Finding Peace When Your Body is at War
Updated: Sep 1, 2020
What my life looked like as I headed into my first total hip replacement surgery vs. what it would look like coming out of my second hip surgery was very different.
When I made my way back to the States after 4 months overseas I temporarily moved in with my girlfriend at the time and her kids. Initially, the idea was that I’d be there for a few months, head up to my mom’s 2 hours north for my surgeries and recoveries, and then move back down to the Indianapolis area and get on with my life.
All things considered, those few months with my ex and her kids were a lot of fun. I never thought I’d enjoy life in the suburbs so much, but as it turned out I did. In many ways it felt like a great fit and we were happy.
Knowing I had some semblance of a plan after I’d recovered from my surgeries made what I was about to go through feel a little easier. Unfortunately, those feelings of comfort would be relatively short-lived.
Between my first and second surgery I went down to spend several weeks with my ex and the kids, and we ended up breaking up about a week before I was set to head back up north. It was abrupt, and while it sent me reeling in many ways, it was also entirely necessary (though it would take several months for me to accept that).
The shape I thought my life was starting to take dissipated before my eyes. This little family I’d become a part of and come to think of as mine, was suddenly not. The sense of purpose I felt from being part of them disappeared and I wasn’t sure where it left me. Suddenly I was just me, on my own again, and I felt lost.
So many things had already changed in my life over the course of a year and a half, and the changes kept piling up. I was desperate for something to make sense, but the moment I thought something did, it seemed to slip right through my hands.
Was my ex the whole reason I was staying in Indiana once my surgeries were over? What was I doing career wise? Should I go back into teaching or doing hair again? Who am I? What is my life?
I felt untethered.
The moment we start to feel this way, our inclination is to go back to something familiar even if it’s not what we really want - the comfort of the known. The beast we’re familiar with over the stranger we’re not. I was scrambling to find some sense of familiarity. So much so, I almost decided to go back into teaching for Aveda again, a career path I left over a decade ago and knew I didn’t really want. But it felt safe - predictable.
As I was heading toward my second surgery date I was having horrible anxiety every single day. I’d spiral into a panic about any and everything at least twice a week. I was the absolute opposite of grounded. This went on for months.
On October 31, 2018 I had my second hip replaced. It wasn’t until the following January that something finally shifted and I started finding solid ground.
Once I got it out of my head to go back to a career I knew would make me miserable, I started entertaining the thought of moving out to Montana. My brother and his family live out there. We’re very close and they’ve been wanting me to move out there for years but for one reason or another, I never end up doing it.
I was reaching an impasse. Now that I was on the other side my my surgeries, I felt like it was time for me to start something and get on with my life. But, what?
I thought, I could pack up my little orange car and drive out to Montana and start a new life, or I could stay put at my mom’s, in my hometown where I never thought I’d call home again and be still.
I remember coming home from a trip down to Indianapolis one blustery January day in 2019 and sitting at the dining room table with my mom to talk this over. I was anxious, emotional and feeling overwhelmed. The idea of packing up and shipping out was one I was familiar with. I’d done it many times before. I know the song and dance of starting over by heart. But in that moment, I knew I was being called to do something different and it felt uncomfortable as hell.
It was time to be still.
I made the choice to stay in Indiana. “My mom’s house” was now home. I’d moved back to my hometown and it’s where I was going to stay for the foreseeable future.
That single decision made me feel like I could breathe for the first time in months.
I was so used to moving at breakneck speed and trying to outrun anything bad that might be about to catch up to me, that the idea of being still hadn’t entered my mind. What would I do with myself in stillness? But, constantly running from one thing to the next doesn’t lend itself well to learning who you really are.
If you want to find out who you are, the quiet moments matter. You have to be able to be still with yourself. You have to be able to stand still long enough to assess - something I was frequently too afraid to do, until I wasn't.
Much like my intuition leading me to Croatia when it did, my intuition kept me in Indiana. Recovering from my hip surgeries was only the beginning of my journey and I need the health coverage I have access to here. I need the support system I have here. But it’s more than that.
Choosing to stay allowed me the space to continue healing from the years of abuse I put my body through. It has allowed me to unpack and start to heal from the damage years of medical gas lighting has done. It has allowed me to find my feet on solid ground for perhaps the first time in my adult life.
I’ve been able to see myself clearly for what I believe is the first time. I no longer have this perpetual sense of urgency constantly nagging and nipping at my heels. Standing still, allowing myself the time and space to step back and assess, has shown me how to ground myself in ways I’ve always wanted but until recently, have always eluded me.
Living with chronic health conditions is frustrating. There’s no getting around that. It’s not easy and there are days when all you can do is have a good cry or moment of rage about it all. You have to. Trying to pretend we’re somehow above it all because we’re emotionally or spiritually evolved is bullshit. I love a good meltdown. I need a good meltdown. But y’know - balance.
People ask me how I am all the time and it’s a question I never know quite how to answer. My spirit is never broken, even when I’m in the midst of a particularly bad flare-up and my head has been hurting for over a month, and my chest is making audible rubbing noises every time I move, and my endometriosis is flaring like the demon monster it is - my spirit is in tact. None of it will break me.
But sometimes I’m tired. Not like, I need a nap, tired. But, I could really use a break from my body, tired.
What I always circle back to is the stillness. I know what it feels like here and I know it’s where I must return if I want to keep my feet on solid ground. I can experience my full range of human emotions about my health, and the state of the world and humanity and whatever else anyone wants to throw at me, and I can stay grounded amidst it all because of the stillness.
I used to think I had to find a way to accomplish this by meditating and reading all the personal development books and performing New Moon Rituals and buying into all the other woo-woo, spiritual, personal development world stuff. And absolutely there is a time and place for all of that.
For me, it wasn’t just about the personal development stuff. It was also about finding the right medications to help treat my very real medical conditions (shoutout to Lexapro I love you). It was about finding a therapist and talking to her every week. It was about realizing that my path to find the groundedness I was so desperately seeking, didn’t need to look one specific way. I needed to find what worked for me.
And I’m here to tell you, there is no singular way to get there. There’s no single right way. And if you have anyone telling you that you’re not doing it right because you’re on medication or need the help of Western medicine, you can tell them, and I quote, to fuck right off. Find what works for you in order to make your way to that peaceful place.
Now go in peace, friends.