Updated: Dec 15, 2019
Over the last 10 years or more, I've shared pieces of my journey with Lupus and auto-immune challenges to my family, friends, and students. To be truthful, I didn't really want to "share" any of it with anyone, in fear that I'd look weak, be seen as a burden, and possibly receive an overwhelming amount of well-meaning, unsolicited advice. (Now I understand how absurd that belief system is).
I spent the first few years keeping my pain and struggles somewhat hidden. On days when inflammation kept me from doing my regular activities, I'd say I had a cold, the flu, or that I worked myself too hard and just needed some rest. I'd try so hard to keep positive and smile through it all, while my insides were screaming to be heard and acknowledged. I knew a positive attitude wasn't the sole factor to relieving pain so I started searching and really tuning into the messages from my body. I changed my diet multiple times, changed my internal dialogue, lifted weights, learned cutting-edge ways to work out for maximum T-cell benefit, went to therapy, ingested supplements, detoxed, juiced, met chiropractors, energy healers and acupuncturists, soaked in salt, boxed myself into infrared saunas, took full-panel blood tests, tried myofascial release techniques, received Thai-yoga massages, learned Ayurvedic practices, got "zapped" with pulsed-electromagnetic field therapy, meditated, journaled, became a yoga instructor, and read more internal health reference books than most people are exposed to in multiple life-times...
After so many years of doing all of this and more, I discovered simplicity. Yes, all convoluted roads lead me to simplifying my path through this life.
I'm not trivializing auto-immune challenges. In fact, their complexity is worth the deep dive not just by those of us experiencing them, but by everyone who knows someone with auto-immune issues and everyone within the medical community (both Western and Complimentary Practitioners). The psychology of being human is a HUGE part of this deep dive; something I won't do justice within this post, but definitely worth future discussions. Instead, here's what I have learned in these past 10 years:
Simplifying my path leads to clarity; clarity leads to being fully present in the NOW. And being fully present is the gift I've been given through Lupus.
Up until October 2016, I spent 12 months virtually inflammation-free. Occasionally, I'd eat something or do something that didn't agree with my system but I could quickly find balance again by returning to the "simple" path: don't overreact, be fully present, and listen to what is needed now. These three basics became my touchstones for emotional triggers as well as physical ones. With more and more practice, living life with an auto-immune issue didn't seem filled with land mines anymore. But, as if on cue, life gave me another ah-ha moment of growth; this time taking me back to revisit one of my oldest fears: being perceived as weak.
It was October 31, 2016, and I found myself on the side of the road, in my car, sobbing on the phone with my husband because I crumpled during my workout that morning. I was working out with a personal trainer and I literally crumpled to the floor in the middle of a basic core stabilizing exercise because of intense pain. I was exploring a new routine. As I lifted my right arm and left leg, I could feel tears welling up as the skin on my body wanted to rip open due to severe tightness. I tried pushing through with deeper breaths when suddenly my knee and hand turned to jello and I folded into a ball on the floor. I finished my session with slow, deliberate movements, and bottled up my tears until I was safely alone in my car.
"Why am I so weak? Why can't I just do physical activities like everyone else? Why is my body feeling inflamed? Why can't I be stronger?" My husband listened as I went through my list of why's. After some time, his voice broke through my sobs and softly said, "What have you learned up until now?" His question shined directly through to my heart; like someone turning on the light after a bad dream.
"Listen to my body," I said.
"And what's your body saying?"
"It just wants me to rest."
As we continued talking, the veil of "striving for something" was lifting. What was I striving for? Why did I feel the need to push myself? These psychological pieces, along with many others, are part of my growth for this new month. But I was reminded in that very moment of the cyclical nature of living this life. There is no such thing as learning a lesson and moving on. My ego says, "I've been here before. I know I can handle this. I practice listening to my body daily; I even teach it to students." Yet here I was again, caught up in pushing myself past my limit; it was cloaked in a different scenario but emphasizing the same lesson. Life continues to spiral me at different levels, encouraging my growth, yet beckoning me to return to my soul's simple path time and time again. It's up to me to engage with my deepest self and really listen.
My soul is not concerned with how strong my core gets. Nor does it worry about the amount of knowledge I collect. The challenges and experiences of my life are here reminding me to stay connected to this beautiful soul of mine. I'm grateful for another new beginning as we enter November and excited to connect with my soul again and again and again.
If this resonates and you want to follow me through this awesome self-discovering journey, reach out and let me know. I'd love to hear what your soul is saying to you. Ask me questions; leave a comment. Together, we can shine that light of clarity for one another no matter what part of life's spiral we're on at the moment. Happy New Moon! Happy November! Let's talk soon!