A Few Words...

What is written here is my opinion and personal experience only. I am not qualified to give advice - medical, legal, or otherwise. Please be responsible and do your own research regarding treatments, diets, doctors, and alternative therapies.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Science Behind Addictive Junk Food

This post is not directly related to Meniere's but I think everyone can agree that following a healthy diet can only be good for us.  However, making the decision to eat better can be difficult without enough motivation to do so.  Being healthy is certainly one motivation, but for many of us it can wax and wane.  Another motivator is to consider where we spend our money.  Would you rather support farmers and industries that produce foods that are good for us or an industry whose sole goal is profit at any expense?  If you need that kind of motivation, this article may do it for you.  I am not going to copy and paste the whole thing here since it is so long, but I encourage everyone to read and share it.

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

Published: February 20, 2013 94 Comments

On the evening of April 8, 1999, a long line of Town Cars and taxis pulled up to the Minneapolis headquarters of Pillsbury and discharged 11 men who controlled America’s largest food companies. Nestlé was in attendance, as were Kraft and Nabisco, General Mills and Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Mars. Rivals any other day, the C.E.O.’s and company presidents had come together for a rare, private meeting. On the agenda was one item: the emerging obesity epidemic and how to deal with it. While the atmosphere was cordial, the men assembled were hardly friends. Their stature was defined by their skill in fighting one another for what they called “stomach share” — the amount of digestive space that any one company’s brand can grab from the competition.

James Behnke, a 55-year-old executive at Pillsbury, greeted the men as they arrived. He was anxious but also hopeful about the plan that he and a few other food-company executives had devised to engage the C.E.O.’s on America’s growing weight problem. “We were very concerned, and rightfully so, that obesity was becoming a major issue,” Behnke recalled. “People were starting to talk about sugar taxes, and there was a lot of pressure on food companies.” Getting the company chiefs in the same room to talk about anything, much less a sensitive issue like this, was a tricky business, so Behnke and his fellow organizers had scripted the meeting carefully, honing the message to its barest essentials. “C.E.O.’s in the food industry are typically not technical guys, and they’re uncomfortable going to meetings where technical people talk in technical terms about technical things,” Behnke said. “They don’t want to be embarrassed. They don’t want to make commitments. They want to maintain their aloofness and autonomy.”

A chemist by training with a doctoral degree in food science, Behnke became Pillsbury’s chief technical officer in 1979 and was instrumental in creating a long line of hit products, including microwaveable popcorn. He deeply admired Pillsbury but in recent years had grown troubled by pictures of obese children suffering from diabetes and the earliest signs of hypertension and heart disease. In the months leading up to the C.E.O. meeting, he was engaged in conversation with a group of food-science experts who were painting an increasingly grim picture of the public’s ability to cope with the industry’s formulations — from the body’s fragile controls on overeating to the hidden power of some processed foods to make people feel hungrier still. It was time, he and a handful of others felt, to warn the C.E.O.’s that their companies may have gone too far in creating and marketing products that posed the greatest health concerns.

In This Article:
• ‘In This Field, I’m a Game Changer.’
• ‘Lunchtime Is All Yours’
• ‘It’s Called Vanishing Caloric Density.’
• ‘These People Need a Lot of Things, but They Don’t Need a Coke.’

The discussion took place in Pillsbury’s auditorium. The first speaker was a vice president of Kraft named Michael Mudd. “I very much appreciate this opportunity to talk to you about childhood obesity and the growing challenge it presents for us all,” Mudd began. “Let me say right at the start, this is not an easy subject. There are no easy answers — for what the public health community must do to bring this problem under control or for what the industry should do as others seek to hold it accountable for what has happened. But this much is clear: For those of us who’ve looked hard at this issue, whether they’re public health professionals or staff specialists in your own companies, we feel sure that the one thing we shouldn’t do is nothing.”

As he spoke, Mudd clicked through a deck of slides — 114 in all — projected on a large screen behind him. The figures were staggering. More than half of American adults were now considered overweight, with nearly one-quarter of the adult population — 40 million people — clinically defined as obese. Among children, the rates had more than doubled since 1980, and the number of kids considered obese had shot past 12 million. (This was still only 1999; the nation’s obesity rates would climb much higher.) Food manufacturers were now being blamed for the problem from all sides — academia, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society. The secretary of agriculture, over whom the industry had long held sway, had recently called obesity a “national epidemic.”  Read more...

Friday, February 15, 2013

More on Hearing Loss and Dementia

I posted recently about hearing loss and mental decline.  Today I discovered author Katherine Bouton whose book, Shouting Won't Help, will be published on February 17th.  While reading a little more about her, I came across the following article which goes a long way to validate what many of us with hearing loss, and Meniere's disease specifically, affectionately call brain fog.  Though it is what I imagine dementia might feel like.

Could Hearing Loss and Dementia Be Connected?
Interview by PAM BELLUCK
Published: February 11, 2013

This interview has been edited and condensed for space.

PAM BELLUCK: I’m Pam Belluck, I’m a health and science writer for The New York Times. And this week, I am interviewing Katherine Bouton, who has been a long time editor for The New York Times and it now a contributing writer to our science section. And she has written a book called, “Shouting Won’t Help: Why I — and 50 Million Other Americans — Can’t Hear You.” And it’s a look into her own personal journey with hearing loss and a look into the research behind hearing loss. Katherine has written a piece that looks at a very interesting and surprising connection that some scientists have found between hearing loss and dementia. Katherine, first of all, welcome to the podcast, thank you for joining us.

KATHERINE BOUTON: Thank you very much.

MS. BELLUCK: And why don’t you tell us a little bit about what the scientists have found here.

MS. BOUTON: In studies over about the past…beginning in 2011 and continuing now—a new study was just published last month—is that there seems to be a strong association between hearing loss and both the earlier onset and more serious degree of dementia even with milder hearing loss, but especially with very severe hearing loss. For somebody like me who has a hearing aid and a cochlear implant but I still don’t hear very , this is alarming news.

MS. BELLUCK: All they have found at the moment is what’s called an association. So we don’t have any kind of causal connection—either that dementia either causing hearing loss or vice versa. But they do have three interesting theories about what could be happening. Could you lay those out for us?

MS. BOUTON: Okay, I should mention that the primary researcher on this is Frank Lin, who is at Hopkins and his database are two or three different long-term epidemiological studies. The first was based on the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. I went to see him after that first study was published and he had three things to offer.

The first made a lot of sense. It was that people with hearing loss tend to isolate themselves and isolation is a risk factor for dementia whether you’re hearing or hearing-impaired.

The second is something that he calls cognitive load — and which I call cognitive overload. What happens is that when you aren’t hearing very well, even with corrected hearing you’re trying so hard to hear the person that it makes it very hard to actually listen to what the person is saying. It’s very hard to absorb the information. When I did my interviews for this book – and I did a lot — I taped all of my interviews and I had someone else transcribe them because I couldn’t hear the tapes. I went and I got my transcriptions back I was constantly surprised by what I had asked, what I had heard, what they had answered. Every interview was like doing the whole thing fresh twice over.

The third possible explanation is the one that is most alarming and it’s the one that scientists like Dr. Lin and others are beginning to look at, and that’s that there’s an underlying pathological mechanism that has an influence on both hearing loss and dementia. It could be something environmental. It could be something genetic. They just don’t know.

These studies so far have relied on self-reported use of hearing aids. The next study that Dr. Lin is doing — he’s submitted a grant application now — is to specifically study how hearings aids are used, how often they are used, how carefully they were fitted, how much continual contact with the audiologist there is, whether the hearing-impaired person uses any assistive technology in addition to the hearing aids or the cochlear implant.

MS. BELLUCK: I’m interested in what you’re saying about corrected hearing. You are somebody wearing a hearing aid and a cochlear implant and according to the research that would not necessarily make a difference here. According to his research so far, people who are wearing hearing aids — it didn’t protect them from getting dementia. So does that tend to suggest some support for this idea that there being this underlying biological mechanism that might cause both?

MS. BOUTON: First they have to determine what the real relationship is between correcting hearing and the development of early or serious dementia. So far, the questions about the uses of hearing aids have been answered anecdotally by the participants in the study. What Frank Lin and his colleagues are going to do now is a serious prospective study about how people use their hearing aids, how often they use them, how well they were fitted, how often they go back and have them reprogrammed, where or not they use assistive devices like FM systems and looping, which in effect augment the use of hearing aids and implants — until they can really determine the role of hearing aids and the development of dementia the underlying causative factor remains a sort of outlying explanation.

MS. BELLUCK: An unanswered question. You open your piece with a kind of anecdote about your own sense of cognitive overload, as you call it.

MS. BOUTON: What happens is that you can’t really hear what the other person is saying and so you’re grasping for straws and basically trying to direct conversation in a way where you’ll be able to predict the answers.

I was at a party with my husband who is a literary editor and he was talking to a writer who I recognized and who I’ve met before, but who I figured didn’t remember me. And suddenly I found the two of us standing side by side. And this writer has had best-selling books and he’s very highly regarded and I have read his books and I wanted to talk to him about them. And I had a question about the second book — how it referred back to the first book.

And as I started the sentence I realized that I couldn’t remember the name of the second book and as I got half way through the sentence I realized I couldn’t remember the name of the first book either. So I stumbled through the sentence and said, ‘your first book, umm, umm, ummm…’ and he said — he gave me two choices. One of them I’d never heard of and of them was the book I was actually thinking of.

Last year, even, I would not have put myself in that situation. I would have just stayed home. I wouldn’t have gone to the party and that’s where isolation comes into this association with dementia as well because it’s very typical behavior just to say, this is too hard, it’s too embarrassing, I’d rather stay home and read a book.

MS. BELLUCK: Now, did you explain to him upfront that you have hearing loss and wouldn’t be able to hear him?

MS. BOUTON: I did, but I don’t have any visible signs of hearing loss and I tell people but I think they simply can’t comprehend what I’m saying. And this is one reason I wrote the book. It’s because I think people do not understand what so many people in the United States, and around the world for that matter, what their life is like on a daily basis. Serious hearing loss — it’s something you can’t just try it out for yourself. You can’t put earmuffs on and go outside and see what it’s like because it’s not just that you can’t hear, it’s that what you do hear is distorted. You hear every single thing that’s going on in the room, in addition to whatever you can grasp of the speaker’s voice. You hear some kinds of sounds louder than other sounds. In my case I mostly hear the things — like a glass being put down on the table is like an assault. So, going out is difficult.

Even now, I have a dog that I walk in the park a lot and somebody will say to me, ‘What’s your dog’s name?’ and I’ll say, ‘He’s three years old.’ [Laughter.] It’s windy in the park. It’s hard to hear when it’s windy because it makes noise on your hearing aid. But, I usually just guess what it is: ‘What’s your dog’s name?’ ‘How old is your dog?’ ‘What kind of dog is that?’ They all sound about the same to me. And I take a chance on getting it right — one out of three times.

MS. BELLUCK: Well, you’re doing a great job with this interview, which we are doing across a table probably separated by about four feet.

MS. BOUTON: Well, I’m looking directly at you. And being able to read lips and hear at the same time is the optimal way to hear. There’s a term for it, it’s called the McGurk-MacDonald effect. It means that you hear bi-modally, so that if you can hear, and see and even better, hear and see and read, as you would do in captions on a TV, your hearing is optimized.

MS. BELLUCK: So, just to circle back to the subject of this piece, which is dementia, I would imagine that that’s something of great concern to you, you’re 65 now. What are your thoughts about whether you have increased risk for yourself?

MS. BOUTON: Yes, I do worry about it. My mother, who has perfect hearing at 88, has very severe dementia. So I would worry about dementia anyway from a genetic perspective, but these studies have given me additional reason to worry about it.

MS. BELLUCK: Is there anything else you would like to add?

MS. BOUTON: First of all, the number of people with hearing loss in this country is astonishing. Approximately 48 million people in this country have hearing loss. Of these 48 million people in this country with hearing loss, from mild to profound, by far the majority have sensorineural hearing loss, which is the hair cells are damaged in your inner ear. And that causes eventual deafness. By far the majority of this kind of hearing loss can be avoided. It’s all noise-related hearing loss.

And one of the things I do in the book is talk about how noisy our society is. We have a real love affair with noise. If you’ve gone into any restaurant recently you’ll know how loud it is. If you were at the Super Bowl and you weren’t wearing earmuffs, you were probably deafened. Stadiums deliberately amp up the noise. Restaurants deliberately amp up the noise. It’s a very dangerous environment and unless we do something to control the amount of noise we’re exposed to on a daily basis, this rate of hearing loss is going to go on. And if these studies between hearing loss and dementia turn out to be accurate, as we get older that means a really considerable number of people having earlier and more serious dementia, which is — it’s bad for them, but it’s a huge cost factor in terms of public health.

MS. BELLUCK: Absolutely. Well, Katherine Bouton, thank you so much for joining us, for writing this article, which is fascinating and worrisome. Katherine Bouton is a former New York Times editor and currently a contributing writer to the science section. She’s author of the new book, “Shouting Won’t Help: Why I — and 50 Million Other Americans — Can’t Hear You.” Thanks so much.

MS. BOUTON: Thank you.

Shouting Won't Help by Katherine Bouton

Here's a link to a new book coming out in 2 days called Shouting Won't Help, by Katherine Bouton.  I just listened to this interview with her on NPR.  Very fascinating, I can't wait to read the book.

Here is also a link and some excerpts to a NY Times article written by Bouton in August, 2012.

Excellent description of what those of us with hearing loss actually hear everywhere we go:

In a noisy environment like a restaurant, a person with normal hearing will still be able to hear his companion. But in that same environment, a hearing-impaired person will hear chairs scraping, dishes clanking, waiters shouting, all of it bouncing off the high ceilings, the bare walls, the chic metallic tables and chairs — an anxiety-provoking wall of noise. Worst of all is the restaurant’s background music, sometimes competing with a different sound track throbbing in the kitchen.

Earlier this week I had dinner with my husband and sister (both with normal hearing) and my daughter, son and niece, all 20-somethings, in a popular Brooklyn restaurant. It was my birthday and I had a great time, enjoying my family and the good food, but I didn’t hear one word said at the table.

Frustrating and exhausting...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Young Basketball Player with Meniere's Disease

Kaela Davis takes a temporary timeout
Feb 12, 2013 11:34 AM ET | By Walter Villa

Kaela Davis has always had the ability to score virtually any time she wanted on the basketball court.

But now is not that time.

Davis, a Georgia Tech recruit and the No. 2 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100 for 2013, has left the Buford (Ga.) team for the rest of the season to get treated for Meniere's disease, an inner-ear disorder characterized by hearing loss and vertigo.

"Every day for a week I tried to convince my parents that I could make my doctors' appointments and still play basketball," Davis said.

She finally realized, however, that her condition is serious and must be addressed immediately. She has been dealing with Meniere's since she was 11 and has permanently lost about 90 percent of her hearing in her left ear. She hasn't played since a Buford loss Jan. 26.

"Now we're concerned about her other ear," said her father Antonio Davis, a former NBA All-Star. "This is something we've never discussed publicly before. We don't want pity for our daughter. But we felt it was something we had to address now because of the decision to pull her from the team."

One day when she has a family of her own, I want her to be able to hear her baby cry.

-- Kendra Davis
The 6-foot-2 Davis, who is expected to be named a McDonald's All-American later this week, plans to play in that game as well as at Georgia Tech next season. The two-time USA Basketball gold medalist was hoping to add a third state title to her résumé this year after winning one at Norcross (Ga.) as a freshman and then another at Buford as a sophomore.

Davis has been battling vertigo once or twice a year, although lately, symptoms of Meniere's have been occurring more frequently.

"It's like someone spins you around quite a few times -- how do you feel then?" she said. "Well, that's how I would feel for 24 hours [when the vertigo hits.]"

Her migraines also make her feel nauseous.

"When I get those headaches," Davis said, "every little movement hurts."

Davis admits she was emotional and "not very mature" when her parents told her she would have to give up a chance at a third state title.

"I understand her disappointment," said her mother, Kendra. "But one day when she has a family of her own, I want her to be able to hear her baby cry."

Now that she has had time to think about it, Davis is on board with her parents' wishes.

"It was a hard decision to make, but I have to worry about myself at some point," she said. "Let's take a step back, figure out what's going on and get a grip on it before it gets worse."

That's a very rational thought process, which is not surprising once you get to know her parents.

Antonio was a 6-9 forward for four NBA teams from 1993 to 2006, making the 2001 All-Star Game while with Toronto. He also served as the president of the NBA Players Association and currently works as an NBA studio analyst for ESPN.

Kendra is an interior designer and events planner who also is well versed in basketball, if only, she said, "by osmosis."

[+] Enlarge
USA Basketball
Kaela Davis has won two gold medals with USA Basketball and two state championships in high school.
The couple has two children, Kaela and her 6-8 twin brother A.J., who plays basketball for Buford and has signed with Tennessee.

The twins are best friends even though they are opposites.

"A.J. is way more outgoing and social," Antonio said. "Kaela is more quiet and introverted."

Davis had at one point committed to joining A.J. at Tennessee, the school she grew up rooting for because it's the alma mater of close family friend Candace Parker, who now stars for the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks.

But after Tennessee's Pat Summitt announced she could no longer coach because of early onset dementia, Davis made another excruciatingly difficult decision by choosing to reopen her recruitment.

"It's the hardest and bravest thing I've seen her do," her mother said. "The new coaches at Tennessee are amazing and wonderful, but it's not quite the same thing [as Summitt]."

Davis had to restart her search from scratch.

As it happened, she wants to study engineering, and Georgia Tech, considered an excellent school in the field, is located within minutes of her Atlanta home.

Antonio said he is thrilled that -- unlike many NBA dads -- he has been around to see "tons" of his children's games. And when he sees Kaela, he comes away impressed.

"With her size and quickness and her basketball IQ, it allows her to do a lot of different things," he said. "I've seen her run the point, shoot 3-pointers and guard small forwards.

"She is very versatile, but I think she is most comfortable as a scorer, coming off screens and shooting the ball."

Davis, who is averaging 21 points per game, can score virtually any time she wants, her dad said, but just not right now.

"Her health is the most important thing," he said. "I don't want her to deal with this for the rest of her life. This is something we need to address now."


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Great Meniere's Infographic

This can be found at:


Meniere's Disease Infographic

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Anxiety and Balance Disorders Could Be Linked

Thought-provoking studies.  Go here for access to the links to the abstracts.

Balance and Anxiety
Posted on February 6, 2013 | Comments Off
Studies show that the body’s balance system is involved in anxiety disorders. Could treating vestibular problems lead to anxiety relief? That’s a subject that needs to be researched further.


Autorotation test abnormalities of the horizontal and vertical vestibulo-ocular reflexes in panic disorder. (Link)

Panic disorder: the role of the balance system. (Link)

Relationship between balance system function and agoraphobic avoidance. (Link)

Serotonergic modulation of the balance system in panic disorder: an open study. (Link)

Space and motion discomfort and abnormal balance control in patients with anxiety disorders. (Link)

Visually induced postural sway in anxiety disorders. (Link)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Meniere's Disease and Quality of Life Study

This study was published 13 years ago, coincidentally, by my local neurotologist, Jeffrey Harris.  Next time you're wondering if having Meniere's disease is really as bad as it feels, you can turn to this small study for some validation.  Fortunately, my own quality of life is pretty good right now but it hasn't always been this way and I expect someday it may take a nosedive again.  On top of everything else, Meniere's is an unpredictable disease, sometimes misleading you to believe you might just have beaten it.  I don't know whether this is a blessing or a curse.  Anyway here's the study:

Released: 5/13/2000 12:00 AM EDT 
Embargo expired: 5/12/2000 12:00 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: American Otological Society (AOS)
Release: May 12, 2000 
Contact: Kenneth Satterfield, 407-238-4161 (as of 5/12/2000)

Meniere's Disease Leads to a Significant Decline in
Quality of Life for Patients with Disorder

A University of California-San Diego study highlights disease's impact on physical and mental health
Orlando, FL -- Meniere's disease is a chronic illness that often affects individuals in the prime of life. Many believe the disorder has a serious impact on the psychosocial status of individuals and their families. For the first time, a new study quantifies health-related quality of life status of patients with Meniere's disease who have failed conventional medical therapy and are candidates for further intervention and compares their status with other medical disorders described in a similar fashion.
Early studies suggested that there was a psychosomatic component in the etiology of this disorder. Now, it is generally accepted that the psychological aspects of the illness are in fact the consequence of the disease itself. A number of studies have shown Meniere's disease is associated with anxiety, depression and inability to concentrate.

The authors of the study, "Impact of Meniere's Disease on Quality of Life," are Jeffrey P. Harris, MD, PhD, from the Division of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, and John P. Anderson, PhD, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, at the University of California-San Diego. Their findings were presented before the American Otologic Society, meeting May 13-15, in Orlando, FL.

Methodology: Nineteen patients (12 female, seven male, age 32 to 83 yrs); all had been diagnosed with Meniere's disease that had been resistant to medical therapy; the baseline interviews on the subjects were performed by trained interviewers prior to any medical intervention.

Three instruments were used in the study:

Quality of Well-being Scale (QWB): A quantitative general health measure that allows for comparison of all diseases or conditions. It permits an analysis of programs, policies and treatments for the specified diseases and conditions, and allows calculation of Quality-Adjusted Life Years gained or lost by affected individuals. Patients are asked about their experience and dysfunction for each of the past six consecutive days. They are asked to define their symptom/problem complex - (headache, dizziness, ringing in ears), using criteria such as mobility scale-e.g. limitations in travel, physical activity scale-e.g. in bed, and social activity scale- e.g. working, housework.

Medical Outcomes Study SF-12: Widely employed general health status measure. This research tool rates physical and mental status by asking how often or how troublesome described situations are either during the past week or ongoing.

Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D): This is a widely used measure of psychological depression. Generally, 20 items rated on a scale of 0-3 over the past week: zero (best) to 60 (worst). Scores 16 or above indicate clinically significant depression).

Results: The study revealed the following:

-- QWB scores: Meniere's patients achieved a mean score of .505 on days of acute episodes and .620 on days without acute episodes. This compares with scores of normal adults (.810), very ill adults with life-threatening illness (cancer, AIDS (.616), non-institutionalized Alzheimer's patients (.506), and AIDS & cancer patients, six days before death (.427). This indicates that Meniere's patients lost 43.9% from optimum well-being or .439 quality adjusted life years lost for each year in their QWB state. This score reflects major impairment in mobility, physical activity, social activity and clear thought processes.

-- CES-D scores: Meniere's patients registered a mean CES-D score of 23 (significant depression 16 and above). This compares with trauma patients (CES-D 20), cochlear implant candidates (CES-D 15), patients with post-cochlear implantation (CES- D 12).

-- SF-12 scores: Meniere's patients recorded scores SF-12 physical- 38.9 (mean 50, + 10) and SF-12 mental- 44.2 ( mean 50, + 10). Meniere's disease patients are among the most severely impaired non-hospitalized patients studied thus far. These patients exhibit even more impairment on days with acute episodes. Patients describe impairment in travel, ambulation, work and other major social roles as well as trouble learning, remembering and thinking clearly. They are clinically depressed as a group.

Conclusions: The degree of impairment and depression which stems from this condition becomes the responsibility of treating physicians to develop and offer treatment options to their Meniere's patients. The authors call on the medical community and fellow specialists to not condone a nihilistic approach to treatment, stress to primary care colleagues that this condition requires treatment, and seek out effective treatment strategies for this debilitating illness.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Groundhog Day

Since it's February 2nd, I thought today would be the perfect day to explain how having Meniere's disease is a lot like Groundhog Day - the movie.  If you've never seen it, here's the description over at Rotten Tomatoes:

Bill Murray plays Phil, a TV weatherman working for a local station in Pennsylvania but convinced that national news stardom is in his grasp. Phil displays a charm and wit on camera that evaporates the moment the red light goes off; he is bitter, appallingly self-centered, and treats his co-workers with contempt, especially his producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) and cameraman Larry (Chris Elliot). On February 2, 1992, Phil, Rita, and Larry are sent on an assignment that Phil especially loathes: the annual Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, PA, where the citizens await the appearance of Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog who will supposedly determine the length of winter by his ability to see his own shadow. Phil is eager to beat a hasty retreat, but when a freak snowstorm strands him in Punxsutawney, he wakes up the next morning with the strangest sense of déjà vu: he seems to be living the same day over again. The next morning it happens again, and then again. Soon, no matter what he does, he's stuck in February 2, 1992; not imprisonment nor attempted suicide nor kidnapping the groundhog gets him out of the loop. But the more Phil relives the same day, the more he's forced to look at other people's lives, and something unusual happens: he begins to care about others. He starts to respect people, he tries to save the life of a homeless man, and he discovers that he's falling in love with Rita and therefore wants to be someone that she could love in return.

Comparison #1: Even when we're not feeling well, we have moments where we feel we must put on a happy face and act cheerful, just like Phil when the camera starts rolling, if only for a few moments at a time.  Maybe if we do, the gods will shine down on us and reward our effort in some way.  At the very least, maybe it will make us appear a little less like the grumpy jerks we feel like we've become.  Feeling off-balance, unable to understand what people are saying to us, and being a stick in the mud of everyone else's fun when you're down with vertigo can add up to leaving us feeling bitter, appallingly self-centered, and treating our co-workers (or family and friends) with contempt.

Comparison #2: As we wake up each day, we look to our symptoms to hopefully predict what kind of day we will have.  Will it be six more weeks of winter or will we be given a reprieve with an early spring?  Like Phil, we can feel snowed in, stranded someplace we desperately want to escape.  When we discover we can't escape, we try to imprison, slay, and kidnap the Beast to break the cycle we are stuck in.

While we might beat it back from time to time, the little critter remains insidious and persistent.  Despite going weeks at a time feeling pretty normal and feeling like I have a handle on my emotions, that I will be able to cope better next time, even one bad day of feeling off-balance and brain foggy puts me right back to square one, emotionally.  Every time.  Exactly the way Phil feels when he wakes up each morning with deja vu.  The kicker is that no one around him (us) has any idea that the same scenario keeps playing out, over and over.  And over.  And over...  Everyone around us just goes on with their lives as if nothing is wrong.

Comparison #3: After awhile, despite the repetition of events that we just wish would cease once and for all, we must relent and face our reality.  We will have good days, we will have bad days, and everyone around us will seem oblivious to our internal Groundhog Day.  But once we embrace these facts, we can start to see little opportunities to feed our souls through the lives of those around us whose realities are thankfully different.  We can begin to see that they are our rocks, our anchors.  In turn, we can give whatever we can to them in return, however insignificant it might seem in comparison to what we'd like to be able to give.  We can still love our family and friends and find ways to express that.  And most importantly, we can rediscover that we are still lovable, by others and ourselves, despite our less than desirable disposition.  I truly believe that embracing our limitations sets us free to go on living the best, most productive lives possible.

As you can imagine, Bill Murray and Chris Elliot are hysterical in Groundhog Day and it has a warm-fuzzy ending.  Too bad our experience of living our own personal Groundhog Day isn't nearly as funny (though you can find humor in it sometimes), but we can still find warm-fuzzies if we open our eyes and hearts to them.