When It's Time to Take Your Life Offline
We get one life, one body, and one experience that we choose.
What kind of life do you want to manifest?
Up until now, I wanted a little bit of everything. I wanted to be a picture of health, to run a successful business, to be a skilled clinician, a loving wife, a talented cook, a devoted daughter/sister/friend and an all around wonderful human being.
I believe that modern society values a Jill-of-all trades, and I wanted to fulfill that role. Women are encouraged to get an education, excel in their occupation - shatter that glass ceiling! As Beyonce sings, "Who run the world? Girls!" and according to Cher's latest single it's a "Woman's World." <!--more-->
As a fairly feminist woman in our women-ruling-world, I find myself wondering why it only seems acceptable to NOT earn the big bucks when nursing an infant or raising a handful of children. As a nation we work, work, work. Heck working mom's are celebrated, and they should be, they're amazing specimens!
But I believe that (as a whole) we've come to value our work status so much that there's an unspoken standard. Women who don't have children are expected to earn money - the more the better. As a married woman without children, I'd take that a step further and say that women who don't have children are often frowned upon if they don't work (regardless of one's health status). What gave me that impression?
Well in 2008 as a 27-year old, newlywed and newly diagnosed lupus patient I was faced with a difficult decision. In the months leading up to our wedding, I'd become too sick to navigate the 900-bed 8-story hospital that employed me. Each month I cut back my hours and shortly after our big day, my husband pleaded with me to resign from my job.
Looking back it seemed like a no-brainer, but I felt that unspoken pressure to pull my weight. Yet I needed time to get back on my feet, and to adjust to a life-altering disease that had been festering through my twenties. I reluctantly remained at home, but I felt a tremendous sense of guilt. My husband worked long hours while finishing his schooling, and I felt ashamed and helpless.
I remember dreading holidays and interaction with others, fidgeting in my seat and doing my best to dodge the question "what do you do?" or "how's work?" These days "what do you do" refers to an illustrious career. Not a hobby, or an outdoor activity - a profession. You might go so far as to say that our careers define us.
It certainly did for me, so before long I had the brilliant idea that I would start an online business. That way I could work from the ease and comfort of my home, maintain and expand my skill-set without overtaxing my recovering body. Plus, I could share what I was learning! Sounded swell in theory, but it certainly wasn't simple.
First came RomaineVibrant.com (attempt #1) followed by eaturveggies.com (nearly 4 years ago!) I quickly learned that online business is a specialty in-and-of itself. Between web design and development, marketing, social media and growing an audience there was little time for nutrition let alone disease management.
Yet I pressed on. Driven by the notion of what people would think, the dissatisfaction of being a "stay-at-home mom without the kids," fear of losing my ability to support myself and most of all driven by my pride, my EGO.
Pride telling myself that I was finding a way. I was improvising. I was making lemonade out of lemons.
Heck, maybe I was even inspiring a few people.
But at what cost?
Perhaps the cost was hidden by the unpredictable ups and downs of chronic disease, camouflaged by taking two steps forward and five steps back. Maybe I was in denial and never truly accepting that my health was taking a hit.
Over the years the diagnosis accumulated and with each new condition I became more skilled at burying its identity (or so I thought), blinking it away, and telling myself that I was still healthier than most. That was until recently, when another potential diagnosis forced me to reflect upon a concerning medical history.
It all started back in my early teens with "exercise-induced asthma" followed by headaches and migraines, environmental allergies (now severe), Raynaud's and chilblains, a nasty case of mononucleosis with hepatitis, the norovirus, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), amalgam illness, Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (SLE), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), fibromyalgia, food and chemical sensitivities, Leaky Gut Syndrome, lead and mercury toxicity, gingivitis, shoulder impingement, neck and spinal spasms with the latest: potential Lyme disease (test results pending, not yet diagnosed).
This possibility completely caught me off guard and hit me hard. My doctor explained that while my metal treatment is slowly beginning to address metal symptoms (anxiety, anger, anti-social behavior, etc…), the amount of pain that I'm living with could be an indication of a "co-infection of some sort." My symptoms of headaches/migraines, severe environmental allergies, muscle spasms, sensitivity to light and sound, joint pain, arthritis, fatigue and body aches point to Lyme. And if that's not the case, then my Physical Therapist wants me to explore Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
So once again, we're digging deeper for yet another disease. Just when I thought there was no stone left to turn. I definitely didn't think anything could get much more confusing than the heavy metal toxicity that blew my mind a few months back.
If not Lyme disease than what? MS. And if not something else, than why not cancer someday? At what point will my chronic disease bucket topple over permanently. Seriously, this is a viable question.
At what point is enough REALLY enough?
As my mind-body therapies and exercises have taught me to grieve in real-time and to reflect on my emotions, core issues, childhood experiences and the ultimate need to strive for balance and joy - I ask myself these questions...
Are my videos epic? Nope.
Does my content go viral? Nope.
Am I making a difference? Maybe, but not enough to justify the cost.
Is my health worth sacrificing over insecurities about what others will think? Is it worth entertaining the limited belief that young females without children should earn money?
My answer: a resounding no!
It's also not enough to slump over my computer day after day exacerbating neck and shoulder pain while putting off social interaction to be productive and feel semi-good about my work... for a little while.
It's not enough to isolate myself to the point of loneliness for fear that I won't be able to engage with others AND maintain my workload. It's not enough to live in fear and it's surely not worth feeding that fear.
Until recently, I wouldn't have acknowledged or admitted these fears. But truth be told, I'm living a fearful life.
I fear that I may never get well, and that I'll live the rest of my days in pain.
I fear that my time to have children will come and go before I recover.
I fear that I won't be well enough to have the energy to raise children.
I fear that all my health quirks and sensitivities will drive people away.
I fear letting friends and family down. And I'm afraid to let them see me hurt.
I've been living a fearful life, and in doing so I've allowed my disease to define me. I've allowed the big D to create self doubt while hijacking my needs. I've given disease way too much power, and it's time to take that back.
We only get one life. We only get one body.
And you know what? I've learned that life is worth risking on me.
If I intend to reclaim my health and find true joy, I need to put my career goals on hold. It's time to simplify. Less is more and I'm ready for more.
Someone wise recently told me that "there is much joy to be had in simplicity." Today that means taking my work offline, and investing it in my life.