I basically lost the whole month of April 2016. I got the flu at the beginning of the month and then it went down hill from there. I got the flu that then turned into bacterial bronchitis and then into a double ear infection. For someone who never gets sick, it was so bizarre to me. I had a fever on and off for over 10 days where I would drench the sheets with my sweat. I could not breathe and coughed constantly to the point that I pulled muscles in my body due to the coughing. All and all it took 3 different antibiotics, prednisone, codeine cough medicine, and an inhaler to finally get my body to start to heal and recover. I spent about 20 days in bed. I would get up occasionally but was too sick and weak to be out of the bed. This was by far the longest and sickest I had ever been in my life. So I knew this was much more than a physical issue. There was a lot for me to learn from my “sick bed.”
The biggest take-away from my illness is how illness can alter your identity. When I was sick, I could only see myself as sick, weak, and a victim. I would often cry and feel helpless and out of control. Everything that was important to me no longer mattered. All that consumed me was how I was feeling in that very moment. My husband, yoga, my business did not matter. The only thing that mattered was being well. What I was doing was saying “something is wrong and needs to be fixed now.” I, of course, live by the motto and constantly coach people that, “there is nothing wrong and nothing to fix.” So this was completely the opposite of how I live my life.
After about 10 days, I started to realize that this illness was more than my body saying it is time to slow down or we are going to do it for you. I realized this was an opportunity to learn a lot like any other challenge I have faced. At that point, I stopped resisting what was and started to open myself up to the messages I was meant to receive. The first was very loud and clear, “I can not be of service to others if I do not make myself a priority.” I have heard this more than one hundred times from family, friends, and mentors. Now I believe it to be my truth.
Another realization was that being sick for so long affects how you see yourself. When sick for a period of time, you feel like a different person or an alien has taken over your body. You do not feel like you. I have a deeper understanding of this and so much empathy and compassion for people with chronic pain and chronic or life-threatening illnesses. I am very aware that I dealt with this for only 3 weeks compared to people who have life-long illnesses. Nevertheless, I believe that your identity can be significantly impacted by an illness/injury.
Finally, the amount of gratitude I have for my life is immense. I am typically a grateful person who feels blessed everyday to be alive. Since being sick, I feel even more grateful for my life and my health. It is as if I am seeing the world differently. I guess I am because I am different. Taking a walk, going to the beach, being able to sleep restfully are all things I am grateful for. This illness has made my heart grow ten-fold. Every time I think of everything I am grateful for, I can feel my heart in my chest and I start to tear up. In yoga, we call it being “Lit Up” because you are beaming with energy and joy. If I had not been as sick as I was, I would not feel as grateful and lit up as I do now.
So from the mud grows the lotus flower. Cliche, I know, but oh so true.