I’m completely stunned.
I slowly let the phone drop from my ear, out of my hand and then onto the desk. I don’t even remember what exactly the receptionist said, but what I heard was “Sorry, it will be about a year…”
The anxiety starts to rise. Please breathe. I just need to keep breathing. I can’t catch my breath. I’m going to die, I am sure of it. I sit down and immediately start sliding off the over-sized computer chair and crumble onto the cold, hard floor. I am falling falling falling into the dark abyss of mind that won’t let me have a moment of peace so I can think clearly. Instead it grips me with fear, telling me that I will definitely die and that no one is able to save me.
I can feel the frantic energy of my husband as he sits awkwardly cradling me in his arms; repeatedly asking me in a loud shaky voice if I am OK. I am not. He calls 9-1-1 as my negative mantra is said aloud through choking gulps of air, “They’re going to let me die, They’re going to let me die.”
Back to the Beginning
In September 2012, our lives changed during a trip to Manhattan, New York. We went there to celebrate my husband’s birthday, to practice yoga and to eat and drink our bellies into contentment.
However, from the moment I blinked my eyes open on day two, I felt a shift. There was a lot of discomfort below my waist. Not being prone to womanly issues, I had immediate feelings of confusion and concern, but figured I would feel better once I researched home remedies.
My hope was that I could keep the worst of it at bay until we got home to Canada. I tried to recall the last time I had this condition, but I didn’t remember it feeling so intense. The pain got worse. After a few days, I had to take over-the-counter painkillers with my natural mix of meds, hoping that I would find some relief. Unfortunately it was not to be. Our week holiday in NYC was a huge disappointment. I had to rest every 15 minutes as we toured the city, and even with continuous rest, the pain was getting increasingly worse in my belly, pelvis and legs.
The Painful Road
Since NYC, my health journey has been filled with extreme lows sprinkled in with good moments. Over the past year, I have been in and out of hospitals; tested, poked and sent away with deep confusion clouding the emergency room doctor’s eyes.
I can tell a few of them really wanted to help but had no idea where to begin or what extra tests to do. No one knew why I was in so much pain and yet still so healthy. In their minds, I wasn’t the typical overweight, inactive, low-immune-system woman that usually has this type of pain. They couldn’t just tell me to lose weight or to change my diet.
The health care system in Alberta, Canada, is broken. What this meant for me at the time is that after seven months of extreme pain, hospital visits, regular family doctor visits, elimination diets and changing supplements, I was unable to see a specialist for another year. I found out that bit of information in a casual phone chat with my doctor’s receptionist.
My body was breaking down. There was no way I could go on. I was having a full blown panic attack. However, after a few minutes of absolute love and reassurance from my husband and a wonderful 9-1-1 operator, I was able to regain my breath and calm down enough to start the process of figuring out what the next step was going to be. My physical pain was now starting to attack my mind. I needed a new plan.
The Power of the Mind
The biggest factor in my pain management is my mental state. After paying out-of-pocket for a specialist, getting a diagnosis and medication that I need to take for a whole year, I realized that I needed to calm down. My mind is ridiculously overactive. I get stressed quickly and take on more than I can handle.
If there is a blessing (and I only say this because I need to have learned something from this ordeal—otherwise I’ll tear my hair out) it is that I have no choice but to closely watch my stress and anxiety levels, diet, sleep, work hours and recreation time. This, to me, is the true meaning of living consciously—to be awake.
My New Normal
I would prefer not to tell the world what I’ve been diagnosed with, as I don’t believe that will serve any purpose. I do, however, want to share a seemingly obvious thought—that the mind and body are deeply connected. My experience tells me that in order for the body to heal, the mind must heal.
I will no longer exercise my body without exercising my mind or nurture my muscles without finding a way to nurture my mental state. I am doing my best to take time out to relax, enjoy my down time and to find a deeper sense of meaning. I am becoming stronger because of it.
My life is always going to busy, but I need to remember that even though I am a massage therapist, yoga teacher and nutritionist, this does not guarantee that I am an expert on taking care of myself. In fact, I do a better job of taking care of others.
It’s been a long process to get here, but I am mildly grateful for my disease because I now live my life with intention and clarity. I don’t know when or how I will die, but I do know that I will die, and so will you. It could be sooner, it may be later. And so I refuse to live wishing my situation was different.
It’s not that if I could ask for another outcome, I wouldn’t take it, but I will not let my disease define me. I choose to be defined by something different—making the most of each day and loving the life I’ve been given.
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Editorial Assistant: Pamela Mooman / Editor: Renee Picard
Photo: elephant journal archives