It was January 2nd, 2016, 8:15am and my phone was ringing. The morning after my third visit to the ER over the past three months, and two days after my sister and I brought our mom home from the hospital after her heart attack. All I wanted to do was sleep!
But I answered the phone and it was the hospital telling me the results of my blood test from my ER visit were in and that I had to come back. I tried to negotiate to come back another day, but the doctor was insistent. I had to come back immediately.
After months of fatigue, hair loss, memory and concentration issues, insane low back pain, and several bouts of intense vomiting, the first time I ended up in the ER was the previous November. At each ER visit I was treated for a severe kidney infection and then sent home with antibiotics. Each doctor I saw insisted I had a urinary track infection that had entered my bladder and eventually my kidney. I insisted that I never had a UTI or bladder infection, because seriously, I would know!
But it is very rare to have an infection originate in the kidney, so each doctor was certain, and each doctor dismissed my claim that I never had a UTI or bladder infection. EVEN the doctor who called me back into the ER and told me the blood test revealed the infection had entered my bloodstream and I was in sepsis.
So I was admitted to the hospital and told I would spend a few days there on IV antibiotics and then all should be well. As I was transferred from the ER to a hospital room, I was greeted by a new doctor who sat and asked me once more all the questions I had been answering for months: what were my symptoms, when did they began, what was my pain level, etc. And for the fourth or fifth time I shared that I had never had a UTI or bladder infection, but that I had been feeling awful for months. And he listened.
Forty-five minutes later he came back and told me he had ordered a CT scan because he believed me when I told him the infection did not manifest in my urinary tract or my bladder. And an hour after that I was being wheeled in for the CT scan. And a few minutes after that, I was surrounded by hospital staff and being handed a phone, telling me the doctor was on the line.
On the other end of the line was the doctor who had listened, telling me that I was going directly into emergency surgery, and that it was serious. He told me I had a blockage between my kidney and my bladder and that my organs were beginning to shut down from the system-wide infection, and that I should contact my family.
And then they wheeled me back into my room to prep me for surgery. And the surgeon came in to prepare me for what to expect, and at the same moment, my boyfriend who had gone home to get a few things for my hospital stay arrived, and was confused by the chaos of the scene and he asked, “What is going on?”
And the surgeon turned to him and shouted, “Look, I know you have questions, but if I don’t take her into surgery right now, she is going to die!” And then the surgeon proceeded to tell me four more times the likelihood that I could die. He said the infection is so far gone that my blood was as septic as it could get, and as a result my organs were beginning to shut down, and that even if the surgery went perfectly, my kidney was such a mass of infection, that as he released the infection from the kidney it was possible that it would be too much for my body to handle and I would die.
As I sat there listening to what could only be compared to a scene from a movie, I could see the urgency and anxiety on the faces around me, and I could feel the tension. But in my space, there was only calm. Such a deep sense of calm and certainty. It was like I was watching a movie and this was all happening to someone else, a movie that I had already seen the happy ending of, because I knew I was going to be okay.
And four days later, as the doctor stood by my bedside he said, “I can’t believe I am going to ask you this, but do you want to go home?” And over the course of that day, and the follow-up surgery and treatments to come, I heard over and over again about how remarkable my recovery was. And each scene was again like I was watching a movie. My body was going through the traumas, but my perspective was so much higher.
Although in the year to follow my body and energy were slow to recover, my sense of inner wellbeing and resiliency remained strong. The gifts of my slow recovery was the opportunity to really slow life down and spend a lot of time in contemplation. And from that contemplation, here is what I know:
Resiliency comes from within. It is our natural state. A state we have become separated from in our overstimulated, reactionary world. With resiliency comes such a deep sense of trust and faith there is no need to look outside ourselves for answers or validation, because the truth to everything lies within each of us. And even in the midst of that crazy, chaotic hospital scene, I was able to go within and rest in that trust and faith. I never once had the thought, “I am going to live,” in fact there were no thoughts at all, just a deep sense and knowing that everything was going to be okay – regardless the outcome or circumstance.
Resiliency is fostered through committed practice. If this had happened before my years of dedicated yoga practice, I am not so sure I would have survived. We live in a stressful world! And in a flash life can bring us to our knees. But it’s not in the fall that we are defined. It is in how we get back up. Do we stay down and point to all that is unfair and traumatic about it? Do we cling to our pain and suffering? That’s an option. Or do we take in what’s valuable from the experience, integrate it, make changes and choices to reduce the possibility of it ever happening again, and turn to the practices that reinforce our wellbeing and inner resources? I choose option two!
Yoga, and its deep, rich philosophy, is the practice I choose, but there are so many others. And finding the one that resonates is key. It’s what allows you to keep showing up to your practice. And it is in the showing up that transformation occurs. It’s all just theory until we put it to practice! And the practice can literally save your life.
Resiliency creates a sense of peace and equanimity that we can tap into even in life’s most difficult moments. Yes, once more, life is unpredictable. And magical. Tragic, and breathtakingly beautiful. It’s all a matter of what you choose to see. We can acknowledge the suffering without plunging into the rabbit hole. And by staying above ground and keeping an even perspective, we are able to see the expansive vistas and all the possibility while standing strong in the fire of whatever life presents.
Resiliency is key to reducing suffering. Without the years of resiliency fostered through my committed yoga practice, I wonder how my experience of that hospital scene might have differed. How much of the surgeon’s fear would I have absorbed? How much of my boyfriends anxiety? The sorrow from the lady sharing my hospital room, who I could hear crying on the other side of the curtain? I wonder. And I am certain – certain that the peace and calm that comes with resiliency was at the core of my remarkable recovery.
As I sit here today typing this, I feel such a deep sense of gratitude to all of my teachers who instilled in me the Yogic knowledge that I put to practice. And a sense of gratitude for myself for showing up!
And I invite you to do the same. Find practices to develop resiliency. It may not be yoga for you. Maybe it is mindfulness, or being of service, or writing. Get quiet and go within, because the answers are there. And you don’t have to figure it out alone.
As part of my commitment to service and advocacy for people living with chronic illness, my partner and I have compiled a ton of resources to introduce you to many different ways to develop resiliency.
Stress Relief Simplified Summit is a passion project, bringing leading thought experts together to share simple, proven practices to help you develop resiliency and increase your sense of peace and calm. All you have to do is show up!
Click on this link to sign up for this free information series: Stress Relief Simplified. It begins April 11th. Every expert was selected for their knowledge, wisdom, and unique perspectives on how we can build resiliency. You can expect to learn a variety of simple practices you can return to again and again to foster and bring forth your inner resources and resiliency.
I hope to see you there!