There can be little doubt of the mind-body connection.
I was diagnosed in late summer of 2017 with Celiac Disease. I had suffered from migraines for more than five years, and I attributed them to stress and screens. My diagnosis was a game-changer. And while I never got the opportunity to say “goodbye” to gluten, I have learned to cope.
In early October 2020, I was in the middle of selecting a panel when I became an inadvertent victim of accidental gluten poisoning. I have had this happen on two prior occasions but on those earlier occasions I was able to rebound fairly quickly.
Not this time. I have no doubt that the stress of beginning a general court-martial and panel selection on Joint Base Lewis-McChord made my symptoms so much worse.
On this occasion, any time I thought about trying to get back on the record, I became more ill. Soon I became confused and simple tasks grew more difficult. I encountered what is known as “brain fog.” I was in no condition to practice law.
Thanks to the helpful care of a brilliant neurologist I was able to come through this experience with no lasting effects. A round of steroids and other measures to treat it like a migraine, I am on the other side of what I hope to be a distant memory.
I have been intentional in trying to understand the mind-body connection, but never more so than when I was confronted with an inability to do what I do. I was sidelined for more than a week, made to face the reality that but for the high level of stress to which I have become accustomed I might have rebounded quicker. And the more I tried to ignore my disease and its attendant symptoms, the worse they became.
I had to lean into the curve of a slippery wet road and trust in the steering.
Vulnerability is never easy. Yet I ask just that of each of my clients. To let go, to trust in me, that I will steer for them. The advice we give is most often the hardest to follow in our own lives.
I am grateful for messages of “get better soon” but none more so than the sweet words that remind me to take care of myself because people are counting on me. Let’s look at that again – to take care of me so that I will be able to in the long haul. Not grinding day in and day out until I am the pulp at the bottom of the container. But to give myself the grace to renew lest I be one to fade away, unable to care for others when I haven’t taken care of myself.
My college mentor, LTC (Retired) Jim Bulger, used to tell me that I was burning the candle at both ends. If he were among us today, God rest his soul, he would tell me the same.
Here’s to walking the path that I urge others to walk. And here’s to making sure I don’t burn for too long and with such intensity that I am left sidelined again.
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