Shawn Finnerty has been suffering with Méniére’s Disease. For people unfamiliar with Méniére’s Disease, it can be an extremely debilitating inner ear disorder that can leave people with loud ringing in the ears, ear clogged or ear fullness, extreme vertigo and drop attacks, loss of hearing, nausea, headaches and/or migraines, digestive issues, and extreme fatigue. Shawn has battled with this condition for many years and was told that there was no solution to his problems. Seven months after being under upper cervical care, Shawn has gotten his life back and is now helping others do the same. Shawn shares how he started a Méniére’s institute called Life In Spite Of and how he’s helping others regain their health and live a normal life again.
On the show, we have Shawn Finnerty. Shawn Finnerty has been a patient in our office who was suffering from Meniere’s disease. For those of you who have never heard of Meniere’s disease, it can be an extremely debilitating inner ear disorder that can leave people with loud, ringing in the ears, ear clogged or ear fullness, extreme vertigo and drop attacks, loss of hearing, nausea, headaches and/or migraines, digestive issues and extreme fatigue. Shawn has battled with this condition for many years and was told that there was no solution to his problems. Seven months after being under upper cervical care, Shawn has gotten his life back and is now helping others do the same. Shawn has now started a Meniere’s institute called Life In Spite Of and is helping others regain their health and live a normal life again. I’m very excited to share Shawn’s inspiring story. He is the reason why we do this work.
Listen To The Episode Here:
Life In Spite Of: A Solution For Méniére’s Disease with Shawn Finnerty
We have Shawn Finnerty. Shawn has been a patient at the office and it has made such a drastic impact on his life. Shawn is here to share his incredible story with you, what he is up to now, and how he’s able to help a ton of other people in the process from what he went through. The future’s looking very bright. Shawn, how are you?
Thank you for having me on.
Shawn, where are you from originally?
I’m originally from Bayonne, New Jersey, the northern part of New Jersey. I pretty much spent most of my life in the Bayonne, Jersey City area.
How did you like growing up in Bayonne, Jersey City area?
It was fantastic. It was a lot of fun. The way the Bayonne is set up, it has all these little neighborhoods and you get sucked into that neighborhood and everyone knows each other. It is very comfortable but then it’s a relatively small community. As you go around the community in the different neighborhoods, you get to know other people as you get older and eventually you work your way up into high school. I’m a parent now and I have two young children. Looking back, I understand how it could be very appealing to some people who still live there or even to myself as a parent if I were to move back because it’s big enough, so you can have a lot of city experience but it’s small enough, so the eyes are always on the kids. If you’re doing something good, people notice and if you’re doing something bad, the parents are going to find out about it.
I was there pretty much through high school and after high school, I moved out. I moved to Bergen County for a number of years. Pretty much I grew up in a hockey locker room. I played ice hockey when I was three or four. Right after I was walking, my father set me on skates and set me on my way. Those experiences had helped define who I am now in more ways than one. Initially, I had a lot of health problems. I had asthma. I had a lot of balance issue growing up as a kid. I was deaf in one ear.
When did that happen?
They don’t know. I was in second grade or third grade. I was relatively early in elementary school. I was very fortunate. Both my parents were educators, so they took education very seriously. They would see me at home and I didn’t notice anything. They had an inside track of potential learning disabilities. My mother was a Special Ed teacher and they didn’t notice anything but at school, my grades started dropping off. Eventually, I was failing everything. I was relatively young so they started testing me and lo and behold I was deaf in one ear and I needed glasses and they were sitting me in the back of the room. As soon as they got me a pair of glasses and I popped in a hearing aid, suddenly I was straight A’s so I was pretty fortunate.
For as long as you can remember, you could never hear on that ear?
No, but the weird thing is I didn’t have any speech impediment. It was one of those anomalies. I was fortunate having the experiences that I did because it brought me to where I am. What my parents did very well was they taught me through experience how to handle the disabilities that life gives you or the challenges that life gives you and how to work your way through it. If I were in school today knowing what I know now it would have been a very different experience. It might have been caught earlier and it might have been easier for me, but I have to take how it was dealt. It helped define the decisions that I make going forward, how I look at the world and how I look at challenges.
With a hearing impairment, I didn’t know any other way. I don’t know what it’s like to hear you. I don’t know what it’s like to hear folks listening. I don’t know what that experience is. I can put in a hearing aid but it’s still alien. It sounds like a loud microphone. It’s beneficial and it’s helpful. I don’t want to downplay that at all. I never went to school and said, “I failed this because I couldn’t hear.” All I did was I said, “I can’t hear. Please put me in the front.” I wanted to have all these experiences. I learned to live my life and be successful in spite of all the different things, the challenges that I’ve had such as a lot of people do. It was very beneficial that I had that at an early age. I had those experiences to pull off of. I was very lucky with a very supportive family and great parents. They helped guide me through that when I was younger and as I grew into adulthood, I kept those experiences. I kept that knowledge and I still apply it even to this day.
It’s extremely beneficial to go through some type of minor or major adversity when you’re young. It teaches you how to deal with the world in general rather than you being 50 years old and had a very awesome, stable life and when the crap hits the fan then it’s like, “What do I do?” When you’re that young, you can take these tools, gather them and help with your entire life rather than later when it’s like you don’t know what’s going on.
You could take those lessons pretty much wherever you can get them, but you can apply them to any situation. As a profession, I’m a teacher. I’m still in elementary school so in no shape or form am I advanced. For example, I have some students who come to me and they’ve never gotten anything under 95 or 100. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing but if that continues until they’re seventeen, eighteen years old, what if it continues until they are young adults? What if that continues into their mid-twenties and they’ve never had any taste of real challenge?
That’s when the problem starts is in the mid-twenties when there are no more grades.
If the grades go away and then it’s the expectation of, “What do you mean I didn’t do this perfectly? I always do it perfectly.” It’s not an enabling situation and I’m not judging anyone but a lot of it has to do with the ability to not only experience adversity but the ability to overcome it. We all eventually, in one way or another, are going to fall down, every single person. When you fall down, do you get up? How quickly do you get up? Do you dust yourself off? What do you do next?
To segue it outside of ice hockey, another thing I used to do, which was very physical was I used to train MMA. The reason why I originally got into the sport was I saw it as a physical chess match, the jujitsu, but it’s not so much now. It’s changed over the years and this is going back when MMA was starting to come up. Everyone lost and that’s what I dug about the sport. Any day, anyone can get caught. I don’t want the whole podcast to be about that but that adversity, that expectation of an entire sport going, “You’re eventually going to lose, learn from it. In ice hockey, you can’t win all the time, even if you’re the best hockey player in the world.” Gratz or whoever it is, they lost. What do you do?
That’s what defines a person. It is how you bounce back.
What do you do with that knowledge? What did that teach you? Do you keep in mind what it teaches you? That’s what it’s all about and that’s one of the most challenging things. It’s not how often you fall down but a lot of it has to do with the ability to learn from it and the ability to recognize your faults, the ability to accept constructive criticism. I do most things wrong. I try to do everything right. You go through life and you hope for the best. Hopefully, we fall somewhere in the middle and it all turns out right. That’s what brings me here now. We spoke about me being on a podcast for a while so I’m excited to be here.
On my way over here, I was thinking about Expect Miracles and what that means and what that says. That’s a bold statement in and of itself and it was purposeful on your part. The ability to process the world around you, to process where you are and think about all the things that make us who we are, all of our past experiences, our present challenges good or bad, our hopes and dreams for the future, the folks who we surround ourselves with, our lifestyles, our jobs, what we put in our bodies. If you look at somebody, it provides a snapshot of where they are and what they’re doing. To bring that into what we’re doing here now, I’ve experienced some very significant physical challenges that you’ve helped me out with significantly but taught me a lot of important lessons in terms of humility, gratitude, and appreciation mindfulness, appreciation of taking a moment and smell on the roses if you will. I don’t know if that comes with age. I don’t know if that caused it, but things have changed significantly.
We’re doing this podcast in the office and there are two types of people that I’ve learned over the past couple of years that sit in that chair right there. I have the Expect Miracles sign right above the door frame and so when they walk in, everybody sees it. There are two people that sit down in that chair. One person is expecting a miracle. I literally have people wherein the first thing they say is they sit down and they’re like, “I’m not expecting any miracles here,” and it’s like, “I can tell you how your healing process is going to go.” The people that are gung-ho in that positive mind frame will do anything it takes to get better. They do so well and heal up faster than that person who sits downs and is like, “I’m not expecting any miracles. I don’t know if this is ever going to go away.” They do get better but I’m curious to see if their mindset is huge.
If you have a positive mindset, especially when healing, the mind is so powerful. If you’re already in that frame of mind like, “I’m going to be healed and I’m going to do whatever it takes,” let’s say we took ten post-concussion cases, there was one D1 soccer player who came in here post-concussion badly. He was like, “I’m playing soccer in four months. I’m doing it. You tell me what I have to do.” That kid was as bad as any other post-concussion case that I’ve seen. He got better in two or three months. He’s back and he’s playing soccer at Princeton.
I’ve never seen a kid’s mindset, which probably got him to that D1 level, but he was like, “I’m doing this. This is happening.” He healed up so fast rather than the other people and I understand where they’re coming from, they’ve been everywhere else. People that are like, “I’m not expecting anything here. We’ll see what happens.” Those people do get better, but the mindset is huge.
I suffer from Meniere’s syndrome. For folks who aren’t familiar with it, it affects the inner ear. To make the long story short, it’s a set of specific symptoms. That is the best way. They call it Meniere’s disease or it could be Meniere’s syndrome or whatever it is but it has to do with tinnitus. It has ringing in the ears at different levels. It has to do with dizziness, the fullness of the ear, fluctuating hearing loss, and all those different things. I gave you a little bit of background on my growing up, but I’d be amiss to mention the physiological component.
Growing up, I always used to say that my mind and my body aren’t connected the way that they should be. There was always a disconnect. I would suffer from these bouts of depression or these bouts of anxiety that weren’t caused by bouts of anxiety or depression. It wouldn’t even be able to explain them away. It would be like something happened in my life that would upset anybody. I was overly depressed, but that thing didn’t upset me all that much. Why do I feel the way that I do?
I had for a long time a joke that I used to say to myself, but I wouldn’t say to anybody else. I was too proud as a young man. I would always think I’m made of glass in every way. I played ice hockey. I was a boxer for a little while. I trained MMA. You would think that’s a pretty serious stuff, but I would get injured constantly consistently up and down. If I didn’t break it, I’d tore it. If it didn’t tear, I’d pull it on and on. That’s not to complain but this is coming from somebody elite. I was in fantastic shape. I was bad when I was younger. When I was in shape, I knew what I was doing but I couldn’t stay healthy to ever reach that next level. Then I had the psychological component, which is very challenging. On top of that, my immune system was destroyed.
What was going on with your immune system?
I would always get sick and I went through all these testing. For years, every time I got sick, I’d run to the doctor. Every time I got a headache, I’m like, “Go to the doctor,” and on and on and on. What happened was I got into this negative unhealthy medicinal pattern through the years. I knew something was wrong, I didn’t quite know what, and I was looking for this external stimulus to try to help solve it. I was doing what I thought was the right thing to do to get the answers to make me feel good. Before I got into Meniere’s disease, the symptoms that I’ve had for years were these black floating dots that I would see. That is indicative of some serious health problems that can be very concerning. I went to a neurologist and I had MRI or brain scans. I had this and that and the other thing and the answer I got was, “It seems good to me,” and I’m like, “I still see them.”
I’m sure you’ve heard of, “We don’t know what’s going on, but you might have to live with this for the rest of your life.”
For a long time, I didn’t even get the acknowledgment that there was anything there. It was very frustrating. I could even live with that as much as I didn’t want to. I could live with that, but I wasn’t even getting the acknowledgment of, “I know you’re seeing this.” It was a step lower than that. It was, “Yes, kid. Here’s a pat on the back. You’re not experiencing this, you’re creating it yourself somehow.” It’s like there’s something crazy and I started to think that.
Fast forward, during all this stuff, I was fortunate enough to find, start dating and get married to a beautiful woman, Jennifer. She’s the love of my life. She has literally changed my life and a large part of why I’m here today is her and her support through everything that’s going on. I always thought that living was hard. I grew up in a very supportive environment, but Bayonne was a blue-collar environment. I had a lot of friends who had a lot less me like real street kids, so I learned how to do certain things the wrong way. Not to go down that road but I had this expectation of life is if I’m going to get anywhere and if I’m going to get anything, I’m going to have to take it for myself. That’s how I used to play ice hockey. That’s how I took to school and that’s how I took jobs.
The first experience that I ever had in a flowing state is from my wife. She’s beautiful and she’s great. She had this innate ability to experience and be in a moment and find a way through the maze without rocking the boat and knocking anyone over and she collects people along the way that find her as a leader and want to follow her. In addition to a lot of other lessons, that was one thing. Personally and professionally, that was very profound to me. I went down a road of trying to learn as much as I could from her with that facet and trying to apply that to my life and that started to open my eyes, breaking the cycle of what I’ve been taught to do, breaking the cycle of the expectations that I was taught to expect.
Fast forward talking about Meniere’s disease, specifically because this would be a perfect case in point to give you an example. I’ve always had all these different symptoms and I would go to the doctors. I was suffering from bad migraines and I was seeing all those spots, so I went to a neurologist. As soon as he sees me, he did the right thing as far as I was taught, and he sent me for all diagnostic tests. I don’t remember what all the tests were but I’m assuming it was like a CAT scan of the head or your traditional imaging. I went back to him and he looked at everything. He said, “Everything looks fine, which is good news.” He didn’t see anything physiologically wrong. He didn’t see tumors or anything like that. He was looking at the stuff and he turned to me and he goes, “How busy is your life?” I was not sure how to respond so I was like, ‘I’m pretty busy.” At the time, I only had my daughter. I only had one kid. I was like, “Where is this going? This is odd.” I figured he’d be like, “I don’t see anything,” like everyone else who saw me, “Get out of here, kid.”
He was like, “With a migraine, there are medications that you can take that can break the migraine cycle. There are drug cocktails that you can take that will break the cycle,” and at the time, I was suffering from some pretty severe migraines. I heard him out and I said, “What is it?” He was like, “There are these different medications that when you take them, they render you for all intensive purposes. They have these very severe side effects so you’re going to have to shut down for three days because it takes a certain amount of time to break those migraine cycles.”
I’m not a neurologist nor am I a doctor, but I was like, “Okay.” He was like, “You can do that. Is this something you’re interested in? It’s important and it would be beneficial if you break the cycles.” I was like, “What side effects are you talking about here, what specifically?” He was like, “The first round, you’re pretty much going to be out for fifteen to twenty hours. You’re going to be unconscious,” and I’m like, “Okay.” Then he was like, “There are some other side effects that come with it but eventually, they go away on their own.” I was like, “What are those?” He was like, “There was one that was like clicking or there was something physiological that was completely unrelated from the neck up.” I was like, “Let’s skip over that.” He was like, “The other one is uncontrollable smacking of the lips,” and he starts doing this weird motion.
At that point in time, I started laughing. I was like, “This guy is messing with me. This guy is great. He is not an alarmist. He’s my kind of guy.” Then he keeps doing it and he was totally stone cold serious. I started looking around for cameras and I was like, “I might be on Candid Camera here. This isn’t real, there’s no way.” Then I realized he was serious. I stopped looking around and I was like, “This is crazy. This is something I never want to get involved in.” Right after that, I took off and that started me on the path. That, in addition to why I mentioned my wife, just being open to alternative methods, there may be something else out there that will help me with some of the ailments that I had. I started and I got into yoga. I’ve been meditating for years now and I found great benefits from those but all of that basically hit a brick wall. I would have certain Meniere symptoms that would come in and I was not introduced to Meniere’s nor did I know that Meniere’s existed.
What were you experiencing?
What I started to experience, and I didn’t realize in Meniere’s, was I would have a fluctuating hearing loss. The spots were always there. I would have headaches and I would have neck pain. I would have bouts where I would wake up and I couldn’t hear for a few days, I was deaf. I had hearing loss in my right ear. I would wake up and my left ear would feel full and the hearing would be down significantly. As a professional, I’m a teacher. I would be in front of a class of 35 students deaf. It’s scary talking about anxiety. It would come and go but I would have it for three or four days and it would disappear for a month. Then it would happen for another two days and it wouldn’t be around for two months. I started going to the doctors. I don’t want to knock the doctors that I’ve worked with met.
They definitely meant well.
They’re great at what they do. My primary care physician has listened to more complaints from me. He’s one of the most patient individuals I’ve ever met. The person who introduced me to potentially could be Meniere’s disease was my ear, nose and throat specialist, who’s a great guy in and of his own right. He was the one who introduced me to potentially could be Meniere’s disease, that word and what that means, what the outcome, and what the ramifications of the disease could be. It started with the fluctuating hearing loss with all of these other symptoms of the spots in the eyes and I already had the hearing loss. I was constantly getting sinus infections. I was getting cold all the time. I’d get strep throat at one point for six months, badly. I was on round after round of antibiotics and my immune system was shut. I would have ringing in the ear as I thought it was because of the medication. Then I would wake up, and for a week and I would have this severe tinnitus attack and then the hearing loss would go down. What happened was over a course of maybe two or three years, everything would come and go. I would have the tinnitus attack and the fluctuating hearing loss, then I would get bouts of vertigo. It was no relief and it was coming. It was like a cyclical effect.
Fast forward to December, I got really sick, I got a bad cold. I’ll never forget. It was a Saturday morning and I was hell-bent on getting back into shape. I woke up and I was a little stuffy. I went downstairs. I had a little gym set up in my basement and it was very light deadlifts. I did one warm-up set, very light and it literally sounded like somebody turned on a jet engine in my left ear to the point where it knocked me off my feet. It wasn’t a high pitch squeal. It was a flat-out jet engine and it didn’t go away for three weeks. I couldn’t sleep and when I did fall asleep, it would wake me up out of my sleep. It was so loud that I couldn’t take in any other sound because it was painful. It was unbelievable.
What did you do in those three weeks?
I ran to every doctor that could see me.
Was this during the school year too?
Did you teach a class with this?
I went to work. At the time going back, I had two young children. I had a house that I could barely afford. I love it but I’ve got to go to work. If I can’t go to work, I can’t provide so I bucked up and that’s what I do. I’d go to work. It was all-hands-on-deck, which was great. I’ve got an amazing support from my family, my wife’s side of the family, my side of the family and all the doctors were great. They got me right in. I got a bunch of diagnostic tests done and they didn’t find anything. That’s when the ear, nose, and throat specialist was like, “It could be Meniere’s.” At that point in time, I was like, “That sounds awful. What the is Meniere’s disease because it feels awful?”
We started talking about it and then I started doing some research on it. That’s when I hit some serious depression. To our audience, if you suffer from Meniere’s disease or if you know anybody that does, it is very disabling. It started with that jet engine and then that didn’t go away. It subsided a little bit, but it would fluctuate. What would happen is because of that, I would also have the fluctuating hearing loss. Then I would have this severe pressure. It almost felt like my eardrum was going to explode. In addition to that, I would get dizzy. This was all while I was working. The next progression from that was I started having drop attacks.
For our audience who don’t know, your inner ear is what’s responsible for your balance. There are these little structures in your inner ear that separate different fluids that are responsible for your balance. I’m oversimplifying it but to give you an idea, there’s so much pressure in your ear that those membranes rupture. Your up, down, left and right are mixed together and you lose all semblance. I don’t think I could ever imagine it unless I experienced it but as you can imagine, it’s pretty terrible. I had one of those drop attacks in front of a class. I was in by myself. I didn’t know it was coming and it hit me. Before I hit the ground, I grabbed onto a table and fell out of the classroom. It was scary for me.
How long did that one last for where you didn’t know which way was up?
Probably for about fifteen minutes, which felt like three days. That was right after I started coming here and I wasn’t holding my alignment. I had the drop attack. You were awesome enough to get me on the same day I got adjusted. I was completely symptom-free within two hours. I went home. I was hanging out with my family and my wife was like, “What is this?” It became real for her also because she works in the same school district. She has a different job, but she happened to be in the building. She carried me out of the building. If she weren’t there, I would have gone to the emergency room because my employer wouldn’t be able to help me. She called your office and she was like, “He just had a drop episode. Please help him.” You were like, “Bring him in,” and I was absolutely fine after that. That was the last one I’ve had.
The drop episodes are the worst it gets and now I know why. I thought the tinnitus, the jet engine, that drives you insane. Van Gogh supposedly had Meniere’s disease, which was why he cut his ear off. You have all these different things, but it was the drop episodes that rendered me disabled. I was going to all the doctors and I had all the diagnostic tests. In Meniere’s disease or Meniere’s syndrome, there is no diagnostic test for it. You get all the diagnostic tests. If they don’t find anything and you have these specific symptoms, they marry the two together and they have to call it something. That’s pretty much all she wrote.
I had already been thinking about possibly breaking the cycle of your traditional medicinal approach within America. I started looking elsewhere and we started doing some research. I stumbled upon chiropractic care and I started going to originally a full spine chiropractor who was awesome. They were cool however, it was the wrong kind of care for my case. I wouldn’t say that they were doing anything wrong, it wasn’t beneficial. It wasn’t doing anything for me. I kept reading and the only thing that I found that was beneficial for Meniere’s disease was short of very severe surgical procedures that are permanent and heavy medications, which only mask the symptoms and don’t address any underlying problem. Those were the two big challenges.
You talk about how you get yourself up and dust yourself off, I couldn’t fail. You talked about the mindset. I worked so hard for my life and I have such a great life, I would not give it up and I will not fail. I would not let down my children. I would not let down my wife. I have responsibilities that I will go to the grave taking care of and I don’t know what to do. We started looking into disability. I was like, “I’m going on disability. You’d have to make some money. I can’t go to work anymore. What do I do?” I could try the chiropractic care and the full spine didn’t work but I kept finding chiropractic care is beneficial. I eventually stumbled upon Blair technique and I was like, “What is this?” I thought it was a company. I thought it was like a place. I started looking into it and sure enough, I read some research on it. There were a couple of things that I liked about what I read before I even came to the office because I’m a guy who is the ultimate skeptic. I was sitting here going, “I don’t know how this is going to go. There’s a good chance this is BS but I can’t fail.” Maybe I was in the middle of the road.
What was interesting and what I liked about Blair technique or upper cervical chiropractic care was the first thing that was the three-dimensional image that practitioners like yourself take and the adjustment is specific to the person. I get very uncomfortable when I get roped in or included in this group of let’s say I fall into males within this age group within this body frame. It’s like, “What if that’s not exactly for me?” That was the one thing that sold me the most was if there is an adjustment necessary, it’s specific for the person based on a diagnostic test.
It’s a blueprint for that person. We get your exact joint angles and we slip it right back in.
The other thing I appreciated was it wasn’t intense. It wasn’t very jarring to the body. I’ve walked out of the full spine chiropractor and I felt like somebody jumped me. I’m like, “I’m supposed to feel great, but I don’t know. Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. That didn’t feel right though, I’m not sure.” I’ve never walked out of your office once and been like, “What was that?” That was problematic. This was before I even came in. The last thing was the research that had to do with the post-concussive situation or with Meniere’s disease that there is a belief by Dr. Burcon, who is a Blair practitioner or a Blair chiropractor that Meniere’s disease is caused by a misalignment of the Atlas. It takes on average fifteen to twenty years to start to show some symptoms, to start to present itself as a problematic situation for folks. That’s why most people who suffer from Meniere’s disease tend to be on the older side. No offense to our audience, it’s not old but I’m 40 and I’ve been experiencing this stuff. I could have experienced trauma years ago between all of the combat sports or the collisions that I took as an athlete, car accidents, a fall, childbirth, or whatever it is. As far as I remember, the average misalignment is millimeters.
It’s so tiny. Just millimeters can be devastating to the nervous system, which controls our entire body. When we say a bone is out of place, we’re not literally saying your first bone is all the way out to the inches. We’re talking very small millimeters. That’s enough to put enough tension on the spine and cause havoc on your entire spine.
That was what all the research was showing and I was like, “I’ve got to try it. This makes sense to me.” I know that I see it here and it does. It provides an optimal healing environment for your body. That’s all chiropractic care and I’m not knocking chiropractic care at all, but I wasn’t getting that overarching, “It will help you.” It’s, “This is specific for you. This specifically helps your condition and this specifically can address the symptoms that you have.” All that information I said, “This is talking to me,” so I found you. I looked around and I was doing some research. I looked into a few other upper cervical chiropractic disciplines and I found that Blair resonated with me. It made sense, the adjustment table that you use. It made sense that without getting too specific and I’m not a chiropractor but how, during the adjustment, it is taken into account the need for a slight separation for the adjustment to hold and the adjustment to take and that millimeter movement to take place. All these different things.
I came in to see Dr. Kevin and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I watched some adjustments online and I was like, “This is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.” I didn’t know what to do. You explained everything to me, how it works and what it is. We took a bunch of X-rays. Then you looked at the X-rays and you saw the misalignment. You said, “We can give you an adjustment right now.” You were very supportive and very clear about what you were doing. I knew a lot of this stuff coming in but your additional explanation on the spot provided that professionalism, that individual care and healing environment that I was like, “Let’s go. Let’s do it right now.” Any doubts that I had that were still lingering had been resolved. I was like, “I’m on board. Let’s make this happen.”
I laid down and you checked me out. You did all the diagnostic tests. You knew the specific correction. You laid me down and for Blair technique or upper cervical chiropractors, Dr. Kevin adjusts from the side, not from the back, so you lay on your side for our audience who have never gone to an upper cervical chiropractor care and the chiropractor. My wife, Jennifer, was with me and it felt like a sledgehammer came down on the back of my neck. I shouldn’t say that I know but it literally felt like you hammer fisted the back of my neck. I was expecting nothing and I was so shocked by it. My wife was looking at me and you had brought in a piece of paper off the front. I go to my wife and I was like, “How hard did he hit me?” Jen goes, “What do you mean?” I was like, “What was that?” She goes, “He didn’t even touch you. Did he do anything?” I was like, “Yes. Didn’t you hear that?” She goes, “Hear what?” She was like, “Shawn, that was the gentlest thing I’ve ever seen.” I had been out of alignment for so long.
A lot of people get confused when they hear the headpiece click down. It could be pretty jarring but that’s the sound of the headpiece, not your neck. I’ll tap on the neck, but you’ll hear like a little bit of thud from the headpiece. People pop up off the table and they’re like, “That’s it?” I’m like, “Yes, that’s it.” They go home and feel great, but some people are like, “You didn’t do anything to me.”
Initially, I was laying on there. I was like, “It’s nothing,” and she was like, “Shawn, he didn’t even touch you. His adjustment, he barely pushed on your neck.” She was like, “I don’t know. Is this going to work?” She was even doubting with how gentle it was, but it was the experience of maybe the table or maybe being out of alignment for so long. What happened was as I was laying there, and you rested me for a few minutes, it felt like the weirdest experience. It was almost like a hose was turned on and I felt like a rush of blood go to my brain. It almost was uncomfortable for a minute. It didn’t hurt but I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t expect anything and I was like, “My goodness,” and with that came this, I hate to say almost like a psychedelic experience of colors. You had called it high def vision. Greens were greener and everything in the sunlight was so crisp and it was so clear. It sounds ridiculous unless you experience it I’m sure but it seems like the lens I had seen in my life through before that was like a dull gray. It had like this transparency to it and suddenly, that veil was lifted and I could see. It was unbelievable and that lasted days. That in and of itself was a profound experience.
Your second visit, I was sitting down and you were like, “That was unreal. What you did feels so much better.”
With that, I put my body through a lot of trauma. I don’t want to provide any unrealistic expectations, but it took me quite a while to hold my adjustment. Then the healing process started, which I’m still going through. In terms of where I am right now and how quickly it legitimately changed my life after that first adjustment, I knew something special had happened. I knew that my life was literally changed forever and that experience of systematically having my life stripped from me everything that I had, everything that I had worked for, everything that I held so dear, I was losing. It got to a point where any noise was painful. The sound of my children’s voices hurt. That’s something that only parents can appreciate how devastating that is. There’s nothing better than hearing my kids say, “I love you. Good morning,” or anything they say, even if I’m out of anger, they’re still my kids. I love it. They’re everything to me and I couldn’t appreciate it.
After that first adjustment, I experienced over some time all of the symptoms start to dissipate and start to resolve themselves one at a time. The most amazing thing was not even getting into all the retracing and all that specific jobs, but it started addressing other issues and other symptoms in my life that I didn’t realize necessarily were physiological. I feel better now. I’m a better human being now than I was before I started getting upper cervical chiropractic care because all the other issues that were associated with misalignment, the pressure on the spinal cord or your parasympathetic, sympathetic system all that stuff that had these weird symptoms and side effects that I was experiencing that I mistook as depression or anxiety that were physiological or resolving themselves. I feel better now than ever. Not only that but the Meniere’s symptoms are going away, and I feel like freaking Superman. I cannot stress that enough.
Six months ago, I had nothing but a grim outlook on life. My life was over. I was not going to be able to work anymore and I was now the Achilles heel in my family. Somebody else is going to have to take care of me and my kids are not going to understand. Let’s talk about the psychological components of Meniere’s disease or all these symptoms that you have in addition to feeling the depression and anxiety. When you have Meniere’s disease, you have this feeling of isolationism. You’re trapped in your own body and nobody else can understand you because you don’t look sick though. You look fine.
Maybe you lose weight because you’re not eating but unlike other various severe diseases, not all but a lot of them, when you look at Meniere’s patient and you’re like, “What is your problem? You’re good,” but I can’t hear anything. I can’t walk. I got this jet engine going off my ear. I’m spinning. I’m not okay. I’m not even close to being okay. I was told by a very trusted healthcare professional that perfect state could be my new norm and that could be how I was going to spend the rest of my life. I couldn’t accept that. When I came here, I was in such a terrible place. I went on blogs and I looked for what people are talking about out there, what people are trying, what vitamins or medicine are they taking.
It’s an epidemic. There are so many people suffering.
It caused this horrific downward spiral for me because I was in such a bad place and I was feeling isolated. My partner in crime was my wife and what was a turning point for me was I reached a point where I couldn’t do anything at all. It was so bad. It’s embarrassing to say but I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t hear anything. It was so painful going anywhere that even light started to hurt. I was sitting in my bedroom in a corner with all the shades down and the door closed. I was curled up in a ball and it was pretty bad. My wife came in and the look in her face and how she looked at me I’ll never forget. It was one of those things that I was right there, I leaned forward, and I crawled out of the room. I got up and I held the banister. I went downstairs and I sat in front of the computer and that was rock bottom for me. That was a point where I was like either I’m here or I’m going to go live it. If somebody has to carry or wheel me around and I can’t walk and I have vertigo, give me some medication put me in a wheelchair and I’m gone. I’m not going to get strip this stuff.
When I came here, I had this done. That was interesting but my wife, she’s a trained psychologist, so she knew some of these experiences I was going through. She was able to show me empathy and she was able to show me the support that I needed. She didn’t play psychologist. That would be unprofessional and inappropriate of her, but she had this skill set that I feel like unfortunately a lot of people don’t have in their lives or may not be able to. Their loved ones and family members want to help them in the best way that they can, but they may not have the skills to provide the kind of support that they need.
I have couples that come in here, one will have Meniere’s disease and the spouse will be going to all the doctor’s appointments and they’re listening to these doctors say, “There’s nothing wrong. It’s all in your head. There’s nothing we can do for you.” It’s almost like they don’t believe their partner what they’re going through and that is the saddest thing to see because this person needs some type of support when they do get their life back.
Even before you have that and you’re going through all of that experience, having experienced that myself and my wife, I can’t say enough good things about her. She is in my corner. We are soulmates. There’s nothing that happens to her that doesn’t affect me. There’s nothing that happens to me that doesn’t affect her. She was looking at me and she wanted so badly to understand, not experience it but to understand what I was going through, and it was all-encompassing. It took over my life and because it took over my life it took over her life. It started dragging our families down. The folks with Meniere’s patients are folks that are sick in general. Any kind of disease or addiction or it doesn’t just affect them, it affects the world around them. Getting the appropriate help to get through those processes, to get through those experiences, and to get past them is so beneficial and so necessary. That’s pretty much where we are.
This has made such a drastic impact on your life. Why don’t you tell us what you’re up to now and your mission on helping a ton of other people out?
It changed everything, how I approach life now has shifted for the better. People say Meniere’s disease is this awful thing in their lives. It changes their lives and for the worse. I can say it’s changed mine for the better. It has allowed me to view my family. It has allowed me to be more mindful, present, and appreciate everything that I have as much as I can. I had blinders on. I would get through the day. My personal life has been significantly changed. I make mistakes constantly. I’m human but I do the best I can. Everything is a little bit sweeter, which is fantastic.
The experience was so profound for me. It stemmed from the chiropractic care from coming to see you and how the symptoms were disappearing. For a while, I didn’t want to go back to where I was. I wanted to pretend it didn’t happen. I wanted to move on with my life. I’m like, “That’s something that happened.” I’m good now and I’m going to walk away. I remember all the folks who are still suffering and all the folks who don’t realize that there is a non-surgical or non-medication. You don’t have to pump yourself full of stuff to get significant symptom relief to beat something that they can’t even significantly find the cause for. I had this knowledge and I felt like I couldn’t sit on it. I talk to people about it and the response I always get and the response that I feel is like, “How does everyone not know about this? How does every block not have a Blair chiropractor?” Everyone’s walking around hunky dory. It’s not the end of it all for everything but like how is this not more common knowledge? It was so beneficial, and it changed me so significantly, not only that but the experience. I came here a lot to get the care.
I cannot stress that enough because I had one woman and I saw her two times. She had excruciating low back pain for 30 years. She was probably in her 60s. I gave her an adjustment and she did great. She balanced out perfectly. She came in for her second visit and she was holding her adjustment. When we say someone’s holding their adjustment, their legs are balanced, their hips are balanced, their nervous system is completely intact. Now we have to let the body do its job of healing itself, which doesn’t happen overnight. She probably has been out of alignment for 30, 40, maybe even 50 years. She’s been under care for one week. She was like, “I’m not getting any better. I don’t think I’m going to come in for my third appointment,” and I was laughing. It’s not a magic pill. It’s a process. If I got one upper cervical adjustment and called it quits, I would not be here now and you’re the same way. It was a process and that makes it so sweet.
Anything that’s worth doing easy isn’t easy. Through that process in addition to wanting to spread the word of how beneficial this can be for other Meniere’s disease sufferers or patients, being here and seeing all of the different walks of life who come in and all the different ailments and not knowing what it is. Some of them are very physiological, very physical you can see and sometimes maybe seeing all the different people that are in here, different age groups all walks of life, all leaving with the same benefits.
It’s inappropriate to know about all of them. It’s none of my business but I’m sure that you know a lot of patients that I look at and they look absolutely fine are going through some heavy stuff that you have provided significant relief for. It’s that knowledge that I can’t sit on. I can’t go back. I can’t be the meat suit and put my blinders back on and go about my day. I had to speak to you. I’m good. I’m fixed so I only care about me. It’s a need to help as many people as I can through no other reason. They can get better. You don’t have to suffer. There are other young adults, children, grandparents and parents. I read an article online. There was a woman who is in her mid-30s. She has drop episodes three, four times a week. She has two young children. She can’t work. She’s nervous about going to the store. She won’t leave the house because she’s afraid she’s going to hit the ground and not be able to care for her children. I don’t know if it can solve every problem everywhere. I want to encourage our audience, please don’t self-diagnosis. Go get the diagnostic tests.
If this can help somebody like that, who am I to keep that to myself because I’m good? I wouldn’t be able to sleep with myself at night. My time and effort going into spreading that word are worth every second. I started a company called Life In Spite Of. I put some videos online. If you’re interested, you can go to LifeInSpiteOf.com. There are videos on there. I also have a Meniere’s treatment program that’s on there that Dr. Kevin is involved in.
I’m glad to be a part of it because there’s nothing like that out there for these patients. Dr. Burcon in Michigan has a great institute. What type of services are you providing?
The idea of how I came up with it was I was very fortunate because I live very close to your office, so I was able to get here. It’s for folks who don’t know about upper cervical chiropractic care, who don’t know about Blair technique, who don’t have regular access to it or they find it in their area but they’re looking for somebody reputable or somebody that they trust or somebody who has been there and has experience in treating Meniere’s patients. As a Meniere’s patient that’s been treated, Dr. Kevin absolutely, positively does have those experiences at this point in time not only with me but with other patients. It’s that knowledge based that I wanted to focus on. A key element that I noticed that was missing in a lot of treatment protocols is a psychological component.
Think about a hospital, a lot of the different doctors. If you’re in an emergency room and if you need specialties they all operate very differently, there’s not a set protocol of, “We have to get this, that and the other thing,” and a lot of it is physiological. The upper cervical chiropractic care can help with the physiological. It could help to get the body in alignment. It can help re-adjusting those nerves and re-adjusting the spine. It can help losing no symptoms. What about that woman I spoke about that’s having multiple drop episodes a week and she’s afraid of life through no fault of her own? What kind of psychological support is built into a treatment protocol? That’s where I reached out to my buddy, Jeff Hugues, who is an excellent counselor. I’ve known him for quite a few years.
He has helped you out tremendously.
He has been in practice for a number of years now. What Jeff does so remarkably is he has an innate ability to be respectful, be appropriate, and tell people exactly what they need to make progress. He adjusts his approach based on what each individual patient need. If you are going to grow psychologically, it’s not necessarily beneficial to hear only what you want to hear. You need to hear what you need to hear. You need to get information. You need to get either whether it’s a coping mechanism or a homework that you have to work on or areas of your life that you need to strengthen or whatever it is, which are oftentimes somewhat uncomfortable.
What he does very well is he has the ability to highlight those areas to tell you what you need to do, specifically make it tangible, so it’s not overwhelming, and deliver it an appropriate way that is beneficial to each individual person. The guy gives, just as you give pretty much all you have to all your patients. He does the same thing for all of his patients. I noticed that both the physiological with the chiropractic care with the Blair technique and the psychological, the experience that I’ve had in the past, if I marry the two of those together, it was a nice balance for folks who are suffering from Meniere’s disease. Life In Spite Of is not only to catalog my journey or create some videos that some people who suffer from the disease may see as a benefit or some good information, but primarily and even more importantly, get the message out there of upper cervical chiropractic care.
You don’t have to take all these medications. There’s hope out there. That downward spiral can be broken without heavy medication or surgical intervention. Maybe open up the possibility of some kind of holistic care. In addition to that, I wanted to focus and help folks who have specifically what I have, who you can’t talk to the experience unless you’ve experienced it yourself. I was originally thinking about a support group, that’s a form of healing but there’s only one form. I wanted to provide as much access as I could to both the physiological and the psychological healing process.
You and I partnered up originally and so you’ll be taking care of the upper cervical chiropractic care. They’ll be coming in as patients to see you. You’ll take all the diagnostic tests necessary. You will look and you will work on that specific adjustment for them. Then in addition to under the program, Jeff will come in and provide whatever support is necessary. Whether you’ve been suffering from Meniere’s disease for twenty years, you find yourself isolated. You lost your spouse, you’re not talking to your kids, and now you’re feeling better, how do you re-engage your life? How do you reach out? What does that look like?
How did you get the rest of the family involved to help support you as well?
How do you best verbalize what you’re doing? How do you best verbalize what these experiences have done to you and allow yourself to listen to what those experiences are from your spouse, from your partner, or from your significant other? Open those lines of communication of healing not body-wise but emotionally. It sounds a little cornball but that’s the spice of life. That’s what it’s all about. We’re social beings by nature. We could feel awesome if we don’t go anywhere, how beneficial is that? Re-engaging your life is where Jeff comes in. In addition to that, I’m functioning as a coach. That’s the last part that I’ve found that’s different from a lot of other treatment programs that are out there.
There aren’t any Blair practitioners in Europe. The entire State of New York doesn’t have one and there are a lot of states that don’t have poor practitioners. When you do come in here, we will give you the proper listings and the proper people to follow up with to continue this care. We’ll give them all the information that has worked for you. All we have to do is call the nearest Blair practitioner up saying, “This person is doing extremely well with these adjustments. They’re holding and they’re responding to their adjustments.” This is what you can do to help them with these patients and get their life back.
We’ll be offering services for local patients as well as traveling patients. Traveling patients, for the most part, to get a little bit into the specifics. Let me talk about my value. Dr. Kevin and I live in the area and so I know the best place to stay. I’ve suffered Meniere’s disease. I know what it’s like to be going through these experiences. If you’re in the area, you don’t want to go to a rock show. You want to go to a quiet museum. I know those places to visit and I have some insight into that. If you do come in or traveling, I have that information.
I’ve been through the experiences of that isolationism and nobody can quite understand. In addition to that not only being where you were but have been where you’re going as you start to get better, if you look with upper cervical chiropractic care and you start to experience retracing specifically with Meniere’s disease, it’s very powerful and it’s very impactful. How do you manage that? Just to have somebody as a sounding board who’s literally been through it is worth its weight in gold in my opinion. That’s my value-add. You have your physiological, psychological, and then you have somebody who’s literally been there.
A lot of these patients who have Meniere’s have intense diet restrictions. A lot of salt will throw them for a drop attack. They need to know the places where they can get “safe meal” without going nuts.
A lot of this stuff needs to be in conjunction with their traditional medicinal approach. If you’re looking at this and you’re considering the program this could be an add-on. You can work with Dr. Kevin and you can talk to exactly what you’re going through or what regimen you’re currently on and I did myself. When I first came here, I was on eight different types of medication at once. It was overwhelming. He helped me manage that process and systematically you lose all of it. Now, I’m not taking anything for Meniere’s anyway. It can be a nice addition to your health care regimen. In terms of the specific program local patients versus traveling patients, our traveling program right now you can visit LifeInSpiteOf.com. You can check it out for yourself. There is a survey on there so please fill that out and I’ll call you directly. We’re looking at about a week for a traveling patient. If you can stay longer as longer is always better, we can always adjust for that. It’s basically seven days.
Within that week is multiple chiropractic checks as well as the adjustment and diagnostic tests, multiple psychological sessions or counseling sessions with Jeff to talk about that life re-engagement, to talk about the next step, to talk about what you’re going to feel. Then multiple coaching sessions with myself to talk about the realistic expectations of the healing process and what it’s going to feel like. The local patients are longer. It’s more like a three-week program. Both follow the same protocol, it’s the length of time due to availability. That’s the difference to give a little insight.
Shawn, what is one piece of advice that you have taken with you over the years that has resonated with you that you would like to share with everybody?
Find joy in your life. I’m not going to take credit for that. I heard a speech by Matthew McConaughey. It talked about joy versus happiness. What he says is, “Happiness is a destination. It’s something that you’re working towards, it’s someplace to get to. Joy is the feeling and the outcome of every day and everything you do. Joy is the journey. Happiness is a destination. The problem is you’re setting yourself up for success or failure with happiness. Joy, there is no success or failure. It is the journey.” It is that process and it’s something that I have heard through the years. It kept popping back into my life over time. It’s something that my wife and I have spoken about so much that she wears a bracelet that says joy on it because it’s such an integral part of our life. It talks about being mindful, being present, and being appreciative for all that we have and all that we do.
Shawn, thanks for coming on and sharing your story.
Thank you very much for having me. I appreciate it.
I’m excited to get this going and working with you. We’re going to help a lot of people.
Thanks for joining us.
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