I have a confession to make: I nearly had a panic attack yesterday.
Now, anyone who’s known me for years knows that it’s not highly unusual for me to be hit with a massive case of nerves from time to time. In fact, even as a young child I suffered from crippling anxiety.
With time, counseling, and hard work, I learned to overcome many of my fears and triggers, which is why yesterday caught me completely off guard. I wasn’t prepared at all for the intense feelings I experienced.
What caused the adrenaline rush?
Well, for the first time in many months, I found myself back in the town where I experienced a major health crisis last year. I was sitting in my Naturopath’s office, waiting to be seen, when the sights and sounds reminded me of how sick I was the last time I was there.
Just before my heart started pounding out of my chest and before my palms could break out in a sweat, however, I had an even stronger realization that even though I was in the same location – I was no longer the same person!
I changed so much this past year.
After caregiving for my mother until her death two years ago, I moved across the country to be near my then-boyfriend (and now-husband). It wasn’t until the poop hit the fan, as they say, that I realized why “they” also warn about making any major life changes after significant loss, such as when a loved one dies.
In the mess of grief, loneliness, and confusion, I wasn’t surprised that it triggered a flare-up of my ulcerative colitis and landed me in the hospital for a few days. That was nothing, though, to prepare me for the drama that unfolded next.
See, in the preceding months, as my life became more and more entangled in caring for the needs of others, I watched my self-care habits slip away slowly. I was completely aware of what was happening, but felt powerless to stop it.
What began as a mild case of adrenal fatigue continued to progress over time until my hospitalization was the final straw. By that point, my adrenal glands completely quit and less than a week after I was discharged, they were loading me back into an ambulance to transport me to the emergency room in an adrenal crisis.
It was no fun, let me tell you.
While they initially sent me home, I spent the next month on bed rest with my widowed father flying into town to stay with me while I figured out how I was going to keep my job and pay my bills. I was so weak that I could barely walk across my apartment without needing to stop to catch my breath.
It was a miserable existence and I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before in all my years as both a patient and a nurse.
Finally, I didn’t have a choice but to return to the hospital when during a routine check-up my doctor found that my blood pressure had skyrocketed to more than 200/110. (That’s dangerous territory, my friends. We’re talking stroke-inducing territory.)
Once again, I found myself being loaded into the back of an ambulance with no idea what was going on in my body.
The next couple of weeks were some of the darkest of my life. I was angry, I was depressed, and I felt completely abandoned.
As I lay in bed at the rehabilitation hospital, tolerating only a few minutes of physical therapy at a time, I couldn’t stop myself from sobbing tears of frustration, begging my doctors and nurses to give me some hope that it would get better.
My days revolved around waiting for my boyfriend to show up after work each day since all of my own family was now 3000 miles away and being new in town, I didn’t know many other people. It was a huge burden on him, but I never heard him complain.
When they decided I was strong enough to go home, but not to return to work, I spent each day determined to notice some small gains or progress – anything to let me know that I wouldn’t be resigned to my current state for the rest of my life.
I kept obsessive notes about everything – the smallest dose decreases in my medication, an extra lap around the house, fewer hours between hypertensive episodes.
My body was a MESS!
So why do I share this with you? It’s because if there was only one thing I was able to do during that time, it was to think, and to think, and then to think some more.
Even reading was too tiring, so I would stare at the ceiling for hours, waiting for the alarm to signal that it was time for my next dose of medication, gently working on targeted acupressure points since it was the only form of physical therapy I could tolerate in my condition.
Every single evening I would cry while my boyfriend hugged me, asking him if he would still love me even if this is all I could do for the rest of my life. I even tried to persuade him to send me to live with my aunt on the East Coast so that I wouldn’t be burdening him or his family any more.
(I know. It sounds a little melodramatic.) I would feel more pathetic if he weren’t so loving about reassuring me that all we could do was take it one day at a time. He said we would cross that bridge if we came to it. His loving support was truly an answer to my prayers and one of the few things that kept me (relatively) sane during that time.
What I decided is that while the extreme circumstances that led to my debility may not have been entirely within my control, I DID have a choice in how I responded to my current situation.
I knew how to heal. When I was first diagnosed with an autoimmune disease back in 2004, I was a naïve 18-year-old, green to the world, and had never even been to the doctor for a cold.
I suffered for nearly five years with daily symptoms and multiple hospitalizations before I finally learned how to get to the root of my illness and start healing from the inside out. When I did, the results were even more than I anticipated.
I got to the point where I no longer required prescription medications and had more strength and energy than I could remember having in my entire life. That’s why I felt like the rug was pulled out from under my feet last year when everything I had built seemed to crumble.
I spent plenty of time feeling like a failure – as a nurse, as a health coach, as a daughter, and as a girlfriend – and then realized that it didn’t need to take me five years to heal this time. I now had all the tools and resources at my disposal.
I had a much steeper climb, no doubt, with more obstacles than I was used to, but it was a now-or-never, do-or-die kind of feeling as I began plotting my course.
I was strict with myself about what I ate, budgeted my energy to the minute, and stubbornly tapered my unnecessary medications at a rate that was probably faster than I should have (but nurses are known to take liberties sometimes).
More importantly, I dug deep and began sorting through the intense and unresolved emotions that were the perfect breeding ground for systemic inflammation and a heightened stress response. Losing my mother made me question so many relationships in my life – those with my Creator, my family, myself, my significant other, and my friends.
I would often wake in the middle of the night, journaling furiously, releasing pent up anger, resentment, grief, and fear that was poison to my mind and body as long as I kept it inside and healing to finally let go.
Looking back, it is astonishing to me to realize that within three months, I went from being bedridden to walking down the aisle at my wedding. (It was at the county clerk’s office, so it was a very short aisle, but still!)
This convinced me that the very same system I had used to heal from autoimmune disease nearly a decade ago was still effective – I just had to commit to the steps.
As I became more skilled and gained more experience in taking care of myself, the results were more drastic and achieved more quickly. I knew I was on to something since, after all, it wasn’t some big secret to begin with.
As a few more months passed and I returned to work, I began sharing the same principles with my clients and saw their impressive results as well.
Now, over a year later, I have taken this proven system, the very same one that I have used with myself (and with these other incredible women), and put it in one place to share with you.
If this sounds like wishful thinking or false marketing, keep in mind that I am not talking about a cure, but about healing the mind, body, and spirit. No matter how hopeless you may feel today, it IS possible to begin to heal. I want to help you accomplish that in your own life.