Reframe Your Brain

It’s been a heck of a year and it’s just now March.

Last we spoke, I talked a lot about setbacks and overcoming failure. Mishaps, misfortunes, complications, or whatever in the world you want to call them seem to drift in and out of life on their own freewill and we are left to deal with whatever disruption they may cause.

 

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Hanging out after my New Year’s walk.

I’m rarely sick, but I brought in the New Year with an awful chest cough. Physically, it took me away from my regular activities for a few days and I couldn’t speak above a raspy whisper for several weeks. I took it in stride. I rested my body accordingly and, once I was feeling pretty good, I resumed training for a 30K that I completed later in January.
The week coming up to my race, I injured my leg. I teach group fitness with the local afterschool program and I got a little over zealous with the jumping and I came out of a tuck jump at an awkward angle. Upon landing, I could feel that something had shifted and against my better judgement, I pounded away for 18.6 miles anyway. We runners don’t always make the best decisions, but not running after training just didn’t

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Setting up for a fun workout with the kids.

seem like a viable option.
I successfully finished my race with some achiness, but I was happy to be done and still standing. A few days later, I woke up with a throbbing pain that sent me to Urgent Care where I was assured nothing was broken, but rest, ibuprofen for inflammation, ice, and elevation was necessary for relief.
Again, I took it in stride. I didn’t get down. In fact, after the training season, I was glad for an excuse to take it down a notch on the running end and focus more of my strength and mobility. I skipped my running, focused on functional training that didn’t aggravate my leg, iced and elevated, and about two weeks into my recovery I noticed some pretty intense GI distress. My leg was feeling some better so I discontinued the prescribed meds and continued alternating ice and heat along with elevation.
Fast-forward yet another week. My appetite had diminished. When I was hungry it was for very bland foods, I was sporadically vomiting, and I was tired. A day or two later and I was eating maybe a meal a day and the vomiting had increased. Another day passes, I cannot eat, and even water has me in a bad place. I officially declare myself in need of medical attention and head to the ER.
After hours of waiting, a dose of a Prilosec, an IV for dehydration, and a nap, I’m declared well enough to be discharged. I knew in that moment I was no better than when I entered. But, what do you do? I dragged my ragged body into an upright position and my tired and sleep-deprived husband ushered us home in hopes of a better morning.
As it turned out, I was actually worse off than I began and I found myself back in the ER less than 48 hours. I couldn’t walk, I was sweating, weak, and I felt myself moving into a panicked state. I could not stand long enough to be weighed once I made it into triage and the last thing I can recall is of the nurse attempting to take my blood pressure, which I was later informed was critically low. After that, I found myself coming to on a stretcher surrounded by people in scrubs cutting off my clothes and asking me questions that I understood but couldn’t answer. I was fairly alert when a no-nonsense nurse explained that she was going to pull me into position to x-ray my stomach. I attempted to give my consent, but I turned, vomited  over her feet, and then discover that I’d released quite a bit of gastric blood at some point between passing out and the present moment. The stench was awful and it will never leave me.
I was sick. Sick unlike I’d been before. I was admitted into the hospital and there I stayed for about three days. In those three days I learned that I’d developed a sizeable duodenal ulcer as a result of the large dose of NSAIDS I’d been taking for my leg. For three days I was constantly poked, prodded, and disturbed, but it was also the longest stretch I’d had to just think quietly since I’d entered adulthood.
I found it ironic that in the attempt to heal my body, I’d actually done quite a bit of harm and there was some anger. Despite that anger and frustration that would quiet and surge over the next few weeks, I experienced an underlying and profound peace and acceptance of where I was. At some level I knew that I needed this “setback” to think more clearly about my next steps, my health and well-being, and my identity. I believed, and I still do, that my spirit was letting me know that this was a time to slow down, regroup, and move forward in a different manner.

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Hospital selfie for siblings for updates.

Cognitive reframing, often used in therapeutic settings, is defined as the practice of helping others change the way they view life’s circumstances. It encourages patients who have undergone crises to reassess the way in which they define their current state of affairs. The inspirational TV personality and psychologist, Dr. Robin Smith says that when we go through difficulties in life, the question is not, “Why me?”, but instead, “What is this about?”.
So really, what was all of this about?
Truthfully, I do not have the entire answer today. But a few things did come to me with a certain level of clarity. These included:
1. I needed to slow down and reassess my training and what I’ve been asking my body to do. There are seasons for great volume and activity, but for me, now is not that time. Essentially, this translates into a matter of honoring my body and what it needs. My head, or presumably ego, is frequently in opposition to what is more fundamental for my wellness. Balance is necessary and for now, my body, my core, the center of my being is saying, “NO!”. I am happily resting and moving my body intentionally, but in recovery mode.

2. I also concluded with certitude that my hair should be loc’ed. I’m unsure about this one and its revelation during this time. But, it’s a process I’ve considered undergoing for quite some time. In my research I’ve found lots of spiritual reference for this practice, but the thing that resonates most with me is that Dreadlocks have historically been associated with the idea that our physical appearance is secondary. As a result, the hair is allowed to do what it will naturally do if left to its own devices. For me, this is a deeper act of self-acceptance. There is no greater freedom than being comfortable in your own skin.

3. Finally, I am convicted that I need to transition into a more flexitarian lifestyle. I cannot commit to anything more concrete right now, but this step feels very natural. This will be a process, but it has been a fairly easy transition so far. I feel compelled to brush off some of the heaviness of meat as the entrée, and instead sustain more from a plant-based paradigm.

I know this is a long post and I thank you for bearing with me as I attempt make sense of my experiences. The goal in sharing this with you is be provide some transparency and also encourage a shift from “woe is me” to “what does this mean for me”. The next time you find yourself in less than stellar conditions and the rug is pulled out from under your feet, consider how you can reframe your situation and learn through your suffering.

There are seasons in life. Sometimes we have the freedom of choice in our direction, and sometimes life manhandles us into uncontrollable circumstances. Regardless of how we get to now, we have the capacity to elect how we’ll face our conditions. We can choose defeat or focus on the victories that lie ahead.

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