Today is my first day back after a four-week break. I’ve been working for two hours and have already cried. An excruciatingly heavy weight seems to sit on my chest. I struggle to swallow and feel the constant sensation of being unable to breathe, despite the fact that air continues to enter and leave my lungs.
I took time out to heal, so why am I returning in such a state of anxiety? Why is my body physically displaying symptoms of such unease?
Because healing isn’t linear. It’s not a box we can check off in the space of a month. It’s an ongoing conversation with our body and our mind, a process of undoing damage and pain that has potentially accumulated over years, if not decades.
In my case, I’m taking on issues that have been present since I was a toddler — around the time my small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and anxiety developed. In addition to these, I developed interstitial cystitis, largely thanks to my SIBO, as well as hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction, and anxiety. Add to that the continual management of my endometriosis, multiple nutrient deficiencies due to my inability to absorb much food, and histamine intolerance, and healing was unlikely to be straightforward.
Though they’re not as bad anymore, I struggle with perfectionism and obsessive tendencies. I can get stuck in a loop of habits that must be done in a certain way. This can extend to my routines — both standard, everyday routines and specific ones, such as for healing.
As a health coach, I’m aware of the activities and practices that would help me address my conditions and begin healing. I wanted these to have routine, but I didn’t want my life to be dictated by them. I had a plan for how to do this.
However, it quickly became clear that life wouldn’t seamlessly arrange itself to accommodate my healing just because I was off work. Multiple occasions interrupted my carefully thought-out strategy. While this stressed me out to an extent, I eventually had to relinquish my control.
My body and mind wouldn’t jump to attention suddenly just because I had grand plans for my healing practices.
In fact, after such a difficult year symptom-wise, my body and mind didn’t feel up to much at all. As lovely as it sounded, perhaps my relaxed yet structured approach to healing was too much for me at the time. That didn’t mean it always would be, but I had to allow my body the space to recover and my mind the time to pause before I took on what felt like yet another project.
Another lesson I reflected on was that struggle doesn’t mean defeat.
Just last week, I sobbed uncontrollably into my boyfriend’s shoulder because I felt so unwell.
I was having a particularly hard day, and it felt like I wasn’t seeing any rewards for my dedication to healing. What if I was missing something? What if I was treating these issues, only for another condition lurking beneath to actually be the main cause of my ailments? What if I wasn’t well enough to go back to work?
I could have easily mistaken it as a sign of defeat, but once I cried it out, I reluctantly acknowledged that the only way out was through it. I will only know if something else is going on by healing these issues and seeing what’s on the other side.
I also acknowledged that when I looked closely, there was some progress. My bladder pain seemed to be lessening in severity, I had more energy some days, and I had purchased new tools and resources to help me with my recovery, which were working well.
I have always believed and have experienced myself many times that healing isn’t a straightforward process. We don’t just begin to feel better with each and every healing day that passes. There are ups and downs along the way. This experience was a humbling reminder, and it helped me to see that struggle didn’t mean I wasn’t healing. Struggle is part of the process, along with the wins, the good days, and the success stories.
There is always so much we can learn from our own unique paths to healing. Despite being a health coach, my experience over the past four weeks has brought reflection and learnings to my approach. I hope that by sharing them with you, you may be able to bring more grace, flexibility, and ease to your own healing journey.
Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.