It has been a long while since my thoughts have turned to this space, and for the most part I am grateful for that. 2009 & 2010 required me to spend most of my days researching what I could eat, planning what to eat, shopping for that food, cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, and finally, eating. My health was such, and my food sensitivities so plenty, that this was necessary for a long while. In order to maintain some sense of sanity, I looked upon it as a creative task, and often a spiritual task. I would work slowly, thoughtfully, often listening to Alan Watts or some sort of meditative music, and trying to focus my whole being on healing. This, naturally, gave me little time and energy for my true creative loves, and that, naturally, left me feeling unsatisfied. Come 2011, for the most part, my gut has healed enough, and my knowledge base is steady enough that my diet has become more low-maintenance. This is all relative, of course, and I still have to bring food with me to dinner parties and on trips, but it is all down to more or less of a manageable routine. Even more than this, however, is the fact that this year I have sadly discovered that diet & herbalism can not heal everything. I have gotten to a point where I have learned to control everything I can, and the rest is out of my hands. So that, dear friends, has been the reason why you have not found me here.
I find a great deal of spiritual guidance from the symbols in the Tarot. In a workbook of mine, it has a numerological formula for finding which card represents the year you are in now. At the end of 2010, when I added up the numbers and found that the Hanging Man was the card for 2011, I was crestfallen. I felt momentum, I felt anticipation, I felt, more than anything else, a feeling that there was absolutely no way in hell I could handle another year without answers, with chronic pain and illness, and all of the crap that comes with it. The Hanging Man traditionally represents many things that I was ready to welcome, the consequences of your actions coming to fruition (both positive and negative) for example, but it also represents surrender, sacrifice, a period of inactivity, a recognition of the negative things that we might be hung up on. (See more here.) I thought that I already lived that. And I also thought that when I was diagnosed with Lupus in May, after almost a decade without answers and 4 months of the most extreme fatigue I'd had in years, that the card had been proved irrelevant. I would get on a raw diet, I would try Plaquenil, and I would start regaining my life back.
Summer passed, my fatigue became worse, I became extremely sensitive to sun and light, I would have bouts of numbness and inability to speak or move, and I had started to get these "ticks" as I called them, which were mild shakes and movements of my head that embarrassed me quite a bit, and so I told no one of them.
But in August, when meeting with my new rheumatologist, during an appointment which was the most thorough and lengthy I had thus far with any doctor, I was told that I in fact did not have Lupus, that my auto-immune issues, while present in Sjogren's and Raynaud's, were mild according to my blood work, and that instead, he thought it very likely that I had a mild form of Epilepsy. I was shocked. So happy was I to have a doctor who finally cared and listened, but so helpless did I feel to know that I was starting from scratch again, with a suggested diagnosis that seemed so far from anything I had conceived. I thought of the year so far. I had only regressed. I was weak and without answers. The Hanging Man seemed relevant again. I tried to pay attention to the lessons I could learn from it.
The next day, while having ten vials of blood drawn for tests ordered by my rheumatologist, I blacked out momentarily, and fell into a violent and extended seizure for the first time in my life. I was absolutely terrified. I could not make this stop with a cup of tea. I could not prevent this from happening by avoiding carrots or capsaicin. This was happening in my brain, and I had no control.
Four months later, the seizures have become a regular part of my life. These "ticks" as I once called them come in varied forms, are usually fleeting, but almost always near the surface, just begging for a trigger to send it over the edge. Complications with insurance have delayed tests and doctors visits, and made for a very frightening autumn with some more severe episodes, but this month I will finally have the EEGs and appointments I've needed, and I am feeling like change may finally be at my doorstep.
One of the most challenging lessons that I've had to learn, and continue to learn, is the necessity of asking for help, and for properly articulating my needs to those around me. This is a daily challenge, and you'd think that with something like a seizure that it would be pretty straight-forward and obvious that help is required, but this has not been easy for me. I am sharing all of these details of my life with you now for two main reasons: to tell those that are friends and family members to me that I need you, and that I am so grateful to you for how you have taken care of me and taught me that it is okay to be helpless sometimes, and to tell those of you that I don't know that it is absolutely okay for you to advocate for yourself. Are your doctors not listening to you? Do research, work with your insurance company, and get a new one. That one doesn't work, either? Get a new one. Make phone calls, get letters written so that you can see those specialists that aren't in your insurance network. Call your friends and family, and be honest with them about what is going on, and be patient and accept their honesty when it is not easy for them either. Sometimes we can make the mistake of assuming that our needs are obvious, but everyone handles trials differently, so communication is key. Most of all, know that it isn't your fault when you can't make it go away. By changing my diet and learning about herbalism, I rid myself of chronic migraines, decades of IBS troubles, seasonal allergies, and a number of other pains and difficulties. I am so grateful for those improvements. But we have to accept sometimes the humbling power of disease. It is a teacher, it is the alchemist's flame, it is, at times, completely out of our control.
I hope that this year, which for me is represented by the Death card of the Tarot (which is the bringer of rebirth, the (sometimes painful) shedding of those things that no longer serve us), will bring healing and positive, cathartic change for those of us in need of it. My love to all those who are similarly struggling, have so in the past, or may in the future.