Burdened with a debilitating condition, opting to live medicine free brings forth both challenges and a renewed spirituality and joy for life.
I was sitting on the edge of my bed, head in my hands, staring at a giant basket of pill bottles, which I needed to be able to function. Tears were streaming down my face, snot was dripping out my nose, hair was stringy and dirty, and I was still sporting yesterday’s yoga pants and hooded sweatshirt. My world was spinning and had been reduced to this pile of prescription pain meds that I had come to know all too well: muscle relaxers, hormones, and mood stabilizers. I could dig through the myriad bottles in the middle of the night, still half asleep, to find which one I needed in the moment, take it, roll over, and fall back to sleep. It had become completely automatic, practically robotic.
Medications had become an extension of my being.
In 1995 I was diagnosed with endometriosis, a painful reproductive disease that occurs when cells lining the uterus grow outside the uterus and into other areas of the abdomen and body. I’d done all the things on the doctors’ ”how-to-treat-endometriosis” checklist. In fact, I had done most of them several times. From laparoscopy surgeries to remove endometriosis cells and Lupron treatments to manipulate hormone levels, the list of poking and prodding necessities seemed endless. And yet there I was, 14 years later, in no better shape than before the diagnosis and in more pain than ever, desperately searching for the right chemical concoction to give me back my life.
I stared at the empty medical promises — a pile of take-this-and-it-will-help-you-feel-better pills — spread out in front of me. I could barely think as anger and hatred boiled throughout my body, and rage and confusion hung in the air around me. I picked up each bottle, held it, and considered how it made me feel. As I picked up bottle after bottle, I felt more and more deflated. The realization that all my hopes for a better future were placed in these pills weighed heavily on my heart. I went through the whole basket of bottles and didn’t take a single pill. I suddenly knew nothing in that basket was going to make everything better. I felt empty. I no longer knew if I was tired or if all those pills were making me tired. I was living in a medicated fog, and I was done.
As I sat on the side of my bed that day, staring at that pile of pills, crying uncontrollably, I finally admitted to myself that I had been desperately trying to get well for over half of my life. The pill popping wasn’t working.
So I quit. That was the last day I ever took a pain pill, muscle relaxer, or mood stabilizer. I needed a new direction. I knew I was going to feel pain, but I was feeling pain even with all the medication. What did I have to lose?
That was day I took a stand for myself. A fire burning deep inside my belly motivated me. In that moment I accepted that life sucked with the pills and it was going to suck without them. My prescriptions were supposed to be bringing me quality of life, but my quality of life had never been worse. I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do next but I didn’t care. All I knew was I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing and continue to expect different results.
The day I awakened to the possibilities of listening and honoring my body was the worst day of my life. I wish I could say I had some beautiful ah-ha moment and courageously chose to take my life in a new direction, but that’s not my story. My intellect bullied my emotional body, shaming it into silence until the day my emotional body stood up for itself. The fire inside me was the tiny voice of inner wisdom. That voice had always been there, but conventional thinking told me this voice of mine was not smart, it was not worth using, and it definitely didn’t know more than the doctors. So I kept quiet.
In that silence, I lost myself. After almost two decades of placing no value on my own thoughts and feelings, I had a lot of work to do to trust myself and discover self-love.
The basis of my awakening was finally choosing to no longer protect ugliness, anger, hate, resentment, and shame that had built up inside me while living with chronic pain and disease.
No longer pretending to be fine meant finally feeling the hurt I ignored, crying the tears I avoided, and letting go of the emotions I held onto, the way a terrified kindergartener clings to her mom on the first day of school. In the past, it was normal for me to deny my own feelings in the name of looking good, living up to expectations, and not causing a fuss. It was time for this to stop.
I’ve had a lot of help “unlearning” the coping mechanisms I created in order to deal with chronic pain and endometriosis, including acupuncture, chiropractic care, kinesiology, and other energy work therapies. Since that shattering day in 2009, I have filled my emotional toolbox with new ways to deal with stress, negativity, and trauma. Most important, I’ve learned to listen to both my physical and emotional body, rather than masking their messages with pills.
Today my life looks very different than it once did. I now allow myself to feel all feelings and sensations, even if they’re uncomfortable or painful. I now believe that my sensitive body is powerful, and I view physical pain or tension as communication from my emotional body and a road map for uncovering negative thoughts and beliefs. Listening to my body is a tool for discovering unhelpful mental patterns.
Through kinesiology and spiritual work I’ve learned to interpret my body’s communications. Today, a headache is an opportunity to discover where self-doubt is hiding; a sore throat allows me to explore where I am not expressing myself; tightness in my neck and shoulders tells me that I am bearing the weight of some situation; and mid-back pain says there is guilt in my past that I am carrying with me into the future. It is amazing how recognizing and releasing mental patterns allows these physical symptoms to quickly clear up and move out of my life. I no longer get lingering head colds or sinus infections that last for weeks.
To me, awakening means tuning in to internal knowingness and discovering the self-love that allows us to move confidently in that direction.
Waking up means truly embracing and understanding that everything I need comes from within. It is already here, and it has been all along.
I no longer live a fast-paced, high-stress life. Living up to projected expectations no longer rules my day. Depleting energy reserves and exhausting my body are not in my best interest. Instead, I do what is right for me in order to be my best self.
I always imagined that discovering spirituality, mindfulness, and awakening to consciousness sounded like a dream of sunshine and happy faces, a beautifully euphoric scene full of butterflies and magic fairy dust, but in reality, awakening to my own power has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I’ve never felt crazier or more unstable, but I now know it’s not because I am actually crazy or unstable, it is because I am allowing myself to fully feel the vast spectrum of emotions.
Perhaps it would have been easier to stay asleep, to remain average, and continue to live behind the “I’m fine” mask. But that’s not my path. Awakening isn’t about living fearlessly; instead, it is about fearfully looking your demons in the face, walking straight up to them, and introducing yourself.
I invite you to not only listen to your own body and inner wisdom, but to find the courage to honor what it has to say. You never know, you might awaken to the life you never knew you always wanted.
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