Self-care: Getting an expensive wake-up call
When I gave up my home-based business to start working in an outside office full time more than two years ago, I gave up a lot more than writing in my basement while wearing yoga pants and burning incense. I stopped exercising. I stopped cooking healthy dinners. I stopped eating healthy food. I stopped doing yoga. I stopped blogging. I stopped using my downtime as downtime and turned everything (even vacations) into work time, or at least work worry. That’s a lot of stopping. Did I start doing anything new? Why, yes, now that you ask. I started drinking coffee by the bucketfuls. I started eating at my desk without even noticing I was eating (exactly what I tell everyone NOT to do in my book Cravings). I started skipping prayer and meditation time. I started turning into an absolute basket of nerves.
Which brings us to this past weekend, when severe pressure in my chest and shoulder and neck had me checking into the ER at St. Peter’s Hospital — the first time I have ever gone to an ER for myself for anything other than childbirth check-in. Between the pressure and my family history, I felt like I couldn’t take a chance. I ended up spending the night in the cardio unit for observation, and, although the cardiologist doesn’t think it’s my heart (I’ll be going for more testing this week to be sure), it certainly served as a wake-up call to me, because whether it’s a heart issue, a gastro issue (suspected at this point), a stress issue, or all of the above, the fact is that I did this to myself. An expensive way to learn this lesson, but I guess if it causes me to rethink my habits, it’s worth it. I was NOT being so philosophical about this when I was going through it, I’d like to add. Just ask my husband, Dennis, who was holding his head in his hands (literally) as I threatened to remove my own IV and check myself out after nine hours in ER and the prospect of an overnight stay looming. (Gee, I wonder why I have chest pain?)
But, on this morning after, when I’m still not feeling 100 percent and I realize this was not just some passing anxiety attack and is probably going to require medicine, treatment of some sort, and lifestyle changes, I am grateful that my miserable hospital experience has caused me to pull out my juicer and my favorite health book (Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr), check out a few more clean eating cookbooks from the library, and start looking for a way back into exercise and yoga. For the record, I did sign up for a five-week meditation class three weeks ago, in part because I knew I needed a way to balance my life and calm myself down, so on some level I recognized the fact that I was speeding toward a health crisis on multiple levels: physical, mental, and spiritual.
So, I’m here now as a way to not only return to blogging, which is something I have always loved, but as a way to hold myself accountable. Last December, I formed the Cravings Tribe for those who wanted to journey through my own book with me toward a saner relationship with food and a more peaceful life in general. And while that lasted a few weeks, I’ll admit that I did not practice what I preached. I hope some of you did. It’s time I join you.
When I told a work colleague that I had landed in the cardio unit of the hospital, he said, “You’re too young to end up in that ward.” Not true. At 55 years old, I am exactly the right age to end up in that ward, but I don’t intend to go back any time soon. I’m hoping the doctor is right and my heart is still healthy and this is just some diet and stress issue I can handle with minimally invasive help, but, I have no intention of sitting by passively and waiting for others to figure things out. I’m going to reclaim the pieces of my life I gave away in a misguided attempt at being an above-and-beyond type of worker. The email can wait. The phone call can wait. My health cannot. (I only checked work email twice during the writing of this blog post on my sick day. That’s progress!)
If you’re dealing with similar stress and health issues, chime in. We can work through this together.