We have been created to love each other, to help each other, and to heal each other
If there is one thing my parents and grandparents repeatedly drummed into me as a child, it was that your health is important, without that you cannot do anything. Oh, and make sure you eat well. Our family likes food. We’re tall and stocky people. And they were right. I’m sure this is something that everyone is told and something everyone knows yet we probably don’t really listen enough or we aren’t implementing that knowledge into daily life.
Whatever country you visit, whichever language you speak, if you sit down with a family, a friend or next to the stranger on the bench and strike up a conversation, usually the topic of health will crop up at some point. It intrigues us all, especially comparing health and healthcare across the globe. All over the world, we are dealing with illnesses, either the same ones or different, more exotic ones, but staying healthy is a priority for everyone regardless of where they are right now in the world and we’re all looking for those magic cures and potions in a bottle. Rich or poor, you need your health to be able to get up and do things. And if you have your health, well that’s wealth right there because that is the basis on which you build your life. When your health is compromised, when you are sick, your freedom, and finances, are impaired and life becomes a little harder and priorities are about getting better whilst everything else goes on the back burner.
My health is best comparable to a roller coaster. I’ll have good stable periods, some amazing highs where I was at my fittest and looking pretty darn sexy and then I’ve had some grueling low dips. On the whole I’m not doing too bad, I mean, I’m blind in one eye from birth, am gluten and lactose intolerant and have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis but all of this is manageable. Getting to the point it was manageable though, the trying to figure out what was wrong with me, well that was tough. It took a decade of hospital and doctors’ visits and intrusive procedures and just being miserable.
(FYI: If you ever need an endoscopy, demand to be knocked out. Doing that shit awake is like the snake scene in Collateral Damage. Trust me.)
Health refers both to our physical and mental state and more often than not these are connected to one another. I have had times of intense stress and mental exhaustion. In my teens, I struggled with an eating disorder as an outlet for controlling the pressure I put on myself to perform well in my A-Level exams. I also bottled up relationship dramas and stress over the years until they eventually had to be addressed, processed and laid to rest because I just wasn’t coping. When I am stressed out the first things I notice are actually the physical symptoms, which by that point probably means that is too much stress. I’m tired, my immune system crashes, I instantly get a sore throat and I have digestive issues. Some days my stomach will just blow out and I’ll look like a friggin’ puffer fish who got a fright and it will take a while for it to go down. (Hail loose fitting flowy clothes!)
We can’t just swallow a pill or potion to make it go away long term. Medicines might heal or stop complaints temporarily, but things will keep returning if the underlying cause isn’t addressed.
And avoiding and ignoring things is just a time bomb waiting to go off.
I consider myself to be a healthy, active person. I work out every other day, I love it to burn off stress and pressure, and I follow an 80/20 paleo/gluten-free lifestyle. I am strict with my treats, don’t drink fizzy drinks (pop/soda) and usually enjoy a glass of wine a month. I don’t smoke and never have. I also go to therapy now and then but I probably should do this more regularly, if I’m honest. Across my twenties, I have read near fifty books on intestinal health, food for health and many more on psychology and stress. But just doing exercise, eating well and knowing about stress isn’t going to cut it as I have discovered. You need to go beyond reading and actually translate ALL the information you learned into actions. You need to stop being passive and actually DO things like make changes to your lifestyle. (Straight to the point and absolutely right, thanks John G. Miller at QBQ)
You cannot cheat your health and mental health really does have a huge impact on your physical health. They are intertwined. Regardless of all the online information, yoga classes, anti-stress classes and things teaching us to manage stress better and how it impacts our health, stress for me is something I struggle to get a grip on. I’m anxious and am a worrier especially when it comes to finance and security and this cycle needs to stop. I know the effects stress has on the body, I’ve read enough material but now I need to implement the tools to say no to stress and to people and simply, choose not to get worked up about things. As Mark Manson says, I need to choose what I give a fuck about. Save up those fucks for more important things and let go of the crap that actually isn’t worth stewing over. Thanks, Mark.
We usually take a step back and look at our lives with a critical and sober eye when something happens. Well, something happened.
I got sick. Again.
And this time, it might cost me my hearing. Yep. It’s fucking shit. And this is the kind of crap to give a fuck about.
Whoa, whoa, whoa back up I hear you say. OK, how did this happen?
Well, during 2017-2018 I moved twice, relocated to the other side of Germany, separated from my husband and went through a divorce, started a new job which turned out to be absolute hell, a few major incidents happened at work, we lost all the staff and I was running my branch pretty much alone and my bunnies got sick six times whereby each time I would have huge vets’ bills and no sleep for 3 days and nights whilst feeding them hourly with syringes. I’d survived on about 5 hours sleep a day for a year. Oh, and I live paycheck to paycheck with no room to save. Shrinks tell us the three most stressful things in life are starting a new job, death or loss and moving home. I think I got all that covered plus more in one year.
Some people said it was just a bit of a rocky beginning to starting my life over. I call it a fucking bad year that I never want to repeat again. Doing all that shit in one year? Nope. Lesson learned.
The emotional stress was insane. I was at my limit and I came home from work crying every day. I didn’t go out. I shut myself away. I tried to go to therapy but the appointments were at ridiculous times of the day where I just couldn’t get out of work and the few times I came running through the door ten minutes late, I’d be sweating and fuming about work and it was the same conversation over and over. It would be about work for fifty minutes and then time was up. I told my bosses I was at breaking point and wasn’t coping. I don’t think they knew how to handle that. And quite frankly, I didn’t know either so nothing changed. I got pushed into running the branch because I am the most experienced and senior person there but I am not a manager. I’m good at my job but management is a whole other playing field I know nothing about. I’m out of my depth and lack the knowledge and there isn’t a management course. I’ve asked.
So Christmas 2018 came, we finally had staff and I could fly home. I hadn’t been home for Christmas for six years so was nervous, exhausted but also excited. The day after I landed, however, I caught the flu off mum and was sick for the entire week straight through to New Years’ and up to the end of January, as well. The perfect ending to a well and truly fucked up bullshit year. I had stomach flu with all the fabulous symptoms of D & V and raging 41-degree temperature which lasted 2 weeks and then it turned into a chest infection where my temperature then fell to 34 – 35 degrees.
I was off work for the longest time of my life (five weeks!) taking a whole barrel of medication! My temperature still hasn’t come up to the normal range (36.5) either. Then after getting over that, three months later I caught a cold off my friend who was visiting me at Easter. And now I’ve been off work again for three weeks, going into my forth.
It was one of those horrible head colds where your face is leaking. Like your nose is a tap pouring out Niagara Falls and your eyes are constantly streaming waterfalls and your head is stuffed with cotton wool. Very quickly it developed into ear infections and for three weeks, while the cold symptoms have faded away, my ears and hearing have been majorly affected and I am still battling this infection.
And once again, I have been pumping antibiotics and steroids into my body, which is still a degree cooler than is normal, to try to beat this. I have tinnitus in my ears, the right far worse than the left and my hearing is impaired. All the while the infection is still there and the fluid cannot drain away, the bacteria is just working hard at destroying my hearing a little bit more and all I can do is just sit and wait.
Wait for my body to respond to the medication? Wait to be permanently deaf? Wait for my ears to heal themselves and for my hearing to come back? I am not someone who waits. I am a doer and I am impatient so this is killing me.
Doctors call it burn-out. When you run yourself down where your entire immune system crashes and you just pick up viruses and infections like a magnet picks up metal.
Losing one of your senses is scary. For three weeks I have been almost deaf and struggling to hear what people are saying and it’s frightening. I feel cut off from the world, excluded and not aware of what is going on around me. I feel vulnerable and I really don’t like it. I am blind in one eye from birth and the prospect that I may now lose or have another impaired sense is terrifying. I’m thirty-four. How can this shit happen to me in my thirties?! I don’t want to be blind and deaf by forty. Will I even make it to forty?! This has been a huge reality check for me. I’m trying to hold faith that the infection will go, that the tinnitus will bugger off and leave me in peace and that my hearing will be fully restored but sometimes doubt creeps in and says, “but what if it doesn’t?”
The nature of my work means perfect hearing is essential so right now everything is up in the air. But maybe this is supposed to happen? Maybe my life is supposed to go in another direction now. Maybe I need to learn sign language? Maybe I need to take a long, hard look at my life and make some big changes?
When I’m going through tough times I tend to turn to inspirational people for comfort, advice and motivation to keep moving. Some people turn to God, but for me, I need more real-life examples and experience and need to just do something instead of sit, pray and wait. Inaction is not going to produce change or results. I really am impatient! I will cuss and shout at God, “stop fucking testing me and give me the answers or show me what the fuck I am supposed to do!” and I’ll get mad at Him. It’s a dysfunctional relationship and we’re working on it.
While everyone has been telling me to relax, sleep and just do nothing (I don’t know how to do nothing) I have been catching up on my reading! I’ve just completed Dan Miller’s “48 days to the work you love” and John G. Miller’s “QBQ (Question behind the Question: Personal Accountability)”. I have also read “How Not to write a novel” by Newman and Mittelmark and am currently reading “A memoir of the craft” by Stephen King. I’ve read seven books this year so far. Dotted in between, some have been chick flick women’s romance stuff and relationship books. Both Dan and John Miller, however, got me thinking about my life. About my direction and about my goals and aims. And honestly, since I moved West I feel like I am floundering. I’m not moving anywhere and I am frustrated.
I want to write. I want to be a writer and I have started writing my first book. It probably won’t get published and will be shit because that’s what every author tells you. But I am having fun writing it. I went to a writers’ conference in Frankfurt in March and I have started getting back into blogging again. I love it. I just feel my soul is so happy when I am punching out words and getting involved in all things concerned with writing. I can lose hours just typing away and am quite content with my own company. I want to help people, entertain people, I want to give back. I want to brighten someone’s day and help those who are struggling. Books have helped me countless times and I love them! They are created by wonderful people who share their talent and creativity, wisdom and expertise to teach, entertain and challenge us. I want to do the same. I want to be part of that crowd!
I just hate that I let my day job take over so much of my free time. That I let the job suffocate me and that I let others use me because I am a team player and go the extra mile. Writing is the direction I want to go in and whether I do it completely freelance and full time or balance it with a part-time job, time will tell. Right now, I have bills to pay and food to buy so I need a full-time day job. But I need to address the root cause of my stress and unhappiness and that is my current job. What if I could have a day job that actually inspired and supported my writing dream? Could that exist? Could I actually combine the two and have my dream faster?
I need to focus on the things I can change to make my life better and give me time and creativity to write. I need to figure out my skills, talents and strengths and see if this lines up with my job at present and if not, decide where I want to go next. I need to learn to say no more at work and make better decisions for myself and I need to understand my own boundaries and respect them so that others do, too. And I need to learn how to relax. That is non-negotiable. I need to switch off and make time to learn how to do nothing. Because as Dan Miller writes, it is often when we are doing nothing, that ideas are created. We need that step back to focus on the bigger picture and we need to mark out more definitive steps to reaching our goals because just the idea is not enough. We need to take action and make it happen.
So while I am sick and fighting these infections I will be doing some thinking, some sleeping and some writing and planning. I will be taking walks outside to stimulate my creativity and get some gentle movement in and I will be eating healthily as I always do to encourage my immune system to repair itself. I will be more choosey about the things I give a fuck about, too. I love Dan and John Miller’s books and can highly recommend them plus Mark Manson’s. I’ll pop a reading list below! I’m so grateful to stumble on these inspirational people — their words help reassure me and guide me when I cannot see the path ahead and I just want to say how important it is to be doing something that makes your heart sing. Over the years, I have worked many jobs just to get by and so many have been a wrong match. It feels like an itchy jumper that is too small, it feels awful and it hinders me. It’s time to start getting my life in alignment. I need to listen to my body screaming at me to make changes and I need to do things that bring me joy because then, and only then, will I succeed, help others and find contentment and that is an abundance of wealth right there!
Be good to yourselves and your bodies, my friends.