Last December I had an experience similar to the one we are living right now.
My life stopped and slowed down drastically for weeks.
Nothing has been the same ever since.
I don’t know yet if I had Covid-19, and I’m sure I will find out soon, but the experience was quite unusual for me and did not leave me unmarked.
Why am I sharing this now? Because there may be something to learn in the process of riding a wave and sharing is healing.
I have a rather healthy life, whatever that means.
I just turned 40, I have an active life, I live in LA, I am happily married, we have an awesome son, and a big puppy, I have my own professional practice that has a good flow and I care about the people I treat, I love what I do, I volunteer once a month with artists who have developmental disabilities, I started a three year training program on trauma healing in 2019, I have a close circle of soul sisters that I connect with regularly, I take care of my body, my mind and spirituality, and I generally feel grateful and blessed to live a life I’ve always dreamed of: having relationships in my life that I love and feel connected to, and living a life expressing my purpose.
Of course I could eat more fruits and veggies, move my body more, sit down and meditate longer and more regularly, take the time to do the things I love doing, spend more time with my family… you name it. But above all things I need to learn how to slow down.
Before going to the hospital in December, life was about managing and juggling with all the things in my life that I love and feel blessed about, and yet all of it was consuming my energy greatly while getting mostly unnoticed. The pace of my practice being rather slow, meaning that the practice of CranioSacral Therapy has by nature a quality of stillness, I would reassure myself by noticing the fact that I was going slower than most people around me anyway.
Or, was I?
Here were my symptoms: some chills, feeling like I’m getting a cold, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, fever, dry cough for less than a day, loss of appetite and most of all the feeling of “what the fuck is going on”. I have had the flu before and it did not quite feel like it.
It went from bad to worse in less than a day and I was in a hypoxic state by the time I entered the ER with oxygen levels down to 86%. The BiPAP machine was the only way for me to breathe for many hours before I could switch to high oxygen and the diagnosis turned out to be Flu A with asthma complications. Apparently it had been a bad flu season already and I have had asthma chronically on and off my whole life.
I made it.
3 days in the ICU, 5 total in the hospital.
And I am not saying that to inspire some sugary feelings of empathy and compassion. When I think of the countless human beings currently going through the same kind of experience at best, under unimaginable conditions, my heart is filled with grief and sadness.
It did feel like surviving a life threatening experience, but I had it easy.
The angels of the story are the medical team. They were my angels back in December and they are a big part of the angel team lifting us all up today.
Here is what I wrote back in December, a few days after being discharged from the hospital:
“Life is amazing.
And the light of this truth gets even brighter when we can’t take a minute for granted.
One of many reasons I answered my calling into healthcare is that I am no stranger to health issues, and looking at me today, most people would have no clue how sick I may have been in the past. Why would they anyway? Why would you judge a book by its cover, right?
Looking back at my life experience, I do believe that my passion for the human condition stems partly from having to deal with “life and death” from a very young age. I was diagnosed with severe asthma at 18 months old, lost a sister when I was 2, and had overall a particular experience of childhood due to illness and trauma.
Last week for me was a vivid reminder of how things can turn critical very fast.
I got the flu and the complications of it with asthma sent me to the ICU for a few days. My lungs were so exacerbated and lacking oxygen that I was plugged to a BIPAP machine as soon as I entered the ER, forcing air in my lungs so I could breathe. For a solid 12hrs I was at risk of being intubated, and I also developed sub-cutaneous emphysema, suddenly giving us a concern for lung collapse.
I am on the other side now, recovering, feeling very lucky and grateful to be where I’m at today. My loved ones, support system and medical team have been lifting me up, helping me to get back on my feet, little by little.
Walking my son to school this morning felt like a marathon, but every step was infused with how grateful I am to be able to actually walk and breathe… things I usually take for granted in this fast paced life we have created to ourselves.
I am processing everything and will be for a while, but I am not in a rush.
Everything lately has been showing me the value of slowing down.
Again and again.
Bringing me once more the grace of what it feels to be alive.”
The night I got back home from the hospital, I could barely stand up by myself. I had lost so much weight (about 10 lbs. in 5 days from an already thin body type) and felt very weak.
I was rediscovering the simple practice of breathing and walking as I was building up my cardio again literally step by step.
It has not felt the same ever since.
First, it took me about two solid months to recover and feel fully alive again.
I was well functioning pretty much right away though, and my follow up consultations with both general medicine and pulmonologist confirmed early January that I was recovering outstandingly well considering what had happened. The following few months were about building back up my breathing capacity, my cardio, gaining weight, and slowly getting back into some swing of things.
I do not say go back to “normal” because let’s be honest, “normal” does not mean anything. There was a great possibility that part of my “normal” was actually dysfunctional and going back to it was the last thing my body wanted to do.
In my experience, every time I have been confronted with severe health issues, or big traumas, everything else dissolved in the background. The voice inside and the self conversations I have between me and my body become the loudest. Discomfort becomes obvious and so does what is soothing. From that point on, it becomes clearer what serves me, what helps me, what nurtures me vs. everything that does not. The priorities shift and what is on top of the list is easily highlighted. Relationships too. The circle gets tighter. There is no mask, no show and no desire to perform.
Coming out of the hospital my body was leading the way.
Every decision I would make was automatically following a short inside meeting with myself making sure we have the green light. Is it safe? Is it ok for me to do this? Does this bring me any pleasure? How does this feel like? All of it mixed with a layer of “Fuck it” and an attitude of a surviving warrior.
I have encountered this feeling a few times in my life, either when something significant or something traumatic happened. As if after being fully scattered by the initial shock of sudden change there was an intense focused gathering of the Self allowing for a feeling of being more centered and grounded.
I have been sleeping more since December, even allowing myself to the occasional nap.
My schedule slowed down. It took me a few months to go back to a full schedule in my professional practice as I paid close attention not to overwork myself.
I have had better boundaries by practicing listening to my ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and respecting them, in relationships or time management. Not following my lead means compromising myself and my immune system.
I have slowed down, allowing myself for more white space in my schedule, fitting in more activities that bring me pleasure, and focusing on what fuels me deeply: love and connectedness.
It’s not exactly that I did not want to go back to how it was before I got sick, it’s just that my body would not let me. I could not pack a heavy daily schedule because my body could not handle it and the potential cost of depleting myself was way too high and risky. I knew exactly where I was coming from and it is far from a place I want to go back to.
It is quite amazing the amount of compassion, respect and empathy I can have with myself at times.
One of my biggest challenge was wondering how to reconcile the quality of slowing down while reintegrating the pace of my environment. I do live in LA and the need to work the hamster wheel to pay the bills is real. Is that really a way to live? What’s my alternative? Go live in the Amazon Jungle like my sister does? Do people around me realize how nuts this all is? The lifestyle we have created ourselves… Did you sit down for a minute to think how this all makes sense? We go too fast. Way too fast. Specially in LA. And it’s been a wonderful environment for me to excel in as I have helped people to slow down for over a decade now.
How does this all fit now?
I have not been the same.
I feel more peaceful, less tense inside, more centered and focused, healthier and stronger, more grounded and happier. It is a feeling that has come from within in the process of recovery. And the new version of me has transpired in everything in my life from my relationships, to the flow of my practice, feeling more inspired and renewed.
Today is well over a month of confinement for me, my family, and for a lot of people on the planet, and it almost feels personally like a déjà-vu, on a much different scale.
What are we learning through this experience?
What are we going to take from our old selves into this new self?
There is no going back to before. It does not exist anymore.
What does it feel like to walk on uncharted territories?
The value of slowing down is undeniable.
The Earth is breathing again and humans are becoming more human.
What are you such in a rush to go back to?
What have you learned in slowing down?
It is unknown what tomorrow looks like.
How have you changed in the process?
What have you surrendered to?
Do you think that the caterpillar resists from becoming a butterfly? Or that the butterfly does everything in its power to become a caterpillar again? No. It just flies. And adapts.
What makes us think that we are different?