I used to be able to ride all the amusement park rides. That’s not to say I enjoyed them, but at least I could ride them. Not anymore. Uh,uh- no way.
It started several years ago, when I was still dating my husband. We were visiting Disneyland and after a long day, he suggested one more ride. Star Tours. Oh, Star Tours. I know, it’s not even a roller coaster, but I left Star Tours a changed woman. Suddenly my world was spinning! I’d never experienced anything like it before. And it wouldn’t subside. Not after an hour, two hours or even 10 hours. My poor boyfriend, soon to be husband, didn’t know what hit him. After leaving the park, I made him pull over and find the closest hotel so I could just lie down and go to sleep. It was the only thing I could imagine would help. It did. But it took a full 24 hours for me to recover. I will NEVER, EVER get on that ride again. And just like that, my theme park riding days were over.
A few years later, after I’d had both my boys, I noticed the motion sickness feeling whenever I’d travel on planes. The ride is fine until the plane descends, and then it’s like my body goes into some sort of swirling, horrible reaction. I break into a cold sweat, have this strong desire to take off all my clothes so I can get air hitting as much of my body as possible, and I feel that at any moment I could lose all the contents of my stomach. Once I’m on land and have some fresh air, the feeling improves, but it takes up to a day for my body to return to normal.
So when I was recently hit with a bout of vertigo, I was terrified. No traveling or theme park rides caused this episode. I just woke up one day and the world was spinning. And it wouldn’t stop. I had to stop driving, exercising and eating for a few days while I suffered through what felt like endless motion sickness. I also felt really cloudy, like there was a fog in my brain, slowing down my thought processes so I experienced everything in slow motion.
I did my research and learned all about the crystals that get dislodged in our ears and can fool our brains into thinking we’re in constant motion. So I attempted all the exercises that help to get the dislodged crystals to exit our bodies. Nothing seemed to work. I even surrendered to my dislike of medication and tried some anti-nausea pills and antihistamines to see if anything would help. Nope. No luck. Not understanding why this was happening almost sent me into a panic, but I had a strong sense that this was all a result of some sort of virus that was affecting my sinuses and ears, causing the vertigo. But because it was lasting for so long, I made an appointment with my doctor. She agreed there was something going on, but didn’t find anything to cause the symptoms.
After exploring all of the possible outer causes, I decided it was time to do some inner exploration. I didn’t have to dig too far.
The week or so prior to this episode, I’d been feeling a great deal of frustration about a pattern in my life. Here’s what it looks like: I run around doing all my daily activities- taking care of everyone else. I get irritated that everyone else isn’t pulling their weight and offers very little gratitude for all that I do. I get really frustrated, angry, and eventually sad. Much of this frustration is directed at myself because I know I’m responsible for neglecting myself. I voice my frustration with my family. They step up and offer support for a few days, I do a few things for myself and eventually the cycle resumes.
This time- right around when I was feeling overwhelmed with the sadness of the continued pattern, WHAM- vertigo hit, hard.
My body is so frickin’ wise. I wasn’t taking care of myself and it found the most gentle way it could to force me to take some time and nurture myself. I hear you body. Message received. I hear you and I thank you.
After about a week, the symptoms began to subside. During that week, I took a step back from my many obligations and responsibilities. I slept a little later, didn’t push myself too hard, and even treated myself to meals brought in instead of preparing them every day- that’s a big deal for me.
And I began to really consider what it would take to finally, really and truly break this cycle. How do I commit to myself with the same intensity that I bring to all the things I do for everyone else? How do I sustain that? There are times that the task seems unsurmountable.
So I start small. What’s one thing I can do for myself every day? Well, one of my favorite things to do is take a morning walk and I already do that every day. Good start. So what’s another thing? And one more. And if I can’t think of anything, maybe the one thing I can do is just make a commitment to pray for guidance, for gentle signs of those things that will re-fuel and offer me nourishment. And that can be the one thing I do for myself until I have more concrete answers.
This issue is obviously deeply rooted in my experience and probably stems from many generations of self-neglect. Knowing this somehow takes some of the pressure (blame) off myself and allows me to be more gentle as I take on breaking the cycle.
And gratitude. Good ‘ole gratitude helps out too. I can offer gratitude for all the blessings and gifts I have in my life without minimizing my experience. Yes, I have a home, enough money to live a comfortable life and I’m surrounded in love every day. That doesn’t mean that I don’t feel challenged with this particular skill of self-nurturing.
So tonight I’m going to bring dinner in again. That makes about five days straight of not having to prepare a dinner. It feels luxurious, indulgent, and very uncomfortable, but I’m going to sit in that feeling and allow it to melt away as I enjoy some delicious chicken with mixed vegetables from our local Chinese restaurant.
And maybe, just maybe, finding the next one thing I can do to nurture myself will be easier in my non-spinning day tomorrow.