Getting Up to Live
Sometimes, my mind starts to wander, and I think back to the year that my skin was on fire night and day. I have tried very hard to block those memories out. I remember getting the incurable disease and thinking that my life was completely over at just 23 years old. I feel like Ygritte was whispering that I knew nothing at that age. And I didn’t.
I think back to the years that I had my children, and I know that I was so extremely fatigued it wasn’t normal—and that I was not “bouncing back” from childbirth. Then the second blood test and the news I had one more incurable disease came. OK. Not shocking, because I already knew. And more yearly phlebotomies would be needed.
I think back to the year my career as a teacher really started taking off and I was known as Mrs. Happy. I had finally done it! I changed my outlook on life, and working with invisible diseases wasn’t going to stop me. And then I started getting violently ill after eating. I couldn’t look at food. I looked pregnant all the time, and my stomach was distended. I started having severe allergy attacks, and I had vertigo for three weeks. I spiraled down into a place of pain. No one could touch my skin again—only this time was worse. The base of my neck to the sitting bone was on fire. I felt every single vertebra as if it was on fire and begging to be put out like a living, breathing thing.
My shoulder went out. My hip went out. I couldn’t walk. I took a leave of absence from teaching for what would presumably be a year. I told everyone that, but I knew I was never going back. I actually thought that I was going to stay in that place of pain for a very long time, if not forever.
I was then diagnosed with an autoimmune disease (just barely, they said) and “fibromyalgia” due to the 18 points of pain that were in my body. Didn’t I want to take pain meds for the rest of my life? No. I didn’t, because I already had one disease that could mess with my liver, and I wasn’t going to take a chance. It was at this point that I realized I was screwed. I had two options. Get better or become something I didn’t recognize anymore…but wait! I already was.
So life beats you down, folks. It does. And it will over and over again if you let it. What you do after this is up to you. So here’s the point in my story that I don’t share much: I was sitting on the couch in those early years. Although I’d written through the pain in 2013, it barely scratched the surface. I knew I had a choice to make. Get up and live. Other people surely had as many diseases as I did. I didn’t know anyone at the time, but surely, they existed. So I would live and change my life for them and show them that it could really be done. I could do it.
One more test would come back in this puzzle that explained that on a purely cellular level, I was not processing things correctly, but at that point, I didn’t care anymore. I already knew I was different, and I was going to move forward. Here are the steps I took to change my life.
1. I decided I was going to change. This is the biggest one that you have to learn. No one, and I do mean no one, can force you to change. Period. If you are waiting for your sign and this post is speaking to you, please write down on your calendar: “Day I decided to change and live my life.” Seriously. You’ve got this.
2. Stop making excuses and lying to yourself. “I will get out of the house tomorrow. I will join the gym in a few months. I will try yoga next month. I will eat better after the holidays. I will….” Yup. Said them all. Been there, done that. I made a plan, and then I stuck to it. And let me tell you, dropping things like gluten and sugar while living in the South was not easy. So after nutrition, movement followed—and that was equally as difficult for someone in pain. Lastly, I considered that my self-care was truly lacking. I wore pajamas all day far too much as I was healing—and it was time to stop that.
3. I learned to be thankful for what I already had. This one was hard. Not that I wasn’t thankful, but I was so angry. I was mad at the universe for giving me this life, never really thinking I had that much control over it all, but I was so very wrong. I was wrong. I woke up and started a gratitude practice even in my darkest hours. I couldn’t sleep, but I would roll over and pull myself up. I would not think of the pain. If it came in, I shut it down with these words: “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
4. I went back to yoga. I am thankful that someone took the lead in this and initiated my yoga teacher training. Can you imagine hardly being able to move and going to yoga? I almost said no a thousand times. I almost quit a thousand times. I would soak in the tub and almost cry out from pain at doing it, but I would not give up. I would walk slowly and I would do the best I could, but I would finish that damn training. I would and I did in June of 2015. I also went on to become certified in yoga for arthritis and pain.
5. I started helping others. I already had my Facebook page, but it just wasn’t enough. How could I connect with others who could change their lives just by thinking about it, writing about it through my new journal therapy, and starting a gratitude practice? I had to get out in front of people. Me. The hermit empath who had just found out how to live again had to find her tribe and speak to them on a regular basis. So I did.
Thank you for being here with me on this journey and for honoring your own journey, as well.