Not the birthday present I expected!
Just when I think I have a pretty decent handle on my health, the Universe throws me a giant curve ball...
This past Friday, I was coughing all night from a sinus infection I had gotten earlier in the week. I tossed and turned, waking up every hour. Suddenly, I awoke in excruciating pain whenever I took a breath. I felt like I was drowning, trying desperately to catch a breath. I was TERRIFIED! I didn't know what to do. I tried to lay down and let it pass, but I couldn't calm myself down. My heart was pounding so loudly and beating so fast. I knew this wasn't a good sign. I looked at the clock and it read a little past 5am. I decided I needed to ask my parents for help.
I attempted to tell them what happened in between short bursts of breath. I fell to the floor in pain and fear and found myself in tears. I felt incredibly helpless and extremely scared.
What if I coughed a rib out of place? What if I punctured a lung? What if I've done irreparable damage somehow? What if something is seriously wrong?
What's happening to me? WHY is this happening to me?
I'm supposed to be healing not getting worse!
These were all thoughts that were running through my head. Doubt. Judgment. Fear. They completely took over.
My parents reminded me to stay as calm as possible and told me they would do everything they could to help me feel better. They got me settled into bed with a heating pad for the pain, took my temperature, got me water and my mom even put on classical music!
Urgent Care opened and we were sure to be the first to open its doors. After 2.5 hours–an IV to bring down my fever, monitoring my pulse and taking x-rays–they discovered I had pneumonia. Not the news I was expecting.
The doctor prescribed antibiotics and an antihistamine. I felt very torn about taking them–I know how detrimental they can be for your body, especially antibiotics–but I felt in my heart that taking them would be better than being in so much pain and not able to sleep or eat. And I didn't even want to fathom the idea of the pneumonia getting worse!
It's now two days later (although it feels like eons ago that this all happened) and I am already feeling much better! I've still got a ways to go, but I'm on the mend and I'm so grateful.
I've learned that Western medicine has its time and place, in my life and in the world. For so many years, I have felt strongly against Western medicine because it completely failed me in the past. I had trusted my doctors to help myself feel better when I started showing signs of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and IBS, but they either had no idea why I was feeling so tired and sick all the time or prescribed me medications that ended up making it worse or didn't help at all. In my mind, I had written off Western medicine and wanted as little interaction with it as possible. Until now.
I also learned that I am never alone, no one is actually. All you have to do is reach out to someone–a parent, a friend, a family member, a stranger–and it changes your whole experience. Vulnerability isn't weakness at all, it is incredible strength. Being vulnerable unites people in a way that is unlike anything else. Being vulnerable creates community. You understand and are understood. You lift others and others lift you. You love and are loved. You listen and you are heard.
And another thing...I was making myself crazy looking at all the ingredients of over-the-counter medications to make sure they were vegan, gluten-free and additive-free. GOOD LUCK!! Every single medication I looked at had some sort of coloring, tons of unpronounceables, lactose, glucose...ugh! Since I felt so awful, I wasn't about to go hunting store to store trying to find an alternative remedy. So I made the best choice of what was in front of me and did my best to be happy with that! Yes, it's hard to want to do so much when you have zero energy and you don't feel well, so we have to learn to accept that the best we can do in any moment is all we can possible do; like the beautiful quote by Maya Angelou:
"Do the best you can until you know better.
Then when you know better, do better."
I needed this experience to regain my trust in Western medicine. I needed this experience to remind myself that I am not alone and I am never alone. I needed this experience to teach me that as long as I'm doing the best I can every day, that is enough. Until I know better ;)
Like I said in the title of this post, this was NOT the birthday present I expected (still a few days early!), but pretty great lessons nonetheless.