“What have you been doing for eight weeks? How are you? Where have you been? How are the eyes?”
After a leave of absence that has changed my life, I am returning to the rock pile tomorrow. While I’m comfortable with my newfound ability to resist the negativity and not get sucked into the pathology, I’m still not sure how I’m going to answer coworkers, friends, and the occasional moron who will surely inquire as to what has been going on. My best plan, as of now, is to take it moment by moment and involve “healing,” “excellent,” and “on a new path.”
Yeah, I know. The “on the new path” thing is really going to screw with some peoples’ heads. To be honest, I’m probably doing it on purpose. Moving toward ‘awake’ doesn’t have to mean I’m moving away from ‘a bit of a smart ass.’
Time to step away
Ten weeks ago I found myself laying in a bed at Cleveland Clinic after collapsing several times during the day. Yes, it took several times before I gave in. Feel free to eye roll. My blood pressure was below 90, my heart rate was bouncing between too slow and too fast, and my lungs joined into the day’s amusements by rejecting most of the air I tried to force into them. After a full cardiopulmonary workup that included large-bore IVs, various scans & imaging, pokes, prods, and getting my RUN-DMC Adidas warm-up jacket stolen in the ER (…If you let my jacket go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you, but if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you and…), the only useful answer to our questions came from the least likely and most beautiful of places.
Following a stress test, I was transported back to my room by a kind, quiet man who came here from Eastern Europe 20 years ago. As coworkers in the same hospital, we had exchanged pleasantries on several occasions, but had never spoken in depth. After a few minutes of pushing me through the corridors, the superficial light conversation paused and he took the opportunity to address my situation.
“How old are you,” he asked.
“43. I’m 43.”
He hesitated, and then I heard him sigh. I looked back over my shoulder and saw his eyes soften. The wheelchair stopped and he moved so that he could look directly at me. “Too young. You are too young for this. This is just too much…too much. You need to find peace, so you can heal and help others. This…this place…this is not the place to heal. It’s time to step away…time to let your body heal.”
I don’t know if an angel was whispering in his ear, or if he was just part of a much bigger plan to get me back on track, but his words fell on open ears. I had been told several times by my wife, friends, and practitioners to take time off; but I was hesitant. However, facts were facts. I was at the point where solutions to the problems had became problems of their own. And despite short reprieves, I continued on a slow consistent downward spiral of worsening symptoms, new problems, and more dis-ease. The man in the mirror usually had one consistent question – “how did we get here, and how do we get out?”
Something isn’t right
In October of 2012, I was riding a roller coaster (Maverick, if you are interested) with friends, and as we exited I made the understatement of my life – “something isn’t right.” That “something” soon turned into the worst headache of my life, and I was emergently admitted to the hospital with a dissected artery in my brain and severe nerve damage to both of my eyes. In the following four years I have survived that torn artery in my head, a brain aneurysm, a blood clot, a stroke & related communication impairment, uveitis, progressive blindness, multiple and varied infections, insomnia, thousands of milligrams of steroids, immune suppression, high energy, low energy, no energy, a wrecked GI system, a damaged psyche, adrenal insufficiency (which, it turns out, is what sent me to the ER ten weeks ago), and countless other mild to significant road bumps along the way. I was down, but still surviving and optimistic that there was a way out.
I share all this with you for one point and one point only- HE WAS RIGHT. The transporter was right. I needed TIME to let my body HEAL. And work is no place to heal.
More is not the answer
So that brings me to the answer. The answer to “what have you been doing for eight weeks?” And that answer is easy – I have been healing. It cannot be put into simpler terms than that. I was on a path of continued and cumulative dis-ease, disease, illness, stress, and mayhem. That path has been identified, destroyed, and replaced. And with it, I have found undeniable healing, joy, and peace. Not to mention some amazing new truths.
My life, long before I was injured and my body began to destroy itself, was centered on one simple premise and destructive stressor – more. Stress to do more, achieve more, impress more. Stress to love more, be loved more, find more approval, help more, give more, get more, take more. Stress to be in control of the situation, stress to be in control of myself and my body, stress to be in control of what others think, say, or do. The list was endless. And as I got sicker, I came to believe that the answer was to hold on even tighter. But the answer was the opposite.
The answer to healing is letting go and surrendering. Daily.
I found healing – spiritual, emotional, and physical – by letting go of everything that is out of my control, and surrendering to something bigger than me. This has been a difficult, painful, and ongoing process, but worth every moment of frustration, pain, discovery, and effort. My path to healing isn’t a “…God works in mysterious ways…” belief flanked by blind hope, but rather is a freeing and undeniable fact. I now know and breathe this timeless truth, long hidden from me by my ego – I can only control what I can control, and that is me.
I am thankful for each and every meaningful breath. Through daily meditation and digging deep, I have stopped a lifelong state of fight-or-flight, identified and broken unhealthy and damaging habits, and started a new path. By fixing the part of me that no MD took the time to examine or address, I have been able to do what thousands of pills could not. An inflammatory autoimmune disease that caused progressive blindness has reversed course, and some of my vision has even returned. While there are still some trees across my path, and will surely be more challenges to overcome, my progress is ultimately moving forward now. Bit by bit and day by day.
There is so much more to share, and I will do it all here. Soon. I realize that this isn’t the ideal first post to a new blog, but I felt like the timing and topic matched up – and I have hesitated long enough. My hope is that in my writing, perspective, experience, research, and storytelling, you find something useful to apply to your life or situation. There is MUCH MORE to this story, and every day adds a new chapter to a book I am excited to read along with you. Weather it is peer-reviewed science like the ACES Study, discussions on the effectiveness of Neuro Emotional Technique, healing, family, love, happiness, nutrition, alternative medications, uveitis, esoteric discussions about the peace I have found , or…whatever I happen to be thinking about that week – I plan to do it here. With you, should you join in.
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Be that change.
3 thoughts on “Healing the Past. Healing Me.”
Thank you for starting your blog Jeff. I’m interested to know how you are managing life – if that is the right way of phrasing it. I have stepped away from certain stresses in life and although I still have health concerns and financial uncertainties, I feel like I’m having some much needed breathing space.
I look forward to reading your posts.
Love and light
Thank you, Lou. I appreciate you taking the time to give me feedback and ask a question. Right after I was diagnosed with multifocal choroiditis and started back on high dose steroids, I met a woman @ work who started me on the path to mindfulness and meditation. 80mg of prednisone is enough to make you climb the walls, so I was willing to give it a shot. I spent the next six months ‘poking it with a stick’, but not really committing. I used it just enough to keep the edge off. The reality is that I made it into a MUCH bigger thing than it had to be. The first thing I can tell is that you MUST meditate – and all that has to mean at first is that you sit in the quiet…or crazy monkey-mind chatter…or your own self. Hopefully, a much fuller answer will emerge from my writing over time.
Now that I think about it, I think I’ll write a post – a shorter one – on what I did to get here. It can be a “here is what worked for me” that will hopefully help.
The short answer is that I made HARD changes to ME. And I DAILY have to fight my egoic self, control issues, a bit of temper, annoying humans that I can’t avoid, and all sorts of other stuff. The reality is that I CHOOSE to be healthy – whatever that means for the day. I SURRENDERED MYSELF to … myself. Good lord, that sounds like absurdity wrapped in a layer of silly. But it is TRUE. Guess I better get that post about SURRENDER written, too.
Crazy monkey mind chatter. That, exactly.