Growing up I was always raised to listen to my body - do you feel sick, is it your stomach or your head? From a very young age I dealt with allergies and I quickly learnt how to communicate how I felt. Almost to the point that my parents and doctors said I had an interesting way of explaining pain. Who knew saying my pain felt white or hot wasn’t normal - definitely not me. As I’ve aged and dealt with different health problems I’ve always made a huge point to listen to my body - not only the negative but also the positive. What food makes me feel good? What activities or exercises make me feel strong and empowered? I was huge on listening to myself and sharing that with most of my friends and family - apologies to those who had to listen to my odd explanations of how I was feeling for years.
Image c/o Tyler Hayward
Somehow this year I missed some major things that my body was trying to tell me. For those who follow us on Instagram you may recall the excessive stories around me having a cold, again and again. And thank you to all of you for the continuous recommendations and well wishes - they truly meant a lot! I would say from January until July I was perpetually sick. Cold after cold, then throw in some headaches and migraines, on top of that a kidney infection that I showed no signs of and a lot of feeling run down without a clear reason why.
This year I stopped listening to what my body was saying and I went on the offensive. I tried to work out, to sweat out the cold rather than rest. I kept working non-stop and only took one sick day where I truly did nothing but sleep and watch Queer Eye. But the most harmful thing I did was believe what my body was trying so hard to say - that it was tired, it was sick and it needed care. I felt as if I wasn’t trying hard enough to heal or that I wasn’t pushing through enough. I didn’t allow myself to be weak and acknowledge something was wrong.
Late June I was sick again, this time I couldn’t blame it on ‘the season’ for a flu. I was loosing my voice, coughing non-stop and definitely not able to sleep or get any rest. I visited my walk-in clinic as my family doctor was on maternity leave and to my surprise the doctor took my temperature and looked in my throat and cleared me as okay. I was told that I didn’t look like someone who was sick, and that if I truly was sick then it would be visible to the plain eye. This was beyond discouraging as it had been near 6 months of being sick on and off without any relief or progress. And for me, as someone who’s lived in chronic pain for 7+ years, I knew exactly how to look healthy and keep on with life while my body was saying the complete opposite. I was furious a doctor would diagnose me on my looks and not my symptoms along with the long track record of poor health.
Thankfully I was scheduled to see my naturopath a few weeks later - so I kept on going like nothing was wrong. When I saw my naturopath I explained how sick I had been, my symptoms throughout the year and the more recent ones of sharp and heavy pain in my chest. A few short tests later I was diagnosed with walking pneumonia that had likely been in my system for 3+ months. Finally I had an answer but I was also shocked to hear I had been moving through life this way and not even realizing it. I hadn’t slowed down to listen to my body long enough to hear that it was in real need of help.
I was able to treat the pneumonia through natural medicine and within two weeks I felt different. I woke up and looked at myself in the mirror and the bags under my eyes were gone, my skin finally had it’s natural colour back and most importantly, I started to feel like myself again. The recovery has been very long and very slow, especially for someone like myself who is always moving and on the go. I had to step back from high intensity workouts for over 3 months, only doing pilates and barre classes which were strenuous and more exhausting than I ever imagined. For me this has been a huge struggle as I deal with a lot of my stress through physical activity. I’ve had to learn how to use my mind to work through stress and not just a physical act.
Looking back at 2018 I can see very clear signs that something was wrong. In four short weeks I lost 10lbs without changing my diet or activity. I thought maybe it had to do with the anxiety I was facing, which it did. I spent a month clouded with anxiety, more than I have in years. The emotional weight of that affected my physical body and in turn was causing even more damage to my body. I didn’t insist the doctor at the walk-in clinic to assess me thoroughly and to take in all of my symptoms. And most importantly I didn’t allow myself to be weak. I looked at myself as if I should be able to heal faster, that I should be able to push through my sickness and that I should be able to do it all no matter how I felt. Having a diagnoses really helped me mentally make peace with what I was struggling with and most importantly has taught me I should be asking for help more often and in more ways than one. If I only listened to my doctor and didn’t visit my naturopath I don’t even want to imagine how I’d be feeling today.
My advice to you is slow down, stop even and listen to your body. Learn what fuels it and what harms it. If you are not feeling good don’t wait to feel better, be proactive and advocate for your health. Living in Canada was have amazing health care at our finger tips and we so often don’t use it, but remember no one will advocate for your health more than you. So start to build a connection with yourself and your doctor, and learn more, so you can be proactive and better maintain a healthy life.