simply surrender to them without added my own thoughts or beliefs or personal history greatly improves my experience on this Earth. I read somewhere once that our lives are meant to be joyful, and it is our job to find that joy throughout every day we live. Maybe we go through situations that don’t make any sense so we can learn to accept them and let them go. I’m sorry for your condition, Penguin, it must be difficult. But you seem to have a cheerful, bold and self-reliant attitude about helping yourself. That within itself is a great thing. Sending you good vibes!

    Pink 🙂

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