A birthday gift to be thankful for.

Today is my birthday.  And I feel as though I've been given a great gift.  What kind of gift?  The best kind.  It is a gift of self-awareness, a gift of intuition, and a gift of improved health.  

A year ago at this time my health had hit a serious wall.  A lifetime of digestive issues, skin issues, allergies, and emotional issues had culminated into a serious situation.  I was debilitated by stomach pains and my digestion had hit a frightening new low of extreme irregularity.  I was getting heartburn. My random hives and rashes had increased.  My lifelong problems with acne seemed to be getting worse.  My eyes were red and itchy, and I was seeing floaters.  My coordination was bad, and my normally nimble musician's fingers were losing dexterity. The ringing in my ears had gotten worse, and I was getting frequent headaches.  I was getting recurring bacterial vaginosis.  I was losing weight at a rapid pace (for the first time in my life), and my body felt achey.  On top of that I felt anxious, depressed, and irritable.  My creativity seemed to be gone, and my self esteem was seriously lacking.  I was a mess.

We humans have a way of dealing with discomfort.  We learn to live with aches and pains.  We learn to work through the headaches, the digestive discomfort, the fatigue.  We carry on.  

Until we can't anymore.  

Then, our bodies force us to listen.  I suddenly realized that things were much worse than I had thought.  I had gone to my general practitioner, who prescribed me an antacid and told me that would take care of it.  I didn't believe her.  My problem was more complex than heartburn. 

One year ago today, I called in sick to work and cancelled my own birthday party because I felt too sick, too tired.  I didn't have a cold or the flu.  My body was just incredibly out of balance.  I was unwell.  I was sick.  I was terrified.  The next day I flew to Florida to visit my brother and his now wife, and the vacation there was a dismal journey of extreme stomach pain, anxiety, and fatigue.  I came home from that trip determined to figure out what was wrong.  I started researching, listening to my body, following my intuition, and looking for answers anywhere I could.  I completely and totally changed my life.

Today, the heartburn is gone.  My digestion is regulated, and I no longer get the gut wrenching stomach pains that had plagued me for years.  My weight has mostly stabilized.  My acne has cleared, my eyes are bright, my coordination is back.  Randomly appearing hives and rashes are no longer a common occurance.    I feel creative again, passionate, excited for the future.  Yesterday, my acupuncturist told me I was glowing from the inside, and that my spirit was so bright.  Nothing has meant so much to me as that observation in quite some time.

Healing takes time.  And good things come to those who wait.  And the improvements I've witnessed in the last year mean more than any material gift.  What I've gained is patience and self-empowerment, and an incredible amount of knowledge.  This experience has been the hardest thing I've ever done.  Things got much worse before they got better, and it has taken a lot of work and patience.  Everything I knew changed, and I embarked on a new way of eating, living, and prioritizing.  I've felt sadness, rage, loneliness, isolation, obsession, frustration, anxiety, and confusion.   I've been forced to acknowledge my own vulnerability, fragility, and limitations.  I've learned that I cannot and should not do it on my own.  I've gone from one extreme to another, and am finally learning to find grace somewhere in between.   Most importantly, I have learned that the physical body cannot improve without also addressing the things that truly make us human - our mind and spirit.  

Sure, sometimes I still have weird reactions I don't understand. From time to time I'll get splitting headaches or my ears will start ringing.  Sometimes I have a hard time sleeping, or get an occasional nasty stomach ache that forces me to rest until it calms down.  Sometimes my joints will be achey and stiff and leave me feeling like an old woman.  My menstrual cycle is not yet back on board.  Sometimes I'm really exhausted, and just need to rest, and my blood sugar levels are not what you'd call stable.  I take a lot of herbal supplements to help keep me going, and spend much more money than I'd like on seeing a naturopath, acupuncturist, and chiropractor regularly.  My diet is still very restrictive, foods come in and out of my life the way that some people change handbags.  Navigating the world of food outside my kitchen is often a dismal experience.  I miss going out to eat at restaurants and grabbing drinks with friends.  I get tired of packing my own food to take to parties and bringing my own snacks with me everywhere, just in case my blood sugar decides to take a dive.  And as much as I love cooking, sometimes I really get sick of needing to do it all the time. and want nothing more than to order a pizza.  I laugh at my longing for pizza, because I never ate much pizza anyway; it always made me feel like crap.  I'm not really longing for pizza, though - I think I'm longing for the convenience.  The ease.  The carefree nature of eating whatever, on a whim, and not having to think about food.  And sometimes, I just get angry and frustrated, and feel like life just plain sucks.

So, I scream.  I cry.  I do something creative to get the pain out.  I go to yoga.  I go to bed.  I take a deep breath.  I go to my therapist.  I call my parents.  I acknowledge my feelings, then do something else to get my mind off feeling sorry for myself.  I remember that my life is great, that I am truly blessed, and that there are amazing things in store for me that I don't even know about yet.  And then things seem better.  Catharsis.

No, things are not yet perfect. But things are better. I am better. Much much better.  And I, all things willing, will continue to become better.  Earning the ability to say that - and actually believe it - has been worth every penny, every tear, and every moment of frustration.  

This next year will be great.  I can feel it.  It will not be without challenge, this I know.  But the self-knowledge I have learned, along with the amazing network of friends, family, and practitioners I have behind me, will give me new strength to tackle whatever comes up.  And that is the best gift I could ever receive.

I hope that you and I both find health, happiness, healing and joy in the upcoming year and beyond.  Happy birthday to me!