The idea of “health” is a curated image reflecting social norms, plagued by inequality, and undermines the human experience.
February 22 marks the five year anniversary of my mom’s death, which also signifies the beginning of a tough health battle. Today marks a milestone in my journey of uncovering the wholeness within.
Grief is weird. My mom’s death brought me a lot of peace- it had been a long battle for her with mental illness and addiction. I no longer had to worry about her well-being, her whereabouts, and her safety. This triggered a massive shift in my health; I was finally released from fight-or-flight, abuse, and uncertainty and transported into the unknown of slowing down, taking care of myself, and learning about who I was outside of being my mom’s caregiver.
February 22, 2015 was the day I lost my mom, but the loss was far from over. It was the months thereafter where I experienced immense brokenness and emptiness. In just one year, I lost 30 pounds, and I lost my menstrual cycle. I began overexercising and under-eating. I was taking anti-depressants and birth control just trying to keep everything together. But from the outside, I looked okay. I ran a marathon, graduated from undergraduate studies with honors, and got certified to teach yoga. I was eating all the healthy foods, doing yoga daily, going to a counselor once per week, volunteering in my local community, and attending church regularly. Despite all the accolades and accomplishments I attained, I knew there was something I had put on along the way that was hindering me from moving forward into my fullest expression.
Maybe it was an attempt to fill the void. I aspired and achieved but had the debilitating fear that if I allowed the dust to settle by slowing down, what would rise to the surface would be ugly. Once I saw the ugliness- even worse, once others saw the ugliness- I would be irreparably broken, incapable of connection, and destined for failure. So, I kept caking on accomplishments and activity to my schedule, despite my bodies deterioration, heaviness, and suffering.
I experienced severe fatigue and crippling stomach pain. I had no period, low red blood cells, anemia, low platelet counts, and low white blood cells. I saw all the doctors and got all the tests. I got diagnosed with depression, stomach ulcers, gluten intolerance, and one doctor suspected I had leukemia. I read all the articles and took all the vitamins.
I was trying to effort my way to healing when healing was available so long that I slowed down to receive it.
Healing is not easy, but it is ease-ful. Healing came when I sat with myself and listened.
Disclaimer: This is my journey. I acknowledge that everyone’s journey is unique. I acknowledge my privilege in being a cis-gendered, white, female growing up in the US having access to tertiary education and a roof over my head. I am not offering a one-size-fits-all plan. I am also not saying that my journey is over- I continue to learn and grow everyday.
Step One…Get Help
Make the doctor’s appointment. See the counselor. Send the text. Do the thing. Don’t wait another 6 months, when you had wished you had started sooner. Don’t wait for the power to do it or something to tip you over the edge- you will receive the power to do it by doing it.
Do the thing, and you will have the power.Ruby Chandler
It was crucial in my healing journey to surround myself with people who want what is best for me, and that includes healing, sitting with the hard emotions, listening without judgment, and loving me unconditionally. It was critical that the people around me were empowering and uplifting, especially when things felt hopeless.
Help can sometimes be quite an investment. I went to a naturopath, several specialist doctors, counselors, dietitians, acupuncturist, and finally a hormone coach. This was important to give up control and allow people to guide me. I already had a lot on my plate and surrendering set me up to slow down to get in tune with myself. That’s why I think my hormone coach was most effective; she was constantly pointing me back to my intuition.
Step Two…Listen to Your Hell Yeah
All of the people around me, including my family, friends, and doctors, told me things I did or didn’t want to hear. Both of which could at times be hindering to my progress. What was most important to my healing was listening to myself.
This began by, believe it or not, ordering food at restaurants. Rather than picking the healthiest option or ordering what everyone else was ordering, I sat with myself to decipher what I wanted. I didn’t always get it right; sometimes I ordered gross foods or my stomach would still hurt afterwards. This gave me the opportunity to extend myself grace, say “how human of me”, and try again next time.
This intuition exercise began transferring to other decision like planning trips, choosing a city to move to after graduation, and applying for jobs. Sometimes I even place one hand on my belly and one hand on my heart. I stop and listen; then, I don’t question it. I call this my “hell yeah” (thanks to Heidi). I look at all of my options, get still, wait until I have all of the information necessary to make a decision, then immediately follow my intuition. It becomes easier and easier each time that I do it.
It began by ordering food at a restaurant then having tough conversations that set boundaries then applying for my visa to move to Australia then signing up for a hormone coach. With a lot of other “hell yeah”s in between.
End of the Story…for now
After slowing down, surrendering control, and listening to my intuition, I am proud to say that I have reclaimed my period, can go through the day without having a nap, applied for a Masters of Public Health at the University of Melbourne, and started my dream job at a yoga studio in an artsy suburb of the greatest city on earth which I get to call home. My journey is not over, but my body continues to give me the tools necessary to care for myself. So here is to my body and to more hell yeah’s in my future!