If you even knew how long I’ve been dragging my feet in regards to this post, you all. It’s been sitting in my draft folder, title only, for months. It’s just so hard to write about, you know, LIFE. (It’s so much easier to do a silk blouse roundup!) I’ve hemmed and I’ve hawed, dissected the pros and cons, and it really just comes down to this. I’m a blogger. I’ve been doing this for almost NINE years – it’s a part of me, and although I still keep the majority of my life private, my struggles over the past year have become a catalyst for the direction this blog is headed. Although my health struggles are specific to me, the thoughts and feelings and experiences I’ve dealt with during this period are universal. We all hit bumps in the road – trauma, illness, divorce, death of loved ones, anxiety, depression, I mean, the list goes on and on, right? We’ve all been in the depths at some point, some of us early on, and some of us lucky enough to sail calm waters for decades before the proverbial shit hits the fan. (That was me. I made it 38 years, folks! Cue fanfare!)
Before I delve in, I want you to know that I recently updated my About page. (This is my way of telling you that if you want the Cliffs notes version, head over there immediately. Retreat! Turn around while you can!) So I was poking around my site last week, and re-read my ‘about’ blurb for the first time in quite awhile. I was kind of stunned – “who is this person I’m reading about?,” I thought to myself. Certainly not the person I am today – I mean, sure that was me, and lots of facets remain, but my how things have changed.
I have so much that I’d like to share with you in regards to the changes I’ve made in my lifestyle over the past year – my diet, my health, my way of thinking about myself and the world we live in, my meditation practices…the list goes on and on. But before I begin that journey with you all (because sharing what I’ve learned is why I have a blog), I know I need to explain how this all came to be. The fact is, the blogs that I turn to for inspiration and support are the ones in which the bloggers have shared their struggles. The vulnerability I’ve witnessed from many bloggers makes my heart simultaneously break and soar, because I know they’ve been there too. They have felt the hopelessness and the disconnect and the suffocating fear. My point is, I guess, is that a pinnable image of the 5 best ways to meditate is helpful and all, but if I don’t feel a connection to the person who created it (and their struggles), it loses some of its power. How can I expect you to relate to future posts on holistic and wholehearted living if you don’t know my personal story? So here goes.
Around the start of 2013, I started experiencing quite bothersome pelvic and tailbone pain. It was nonstop, very distracting, and nothing seemed to help. Over the course of a couple of months, I visited doctor after doctor, specialist after specialist, and tried all sorts of holistic stuff and acupuncture, but nothing seemed to help. In fact, the more stressed and obsessed I became in regards to trying to find a solution to the pain, the worse the pain got. (Hmm…hindsight is always 20/20, right?) Suddenly I had become trapped in my own fearful thinking, and anxiety reared its ugly head something fierce. “What if I feel like this forever? What if something is really, really wrong with me? What if I can’t take care of my kids? Why can’t I find a solution?? What if this is FOREVER?!” You guys, this was a constant mental loop in my head. I couldn’t focus on ANYTHING but the pain, which, in turn, made the pain worse.
By the Spring, I had regularly visited a pelvic pain therapist (who, if you are in Southern California, is absolutely amazing), and things were much better. In regards to the pain, that is. My anxiety had catapulted me into what I can only call a hyper-fearful state. Everything around me scared me to death. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t travel. (I canceled several fun trips that I had looked forward to for months.) I needed my husband to be around me at all times, and if he had to leave town, my mom would fly to California to stay with me. My chest felt like it had a 80lb weight on it at all times, and my hands shook constantly. Just driving my kids to school took everything out of me. I was so anxious that I couldn’t even stick to a plan – I would second-guess myself on every single decision ranging from the kids’ school lunches to my next course of therapy. What if what if what if.
I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I wasn’t in physical pain any longer, but the anxiety was crippling. And being an extremely solution-oriented person, I couldn’t figure out why I just couldn’t figure out how to help myself. I mean, for 38 years, I had solved all of my problems on my own. Why couldn’t I stop this? Why couldn’t I control this? (Lesson from the Universe #1 – you can’t control everything. Stop trying.)
And then I stopped sleeping. I didn’t sleep for more than 2-3 hours a night during the summer of 2013. For months, you guys. I would pass out from exhaustion at 4am, only to wake up at 6:30am when the kids woke for the day. This went on for months, despite reading every. single. book on insomnia, taking supplements up the yin yang, guided meditation, you name it, I did it. No sleep until Brooklyn. My physician at the time suggested taking the very lowest dose of Xanax occasionally to help me sleep – in fact, I remember her saying, “Sarah, you are the only person in Orange County that I have to BEG to take a Xanax.” Ha. But once again, I was in such a panic mode that I feared EVERYTHING – even a tiny dose of a drug that might help me drift off to sleep. BUT WHAT IF I BECOME AN ADDICT!? AND THEN WHAT HAPPENS? (Nothing happened, by the way. I took the lowest dose intermittently for a month or two that summer and it helped tremendously. And look at me! Fully functioning adult who is not living in a box in an alley. Imagine that.)
Except that once I started sleeping again, my body just collapsed from the weight of the months of anxiety, and I slipped into a deep depression. I would like to take this moment to publicly apologize to anyone and everyone out there dealing with depression. Because, for 38 years, I had no IDEA what you were dealing with. In fact, I cringe even typing this, but I remember saying to my husband a few years back, “I just don’t understand these people with depression. I mean, can’t they just make a choice to be happy? Is it that hard, really?” Annnnnd then it happened to me. (Lesson from the Universe #2 – until you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, shut your mouth.) This post by my friend Gabrielle of Design Mom resonates with me so deeply, and really speaks to the way I felt during those late summer months.
At the end of the summer, I was in a really strange state. Mentally and physically exhausted, I decided to fly to Oklahoma with the kids to visit my family for a week. I needed to be around my family. I remember just trying to keep it together, which usually resulted in fits of sobbing while my baffled parents tried to console me. What had happened to this positive, capable, I-can-do-it-all woman? The one that laughed in the face of adversity, and always at herself? She certainly wasn’t around. (Lesson from the Universe #3 – your positive, radiant being is ALWAYS within you. That light never extinguishes – sometimes it’s faint, but it’s always there. I promise.)
I flew back home after a week, and felt really weird. Like, super dizzy and flu-like, and I just didn’t know what was going on. (Again.) I figured it was just a result of my immune system being worn down, and tried to press on. However, I noticed a red, circular rash on the side of my chest that was growing in size, and when I asked my physician about it, she said it was nothing and handed me a steroid cream. (She is no longer my physician.) Luckily, I also had an appointment with my naturopath that week (she was helping me with the sleep/anxiety issues), and when I offhandedly asked her to take a look at the rash, she suggested running a few tests. I didn’t really think twice about it.
A week later, I got a call from my naturopath and she informed me that I had tested positive for Lyme Disease. I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a joke. After this year from hell? I got bit by a tick in Oklahoma and now had Lyme? (Lesson from the Universe #4 – Whatever you’re dealing with right now? It might seem to be the worst thing…it might seem that you’ll never get your head above water, but things could be worse. You must focus on all the positives of the HERE and NOW because celebrating those positives will put you on the path to healing.) I hoped the traditional short course of antibiotics would do its thing, but I still felt really off afterward. I chalked it up to my year of crap, and tried to move on for the next few months, but it became increasingly clear that something wasn’t right. Thus began my foray into more health crap. You guys, at first, in true Sarah fashion, I went to the end of the internet and back (NOT RECOMMENDED, PEEPS), and oh man, did the fear take over! But you know what? It also really put things in perspective for me. (Lesson from the Universe #5 – Googling your health is just plain stupid. And not helpful. And did I mention stupid?)
Fast forward to today. I’ve been undergoing treatment on-and-off for the past 7 months. I don’t want to delve too much into the details of my personal experience, because that’s not what this post is about, really. I am happy to say that after seeing some of the best specialists up and down the West coast, I am in incredibly capable hands and am getting better with a combination of Western, Eastern, and Energy medicine.
But, you guys, here’s the deal. The physical discomfort was just the catalyst that finally woke me up. It could have been anything, really. It forced me to look at my life, and come to terms with the fact that I was allowing fear to run it!
Right now, I am in a pretty intense part of treatment, and man, I wouldn’t call it enjoyable, but I am forging ahead with a huge grin on my face. (Most of the time.) I love my life. Really. It’s taken a year to get to this place and it was NOT easy, but I am so grateful that I am here. Do you know how wonderful it is that we are here? On this earth with people who love us unconditionally and people we can love in return? Suffering sucks, my friends, but this is it. THIS IS IT. Our one chance to make it count. To love and be loved. To release the past and stop fretting about the future. You have to make the most of today. This moment. (Indeed, all the cliched sayings are true.) Yes, my body feels like it’s giving me the finger, and some days it takes everything to get myself out of bed, but I do it. Because I have a great life! The joy my children give me on a daily basis brings tears to my eyes. I love my husband. I love my work. I love my family and friends. I love you guys – seriously, the support I have received from you all over the years makes me so grateful. I am so very blessed.
You know, before I started this post, I wasn’t sure if I was just going to dive into my health issues or tell the story of what happened in the year leading up to it. The reason I did write about the pelvic pain and the resulting anxiety and depression is two-fold. First off, because it’s important for me to look back and remember that while I was in the dredges of the pain, sleeplessness, and anxiety, I felt so hopeless. I thought for sure that was the way it was always going to be. Forever. But it’s not. I have no pelvic pain anymore. I sleep like a baby the majority of the time. My intense anxiety has quieted. My mind is calm. And I know with every fiber in my being that the same thing will happen in regards to my current symptoms. Nothing is forever. Secondly, I want you to know that too. Whatever battle you are fighting right now, be it a broken heart, a sick child, cancer, a past trauma replaying in your head, depression, it won’t be like this forever. You will get better. And you will be such a better person because of it.
YOU WILL GET BETTER. AND YOU WILL BE A BETTER PERSON BECAUSE OF IT. I PROMISE YOU.
Now. I hope you don’t think this was some clear cut revelation that came to me immediately upon finding out about my illness. Hahaaaa. Couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s been messy. Really messy. I’ve had more days full of self-pity, insecurity, fear and doubt than I care to admit, but I feel a major shift happening. (Perhaps why I feel comfortable writing about this now.) I have learned so much through the trial and error of trying new things, looking deeeep within, and opening my mind to the infinite possibilities of the energy surrounding us and within us. You guys, I’ve tried some really interesting stuff. And I realize all of it, whether or not I thought it was completely whackadoodle at time, is a part of my overall journey. It’s a lifelong one, but am so excited to be squarely on the path.
So, are you still around? Thanks for trudging through all of that. I feel a sense of relief, though. I’m glad you know. And now if I occasionally post some meditations or energy exercises or general thoughts on taking care of our body and soul in addition to the regular fodder, you’ll know where it’s coming from.
“There is nothing in life that could happen to you that is worse than living in fear and self-hate. And the great sadness is that living in fear and self-hate won’t keep what you fear and hate from happening to you. The only difference between the life you are living and the life you want to live is the feeling of being appreciated, loved, and accepted. Unconditionally. So…give it to yourself RIGHT NOW. This is it.” — Cheri Huber
image: Lyozin Michael