Life can change on a dime

Several weeks ago my wife noted an uncomfortable pressure in her ear. A few days later, she was diagnosed with an acute condition called idiopathic sensorineural hearing loss. She had lost significant hearing in one ear. In the same week, she began a series of injections of cortisone into her middle ear — trust me, they were not a day at the beach. Several weeks earlier, we were lying on a beach in Greece soaking up the sun — but today we are worried that she will have a permanent hearing impairment.

Life can change on a dime.

One moment we are happy, carefree, and comfortable. The next moment we or someone we love is struggling with a life-changing circumstance. This happened recently on a warm summer evening in Mukilteo. Scores of lives were changed in a single instant.

Our first response is shock. How could this happen to me or someone I love? It takes a little time to wrap your arms around an abrupt change. Soon after, anger follows. Why me? Everything was going so well. Fear and anxiety come along for the ride too. When our lives change suddenly, without warning, our sense of security is threatened. We like to think that our lives are predictable. Yes, we know the sun will always rise and set in the same 24 hours. But everything else is a crap shoot.

As I grow older, despite all of my good health habits, health problems are more likely to pop up than when I was 25. Of course that’s obvious. But when my shoulder starts to throb, or my wife gets sick, or I develop a new concern, I find myself feeling distressed. It can seem like a good life can become a miserable one quickly.

So how can we cope with sudden changes of fortune when circumstances go from good to bad?

Life is change. It’s good to remember this, especially when circumstances are either good or bad. Everything changes from one state of affairs to another. Reflect: Many bad events turned into new opportunities. A break up is painful, but can later open up the possibility of a new, more enriching relationship. A loss of a job can result in finding a new position that is better than the old one.

Don’t project into the future. It is a natural tendency for many adults to project what they feel today into the future. What if I am permanently disabled? What if I always feel down? What if my shoulder always hurts? Focus on today; hope for a better day tomorrow.

Acknowledge your feelings. My wife was feeling dreadfully sorry for herself, as I was for her. She was worried and so was I. These distressing feelings have to have their day and it is important to let them be. They will eventually change too, just like the weather in Washington.

Perspective is helpful. I can remember many times in the past when my life changed on a dime. Many of the situations that I worried over turned out differently than I imagined. With the perspective of time, we learn that many circumstances find their own natural resting place in our life.

Human beings are highly adaptable. We are amazing creatures. We can adapt to many challenging circumstances and find ways of compensating. Don’t underestimate your adaptive ability.

Seek help and support from others. Let friends and family know what you are going through. Support and warm wishes often come from surprising places.

Dr. Paul Schoenfeld is director of The Everett Clinic’s Center for Behavioral Health. His blog can be found at

Talk to us

More in Life

Kotor's zigzagging town wall rewards climbers with a spectacular view. (Cameron Hewitt / Rick Steves' Europe)
Rick Steves: Just south of Dubrovnik lies unpolished Montenegro

One of Europe’s youngest nations offers dramatic scenery, locals eager to show off their unique land, and a refreshing rough-around-the-edges appeal.

Dark gray wheels and black exterior accents provide extra visual appeal for the 2024 Subaru Impreza’s RS trim. (Subaru)
2024 Subaru Impreza loses a little, gains a lot

The brand’s compact car is fully redesigned. A couple of things are gone, but many more have arrived.

TSR image for calendar
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

This weekend in Snohomish: The Snohomish Blues Invasion and the Snohomish Studio Tour 2023.

Made by Bruce Hutchison, the poster for “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave” is an homage to 1985 classic “The Goonies.” (Photo provided)
Indie film premiering on Whidbey Island

Filmed almost entirely on Whidbey Island, “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave” is set to premiere in Langley.

TSR image only
Does your elementary school child have ADHD?

It’s important to identify children with this condition so we can help them succeed in school.

This photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic. In a race against the clock on the high seas, an expanding international armada of ships and airplanes searched Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for the submersible that vanished in the North Atlantic while taking five people down to the wreck of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
A new movie based on OceanGate’s Titan submersible tragedy is in the works: ‘Salvaged’

MindRiot announced the film, a fictional project titled “Salvaged,” on Friday.

A clump of flowering ornamental grass or pennisetum alopecuroides in an autumn garden.
My garden runneth over with fountain grasses, and for good reason

These late-blooming perennials come in many varieties. They work well as accents, groundcovers, edgings or in containers.

This Vacasa rental is disgusting. Can I get my money back?

The vacation rental Carol Wilson books for her group through Vacasa is infested with rats and insects. Vacasa offers to refund one night, but can they get all of their money back?

A woman diverts from her walk on Colby Avenue to take a closer look at a pickup truck that was partly crushed by a fallen tree during an overnight wind storm Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in north Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / Herald file)
Storm season is coming. Here’s how to prepare for power outages.

The most important action you can take is to make an emergency preparedness kit.

Most Read