I’ve been sick for three months. Sounds terrible, right? It’s not been awesome, that’s for certain, though it’s not like I’ve been bed-ridden or in the hospital for weeks or anything. I got a cough in September, just after my second book was published and launched, which developed into bronchitis, which in turn didn’t respond to antibiotics (since it usually doesn’t….being almost always viral..), and vaporizing eculyptus, drinking gallons of tea, trying to rest, and all the usual home “self-care” remedies just didn’t have much impact. My family got tired of the incessant coughing, and for good reason – it’s hard to relax when your loved one is up half the night, especially when you live in a small house. After too many days of cough syrup in an attempt to get the rest I needed to heal, I landed in the emergency room on Thanksgiving day – I woke up disoriented and with a pretty solid case of vertigo and nausea. Turns out I was dehydrated, and after an IV of fluids, another clear chest Xray and a negative strep test, they sent me on my way, feeling less dizzy, but still coughing.
Then a week after the Thanksgiving ER fiasco, I was still coughing. It was kind of unbelievable, really – I can remember thinking, when all the book events started back in September, “Ok, well, I’ll for sure feel much better for the next event.” And then the next event would come a few weeks later and I’d feel no better. Somehow I made it through all of those signings and readings, but it was disheartening to make it to the end of the tour and still be struggling with an illness that just wouldn’t quit. So I went back to the doctor, did a round of Prednisone and took home an emergency inhaler.
And now, mid December, here we are. I’m still coughing but I’m also trying to claim what’s going on and figure out what I need to do to own this illness and learn from it. They say everything’s a lesson, right? So, let’s dig in.
- One idea is that this cough, at least the fact that it lingered so long, was a byproduct of anxiety around publicly presenting my book after it was published. It wasn’t something that I thought about a lot, I never felt “nervous”, and I looked forward to them, even the ones that included presentations. But perhaps my subconscious wasn’t thrilled with all of the comfort zone pushing that I was doing. I have more books coming out in the future, so this is something that I will need to stay mindful of and actively work on. I’ve started doing a Chakra balancing exercise every evening to help the energy that seems to be stuck in my chest/throat get moving again, so we’ll see if that helps. You hear that. subconscious? We are going to work on this and it is going to get easier. No anxiety manifesting as coughing during the next book tour. Everyone’s always saying that the magic happens outside your comfort zone. I think magic can be a little tricky sometimes.
- A colleague of mine, an acupuncturist, shared with me that autumn is the season of the metal element in East Asian Medicine. And the organ system of metal is the lungs (& large intestine), and its emotion is sadness/grief/loss, and the body fluid is tears. He said that sometimes if people have some unresolved grief it can bubble up in the fall and show up as a cough. This is really interesting, because just when I really starting feeling “sick” was the same week one year ago that I learned I was going to be laid off from my job of ten years. I thought I had processed and worked through all of the stuff that came with that, but perhaps I haven’t. Grief is not a tidy thing that just gets put away after you feel like being done with something.
- I’m not ruling out going back to the conventional doctor, but health insurance remains a headache, and I don’t really want to be on any more medications, so right now, it’s acupuncture. Stuck energy, remember? I’m on week three, and though there haven’t been any huge breakthroughs with how I feel, it does feel good to do something different and take an hour a week for this sort of self care. Cupping was a part of my treatment today, so we’ll see what the impacts of that are. If nothing else, now I can relate to Michael Phelps and am sporting some lovely round red marks on my back.
- Which brings me to self-care: another idea, brought up my my spouse, is that I haven’t been properly caring for myself and instead just supporting others. I work as a health coach, so supporting people is my job, and I have a family as well as several other side projects that all require time and energy. He dubbed the ER visit my body’s way of saying “HEY, listen to me. I need support, too.” And it’s true – that day, I HAD to be supported because I literally couldn’t stand up on my own. So now the work is to figure out what needs to be put down, and what sort of self-care needs to be prioritized. (It’s worth saying that “self care” in this sense doesn’t mean salt baths and pedicures – the kind of self care I’m talking about is more like getting up early when I don’t want to to practice meditation or yoga, eating food that makes my body feel good, not just my brain, and putting up boundaries for myself that are necessary for better balance.)
So, that’s it. I’ve come to the end of a blog post, and I have no answers or solutions that are going to stop this coughing immediately. But that’s how it is in a human life, as much as we want it to be different so much of the time. We want a quick fix, the kind of ‘self care’ that is Instagram worthy, a pill that will make things better. I’ve wanted all of those things, and I probably will again in the future. For now, though, I’m going to try to focus on doing one little thing at a time that will invite my body and mind into a place of health and healing, and that, friends, is going to take patience.