Lessons from someone who couldn’t (wouldn’t) slow down

I am literally sitting in an office in Steveston, BC, with an IV in my arm as I write this. Antibiotics quite literally coursing through my veins, in attempt to kill the bacteria that have stolen my life.

I often forget how active and vibrant I was just before I got sick. I read a quote the other day that truly hit home for me, it was “make time for health or you’ll have to make time for illness.” Wow. That’s a gut punch. If someone had said that to me before I got sick while I was exercising 7 days a week and meal prepping and working 3 jobs, I would have said I didn’t have time to rest. Or that I didn’t need it. The truth is the thought of slowing down was terrifying. I truly believed that if I slowed down or stopped any of what I was doing the world would crumble around me. It was like the walls were slowly crumbling and I was running in circles trying to catch the pieces before they hit the ground, half-ass gluing them back in place just in time to catch the next one, trying to seal any cracks as I went.

While I was so focused on keeping everything outside of me together, I had no idea that it was actually what was inside that was succumbing to intruders like an attack by a Trojan horse.

My body kept asking me to slow down and I kept ignoring it. Through all of my fitness and businesses I had gained a confidence that I’d never experienced before and I was afraid to loose it. Growing up with mental health issues such as severe depression and panic disorder you stop trusting your body and mind. You learn to push through and ignore the signals your body is sending you because often in the case of panic disorder anyways, they aren’t real. Your mind and body believe you’re in danger when you aren’t. To overcome that you learn to ignore those alarm bells and keep trekking through.

Physical illness on the other hand is the opposite. You have to listen to your body and slow down when necessary and give your body plenty of rest and time to heal itself. So you can see how opposite that is. If I hadn’t learned growing up to push through my mental illnesses I wouldn’t have survived. Now, if I don’t learn to listen to my body again and to rest, I won’t survive either.

Ideally though, growing up with mental illnesses I would have learned to sit with the uncomfortable. To allow myself to truly feel all of the sharp and ugly pieces and to then allow them to pass. Ideally I would have learned mindfulness and grounding and some of the spiritual lessons that I’m learning now so that I could have understood better what was happening in and around me and then maybe I wouldn’t have had to get Lyme in order to learn all of these things. But I didn’t, and I can’t turn back time so what’s really important is that I’m learning all that I can now, and sharing my journey to help others.

I’m 27 and learning to listen to and trust my body and intuition all over again – or really, for the first time. Some people learn this young and others don’t learn it until their skin has softened and hair turned gray. Others, I think, maybe don’t ever learn it, and what an unfortunate situation is.
It’s no secret that the Universe will continue to give us the same lessons over and over again until we learn them. I’ve learned to let myself feel the ugly. I’ve learned to let myself love and forgive and heal. I’ve learned enough therapy that I could practically be a therapist. In fact, I’m often teased by my hair clients, “Denise, I’m here for my therapy session!”. I’ve learned what boundaries are and what they feel like and how to put them in place (almost!). I’ve learned what no feels like and the power of the word and when to use it, as well as the same for yes. I’ve learned how to say yes to my body and it’s needs and to rest and to experience the uncomfortable in all of its lessons. I’ve learned that I’m worth a lot more than I thought I was. That my mind and my heart and my knowledge and willingness to share and be open and all of the quirky little things that some won’t appreciate, are worth something; they’re meant to be appreciated not cut down. I’ve learned that I’m not for everybody. And that I’m okay with that. More than okay with it actually because it wiens out those who are not my people without me having to do the work. I’ve learned that there are so many people who love and appreciate and honor and respect me for being exactly who I am. I am now one of those people as well.

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