Finding the Joy

2016-10-28 16.11.19
It’s been awhile since I posted anything. I found that it was better for me to sit among my flowers drinking green tea rather than sitting in front of a computer blogging or tweeting. In short, I stopped writing to focus on living. I may have been focusing on living, but my past crept up on me resulting in this post.

Problem with constant self-care and the necessary daily autoimmune paleo cooking required to regain health (e-stim of anterior tibs and hamstrings, meditation, affirmations, weights, Wii balance exercises, strength exercises, bone broth etc) is that one ends up feeling that “this is all I do”, “this is all I am”. It became a joke around my house. If I was miffed or bored, I’d just announce, “I guess I’ll just go cook some broccoli!” The problem was, it wasn’t a joke, and by repeating that to myself I wasn’t doing myself any favors. In fact, I was harming myself and my already fragile self-esteem.
It became apparent when a close friend asked what I did for ‘joy” in my life, and I couldn’t answer the question. I had a serious problem.
I had lost any joy in my life somewhere between the unexpected loss of an extremely close family member in January and my increasingly longer to-do list.

Seemingly out of nowhere on the table of my integrative PT one day, I inquired whether the “way I am” is just not conducive to healing? Am I always expecting too much from myself, too hard on myself and others, upset when I or those around me don’t meet up to my expectations? I began to wonder if I was somehow partially responsible for my current predicament. I began to listen more carefully to the messages I was giving myself whether they be verbal or non-verbal. Additionally, I further explored early traumas with my integrative PT in the hope of discovering where these patterns I was replaying came from, understanding them, and finally, changing them.

One of the things I found was that I was doing things such as my self-care out of fear of illness. I was terrified of becoming as ill as I have been in the past. Now while this seems a reasonable thing to do, it actually isn’t very constructive or healthy. If you’re wandering throughout your day meditating and doing exercises for your health but also quietly telling your body that “we need to do this because you could get sick again or you WILL get sick again if you don’t do these things”, the positive effects of your self-care pretty much goes right out the window. I found I was looking at my self-care as a list of things to accomplish on a daily basis and check off rather than time for myself to revel in and enjoy. This was the part of me that wanted to do all the things any one of my healthcare providers suggested; I did not want to “fail”. The important part here for me was realizing that somewhere in me, I saw it as a failure if I didn’t accomplish everything on a daily basis. I was doing things that are supposed to benefit me because I was afraid of what would happen if I did not. I was acting and behaving out of fear. I’m certain this is NOT what my healthcare professionals had in mind.

The first book, The Healing Power of Illness: Understanding What Your Symptoms Are Telling You , was suggested to me by my functional medicine doc, Dr. Jill Carnahan. It was an eye-opener. Yes, it tells you not to go to the symptoms you are dealing with because we’re not good at seeing ourselves for what our behaviors actually are or self-reflection. I, of course, ignored that advice and went directly to my issues (rheumatics). I immediately recognized myself. Astonished, I read it out loud to my partner who said, “Recognize anyone?” I’m not bashful. I know I am aggressive, yet here the text was telling me this in itself is part of my problem. Isn’t this exactly what I was asking my integrative PT not long ago: is the way I am just not conducive to healing?

Many of the traits I wish to change are deeply rooted, taught to me by my parents. While they served the child, they are no longer serving me as an adult healing from chronic illness. I discovered this with much help from my PT and much honest introspection. Changing these behavior will not be easy, but I am slowly doing so by compassionately reminding myself to be more tolerant of myself and others, and to be kinder to myself. Our inner critic can be quite harsh. It’s so important to pay attention to what you are saying to yourself even if you think it’s not important (eg. will these legs ever work properly?). It is. Your body hears EVERYTHING.

I also noticed I wasn’t being particularly mindful when taking my supplements. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but think how much more powerful it would be if I was aware when taking them, took them with gratefulness and acknowledged they are pointing me toward health rather than swallowing absent-mindedly, without thought/purpose. The latter is kind of like getting a Rx from a western medicine doc, filling it, and just taking it, not understanding, and assuming it’s going to do the job because they said so. Oh dear.

Weeks passed, and our fall trip to Japan was quickly approaching. The Sunday before our Wednesday departure, I found myself in Urgent Care with an UTI. Yeah, this is just what I need. My life is just an endless parade of challenges. This is exactly what was going through my head. Wow, this was NOT a useful inner dialogue. Monday I was into my GP, Dr. Lila Rosenthal of My Family Doctor, to acquire more antibiotics to take with me in case the first Rx proved to be incorrect or insufficient. I had been in email contact with Lila throughout the weekend. This is one of the huge perks of Lila’s boutique practice. I intentionally signed up with her after firing my last GP the summer of 2012. Lila and I formed a plan, but most importantly, she was adamant on my reading this book: The Last Best Cure: My Quest to Awaken the Healing Parts of My Brain and Get Back My Body, My Joy, and My Life by Donna Jackson Nakazawa. I borrowed the book from her but was afraid of damaging it on the flight, so I purchased a copy for the iPad. I started reading before we left and was amazed at how it resonated with me (Lila said it would). What she didn’t realize was how similar the author’s life and my own were. I read on the flight to Japan and then on a 3-hour train ride from Tokyo to Kyoto. I must admit that I cried a lot. The subject matter really hit home with me.

Investigating the impact of childhood traumas on future health, dealing with chronic illness, and wondering where the joy is in between all the appointments and self-care, this book addresses it. As the author puts it, she has created a toolbox for people (complete with references for those of us so inclined). I’m sure everyone can find something within that toolbox–mediation, breathing exercises, yoga, acupuncture–to assist in changing their life for the better. I know I have. I have purchased many copies as gifts as I feel it is that important and compelling.

As for me, I believe I’m well on my way back. I began yoga again after a decade’s hiatus and already feel more centered and calm.

If you’re stuck, if you’re willing to explore yourself, if you’re willing to push boundaries, I highly recommend this book. It will change your life.

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