How do we find ourselves? Get lost!
In the summer of 2001, I developed a neurological movement disorder called Cervical Dystonia (CD). In the very beginning, I saw chiropractors, medical doctors, massage therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, and orthopedists, none of whom helped or even knew what was wrong. Within 8 months and with no diagnosis, I was disabled to the point of barely being able to function.
Utterly frustrated, I stopped all care and began researching the internet like crazy where I discovered cervical dystonia. I then sought out a movement disorder neurologist who made the official diagnosis. Whew! What a relief…sort of. Now what? What do I do with my life now? I had a diagnosis but I was in too much pain to continue pursuing my masters degree and I certainly couldn’t work. Social events were also out of the question. It was just me and the TV all day long. Even worse, no treatments at the time were helping.
So I did the only things I knew how to at the time. I grieved. I cried. I yelled. I retreated from the world. I drank alcohol to medicate the mental and physical pain. I ate a horrible diet and gained 150 pounds. I wanted and waited to die. Melodramatic? Perhaps, but that literally was my reality for 5 years.
Something miraculous then happened in December 2006. I got sick! Yes, believe it or not, getting a major stomach flu saved my life. My dystonic body was forced to relax in bed and do nothing. Interestingly, my symptoms receded a bit which helped me think more clearly. Did I want to live or did I want to die? Was there a purpose to all of this? A resounding yes to both was screaming in my head. I realized that I had lived what I now view as the greatest gift ever. For 5 years, I had my life as I knew it taken from me so I could build a better one!
When the stomach bug flew away after 2 weeks, I changed my lifestyle back to what it was before dystonia set in. I ate well, I exercised, I practiced stress management, I saw good doctors, and I forgave myself for the guilt I put myself through for developing a life altering health condition. Within a year, my dystonia symptoms improved significantly and I lost the 150 pounds I gained. Life was fun again! Even though I still had challenges, and still do to this day that I have to carefully manage, I found my purpose…to help others.
I enrolled in a school to become certified as a health and wellness life coach. It took me two years to complete the program and when I did, I had a sense of accomplishment unlike anything in years. I knew exactly who I wanted to work with; that of course being others like me who were living with chronic health conditions.
But it didn’t stop there. I had to do more. Two years later, I published a book! Me…the guy that once rolled around on the floor in writhing pain all day long wanting to die. A miracle? I don’t think so. Just an awakening to a life that went off course for a little while.
You see, I had to get lost before I could find myself. I had to lose all purpose in life to find my purpose, which I now know is to teach and help others. I believe that is the purpose for all of us and we all do it in our own special ways. I just needed the gift of dystonia to show me my way.
As Charles Lindbergh said, “Success is not measured by what a man accomplishes, but by the opposition he has encountered and the courage with which he has maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.” For me, dystonia was my opposition. Now it is my partner in helping others improve their quality of life and find meaning and purpose.
Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and author of the book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey, a comprehensive resource for anyone suffering with any life challenge. He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, and volunteers for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, for WEGO Health as a patient expert panelist, and is a member and writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers Network. To learn more about Tom’s coaching practice and get a copy of his book, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram.