Learning How to Rest
I can't take it easy. It's incredibly difficult for me to "Chill."
My summer has been much busier than I thought it was going to be, although not to my surprise. I've spent my weeks hard at work in the office as an intern for the Climate Protection Campaign in Santa Rosa, CA. I had been working on a blog post about what exactly I've been doing for this internship, but then I abandoned it because I was too busy. That should have been the first warning sign.
On a typical morning, I wake up early, go running (side note, it's all hills where I'm living so I have no choice but to work my glutes and quads until I think I'm going to die), make coffee, eat something, and go to work. In the evenings I do some yoga and hang out with my family and read and then sleep and repeat. It doesn't sound very wild, but I'm spending a lot of time doing what I love.
My weekends have each been their own adventure. I went backpacking. I've gone to acroyoga clinics. I went to LA to visit my mom. I learned to rock climb. I took an aerial silks class in Berkeley. And then two weekends ago, I got a sinus infection. Well, first I thought I had a migraine. Then I decided I was having an aneurism. When my family convinced me that that probably wasn't the case, I settled on the most logical conclusion: that I had brain cancer.
When it was suggested that I take the day off and rest, I said no. Why would I do that? I'm fine. I'll just take a truckfull of ibuprofen and carry on. I have things to do.
That Wednesday I had plans to go to a 4-day yoga festival in Squaw Valley. I'd been looking forward to the festival for over six months, had picked my classes out and had things I wanted to work on, people I was going to see, etc. So getting sick a few days before was really not ideal. I went to a very nice doctor (I also have a horrible history with doctors so this was a pleasant surprise) who prescribed antibiotics and some other medication and wished me luck. I went on my way to the festival, pumped myself up full of drugs, and made a promise that I would power through this thing and make the most out of it.
Umm I'm sorry but how could I not go?!
Here was my pile of medication. Kind of sad.
And I did power through it. I learned a ton. I exerted myself to my body's maximum ability and felt sore muscles I never knew I had. I met inspiring teachers and connected with fun and beautiful people, did acro in a swimming pool at eight thousand feet, and ate a lot of free samples of protein drinks and granola bars, all the while taking preventative painkillers and antibiotics (and a beer every now and then... maybe not the greatest choice either).
My mom and I being yogis at high camp.
At least I learned to do this!
I came back and was exhausted. I drove back from Squaw early Monday morning, and after a four-hour drive, went straight into work. That evening I passed out on the couch. The next day, my ears started bothering me. The sinus thing had moved from my forehead to my ears and it felt (and still feels) awful. I went to sleep early so that I could get enough sleep to run in the morning. I sure enough woke up, took some preventative decongestant meds, and went running. I am an idiot. What is my problem? Writing this is quite a revelatory experience, actually.
The day after that I went to the doctor once more, desperate for answers as to why the antibiotics weren't working and why I had something like an ear infection. I told her that yesterday, before my run, I'd taken more decongestant and that my ears had been fine for a few hours but then came back.
She looked at me and said, "There's your problem."
I realized how ridiculous I sounded. I had an infection. Sure I was taking antibiotics to kill the bacteria, but my body needed the strength to fight it. She told me my body had the capabilities to fight it if I just took a rest.
"You're running on empty," she said. "You need to let your body have a chance to catch up and heal itself, because really, it can do that."
What I felt next was something entirely new to me, and it caught me by surprise. I felt a physical resistance to her words. I swear I actually felt the word "No" in my arms and legs and chest (and sinuses). Then I hung my head like an embarrassed puppy.
"Okay," I finally managed.
I went home. I called in sick to work. And as soon as I accepted, mentally, that I was sick, all of a sudden I felt exhausted. Completely and utterly drained. I spent the day mostly in bed, feeling worse psychologically than physically. I hate not doing anything. I did read a hundred pages of a book and also washed all the dishes, and then made myself go back to bed. It sucked.
That was yesterday. Today, I still feel pretty weird in the ears and nose and head. It's my second-to-last day of antibiotics, so I may have already blown it and missed my healing window. I don't know how long it's going to take me to fight this thing, but it's certainly not going to go away if I keep pushing myself. I came in to work for a little today (again, dumb) because I didn't want to let people (myself) down. I stretched a little to make up for my lack of exercise. Honestly I still feel pretty bad. I have a problem resting; I don't know how to do it, I don't believe it's necessary, and I think I can power through anything. I'm addicted to doing the things that make me feel like myself, and I'm convinced I'll lose all progress if I pause at all. I have an extremely hard time taking a break even if it's for my own health. But I'm only hurting myself.
I'm sure I'm not alone, so this post is for you all out there who have the same problem. The Oberlin community especially is full of incredibly driven souls who do eighty things at once seemingly without rest, and so I welcome with open arms any pieces of wisdom on how to address this. For now, I'm going to go home, substitute the ibuprofen capsules for a big chill pill, go back to bed, and breathe.