Full stop

Ok, so I keep hearing people talking about "ease" and moving towards doing what comes with more "ease". The work I was doing before was mostly things that I felt came pretty naturally to me (being organized, mediating between different stakeholders, writing emails, planning), but work didn't feel full of "ease" by any means.

Socializing didn't feel easy. Taking care of myself didn't feel easy. Even when I left my job in the spring, NOTHING felt easy.

Resting didn't feel easy, thinking about what I wanted to do with my life didn't feel easy, I felt fucking stressed and anxious all the time, in between trips and visitors all through the summer. I tried to go take art classes, and that all fell apart quickly. I did creative projects at home. I floundered. And then a couple weeks ago, it suddenly hit me. 

This is the message I posted to the group on Facebook (and then later to a few close friends), I feel ready to share it more publicly now that I've given it some time to set in:

Ok, the thing about "ease". I have the answer. I don't like it, but I have it.

I have been percolating fairly subconsciously on this and suddenly it hit me like a ton of bricks on Thursday when I burst into tears. Nothing feels easy to me. Everything feels hard. Too hard, overwhelming, and I'm drowning. And I suddenly realized why. I've been denying to myself and others for YEARS how sick and barely functioning I am physically, never mind the toll that's taken on me emotionally telling myself I must keep going and suck it up.

On Friday I got some test results back from the integrative medicine practitioner I'm seeing, and he basically said: you're in a state of moderate to severe adrenal fatigue, your hormones are all screwed up, no wonder you can hardly get out of bed in the morning.

And despite all my digestive issues, the fatigue, the allergies, the throat problems, and on and on, I never until that moment really felt it: this is it, I'm really unwell, I need to really just stop. This person is telling me that what I am feeling is REAL and that it's only going to get worse if I don't address it.

So that's what's both hard and what is easy, all wrapped up in one. Not easy, but ease-y. Stopping worrying about starting working again, and what I want to eventually do with my fabulous life. Stopping worrying about whether I'm being too much of a downer. Stopping worrying about not wanting to worry my friends and family. Stopping feeling like I should or shouldn't be doing this or that. 

Stopping all of it, and admitting I'm not well. And that all I should really be doing right now is focusing on what will get me well again.

Sounds so simple, and kind of ridiculous that I haven't gotten to this point even with my time off over the summer... Just writing this I'm still cringing at admitting it somewhere I'll be held accountable. 

It's the last thing I want to do, and yet the only thing I want to do. I need to stop and just do whatever I can to really heal as much as I possibly can. I want to be more than barely functional, and I'm not getting there the way things have been going.

It's time for ruthless self-love and self-care. There's going to be a brutal learning curve.

And with that, life came to a full stop.

I stopped putting all this pressure on myself to figure out what's next, I stopped feeling guilty for not doing enough. Everything felt lighter, and more okay, more ease-y. The only thing I need to do is what will get me back on the path of feeling better, as much as that is possible. The rest will follow. And if it turns out that feeling better is not in the cards, then I will adapt, but at least I will know that I really put my health as my top priority and learned what may be possible.

A bit of a side note: I feel extremely grateful for the ability to stop. It really became clear that if I was living paycheck to paycheck with nobody else to help support me, I wouldn't have had this luxury. This is how people end up on the street - by getting sick when they have no financial cushion. I am so very lucky for that.

Coincidentally, a couple days ago I was reading through some archives of an integrative health blogger looking for ideas for my health pilgrimage, and came across this post from early last year. I hadn't realized that he'd had his own health struggles that had partly led him into the work he's doing now, but it would seem he had a similar epiphany along the way. I love how he frames it:

...accepting that I was ill did not make the illness go away. Nor did it stop me from continuing to pursue treatment in the hopes of improving my health. What it did do is remove an entirely unnecessary layer of suffering that came from continuously struggling against what was true in each moment.

I believe that it’s not possible to take truly effective action until we fully accept what is. But that’s not easy. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things we can do. Because to accept something means to let in all of the feelings and sensations that go along with that something. In the case of illness, it means feeling the grief associated with the lost dreams, the fear that we may never get well or that we won’t survive, and the isolation that comes from living with chronic illness.

Ironically, it is avoiding these feelings (i.e. not accepting them) that prevents us from taking appropriate action. Not accepting something doesn’t make it go away. It just distances us from ourselves and from reality in general, which ultimately leads to more suffering.

When we accept what is, we are free. Free to act in accordance with reality. Free to be at peace with the circumstances of our lives, no matter how undesirable or difficult they are. And free to continue to do everything in our power to improve the conditions of our lives (or of life in general) in the next moment.

That pretty much drives it home, doesn't it? 

Big love to everyone who's sent so much support and love and kind words my way in regards to this epiphany. I think this is just the beginning...


Hope you'll get better soon!

But I also hope that this method you're trying now implies some sort of feedback, and you'll be able to spot changes in your health for good (I hope!), or for bad, rather soon. One of my friends had similar (not exact the same, of course) problems 20 years ago, and he choose to stop and to improve his health. For him it was a complete disaster. Before that his health was not perfect, but it was more or less stable, at least it's decline was slow. After that his health started to decline much more quickly. It was difficult for him to do just anything, but later it became more and more difficult. And hormonal disorder is a main contributing factor in his case. In fact, he became locked inside ring, because to stop all this he have to do much things, but he can't.

Of course, there are literally millions contributing factors when we are talking about endocrine system, and you and my friend has nearly nothing in common from the hormonal point of view. Different background, different gender, different age - all that makes any direct comparisons useless. So I believe in your case we'll see a positive dynamic really soon, but I do recommend to make a plan B, just in case results will be not as nice, as we all hope.

I thought it was about time that I write something as I have been following your blog for some time. I relate to what you are going through - I quit a job I hated in the summer of 2010 and spent the next year healing myself from total burnout and mental health stuff - and I did figure it out and my life unfolded in a really interesting way. I'm glad that you are figuring out your health stuff and are coming to more acceptance about it - what you are doing is super inspiring. What you wrote about "rest" is something I think about often.

I'd love to talk to you and craft sometime - will be in contact.

- Julia

Julia! I had to use my nerd skillz to double check it was you and not another Julia from earlier days. ;) It's great to hear from you!

Wow, I had no idea, though I guess that coincides with kind of losing track of you... I'd love to hear some more about where your "figuring out" has taken you.

I'm always so glad to hear that any of this is inspiring to others - it feels so necessary and difficult a lot of the time, but then I hear from people going through similar stuff and it helps me realize that there's something bigger going on...

Definitely would be great to hang out - my voice is starting to be a bit more stable (I had to stop talking for a while cause of a throat problem) so I'm hoping I'll be up for longer chats soon!


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