Adjusting and trusting

Lately, I’ve had to adjust to some new unpleasant symptoms in addition to my usual ones. Whenever something novel comes along, my anxious mind is overwhelmed with thoughts of what these new sensations mean. Do these signs point to an additional disorder? Am I going to die from this? Will I be stuck at home forever?

When I am ill, I tend to go into protective mode, trying not to do anything that could potentially make the symptoms worse. Since I don’t push myself, I’m afraid that I am holding myself back from getting better. I feel like I should get up and get out of the house instead of resting because if I stay in bed too long I could get weaker and sink deeper into the “sick role”.

However, I realized that as soon my body started adjusting to these new symptoms and attempting to heal itself, that I naturally sought out new challenges. It all comes back to being able to trust the healing capabilities of my body, and know that when I am able to handle more, my body will seek that challenge. I am focusing on allowing the natural healing progression, rather than pushing my body to do things just because my mind thinks I should be doing them.

When I first experienced the symptoms of my balance disorder, I didn’t think I would be able to ever leave the again. My mind was telling me to force myself to walk so I wouldn’t lose the muscle tone in my legs, but I knew I wasn’t ready. Feeling dizzy 24/7 was overwhelming and terrifying, but in my own time I adjusted, and now, when I keep myself in check, I’m able to work, go to school, practice yoga, even dance sometimes.

It’s always scary when something new comes along in life. I use illness as an example because that is the challenge I predominantly experience in my life, but it could be anything – a new job, the death of a loved one, moving to a new city. No matter how frightening these new changes may be, trusting that your body and mind will naturally adjust (as it has several times before) helps to get through that initial fear and uncertainty and gives us the strength to persevere.

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Inner conflict about reliability

Since my health often fluctuates, I find it difficult to hold down a stable job, or be part of an educational program that requires attendance. At some times, I feel so capable, ready to take on the world, energetic and happy. However, these amazing times only last for so long before my body fatigues and gives up on me. When I reach this crashing state, I usually am so ill I can barely leave the house, thus making it impossible to maintain any work or school commitments.

I have always seen myself as a reliable person, but my fluctuations in health have made me an unreliable student and employee. I find myself jumping from job to job, and missing many days at school. This is something I struggle with because I have always felt that reliability was a part of my identity. I feel that all the ups and downs have resulted in me becoming an unreliable person, and it makes me feel conflicted and upset that I am not living up to my responsibilities.

For example, today I had to quit my retail job – a job I loved going to. I really enjoyed putting together outfits for customers, or helping them find a particular item in the store. My perfectionistic love for organization and order made folding and hanging clothes genuinely enjoyable. Plus, my coworkers were all friendly and amazing people who were fun to work with. There were times of stress, and things like the occasional difficult customer, but overall, the job was great.

I was kind of heartbroken when I called the managers and told them I had to quit because of health reasons. I felt so upset that I was letting all my coworkers down in the prime of holiday season – the busiest time of the retail year. I hated that I had to be unreliable, not giving two-weeks notice, but quitting when I was supposed to be at a shift later that day. Thankfully they were really understanding, but that feeling of conflict still lingered within me.

This is when I realized, I need to shift my definition of what it means to be reliable by focusing on how I can be reliable within my unreliability. A good example is communicating my needs with employers, and teachers at school. I have always shied away from revealing my disorders to people in a position of authority because there is always the fear of getting fired or kicked out of a program. There is still a lot of stigma about mental illness, and when people hear balance disorder, they come to their own conclusions about what that entails. However, we all face difficulties in life, health-related or not, and by honing the way I communicate my disorders to these higher ups, perhaps I can tap into that commonality of imperfection within all human beings, thus eliciting greater understanding.

Finally, I must not forget the importance of being reliable towards myself. Sticking to my routine, healthy diet, yoga, exercise, and meditation is of utmost importance, and is usually neglected when I am attempting to be reliable for work or school. Although I may not be the most reliable student or employee, I need to learn to commit to myself and my health before committing to these external roles.