I was recently diagnosed with Addison’s Disease, an autoimmune deficiency when the adrenal glands don’t produce enough cortisol. You probably have never heard of that because it is a rare condition affecting about 1-5 in 100 000. The past six months have been unlike the previous six, and the six before that that. My life became a little unfamiliar as my usual energetic and active self struggled at times to climb a set of stairs or stand to prepare a meal. Your adrenal glands give you the boost of adrenaline you need to get out of bed in the mornings and to recover from minor things like falling or tripping. During my illness, I often felt quite dizzy, almost to the point of fainting, just rising from a chair. More serious are the implications on your flight or fight response. If I were to fall and break a bone, for example, or get in a car accident, or need the superhuman strength to lift something or run from danger because my life depended on it, my adrenal glands no longer automatically give me the adrenaline for that. As a result, in such a situation I could experience an adrenal crisis which can be fatal if my condition remained untreated.
I am now medicated on a low dose steroid that I will take daily for the rest of my life. I have to wear a medic alert bracelet so paramedics would know to give me an immediate injection of hydrocortisone in the event I am unconscious or unable to communicate after a traumatic occurrence. I also carry my own injection. Unlike an EpiPen, I would have to insert the syringe in a little vile of clear fluid and inject it intramuscularly into my thigh if I were to get injured or experience any kind of trauma. If I get sick to the point of vomiting or diarrhea I have to go the nearest ER and receive my medication intravenously. Needless to say, I have learned a lot about why our adrenal glands are so darned important.
Luckily, my condition is treatable and surprisingly, the meds worked almost immediately. Within a day or two I felt I could get through the day and not feel like I needed to rest. I could plan to go out in the evening without cancelling due to extreme fatigue. It’s like I am getting my life back!
That's the sound that sentence elicits in my head. Let me repeat. Ready?
It’s like I am getting my life back! (replay needle scratch)
I said it on two occasions during this ordeal, mainly because I have heard it said in similar situations and thought that was what you are supposed to say when your day-to-day life is altered. Each time I said it something felt wrong or untrue. Those words simply do not resonate with me at all.
“I want to get my life back.” “It’s like I am getting my life back!”
That completely discredits the past six months of my life. It makes them not matter. It implies that whatever I have been doing I might as well stop now because, damn it, I have my life back. Except for one very important detail…I never lost it.
This has been a life experience for me. I have remained present in it. When I needed to rest, I did. Without guilt or shame. I often examined my level or worry and fear and it was quite low. I trusted that whatever was happening to me would be resolved one way or another, and not in a dogmatic way that believed some greater force would save me. I quite accepted the resolution could have meant terminal illness, or even death. I am ecstatically proud of that! I never let this illness or the fact that I was uncharacteristically off work for an undetermined amount of time redefine me. It was and is my life.
I am thankful for that time. My husband’s retirement earlier this year allowed him to be with me every day and help when I needed it. The love for me I saw in his eyes and actions is nothing less that whole. Our usual playful banter was plentiful and we laughed a lot, together, over the past six months. I had time to reflect on my life and what works for me and what doesn’t anymore. As I get my energy back I plan to continue through life at a slower pace, no longer by force, but by choice. This time has allowed me to recognize and face some truths that I wish no longer to be. I had time to further nurture my spiritual being. Yoga and meditation has played a prominent role in my care and rehabilitation. The messages of love and support from my family and friends will never again permit me to feel alone in this world. This blog has surfaced from just having time to sit and wonder and consider how scary it would actually be to write a blog. Truth be told, it’s scarier for me now to refrain from taking a chance at something that inspires me to write and find creative expression. I am in the process of converting a small room in our house into a creative space for me to write, paint, sculpt, wonder, and imagine. I am literally carving out a space in my home for me to create.
So never mind getting my life back for it was never lost. Having been given time to reflect has made my life a little more abundant.
Today is New Year’s Day 2018. Last night my husband and I stayed home alone, prepared a nice meal together, and wrote a list of what we were grateful for in 2017. There was no shortage of items for which we consider ourselves to be quite fortunate. I also wrote a list titled “What I Lovingly Release in 2017…” and I burnt it in our wood stove. I was surprised at how long that list was, full of beliefs and habits that were preventing me from being my most authentic self. I like to believe I would have arrived to this level of consciousness without the past 6 months, but it certainly helped to accelerate the process.
The last list I wrote was my outlook for 2018 which I share below. I am infinitely proud of this list. I see me in it in a way I haven’t seen me in a long time. I have found something but not because something was lost. I has just been rediscovered.
As you go through unexpected events in your life, and you will, please acknowledge that is your life. Every moment of every day plots your story. Take the liberty to write the current chapter that is most truthful for you. If it’s been a tragic novel so far, you have the power the rewrite it. You absolutely do. You have nothing to lose.
Cheers to life in 2018!