April 9th I was at work doing a haircut when all of a sudden a wave of tingling heat started from the lower back of my neck, and then overwhelming the sides of my neck and throat. It lasted maybe 10 seconds, while having this feeling I might fall down, faint, or vomit. Somehow I managed to still keep cutting my clients hair while thinking- “don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall. Keep it together, just get through this haircut. Act normal.”
Trying to act like I wasn’t about to collapse, as every step, every movement felt like moving through water with the strongest current pushing against me, I somehow managed to finish the haircut. Did it look good? I honestly have no idea. I just remember trying to stay upright and make the guy stop talking to me and get the hell out so I could stop fake laughing at his really dumb humor. (sorry, the truth from a barber is a little brutal sometimes)
I turned around and began cleaning my station when the sensation of my knees giving out and the instant thought “I’M FALLING” came over me as I grabbed the counter. Then in a split second realized I wasn’t falling and I’m still upright. “What is going on with me?”
A few days before this I was experiencing some pretty intense vertigo coming back from a trip in Mexico, I thought maybe it was the after effects of a long plane ride and would just need to sleep it off. But the dizziness and sensation of falling over continued with other symptoms worsening.
As my work day continued, I found myself in the back room sitting down, tears building in my eyes, calling my boyfriend explaining things are getting worse- my whole left side began to tingle from my fingertips all the way to my toes, my vision was spotty, words were not coming easy, and my heart beat was strained and sporadic.
Due to my lack of ability to make a good choice in the moment, I googled my symptoms… (don’t judge me you’ve done it too.) Maybe I have low blood sugar even though I’ve eaten? Maybe I’m having a migraine even though my head doesn’t hurt? Ear infection? Then BOOM!! Conclusion from WebMd: OMG I’M HAVING A STROKE!!
Could I really be having a TIA? (aka mini stroke). Every symptom I was feeling was matching up with the description on google. I would panic but literally at that moment, nothing was coherent. I couldn’t express any emotions, I couldn’t communicate well, I couldn’t think, it felt like I was shutting down.
My boyfriend came to pick me up from work as I’m slurring my words, no ability to show emotion, having trouble standing up, walking felt like I was a newborn calf from the womb as my hands began to curl in towards my wrist, and I started twitching. Just complete weakness and feeling brain dead. Or just dead. I’m not sure since I’ve never been dead before but I think that’s what it would feel like.
We first stopped at an Urgent Care, where the front desk lady asked me what brings me in and to my disarray I just stared at her. No words, just stared at her as if she was talking to a walking wall with eyes. My boyfriend then stepped in, and rescued her from the awkward situation as I toppled over from weakness, to which the doctor advised we go to the emergency room right away.
Fast forward, we are in the ER, I’m hooked up to all the machines laying there like a vegetable, and they have a hard time finding my heartbeat. I was too cold and apparently not getting any oxygen. I get all the tests done- blood work, MRI, CT scan, hoping for an answer to explain this really weird, out of nowhere episode.
After 6 hours the nurse came in and said………..everything came back normal. Everything is fine. I’m healthy.
Though this kind of answer would probably be a relief and comforting, I was upset. She said that it could be stress and some sort of emotional panic/ anxiety attack. Excuse me? No, you’re mistaken. No thanks, just tell me I have a tumor pressing on my brian. I’d much prefer that.
Stress? Anxiety? Not me. I’M NOT STRESSED! I’M NOT ANXIOUS! (usually words from people who are in denial about their stress and anxiety…).
Two weeks after my ER visit I moved out of Denver and planted myself in the sacred south of Greenville, South Carolina. A move across the country could be pretty stressful. But not for me, I can handle it. As I found myself retiring from barber life, unemployed, in a completely new space, starting a new chapter with my person, that alone could cause some anxiety for some. But not for me, I swallow down the feeling of frenzy with an iced americano. (great choice Jess…) See what I’m getting at? *cough cough denial cough cough.
Prior to my ‘episode’, I have been going to therapy for 5 months once a week, sorting out some pretty heavy things from my past and the present. Things that I have excused with- “well it could be worse” or “ worse things happen to people, my situation isn’t that bad.” Situations covering childhood wounds, physical abuse, rape, gaslighting, codependency, and spiritual abuse. Turns out, there’s a word for that- trauma. I was working through trauma. Even though I’ve been talking through these certain instances in my life with my therapist, I still managed to make light of it and tried my best to think nothing of it. I thought just talking about it once was good enough and move on. Thankfully my therapist is amazing and I kind of hate her sometimes because she doesnt let me process half-assed or let me belittle my situations. Ever. It’s terrible and wonderful and healthy all at the same time. Probably similar to the feeling of working out but I don’t work out so I don’t know.
So am I saying my trauma sent me into the emergency room? No, not exactly. In fact, a couple weeks after coming out of the emergency room I still was slightly convinced I must have a tumor or had some sort of stroke. I would not accept that I had a mental breakdown out of nowhere, with no major cause that triggered it at that moment. How embarrassing, am I right? (don’t answer that).
It’s been 3 months since that strange incident, and I have come to terms that I don’t have a brain tumor. Darn. Instead- I believe working through trauma, along with the everyday stressors of life, and being in an extremely toxic work environment completely shot my nervous system. Remember how I said it felt like I was shutting down? I think that moment of my ‘episode’ was my body literally shutting down, forcing me to slow down, and reset my system and learn how to breathe again.
I have been in South Carolina for 2 months, with no obligations, no job, nothing to work on, except work with the person standing in front of the mirror looking back at me.
Notice I didn’t say “work on” the person, but with the person.
The truth is I’ve actually been working “on” this person, myself, for a long time. A really, really long time of forcing her to think a certain way, be a certain way, perform a certain way, sluff things off and acting brave. No feeling, no dealing, no healing. Just denial, survival, and move the F on. Sure in the past I’d read self-help/ motivational books, or books by spiritual leaders to find out what I was missing, or participated in a couple of group healing sessions here and there, and talked to a few trusted people pretending I told the full truth. All that alone made me feel I had a handle on how to go forward. Just a quick fix and all is well. Until it isn’t and you cry all time, find yourself not finding joy in anything, or just numb to emotion. Turns out there’s another name for that- depression. The many years of trying to work on myself, led to actually working against myself and what my mind, body, and spirit needed.
I suppose the chapter I am in now with no agenda or anything tugging for my attention is what I would call the road to restoration. To be able to work with myself- mind body and spirit, I have had to let things surface and sift through the shit. The trauma shit. The childhood wounds, physical abuse, rape, gaslighting, codependency, and spiritual abuse to its entirety… Yaaaayyy. I have no excuses anymore other than to let fear or dismissal take over me. It has been a dark time of the soul going through a period of sadness, confusion, and despair. Sometimes the “dark time” of the soul is a result of a long period of emptiness, having a lot of flashbacks or painful memories resurface to be healed. The “dark time” is also an awareness of unhealthy relationship dynamics and patterns that need to change, but not sure how to go about it. There is often a lot of fear during this process because the reality is we live in a society where people are more conditioned to live on autopilot, and you’re fighting against being on autopilot. So the experience can feel very isolating and difficult to put into words and feel like it’s hard to understand. I have learned as I have gone through this “dark time” that it’s ok to be misunderstood. And it’s actually ok to not explain yourself and your situation to everyone who asks! (raise your hand if you struggle with communication boundaries!) But part of allowing yourself to have boundaries is allowing the “dark time” to pass when it’s time, to then learn, grow, and evolve into my own.
Crossing over the bridge of sifting through the shit, to crossing the next bridge of allowing yourself the gift to evolve is the current bridge I stand on. When you’re chronically stressed, and sacrificing your body, it makes listening to yourself and your body impossible. Letting go of the expectation of how I should recover, and actually asking myself- what do I need? What does my mind and body need in this moment?- instead of forcing an agenda because it seems more productive to the conditioned culture we grew up in. I’ll be honest, it’s actually really hard work. It’s hard work to slow yourself down when you’re used to fast paced or the world around you is fast paced. It’s hard work to not force any expectation of myself and actually be gentle and kind when I’ve had years of habit of being extremely harsh. It’s hard work to rest when you feel so guilty because again- other people need rest, not me- I’m not a mom, I’m not working, I should contribute to my living situation blah blah blah. As you can see, it’s also hard work to quiet the inner critic. Doh!
It is strange to me that rest is hard work, but I suppose if it’s treated as something like a reward, or something to be earned rather than a necessity of life, then it is hard to welcome it. I’m not the first person to say rest and recovery is actually necessary. We all know we need rest, but I hope we can understand that rest actually is more than just sleep or lounging. On a practical level of working with myself in regards to rest, I have taken it upon myself to learn about the nervous system, because if that isn’t calm and working properly, you can say goodbye to feeling rejuvenated. I could give you a whole list of what I have practically been doing but to sum it up- look up the vagus nerve. That alone will work wonders for your body, mind, and spirit by taking care of the vagus nerve. Gentle practices are my new friend now. Be easy, taking my time, and coming home to myself.
It is without a doubt that I am extremely fortunate to be given the space and freedom to work through everything like I have been. I could not do what I have been doing without my person paving the way and making it possible (Thank you, Callan! I love you!) That being said, I know not everyone can afford or go about rest and recovery like I can, but if anything I have shared has struck a chord or can resonate with you, that maybe it’s time to work with yourself and not against it, I hope you find the time. If you are someone who feels like your nervous system may be overactive or inactive, take a step back. Work with who you are and what’s offered to you in the moment. If it’s not therapy right now, then maybe it’s breathing exercises or, dare I say the m word- meditation! Rest and rejuvenation is not something to be earned, but if you feel like it is and you need someone to tell you, then let me do the honors- you earned it!
Allowing myself to grieve, mourn, and rest through this journey has felt like death. Because it is. I am not physically dying at the moment, though my old self is. My old conditioned ‘self’ is dying and I have become more conscious of myself and am exploring a deep awakening to my soul. I am healing, I am growing, I am discovering who I truly am. The part that was rigid and scared, the part that had her hidden trauma controlling her is dying. And as one thing dies, another thing is birthed.
Back to thirty, flirty, and thriving. 😉
I hope by sharing my journey and experiences, someone out there feels related to and understood. Thank you for taking the time to read this.
The girl with a really large hospital bill for having a panic attack. haha.
I’d like to share a couple quotes from my new favorite poet/ author named Jaiya John- author of Daughter Drink This Water.
*Her nervous system had been through so much. She decided to spend the rest of her life calming the inflammation. Thoughts, feelings, memories, behavior, relations. She soothed it all with deep, Loving breaths and gentle practices. The softer she became with herself, the softer she became with the world, which became softer with her. She birthed a new generational cycle: Peace.
*She wasn’t only tired. She was uninspired. She traced back the path she had taken since birth and realized it was a path laid down by others. She left the path. Stepped where there were no footprints. Learned to make choices that pleased her soul. She felt something new and wonderful grow in her chest. She came to call this feeling Peace.
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