First of all, I owe a THANK YOU to Glennon Doyle Melton for sharing her story which led me to find a piece of my own truth.
Now, on to my story:
On March 1, 2016, I was lying on a gurney, IV in my arm, preparing for a brain scan and other tests to confirm that I did/did not have a small stroke. The right side of my face was numb, I had blurry vision that came and went, I had positional vertigo, I was nauseous, my neck and back of my skull were throbbing and I just felt beyond exhausted.
Well, I didn’t have a stroke. Thank God! But that was the start of several months of searching for answers. For 7 months, I went through theories of my symptoms. The vertigo subsided but every day I had neck pain, throbbing headaches from the back of my head, facial numbness/tingling and I was constantly nauseous, fighting exhaustion. I felt like I had constant morning sickness. Every. single. Day.
I went to the eye doc to check for eye strain. I went to the dentist for jaw clenching. I went to the GI doc for reflux attacks and nausea. I went to the neurologist for the headaches. I had a brain MRI (result = “unremarkable”), I had blood tests, hormone tests, breath tests and all kinds of other tests. My hormones were checked – I was turning 40 in this span – nothing remarkable to report. The GI doc waived away my “reflux attacks” and said since they were in my throat, not my chest, they were neck-related, not stomach-related. Every doctor visit ended with “I don’t really see anything.”
The diagnoses were:
Migraines with brain stem aura, TMJ and stress-related throat constriction. Maybe I should be checked for sleep apnea. It may be stress. “This sounds like stress. Maybe you should do neck PT or get some massages.” Every answer was similar, “we see nothing really, it may be stress-related”. So, big PHEW on the “you don’t have anything medically wrong with you” but WTF on the “you don’t have anything medically wrong with you” answer.
Throughout these several months, the responses from every type of medical professional was along the same line:
“You should really work on building muscle”
“Are you getting enough sleep?”
“You should work on losing weight”
“You should work on moving and exercise”
“This really appears to be stress-related”
Stress? Seriously? I didn’t buy it. My stress is the same as always, why would this be causing so much distress to my body when nothing in my world has changed?
But maybe things had changed and I was ignoring it. My obligations were growing. My commute that was supposed to be temporary was beginning to look like it would be permanent. Money seemed to be thinner and thinner with each passing month. And I thought I was handling it all fine.
I gave up processed food. I gave up dairy and gluten. I tried to track my sleep. Nothing changed.
I started physical therapy in July for plantar faciitis. During the PT consult, I had to explain my history – when I was in the hospital as an infant with meningitis, the doctors discovered that I had hip dysplasia. I was put in traction and then casted. As I grew, I spent time in casts, metal braces and, eventually, softer knee braces to get through high school and college athletics. Back in 1976, no doctor thought I’d be athletic, but I stayed in shape and was able to get even play a D-I sport in college on scholarship. But, I will admit that I spent time in pain. After long tennis matches or soccer games, I did have throbbing knee pain at night, which had me nail down a good routine of ibuprofen and ice downs of both knees.
Then, I started to realize what I was missing. And I guess I allowed myself to start thinking these doctors could be slightly correct. What was missing was how I cared about ME during this entire process of living.
I had gained weight. I had stopped meditating completely. I had stopped exercising completely. I was stress eating. I wasn’t sleeping much. Those things were things I HAD CONTROL OVER. Why the heck wasn’t I fixing those things??
I was going through the motions and just handling everything. But “just handling” wasn’t really my optimal level of living successfully. So, after some reluctance, many excuses, some stops and starts and even some pain, here we go. In Glennon’s words (from Love Warrior), I am on a:
Mind Body Soul Reunion
This isn’t about finding time for me to get pedicures. This is about those things that make me whole again.October 2016 is the beginning of the reunion and it is going like this:
- I joined Weight Watchers.
- I joined the gym (I did win a free annual membership in a golf tournament).
- I am going to try yoga for the first time (through Udemy at first).
- I am going to complete my physical therapy appointments for my foot, hip and knee and soon, my neck (while actually doing the exercises at home too).
- I am going to meditate again every night, at home (where my kids will have to start getting used to leaving me alone for the 5-10 minutes without interrupting).
This sounds so simple. And it sounds a little complicated too. It may be a lot for someone who is a mom, wife, city Board of Ed member who, with a full-time job + commute, is gone from the house for almost 12 hours just for work – before any other obligations kick in.
It also sounds like the 1,000 prior promises I have made to myself in the past. But by looking at this as a complete Mind Body Soul Reunion, and not a simple “I am gonna diet next week” promise, I think and hope and feel like I can do this because it is for the reasons I’ve finally clearly spelled out to myself. I do believe in baby steps, which is what a lot of this will be (2-5 minute meditations, gym workouts that don’t leave me in pain for days, etc.)
Part of the awakening is realizing that your body is the only one you have. I walk up 2 flights of stairs to my car after work and feel my hip and knee fighting me. My back and neck seem chronically achy and things just don’t seem to work like they are supposed to for a healthy body. I. AM. ONLY. 40. I cannot fathom letting this continue to deteriorate and be looking at a hip replacement at 50 because I didn’t take care of myself.
So, when this all started 6 months ago, I (thankfully) did not have a stroke. It certainly woke me the heck up. I have spent every single day for the past 7+ months wanting to just feel better. I think acknowledging that I didn’t need a doctor to hand me a pill and that I could start this process myself was my first step.
Now, onto the next steps…forward.