I was coming home for a wonderful vacation with my son when I started not feeling so well two days before we were leaving. We boarded the second leg of the three-leg plane trip home, and four hours into the flight the situation grew worse. I was in so much pain. It felt like I had the flu on steroids! I can’t recall ever being so sick, even with pneumonia. You must be thinking, “I’m so glad I wasn’t the person sitting next to her on the plane, or even being a passenger in that fuselage!” I don’t blame you!
In general, I consider myself to be pretty healthy, and hardly ever have temperatures, but I knew my temp was really high. Even Ibuprofen didn’t seem to cut it when it came to the aches, pains, hot and cold sweats and nausea I felt.
I tried to stay hydrated, and walk up and down the aisles to get some circulation going in my body. It took every ounce of energy from me to walk. I was completely zapped of any movement in my body and felt like a lead weight that could be an anchor for the Queen Mary.
I started to feel anxious, and trapped inside my body. We had been on the second leg of our flight for six hours, with another two hours to go, and feeling worse by the minute. Another two hours being on that plane felt like an eternity. I really wanted to walk over to the cockpit and ask the pilot to please drop me off in Iceland as we flew over it.
As the anxiety increased, I could feel the activation in my body. The flight response was rearing its head and I felt my lungs constrict, and my body tighten. Thoughts like what’s going to happen to me? And, What if I’m not ok? Were screaming inside my head. My body wanted to open that emergency door and leave this space capsule, and the other part of me wanted to shutdown, and fold up inside myself. I was feeling so terrible, torn and stuck. I could sense that part of being sick was my nervous systems threat response and the dys-regulation between flight and freeze responses.
I realized that I needed to urgently work with resourcing, which is a safe place one can visualize and feel in the body. I started to think about a wonderful place we visited while on vacation. I added some more places to this visual vocabulary that were very peaceful and quiet. After a couple minutes I could feel it in my body and started to feel my nervous system begin to downshift. Then it would become activated again triggered by another chill or pain, and I would work with downshifting, adding the ingredients of a visual, peaceful and kinesthetic experience.
I needed to resource for a good amount of time, and throughout the rest of the flights. It became my focus, my visual and kinesthetic exercise and experience, and it helped me profoundly. I had to work with myself on deep levels and apply the skills I’ve learned and teach to others in a serious and urgent way. I had to be present and in the moment with what was happening, really stay focused, and not allow the threat response to interfere with what I knew about my own energy. It was through this self-regulation process that helped me to have faith that my energy did exist, and consistently working with this helped me to know it, even though I was challenged over many moments. This experience forced me to go deep inside and find the courage to face the fears in myself. It was through the process of self-regulation that helped me to have many moments of groundedness and connection. There were many times when I really wondered if I was going to be ok and these questions came up all the time. Regardless of the fear and questioning, I knew that staying connected to myself was essential, with whatever happened. I wasn’t sure what it all looked like, but my job was not to know, and my focus became about connection and not loosing myself. This required a tremendous amount of energy and it was really hard work. It gave me a different perspective and an appreciation of finding peace in the midst of chaos. No small task. The experience of connection allowed me to feel stillness, even when those voices in my head, my body and my emotions were telling me something different.
This illness followed me off the plane of course, and two weeks later after many fevers of over 104 degrees (the highest temp I’ve ever had) and almost a week in the hospital, I survived! What helped me through all this uncertainty and pain was the skill of self-regulation and self care. I realized on a deep level that Self-regulation is synonymous with self-care. I had to keep finding my way back home when nothing but darkness obscured my vision. I had to find my way consistently to a peaceful place, even when nothing seemed to make sense, and the world felt unsafe, shaky and fragmented. I had to help myself continually find and connect with an inner stillness and peace. This is what kept me whole. I feel even more compassion for people who suffer from chronic pain, and for all of us who are suffering with something.
Thanks for listening. I hope you find value in what I’ve said.