Friday, 29 August 2014

a health lottery

So, here we are. Those of you who have tried to see a show of mine recently will probably have noticed they have one defining characteristic: I rarely actually make it. As much as I can write endless jolly blog posts about my health and cancellations and how sorry I am - I've recently had to say it so often that it's begun to sound disingenuous - it's about time we actually had a proper chat about it.

I am Not Very Well.

The long and short of it is I have a problem with my inner ear on one side or the other, leading to balance problems (I get to feel quite drunk, without spending any money on alcohol), nausea that not even ginger can shake and often hot flushes for that added menopausal feel. My hearing on one side can sometimes cut out, feel clogged, or generally be replaced by tinnitus. Add to this I can't walk for any great distance, be on my feet for longer than twenty-five minutes at any one time or be in a noisy environment for longer than a few minutes and the picture is more or less complete. Ben Marwood is a broken human being.

The interesting thing about the inner ear, and by interesting I do mean ridiculous, is that unlike when you hurt your arm it generally heals itself once you re-set it, once you damage your inner ear it'll never get better. Neat, eh? Instead, to recover, your brain has to re-learn how to read the brand new signals from your inner ear, restructured like the house on a home improvement show, only one where the Before was fine and the After is ruined.

How did this happen? What has attacked my beloved lughole? I don't really know. I was similarly ill in February, but I first knowingly went down with this at the end of May and start of June (Cardiff, Derby and Durham fell victim to my cancellation spree), but bounced back fairly quickly. It struck again in the first or second week of July, meaning I spent the day before and after my 2000Trees show curled tightly in a ball wondering what was happening to my body, and it's been downhill since then. I got signed off work, stayed with my parents for a while, and cancelled a fundraiser show in Reading whilst feeling like a dick.

I'm on some pretty neat medication which essentially dulls the signals from ear to brain and takes care of the nausea so as long as I don't stand up or do much in the way of activity I make a passable attempt at normal life, albeit the life of someone who has to work from home, is a bit lop-sided and has to avoid loud noises. For this reason I thought I might take a stab at doing the Cardiff show sitting down, with my monitors turned off and some earplugs in (no, no laughing, I'm being serious), but a meeting with the specialist this week finally put paid to my masterplan - in order to get better I need to restore the signals from ear to brain, and this involves coming off my great medication.

As someone who doesn't even like taking paracetamol, that's fine by me, but the last time I tried coming off this stuff and restore my natural state, it was particularly messy in a 'lie on the bed and cling on for dear life' kinda way. So, doing a show is out of the question as for the next few weeks I'll be staring into the mouth of the beast and, as with most rehab, forcing my body to do stupid things it desperately wants to not do. It's not all bad news though - I'm told that once I kick my habit (two to three weeks) and start my rehabilitation, I might see some improvement from two weeks onwards, which puts us right on the doorstep of my London and Birmingham shows four weeks from now. The chances of a recovery by then, although slim, are not none. I'll keep everyone posted where I can.

In the meantime I'm also being rewarded with an MRI. I'm hoping I get a sticker if I'm a really good boy in the machine and do everything the experts tell me to.

This has been a horrendous six or seven weeks which has affected a lot of people in my life, from the gigs and gig-goers to the people I work with in my day job who suddenly have had more work to deal with, and have done so without being anything other than supportive. It's affected me most, obviously. I was due to go into the studio at the start of October to work on new material which now won't be happening quite yet, I also got brave and booked myself a holiday to New York which is now up in the air (which just goes to show, time off just doesn't suit me), I've had to close the webshop until this is over and I feel like an idiot a lot of the time, not least when the specialist asked me to march on the spot with my eyes closed, and my ears rotated me to face a different direction entirely. The medical professionals tell you this signifies there is an imbalance in the inner ear. I will tell you I am just no good at marching.

But, rest easy. I assume this can't last forever and I'll be back one day. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the network of family and friends who check in with me regularly, some of them every day. I'm in the best possible hands, and it's worth mentioning that this healthcare is largely paid for by the day job that people are always telling me I shouldn't need.

So that's it for now. Thanks for the cards and the well-wishes, and I'll keep you updated on my next two shows when I can.


  1. Wishing you well and sending you healing thoughts from Boston! Come back and see us sometime soon when you're better!

  2. That sucks. I'm sure you will but get well soon.