Self-nurturing for better health: My recovery from a recent breakdown
As many of you know reading this, I have lived with a chronic neurological movement disorder called dystonia, as well as chronic pain, for over 20 years. I use many things to help manage my symptoms and have created a lifestyle for myself to function as well as I can to live a joyful life. One of my many self-care tools is finding peace and quiet and silence and solitude in our noisy world. I spent many years creating a life for myself where this need is met every day.
Recently, however, I allowed a lot of this to be taken from me. I say, “allowed,” because no one or no thing is allowed into my space and take anything from me unless I give it permission, and that is exactly what I did, so I take full responsibility. Taking responsibility for things is also a very important coping tool so I don’t allow myself to become a victim of circumstances or the behavior of other people. Taking responsibility for my falls in life are also helpful for getting up from the ground and rebuilding.
Certain circumstances occurred in the past few months that I would like to say were beyond my control, but I can’t, because as mentioned, only we are responsible for what we allow into our lives. My personal space was throttled and my peace was allowed to be taken from me; the peace I have worked so hard to create. It impacted me to such a degree that I was sleeping maybe about 3 hours a night if that, I was waking up with full body spasms and contractions with sweaty shakes as if I had the flu, and I had a constant racing mind.
I was exhausted but because my pain went through the roof, my adrenaline went through the roof, and I was not able to relax my body. I spent parts of many days broken down in tears doing anything and everything I know how to get through my day without falling further into the abyss. I would see a glimmer of hope here and there, but then the simplest thing would bring me back down again.
It is my nature to passionately live life and this past month I lived it so passionately that it took me down to where I could barely function. I was moving about on fumes, just getting through what I needed to, and then I was wiped out. Too many hits were coming at me at once from different directions and my sensitive nervous couldn’t handle it. It was like a great white shark all of a sudden appeared from the depths and breached the ocean’s surface. I had to turn off all outside noise from things that cause me stress and slowly and thoughtfully and carefully move about my day.
I felt like I went on a binge drinking session for about a month while metaphorically not ever taking a shower or shaving or washing my hair. I felt dirty inside and out. I needed to somehow cleanse myself of these circumstances and get back to the life I have so carefully put together to keep me as healthy as possible.
Dizzy and confused with frustration, I began to look within to find my peace again. Understanding the power of the mind and body connection, this reaffirmed for me just how important it is to create peace and silence in my life and that I need to nurture my sensitive nature regardless of what anybody else on the planet thinks about the decisions that I need to make.
This recent emotional fall, so to speak, was actually something I’m incredibly thankful for and ironically, I wrote this on Thanksgiving day. Various situations that presented themselves over the past few months, but more so in the last 2 weeks, made me turn more to my faith, read more insightful books and quotes and passages, pay closer attention to my body in a thoughtful way, slow down, retreat to rest and recuperate, and set up boundaries for me to heal.
I have had to live with this horrible health condition called dystonia for over 20 years and I have worked my tail off to get as healthy as possible to live as fulfilling a life as I can for myself and others, that I do all I can to let anything or anyone bring me down. I’m sure I will be broken down again in the future and that’s okay. Every time it happens I learn something new about myself and I find myself going deeper and connecting in a better way to what is most important to me in my life.
I know that my peace can be disturbed at any time, but hopefully next time after this experience I will be better prepared. I also know that life will not always be lived on my terms, but this experience taught me to be less vulnerable so I don’t live it on someone else’s terms, which is what I was doing with several people.
I’ve always known that I am a sensitive person that is deeply caring and is deeply impacted by the energy of others. I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself an empath, but I definitely border on one. Unless you are an empath or close to one, or an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) you would probably not understand the gravity of what we go through. I actually know this to be true because when I share things with people who do not have a similar nature, they don’t understand. Which is fine. We are all wired differently. If you want to learn more about the HSP personality, please click here to read a blog I wrote about it. To read more in depth information on this topic, please see my book.
Here is an idea for what I/we experience. We can see things that others can’t see. We can feel things others can’t feel. We have a sensitive nervous system that makes it harder to filter out stimuli (sounds, lights, smells, crowds, etc.). We are aware of subtleties in our surroundings, more easily overwhelmed in a highly stimulating environment, and more in tune with the feelings of others. We get overwhelmed at large gatherings, want and need to spend quiet time alone, experience deep empathy for others, and sometimes struggle with feelings of anxiety and/or depression.
Given all of these attributes, it is no wonder I was so overwhelmed recently. What I didn’t realize in the moment was just how much everything was impacting me until I reached a breaking point. Being more aware going forward is now more on the forefront of my mind. In other words, practicing mindfulness and being more self-aware.
I share many personal things like this publicly because our innermost thoughts sometimes feel as if we are alone in our suffering that many of us don’t share them for fear of scrutiny. Much of this I do in my two books: Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey and Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges. I feel it’s important to share my experiences and feelings because I know others may experience some of the same which I hope provides them with comfort knowing that somebody out here does understand. This may not the process for others, which is totally fine. We do what we feel is right for us. For me, I turn to writing, and I hope what I have written here has been of help to you.
If you are going through anything similar to what I described where your peace has been disturbed, please take time to find what you need in this moment right now. Let the next moment happen when it gets here and then decide what you need in that moment. Be good to yourself. Understand that there is nothing wrong and no need for guilt to take “you time.” Use prayer, affirmations, meditation, exercise, therapy, sleep, tears, laughter, distraction, silence, nature, breathing, binge watching television, journaling, time with friends, or whatever you personally need to find your way again. I did what I needed to find my way again, and I am happy to say that I found my smile and laugh and passions again.
Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and the author of 2 books: Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey and Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges. He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, volunteer for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, and is a member and volunteer writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers Network, The Mighty, and Patient Worthy. To learn more about Tom, get a copy of his books (also on Amazon), or schedule a free life coaching consult, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram.