Part Four of Four
After returning home, I felt safe again. Safety, security what beautiful sensations in my body. I felt safe in my bones. And now that I had a sense of safety in my life I could move forward with healing and personal growth.
After a day or two of being home, I thought to look at my calendar with the help of my sisters. I realized that I had registered for a two-day, 20-hour seminar prior to my hospitalization. It was in one week. Ugghhhh. Could I do it? Should I do it? I waited until the day before to make my final decision and figured I wanted to give it a try. It was an hour and a half away in the Minneapolis/St Paul area. Jim drove me up there since I had not driven in a long time and I was not comfortable at all behind the wheel. He would be returning on Sunday evening to bring me back home. I went into the seminar with my overnight bag to begin day one of the seminar. My sister would be picking me up at the end of the day and I would be staying with her for the night in St Paul.
As the seminar began, the lecturers droned on about legal matters regarding head trauma and cervical injuries. I found it quite interesting that this was the topic of the seminar given what I had just been through. At one point in their lecture, I figured we must be getting close to the end of their 2-hour segment. When I looked at the time, we had barely finished the first thirty minute. That was deflating to say the least. But I managed to find a comfortable position and make it until the break.
The doctor who was putting on this seminar stated that he understood that it was going to be a long weekend for all of us and if we needed to get up and stretch our legs it was okay by him for us to do that. So, being given permission, I made numerous exits throughout the weekend to get up and take small walks through the halls to get some exercise and stretch. It helped the days fly by and it was one of the first times in a long time that I was looking out for my well-being without feeling guilty.
The weeks after I had attended the seminar were filled with me gaining my strength and starting to investigate possible reasons for my experience. To exercise, Jim and I would go for walks outside. The first time out I think we made it past four or five houses before I told him I wanted to turn around. Over time, we finally made it to the end of our block and back again. I would also walk our stairs. Fifteen steps down and fifteen stairs up over and over. We had some hand weights that I used to “pump iron” to get some strength back so that I would be able to get back to my chiropractic patients.
Finally, the day came in late May of that year that I was able to begin seeing my clients again. I am so blessed with the people who have chosen to work with me. I lost a few clients during my absence which is totally understandable. But the vast majority of my clients returned for care. I continued to get physically and mentally stronger with each patient I treated.
About four weeks after returning to my practice I also went back to my second job of brain training. I was hesitant to go back, I wasn’t sure that I had the cognitive ability or speed to do that job again. So, we started out with me sitting in on some training sessions they were having with new hires. After the first day, I knew that I was going to be able to do this. And I was soon able to get back to training my students again.
Life was getting back to normal. But there was this nagging thought in the back of my head…no one knows what really happened to me, we don’t know why it happened, and how can I prevent it from happening again? So began my constant search for answers.
The internet became my best friend. I researched inflammation in great detail. I’d lost track of the number of times I sifted through all my medical records. Looking through my pages of lab work, reading the test reports. Some of my symptoms lead me down the road to Candida. Could that be it? Was it a viral or bacterial infection? No, they ruled that out with the brain biopsy. Perhaps it was due to a compromised blood-brain barrier. This barrier is key to maintaining a well-functioning brain and nervous system. Science has shown that this barrier can start to “leak” much like our gut can become leaky. And this can lead to a host of different scenarios. Had I undergone some sort of head trauma? The only trauma I had been through recently was all the tests they performed at the hospital. After more investigating I uncovered the fact that spinal punctures, like the ones they had done on me numerous times could lead to brain inflammation. Interesting… Having had three successful MRI’s done, it wasn't until the third one that the inflammation showed up. And that would have been after the lumbar punctures. Coincidence? I don’t know.
Chronic stress could also cause brain inflammation, as can environmental toxins (who’s not living in a toxic world?), gluten intolerance, a high carbohydrate diet, a sedentary lifestyle, systemic inflammation, as well as vitamin B deficiency. Any one or combination of these could have been the culprits in my case. I wanted so badly to be able to put my hands on a cause for no other reason than to know how I could prevent this from happening to me again in my future.
Without having a definitive answer to my question, I had several areas that I could start with. I began with improving my sleep habits. Taking naps when I felt tired, getting to bed between 10-10:30 every night and getting up between 6-7am. I began eating better quality foods. Buying and preparing food at home so that I knew what was in it. I was buying organic whenever possible and making the healthiest choice possible with non-organic items. I cut back on the candy. I can’t say that I was able to eliminate it completely – at that time the bakery cookies, especially the molasses ones from Hy-Vee were a favorite of mine. I began exercising regularly. And I took a huge step out of my comfort zone and started to work with a life coach.
Working with a life coach was the best thing I have ever done for myself. It cost more money than I thought I could afford but like so many people say – if you want it badly enough, you’ll find a way. And when I said yes to this opportunity the money was there. One of the first exercises we did together was to select our top words for the year ahead. We went through a series of words. It was reminiscent of being at the eye doctor – is this better or worse. You know that routine. So, she would give me two words and ask me which resonated more. My words for that year were: Joy, Peace, Connection, and Creativity. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that Joy is the opposite of Grief. No wonder it resonated so strongly.
As I look back at what my life was like prior to my hospital stay I can see how isolated I had made myself, even in the middle of a group of my family and friends. Talk about walls. And that lifestyle had given no sense of peace whatsoever. I was always on high alert for the next bad thing to come at me. I had very little true connection with others because of the shame I felt for my lot in life which had been self-imposed. I did not allow myself any fun to express myself in a creative way because in my mind that would have cost money which I didn’t have. Such a scarcity mentality.
So, through the two years of working with my life coach I began to understand the need for caring for myself, providing myself with grace, being gentle with my “inner child”. I gained a new awareness that asking for help is a sign of strength. Even though I consider myself to be an introvert I crave connection with other people. I am in my element when I am creating – whether I’m doodling, painting, doing calligraphy or writing. I am at peace.
I started to stand up for myself more, I began to say "no" more, some of my relationships changed because I had changed and that was hard for them to accept, I became more vocal in my personal and professional life, I started taking more chances, I developed and continue to develop a new and healthy relationship with money. I now view the world in all of its abundance. Now don’t get me wrong, every day is not butterflies and daisies. But when I’m having a tough day, I look at my words and they help me to reframe my day.
I can honestly say that I look at my experience with grief and how it landed me in the hospital for five weeks and one day as a blessing. From this experience I have gained so much. I have a purpose to share my story in the hopes that it will help one person in whatever way God sees fit. I have honed my skills of empathy, in all situations but, especially when witnessing situations where another person is not being understood or mistreated because they are not able to communicate with their care giver. I have firsthand knowledge of the fact that what may seem like disassociation from the outside could very well be the person observing and understanding everything that is being done or discussed without the ability to make that known. I have a renewed motivation to help the people I am meant to help while I’m here. And I am going to provide that help in a model that resonates with who I am. No cookie cutter delivery of care anymore. I have learned that I am the one in charge of taking care of me and part of that care involves asking for help sometimes. And through my experience with grief, I have learned that by taking care of myself I am a better person. In turn, I experience a better life, not only with myself, but with the ones I care about because I show myself love. And in my heart of hearts, I believe it comes down to the fact that all people need to love and to be loved.
Thank you for listening to my story.
“Loss can remind us that life itself is a gift.”
- Louise Hay
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