By Megan Wirts
Picture it, Grant, Michigan 2012. It is a beautiful summer day and my family and I have just celebrated my son’s 5th birthday at Craig’s Cruisers and enjoyed a dip in the neighbor’s pool. We all went to bed exhausted from the day.
When I awoke the next morning I had what I thought was water sloshing around in my right ear. Being the medical professional that I was at the time, I used good old Dr. Google and a Facebook post to guide me in how solve this annoyance. Little did I know, that this “whooshing” I heard in my ear would..........
change my life completely.
According to Facebook and Dr. Google I was about to die (Cue panic button and pour me a glass of wine, stat!).
But first I went to the emergency room, a few times. Each time a new symptom would pop up (facial paralysis, vertigo, loss of balance, etc) and each time nobody knew what the heck was going on. I saw countless specialists, until I had an “episode” at work and a neurosurgeon took pity on me and decided to go into my head and see what was in there (Cue the jokes about not finding Megan’s brain).
What he did was put some Teflon in my head to get some lazy arteries off of my nerves. It seemed to work. My face was no longer paralyzed and after a few months of recovery I was back to work. Honestly though, I never fully recovered and had to really work hard to keep my balance, I still had vertigo and I had lost my hearing in my right ear from damage to my Vestibular nerve. That’s the nerve that controls your hearing and balance. It was broken, but I wasn’t.
After that experience in 2012, I decided to get healthy and live my life the best I could. I underwent bariatric surgery one year after my brain surgery and lost 120lbs. I started running. I used to hate running but I had even gotten to the point of moderately enjoying it. Before this my joke was that if you saw me running you better run too because something was obviously chasing me. I was thriving in my career as a Respiratory Therapist and I loved it. I got back into doing Community Theater and even got my children involved. My husband and I were experiencing a second honeymoon of sorts.Life was good. Scratch that, life was freakin’ fantastic.
Fast forward to March 8, 2015. This was the day I couldn’t ignore the fact that something was wrong with my body. Even though I looked healthy, I struggled on a daily basis to keep my balance and was dealing with increasing vertigo for months. I would feel twitches in my face. Not just one of those annoying eye twitches you get when you are tired, nervous or angry, this was different. On March 8th, I was working at the hospital and I became so dizzy I just couldn’t be there anymore. I decided to go home and I have never been able to go back.
I called my neurosurgeon, had an MRI and was told that there was nothing he could do for me. He didn’t know what was wrong this time. Again, I went to specialist after specialist. I was given medication after medication. Some of which turned me into a shell of a human being. Something was wrong with me and nobody could really help me and I was freaking out. My husband and friends and family were so worried about me. To them it seemed as though they were losing me right before their eyes.
I ended up having another brain surgery, the same type that I had before but this time by a different surgeon. He really wanted to help me, but unfortunately, he didn’t. After my second surgery in July 2015 my health continued to deteriorate and still nobody could tell me why so it was back to the drawing board and back to going to more specialists.
Finally, I was diagnosed with Dystonia, and no, that is not a small country near Russia. It is a neurological movement disorder that causes muscle spasms. It can be localized to one area of the body or all throughout the body and it affects roughly 500, 000 children and adults in North America. Currently there is no cure, but there are medications and therapies that can improve quality of life.
When I realized, and accepted, that I was not going to get better I decided to put a positive spin on things, so I decided to try stand-up comedy. It was liberating and terrifying at the same time. I also love to write and tell stories, so writing this column is a dream come true. I am naturally an optimistic person, which annoys the heck out of my husband who is a confessed pessimist realist, but I can't help it. I have to find the good in life, even though I may be a little cynical and a lot sarcastic at times.
The hardest part about becoming disabled for me was how my life and my body were changing but who I was inside was not. I had to turn down a role in a musical, give up a career that I loved so much, quit driving and basically lose my independence.
This has been a struggle and yet what I learned was that this doesn't have to be the end of who I am.
I cannot speak for everyone that becomes disabled, but for me, I felt like I was supposed to be this new saintly type of person. I felt pressure to be this angelic, sweet, darling of a woman. It was either that or become a bitter, angry woman.
Today I am neither.
I was telling a friend of mine the other day that I am more kind and compassionate, I have a new perspective on life, still love to help others and remain as thoughtful as I ever was. However, I am also the passive-aggressive, judgey, dirty mouthed sassy-pants person that I have always been. My body is just all twisty and spasmy now. Finding that line between being "saintly" and "bitter" has been difficult.
I love to make people laugh and I love to inspire people. I will own it and I am going to laugh about it and talk about how ridiculous it is sometimes. I am going to poke fun at my new body. It's mine. I can say what I want about it. Putting myself out there is terrifying. I am opening myself up to judgement and ridicule. However, I am also allowing the world to see that just because my body has changed, I have not and that it doesn't have to stop me from having fun. I am allowed to laugh at my situation. I am allowed to not be so politically correct. I do not have to be a perfect human being just because something tragic has happened to me. I also do not have to be depressed and sad about my life which allows me to move on and make the best of it.
I might have to spend two days in bed after one night out, but it’s generally worth it. I might be in pain and exhausted and dizzier than a hangover on a Saturday, but I will do it again. This might not be what I had planned, but I am still allowed to be happy and try to make others laugh and have a good time. Besides I have a lot to say and I seem to find myself in uncomfortable, weird and interesting situations all the time so might as well talk about it.
And in this column that is what I intend to do.
Come join me.
Megan Wirts is a long time Newaygo County resident. She has been described as "definitely not modest”, "inspirationally weird", and "pretty hot for having a face like that". She left her career as a Respiratory Therapist due to being diagnosed with Dystonia, a neurological movement disorder. She can now be found watching Netflix, drinking coffee, and taking naps, while trying to parent her two children along with her supportive and hunky husband. Megan also has been known to frequent karaoke bars and stand-up comedy open mic nights.
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