I awoke one Monday morning after the first of the year with an excruciating pain in my right lower abdomen.
The pain appearing on the first workday after the New Year, I thought I was just experiencing fatigue, jetlag, or the side effects of major dehydration after a magical, whirlwind tour of the southeastern part of Seattle-area just two days prior.
I managed to drive to work, albeit wincing sharply with every inhale of breath. But with the color draining from my face as the morning waned, I knew something much more serious was afoot. This was something I couldn’t shake with a glass of orange juice, or an afternoon nap and a few hours of Family Feud.
The next two evenings, I hibernated on the couch in my living room, practically immobile after the stress of work was over at the toll of 4:30 p.m. By Wednesday morning, I was completely drained and devoid of all positive energy. I subsequently took a half-day at work, knowing that I needed to recover as quickly as possible if the pain and disorientation was not to persist the entire course of the month.
I remember looking in the mirror one hour on that Wednesday afternoon, my face weary, my vision blurry with tears, my body sunken with what felt like defeat. I cried — no I wailed — into the mirror’s reflection, because I no longer recognized this woman who was staring back at me.
On the cusp of my twenty-fourth birthday, I found myself in a world of physical pain, withstanding an out-of-body experience I had yet to uncover, and simply not feeling at home in my own skin.
I last wrote on here, several months ago now, about the multitude of changes that have occurred in my life since the end of my undergraduate collegiate career — and how I realized, at the time, how important it is to maintain a few core tenets of one’s own personality, lest your entire being be lost to the mayhem of the world.
But I have found this principle difficult to enact since I wrote those words. The push and pull that is a full-time job, the responsibilities and pleasures of a full-time relationship, and the stress and dull monotony of maintaining one’s full-time residence has stalled my sense of “true enlightenment” in this area of self-seeking.
In the meantime, I have absorbed and digested all the negative energy that swirls around me daily without the proper channels to adequately process and dispose of such energy. I had performed small acts of self-care along the way — doing yoga, taking photos, and dancing — but I wasn’t seemingly invested in healing my own self from the whiplash-feeling that my entire life as I knew it had been uprooted.
After symptoms of pain, discomfort, and fatigue persisted the remainder of that first full week of January, I visited my doctor the following Monday afternoon. After a careful examination, a series of blood tests, and a review of my medical history, it was determined that I had likely experienced a ruptured cyst on my right ovary the previous Monday morning.
I sat on the examination table in disbelief. If this prognosis was true, I hadn’t even known I was harboring a cyst, and — without warning — it had suddenly burst inside of me, again without me knowing until a whole week later.
How had I become so out of touch with my own body like this? How could I not have seen the signs, revisited my family’s own susceptible history, or been in-tune enough to request medical assistance earlier?
Because I’d let the stress of work consume me; because I’d been so focused on being the perfect applicant, the perfect employee, the perfect girlfriend, the perfect friend, the perfect family member … that I’d stopped taking care of my own body.
At the height of summer, I would down barbecue potato chips at lunch, stay up way too late at night, and was genuinely enjoying *living* my life instead of reading about someone else’s. But with this newfound freedom and agility that comes from becoming yourself in your early twenties, I gave up old routines and hygiene that were critical to maintaining my own sense of self in my bygone college years.
I got so caught up in the status of those around me at work, so flustered and flummoxed and confused about where my future is headed, that I couldn’t see the answers to *me* have been with me all along.
Change is a gradual thing. Until all of a sudden one day you wake up in a new bed, in a new house, with another person. “How did I get here?” I often ask myself, genuinely recalling the bits and pieces of life that have led me to where I am today.
My everyday world is different — loads better in many ways — but still incredibly different. Sometimes it feels as if the life I’m leading has started to accelerate beyond my control. I’m on the rollercoaster ride, whether or not I want to be.
In this new year, new decade (for some), I’m attempting to anchor myself in familiar ways — rituals and practices that I have utilized for years to make myself feel more at home in this new adult world of mine. I’m learning not to get so caught up in the acceleration of change — change is going to come my way, whether I’m braced for it or not, so I might as well find a way to enjoy the ride.
But refusing to invest in my own health, my own self, is a change I can’t afford to make. This year, I’m going back to the basics — healing myself from within.