My journey began in mid May 2018. A friend was over for an early morning visit and after coffee on the deck we migrated toward the kitchen. Out of nowhere, I began to experience this feeling of what I call “going down”, I was dizzy, heart pounding and losing my ability to stay present. This had happened a few times in the past, but once I drank a large glass of water and ate something, I would always rebound and usually chalk it up to low blood sugar. I asked my friend to make me some food – and quick. I shoved it down, gulping like a person who just crossed the dessert with no water. Several minutes passed but I still could not gain my equilibrium. “Do you want me to take you to the ER?” my friend asked. “Yes” I said with no hesitation. Off we went. When we arrived at the ER I was still faint and going down. I was admitted instantly since everyone thought I was having a heart attack.
I was not.
After the usual frantic tests, the doctor came in and told me that they could not find anything wrong, but that he thought I should stay overnight in the cardiac until for further testing. They did not want to take any chances with this 72 year old. Now, this may sound silly, but I was shocked. “There is nothing wrong with me” I exclaimed. My friend looked at me and said “Seriously Susan?”
“OK..” I said, pouting….
I checked out the next morning with flying colors. I won’t bore you with the details of the night in my same clothes, no toothbrush, inedible food and tubes everywhere. This incident launched a whirlwind of doctor’s appointments as the mystery unfolded. Over the next six weeks there were four more visits to the ER sprinkled in between six weeks of tests (neurology, cat scans, blood, X-rays). The same symptoms continued here and there and I felt extremely fatigued in between. The ER was sick of me… and the confusion, decisions, and the attempt to get up and go, all swirled in my head.
My primary care doctor chalked it up to stress – saying I was having panic attacks. I thought that was ridiculous yet a part of me began to listen. Yes, with reflection, I realized that I had been under unusual stress during the last year. As I write this I see what an erroneous phrase “been under unusual stress” is. Now I realize that stress is something we create. Yes, things happen to us, and stress comes, but we always have some control of how we will handle it, meet it head on, deal with it, and/or avoid it. Now I know this, but only in hindsight.
On my birthday in July, I was surrounded by friends who helped me celebrate with a small dinner party while I was recovering from my mystery illness. During my birthday dinner I began to get these intense throbbing pains in my back. Every 30 seconds I received a blow that intensified throughout the day. I took aspirin, Ibuprofen and finally at 8 PM, not being able to tolerate the pain any longer, I found an old Vicodin I had stashed from long ago which worked with the help of a heating pad. The next morning I awoke to shingles. The real nightmare had begun. It started on my back to the left of my spine (where the initial pain was), and wrapped around under my arm and my left breast making its way to my sternum.
I write this post on October 8, 2018. I still have pain, and there is a trace of the shingles still reminding me to live in a new way, a way where stress can no longer take over my body, mind and soul. I have lost thirteen pounds, and I did not need to lose even one. It has been four and one half months since I first went to the ER. I am still not operating at full throttle, but building slowly over time. I hope to never be in a hurry again….haha. I am completely off any medications and feel hopeful for a full recovery.
Most all of us are going to get sick at some time, have a life experience and/or need a surgery that will take its toll on us. This being said, I will never be the same, and maybe this is a good thing! This is why I want to share with you what I learned and how I think it will help you avoid allowing stress to cause you breakdown, because, believe me if you let it, it will.
In the next few weeks I will be sharing my “learning points” with you. The points I will be covering are not what you might think. I am sharing my own discoveries that I wish I would have known before, and many I learned from others.
If you are running like I was - STOP, even if it is for five minutes. Listen to what your mind is saying to you. Just pay attention - close attention. That’s all you need to do to start. Listen to your mind and your body, and feel into your soul.
This is what I did first - even before the shingles invaded me. I began a regular meditation practice, one with no yoga, mantras, music or movement. I became still, still and more still. I would do this in the morning for fifteen minutes and in the afternoon for another 15. I paid close attention to my mental mantras. I began to see how much I said over and over again to myself, “Too much, just too much”.
Most of us know that meditating is considered a “spiritual practice” because it is a practice that quiets our mind and helps us connect to our source, our breath. I thought because I knew how to meditate that I was meditating. Somewhere, even in my yoga practice, I had stopped being still without any other distractions or entertainment. Being still is the start, not only to calm yourself, but also to get in touch with your destructive patterns and ultimately the reason you allow them.
As I continue to write more blog posts and share my story, I am going to introduce to you my new program called “Living As A Spiritual Practice.” I am going to dive deep into addictive patterns, of thinking and being, as well as food, diet and medications. My discovery about food and diet may surprise you and is most likely the reason for my drop in weight. If you are struggling with shingles or other viruses you may get some handy hints. My purpose and hope is that I can pave the way for your to untangle the stress writhing you.
I would love to hear from you. Please join me in the adventure and make some comments below. Oh, and there will be new recipes “all about simple” coming your way!
As they say in Hawaiian, IMUA! (onward)