I’ve been quiet the last couple of months as I unexpectedly entered a time of deep healing. It wasn’t a time I’d wish on my worst enemy. I work with others on being selfish with your self-care. We discuss how it’s impossible to care for others in your life if you’re not caring for yourself first. I had forgotten to model that very important idea. I wasn’t going to share this publicly but realized if my story can help even one life, then it was worthwhile to share.
We talk, read articles, listen to podcasts or discuss the importance of our self-care. For those in the holistic and wellness fields, we teach it daily. We know the consequences. But how often are we taking our own advice? How often is our self-care first?
In February, I was busy with clients, travel and Reiki classes. Mocha, my rottweiler, had started limping slightly. He was almost ten and everyone figured it was arthritis in his shoulder. I was zipping to Denver so made the x-ray appointment when I returned the next week. Life was moving too fast and I couldn’t take myself off the hamster wheel. Too many people were counting on me. Sound familiar? I looked at his doctor and explained I couldn’t deal with any bad news. I was still grieving over the loss of his sister Lexie in late October. Clue #1.
I returned from the whirlwind trip with a new week of clients and travel to Atlanta, followed by the largest week of clients ever. People were booking spots using the online booking system faster than I could close out the space. I was getting stressed about how I would be able to serve everyone to the level that I wanted. I didn’t have the heart to simply call a few people and see if they’d be willing to let me reschedule them for the following week. Instead, I put on my superwoman cape and moved full-speed ahead. Clue #2.
On Monday, February 20th, we made it for the x-rays. It’s one of the most painful days of my life. Those who know me realize the deep bond I have with animals. Mocha was much more than a “dog” to me. My fur baby. A member of my family. He listened, shared his energy when I needed it, licked away my tears, danced to my successes, and shared his thoughts on my content in animal classes. He actually helped me create my Animal Reiki class. Mocha, who was part of my heart in many ways, was diagnosed with bone cancer in the shoulder. I remember the heart-wrenching, guttural screams I made as I drove to pick him up. The pain was raw, deep, and I allowed it to flow. My “rock” was going to leave me, soon. I listened to all the information, not really absorbing it. I was in too much shock. Only a few weeks left unless we decided to take extreme measures. Mocha looked at me and I clearly heard, “No. I want to leave on my terms, with dignity.” My heart was breaking. Clue #3.
I was numb. There was little desire to teach in Atlanta that weekend when my heart was in Charlotte. But beautiful students were counting on me and I was excited to be with them. So I shoved down my pain and grief, packed the car, and drove to Atlanta. I chose to ignore my own needs. I chose to care for others before myself. Clue #4.
Earlier that evening, I’d had dinner with a student, enjoyed a pre-class student gathering, set up the room for class, and tried not to think about Mocha. I was in “teacher” mode, the professional doing what was expected of her. Ingrained habits from my years in the corporate world served me well. Compartmentalize the grief – focus on the tasks at hand. Grieve next week. Give my heart a break next week. But wait! Next week I’m seeing 15 clients – there’s no time for a break. How many of us have had this week? How many times have we ignored the little voice screaming at us to just STOP IT! Clue #5.
The Kicker….aka the Results of Not Listening
By now, you’re wondering what all the clues are adding up to. It’s time for the kicker. I laid down Friday evening in the hotel room ready for some much-needed rest. Within seconds, it felt like someone had kicked me square in the chest. I thought I’d pulled a muscle carrying the therapy tables in to the conference room. Twenty minutes later the pain continued, then it went to my right shoulder and down my right arm. What? I grabbed my phone and asked Siri about my symptoms, again ignoring the voice in my head screaming “HEART HEART HEART” over and over. I don’t have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. I don’t have a lot of things. How could it be my heart?
Off I went to Emory St. Joseph Hospital ER. Within seconds, they were taking care of me. Sure enough, every lab value was perfect except for my heart enzyme. My heart wasn’t a happy camper. I fought because I had to teach class at 9am that morning. I didn’t have time for this. I had to go. Finally at 6:30am that morning I realized there would be no teaching. There would be no driving to class to tell the students what happened then driving to Charlotte and checking in to a local hospital. I was admitted to the hospital in Atlanta. Alone. Without my support system. And terrified Mocha wouldn’t be home when I finally got there.
The following four days were a blur. Push the doctors to do something. Call them out when they weren’t disclosing all the information. Listen to my intuition (FINALLY). Honor what my body had been trying to tell me. It had been asking for rest. It wanted time and space to grieve. Time to prepare for saying goodbye. For two days I slept. No computer, no TV, only the phone to keep family informed and ask questions of friends with medical training. I quit worrying about the class. My only focus was doing what I needed to in order to get home.
What’s a SCAD?
After lots of tests, I was diagnosed with SCAD – Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection. The focus here is on Spontaneous. It generally strikes healthy women below age 50. Mayo Clinic is doing a study to learn more about SCAD. For me, SCAD is a testament to what happens when you forget to take care of yourself, when you let stress take over, and when you put others first. The positive is that I didn’t need a stent, only time to let the tears in my artery heal. Time to be gentle with myself. Time for some overdue self-care. The doctors can give me all the reasons they want, but I know in my heart that my SCAD was a combination of the events that week, of the stress, of my poor choices.
Space to Feel..You need it
I returned home February 28th. I managed to get a few more precious days with Mocha before it was time for him to cross Rainbow Bridge. I spent the month of March and much of April with my grief and anger. The events were separate, yet totally connected. Either was hard, but I had no idea how to navigate both at the same time. So I gave myself space. No phone calls, no unnecessary email, no social media. I didn’t care. I bounced between the stages of grief, stuck in my anger and pain. I screamed. I cried. I gave myself the space TO FEEL. I honored my feelings. And slowly, very slowly, I began to heal.
More anger came in the guise of Cardiac Rehab. I used rehab as a way to release the anger of Mocha’s loss from my body. It was also a way to release the anger ay my heart. How dare it betray me? I finally got quiet one afternoon and started breathing deeply. I asked my body the question. WHY? WHY did you do this to us? The answer came quickly. “Because you didn’t listen to my pleas. I needed rest.” The anger left my body in a whoosh. My body felt it needed to resort to something this drastic to get my attention.
Lessons? Too many to write about here. The big takeaways? Just like they say on the airplane “Put on your oxygen mask before assisting others.” I’ve made time for morning movement now. If I try to get it in later in the day, it may not happen. I don’t care how well intended you are, it’s impossible to care for the other people in your life if you don’t care for yourself first. You are so worth it. Your beautiful body, the only one you get in this life, is also worth it. You’re not being selfish when you tell others you need space. It’s not cowardice to let people know you’re going through something and need their compassion and understanding. It’s courageous. It’s not weak to ask for help, or space, or time. It shows your strength and courage.
Let go of the expectations of others. Become fierce about your self-care. Set yourself free.
Bryce Goebel is the Founder of A Reiki Place and Bryce Goebel Wellness. As a powerful intuitive, she helps clients create Fierce, Fearless lives without shame, guilt or apology. As a speaker and author, she shares stories of living according to the expectations of others, the cost of not living authentically, how to claim our worth in the world, speaking and standing in our truth, and accepting that we are enough. She worked over 20 years as a Software Engineer and Project Manager before dropping out of the corporate world. She is a Licensed Reiki Master Teacher with the International Center for Reiki Training and Certified Warrior Goddess Facilitator.
Connect with Bryce at http://www.BryceGoebel.com