Recently, I experienced an interesting incident. It was the end of a fairly busy week that included two out-of-town overnight trips to deliver a lecture — something I have been doing for more than 15 years. Flying home, I was delayed into Detroit, where I was connecting to Los Angeles.
As the commuter plane finally reached the gate, the passengers de-planed and congregated around the ramp door waiting patiently for our gate-checked “pink tagged” carry-ons.
As time ticked away, the fear of missing the last flight to LA increasingly became more intense. My bag was the last to come off the ramp, I grabbed it and took off running up the jet way and quickly asked the gate agent if the Los Angeles flight had taken off.
The agent responded, “Honey, you have a rock star’s chance of making that flight!” Little did he know, I play many musical instruments and fancied myself as a pseudo rock star, so I took off—sprinting from one terminal to another, down a flight of stairs, through a long tunnel, up a flight stairs—running harder and longer than I had run at that speed in a very long time.
The good news was that I made my flight…barely. The bad news was, the plane took off and my body was not recovering. I felt a sensation in my head that I had never felt before. It was beyond scary.
It wasn’t like I was going to pass out; it was like I couldn’t regulate my blood sugar and everything became woozy. The feeling lasted for approximately four minutes — and then something else happened.
It was one of the most terrifying feelings I have ever experienced. My heart began to beat rapidly and I felt like I was going into a very dark place, physically. I was terrified and uncertain as to what was happening to my body, so I unbuckled my seatbelt and started to make my way up to the galley for help.
Having been on the giving end of airborne medical emergencies many times, that day I did a 180 and was suddenly on the receiving end.
It has been difficult to fully understand what happened that day. In fact, I’m still in the process.
After many tests and opinions, the definitive diagnosis is something called “advanced hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal adaptation with hypocortisolism,” otherwise known as severe adrenal dysregulation or “fatigue.”
Candidly, the whole ordeal freaked me out — I knew that I never wanted to feel that scared or vulnerable again.
As an athlete and health and wellness spokesperson, my body has been something I’ve depended on greatly throughout the course of my life. I absolutely hated that I was in this position. I hated that I had to “rest.” I hated that I had to “slow down.” I simply hated it.
However, I was very motivated to understand how I got to such an unbalanced place so I could begin to heal. I found myself humbled. I had studied and lectured on this exact subject for years.
Somewhere deep inside, I know what contributes to a state like this, but I was in a gap — the huge gap between knowing and doing. (Sound familiar?)
I sought out a naturopathic doctor who specialized in this type of ailment. We did some initial testing and had a very in-depth first visit. I shared a tremendous amount of information with her — not only recent medical history, but also personal history going back into my childhood; my story, my upbringing.
She re-emphasized some things I already knew (and hated) and prescribed appropriate recommendations to help heal my physical body on its way. But she also said recommended something very interesting. “If you are going to heal, you have to feel.”
I do feel. I feel all the time. I think I invisibly rolled my eyes and felt myself starting to slip deeper into really hating this whole chapter of my life.
The doctor even recommended a workbook to me: The Learning to Love Yourself Workbook by Gay Hendricks, Ph.D.
Really, I thought. Who does this woman think she is? I was silently cursing her under my breath.
Well, as it turns out, that woman knows what she is talking about. She understood that my “drive” and my perceived successful career were mechanisms to not really feel, to not really have contact with myself. And with no contact, to note really be able to love myself
Today, I am doing well. I am working , but the work involves far more than taking a medication or nutritional supplement. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is to slow down and really pay attention to myself and make decisions based on what is best for me. In essence, to really “take care.”
Instead of being a taskmaster, I am cultivating ways to really love myself. It is a startling revelation and somewhat funny process.
Believe me, I don’t claim to have it down, and maybe I never will completely. But what happened to my body can’t be ignored and it certainly got my attention.
Being gentle and leaning into the lessons with persistence and awareness is a beautiful opportunity to learn to live from my heart and to be more congruent. I thought I loved myself, but my actions didn’t always add up to that thought.
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