“Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got. There is no yesterday, no tomorrow, it’s all the same day.” ~ Janis Joplin
I was given many different labels for the “possible” explanations for the symptoms related to my health concerns.
I knew something was seriously wrong. I’ve spent my life as a healthy, active person. Yet, the symptoms I had experienced related to my health were very different to anything I had ever encountered: 14-hour sleeps followed by extreme sleepy-ness during the day, body aches (the thought of walking to the supermarket to buy milk was daunting), irregular menstrual periods, acne (my 33- ear-old skin broke out like a young teenager), depression (I felt miserable and could see little joy in life), and 20-pound weight gain (which seemed to appear very suddenly, and of which the majority accumulated around my stomach area).
So I exercised. I tried the latest workouts. Yet, the number on the scale continued to increase, as did my tiredness and other symptoms.
I was very fortunate to eventually find great doctors and healers who provided the right advice: three healthy meals a day, three or four small snacks between each of the meals, a jam packed regime of vitamins, early bed times and a regular sleep schedule, reduced caffeine, meditation, low impact exercise, and a general reduction in my working hours.
I eventually got my life back.
I am not a medical doctor, thus, this article does not aim to provide any health advice related to my former medical problems. Rather, I would like to discuss what my health problems taught me about my personal relationships. I believe that some of these lessons contributed to a healthier mental state and a stronger ability to undertake the medical recommendations prescribed to me.
1. I learned to respect my boundaries
Being emotionally and physically exhausted taught me quickly about personal boundaries. With nothing left to give, I learned to say no. I stopped committing to every social invitation. I stopped spending all my free time volunteering. I learned that my time was valuable and that by taking on too many things, I was spreading myself thin. By giving myself permission to respect my own boundaries, I was able to refocus on a few of the most important things and give them the energy they deserved to do them well.
2. I learned that my role was not to fix people’s problems
I stopped being the friend who was a counselor and daily psychologist, who aimed to give every ounce of her being to try to help others solve their problems. I realize now that when I had acted as a “fixer”, I was not looking at my own problems and I was not giving the people in my life the freedom to grow as well as learn from their problems. I eventually realized that the best friend I could be was not that of a fixer, but a listener.
3. I learned the art of receiving
I had been spending so much time giving to others; I had forgotten what it was like to receive. With nothing left to give, I had to learn to receive: guilt-free. Some wonderful people in my life taught me this lesson, and they felt like godsends at the time. They gave freely, listened and supported me: all without expectation of anything in return.
4. I learned to slow down
I learned to take quiet moments for myself. I learned to spend a day wandering aimlessly around the city taking photographs. I learned to turn my phone off to enjoy the taste of my meals. I learned to take an extra half hour at the gym to sit in the steam shower without worrying about my to do list waiting for me at home. I learned to stop and smell the flowers again and to read books quietly with a hot cup of tea.
Most importantly, I learned that as I loved me and gave more time to myself—my body, health, and spirit responded back to me with gratefulness.
5. Most importantly, I learned to love myself
I now see that working long hours, eating on the go, not getting any exercise, and constantly ridiculing my type A personality for not being “enough” was never self-love. Whether it was eventually responsible for my own health problems, I am uncertain. However, what chronic fatigue has taught me is to venture into new territory. I began to love myself: my new womanly figure, my achievements, my time and my energy.
I was “enough” and always had been. In fact, I was powerful beyond measure.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: by whatmegsaid at Flickr