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Advocate Fighting Invisible Disabilities



Christy Smith of Florissant, Missouri, saw nine doctors over a three-year span beginning in 1991 before learning exactly why she had periodic, intense dizzy spells. Eventually, she became a "warrior" and advocate for people regarding her specific invisible disability and invisible disabilities in general.

In a telephone interview, 63-year-old Smith said, "My symptoms (in 1991 and now) were this huge dizziness. When it started, I thought I had an ear infection. You know how a (normal) person walks from point A to point B and can always make it to point B without even thinking about it? I couldn't. I would make it to a different point other than B."

When getting a diagnosis of Meniere's disease, she was just as "confused" about the disease then as now, she said. The National Institutes of Health defines it as a "disorder of the inner ear that causes severe dizziness, ringing in the ears, hearing loss, and a feeling of fullness or congestion in the ear." No cure exists. Like others with the disease, Smith even today will have overwhelming attacks of intense dizziness, which, in her case, occur about three times a week and range from five minutes to 24 hours each.

She said, "Recently, I was going to my bathroom and stopped because I felt unsteady. I held onto the sink for balance. Then it was like someone pulled the rug out from under me. I went down backwards and hit my head on the bedside table. It didn't knock me out, but did give me a two-inch gash. My husband took me to the emergency room. It's like a fog comes over me during these attacks and I really don't know up from down or left from right." Due to having Meniere's disease, Smith chooses not to drive a car by herself.

Advising people recently diagnosed, she said, "Don't think you'll be cured right away because there is no cure. It's an invisible illness. People at times think I'm imagining the dizziness, which in part is why I recently became a public speaker about invisible illnesses and Meniere's disease."

Smith, a fiction author, has been writing what will become a non-fiction book to help people cope with Meniere's disease. She decided on becoming a warrior rather than a sufferer, she said. She credited her Christian faith with helping her get through life. She recommended Facebook support groups to help people cope with Meniere's disease.


Sponsored by Blue Valley Sod.

Daniel J. Vance is a licensed professional counselor and national certified counselor from Vernon Center, Minn. His weekly newspaper column Disabilities has been published in more than 260 newspapers.

Daniel J. Vance may be reached at www.danieljvance.com



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