Never Give Up!

Never Give Up!

Posted by Neil Friedenberg on Oct 10th 2018

“Daddy, you can’t wear that at Uncle Mike’s wedding! It doesn’t go with the outfit.” Clara, my daughter was adamant that I should not be wearing my good luck charm, the yellow and blue Never Give Up PROLITE rubber band bracelet around my left wrist. Something I have been doing for well over 4 years now. It means a lot to me. It’s a reminder every single day in my life. It’s special to me.

(4 years earlier)

It was a special day. Clara was turning 5 years old today. Our first born. My baby girl. I was working at our pickleball paddle facility in Port Washington when around late afternoon I began feeling off. The best description would be as if I was standing on a small boat in the middle of the ocean. I was wobbly, losing my balance when all of a sudden the entire room was spinning. I was scared to say the least. The vertigo caused myself to feel nauseous. I began vomiting. I laid down near the toilet in the back of the room. I could not drive home on my own so I phoned my mother-in-law and she was kind enough to drive me home where I could rest. This will go away, I thought to myself. Probably just the flu. I was sad however, because I knew I could not celebrate my daughter’s birthday feeling like this. We had plans to make her favorite dinner and have cake. I could hear the laughs in the living room from my bedroom. I lay in the dark room with my head propped up atop 4 pillows. If my head was too low, I felt like the room was spinning. Clara opened the door later on and said, “Daddy, when you feel better, I can always show you the gifts I got.”

I spent the next few weeks going from one doctor to the next. The symptoms were not going away. I drove myself nuts looking up the symptoms on Google searches. So many different conditions came up. The balance issue kept pointing to my ears. The ringing in my left ear was becoming louder. But what about the vertigo. The next morning I awoke and stood up. I fell forward right into the wall and created a dent….with my own head. That felt like rock bottom to me. I needed answers immediately. This condition began effecting my day to day life, my household responsibilities, my work. EVERYTHING.

After seeing numerous specialists and undergoing special tests, some even emulating spinning which was extremely uncomfortable, it was deemed that I had Meniere’s Disease, a disease that occurs in the inner ear. It can cause vertigo, dizziness, hearing loss, tinnitus and balance issues. It only occurs in about 615,000 people in the US so it is relatively rare. It explained so much of what I had been dealing with. With constant worrying about if a spell might occur, it started to create this uncertainty. All I could think about was Meniere’s. It was becoming more psychological. At one point, I felt depressed. I wanted to play with my kids and not worry about this. I wanted to mow my own lawn instead of hiring a lawn service. How can I conquer this? The specialists highly recommended therapy. I was sent down to Froedert Hospital in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin where I started Vestibular Therapy. Basically, I was trying to strengthen my balance again. I could barely walk a straight line. I worked my ass off because I did not have any other options. I certainly would not give up and just let this win. I spent my nights working on exercises at home. It was the beginning of a new era in my life.

I started by examining my diet and lifestyle. I considered myself fairly active, but being a business owner and constantly working long hours, it began to limit my time to exercise. This needed to change. I started by pushing myself to work out every single day in the morning to start my day right. I ran, I lifted, I played pickleball. I became fired up! I basically became a vegetarian for a time period until I felt comfortable enough to add meats back into my diet. For some reason I associated eating meat with high sodium intake. I lost about 15 pounds after changing my diet. I started feeling better, confident, and motivated. My episodes of dizziness became less and less. I wanted to play tournaments and prove to myself I could belong. And if I felt something come on, I had Non Drowsy Dramamine in my pocket just in case. I carry it in my pockets to this day. Still a bit of a crutch. I still have episodes here and there, but I have it under control. If you catch me at a tournament and I look like I am about to perform a somersault, no worries. Maybe I am. Just kidding, I am no gymnast. This is an exercise that helps with the vertigo and ends a possible episode.

What does all this mean? Who knows? I like talking about it. It is therapy to write about it. It might help someone. Most importantly, at least to me, it is meaningful and more than likely, very important to others who battle each and every day with much more than Meniere’s Disease. The cancer patient. The heart attack survivor. The widow. The person who is battling depression or PTSD. Never Give Up is powerful. Sure it might pertain to pickleball. You are down 2-9. You and your partner start chipping away at their lead and make a dramatic comeback. Never Give Up. No matter what you encounter in life, just know this……you are NEVER out of it. Go to battle. Giving up is not an option.

(Present day)

“Clara, I have to wear my Never Give Up band. It’s part of me. It’s part of who I am now.” I tell her.

“Ok, fine daddy. Just cover it up so it does not show during the wedding.”

“Yeah, yeah hunny.”