Written by RLB
I am a mystery shopper. And I have Meniere’s disease. Symptoms vary, but mine include nausea, vertigo, migraines, ringing of the ears, and sudden hearing loss. The episodes are sudden, and have lasted between 30 minutes to three days for me. I’m told I can thank my French-Canadian heritage for it, as it does appear to be genetic.
The onset of Meniere’s can happen at any time. My first episode occurred when I was 24. One minute I was fine. The next, it felt like the world was flipping over on itself. I was doubled over with overwhelming nausea, a piercing pain in my head, and a piercing sound in my ears. And then, nothing. No sound. That first episode lasted 40 minutes, but felt like 40 hours. I wrote it off as a “freak” occurence, but shortly thereafter, another episode occured. This one lasted a full day. After weeks of tests, it was confirmed that I had Meniere’s disease.
The most frustrating part of dealing with Meniere’s is not knowing. Not knowing when an episode will happen. Not knowing how to prevent one. Not knowing much about it, as it hasn’t been studied extensively. Not knowing why it happened to me. Over time, I’ve found that my episodes became more infrequent as I began to eat better, sleep regularly, exercise, and avoid high-fat and high-sodium foods.
I’ve been lucky to never have an episode flare on a shop, though I have had to reschedule at a moment’s notice, before a shop, due to a flare. I’ve also performed a shop, had an episode flare, and then had to extend my report time until it passed. During an episode, I can’t think straight, and can barely walk upright. Thankfully, my MSCs understood.
My advice to someone with a chronic illness pursuing mystery shopping? Build a relationship with your MSCs. Already have a good relationship with them? Build a better one. When I was first diagnosed, I thought my mystery shopping days were over. I contacted my MSCs to explain why I needed to be taken off the database, and I was amazed at the support and understanding I received. Since then, they’ve worked with me. They’ve understood when I’ve needed to reschedule, understood when I’ve needed to submit my report a day late.
My hearing loss comes and goes now, but it will most likely become permanent one day, and my shopping days will, for the most part, come to an end. Every episode damages my hearing further. Mystery shopping is helping me enjoy what I can, while I still can. Since my diagnosis, I put half of my reimbursements into savings for symphony and opera tickets. To date, mystery shopping has paid for attendance to sixteen performances. I shopped my way to memories that no hearing loss will ever be able to take from me.
When my hearing loss becomes permanent, , I will lose out on many of the shops I currently perform, but this may very well open other shopping opportunities for me. Who knows? Until then, I will keep shopping my way to the next orchestra performance.
Happy shopping, all.