Today in the Natural Terrain clinic I spent some time with a woman with an incredible story that more than made my day. She was humble and appreciative, quietly thanking me for helping her prepare for her treatment. When I asked how she had injured her shoulder, this unassuming woman unfurled a beautiful and touching story of her unpredictable recovery from a near-fatal brain hemorrhage and serious fall.
“It was like a gunshot at the back of my head,” she said. “It came forward and my world turned upside down. And I thought, ‘This is it. I’m dying’”.
She told me of the day it happened and of the serendipitous events that allowed her to get the treatment she needed to survive. She was one of the small fraction that survive with good recovery and little to no neurological impairment. Her neurologist was astounded. She did, however, suffer months of pain in quiet and darkness in order to let her brain rest and heal. When I asked what got her through it she said, “I just decided I was going to get better,” rather matter-of-factly. “There was a voice I heard that said, ‘I don’t want to die. I have so much I’ve put off”. The incredible power of the mind in healing and recovery was made proof in her being there, sitting and speaking plainly to me as if nothing of the sort had happened to her less than one short year ago.
But what impressed itself upon me most about her story was not just her survival but how she was changed. I asked her if he was a busy person before the event and she replied by calling herself “stupid busy”. She described a pre-hemorrhage life full of worry and people-pleasing. She was on medication to bring her blood pressure down amidst the stress and anxiety of career, projects and obligations for others. One day it was out of control and she was sent a serious message to slow down, by way of a trip in the ambulance to the ICU. I mentioned to her Dr. Gabor Maté’s book “When the Body Says No” and his work showing how the body gives us signs to slow or stop until it stops for us- through serious illness. When we learn to say no, learn to express our anger, learn to do things for ourselves, only then do we start to heal and prevent chronic and acute diseases. She agreed wholeheartedly, saying “that’s just it. I was doing things without considering myself. And now I just don’t. I don’t see people I don’t like or that pressure me. And I don’t feel guilty because I could be dead. It’s as simple as that”. She willed herself to get better, to love the people she wanted to love, to self-publish a book that had been waiting for 30 years, dropped the unnecessary stress and has been able to live hopefully another healthy 20 years with the love of her life.
A feeling welled up inside me as I said goodbye after her treatment and I will call it inspiration. She’s right. It is as simple as that; we could all be dead. Life has no guarantees for us but mistakenly we put off living today for the promise of an improved tomorrow. We put off standing up for ourselves to avoid conflict. We swallow our anger to be likeable. We stifle our individual creativity and our dreams to fit in with those around us. We play it safe to avoid uncertainty. But today as I heard the story of the message she received loud and clear from her body, I was inspired to look at myself and really see where the messages are for me. I made a conscious agreement to act with more self-compassion, more self-love and more self-consideration. I give myself permission to listen to my body and my inclinations when I feel I should put myself first, to live in the present moment, and to direct my life in a healthy, mindful way. Because eventually it could save my life.