Some days I say out loud to the sky (for whoever/whatever) is out there a “thank you” that after losing my speech, sense of touch, and strength on my right side that I have regained it all. Some days I’m still in denial that I need MORE rest. I have planned such a minimal amount of things that most days I feel “lazy” like I need to get back to work. This stroke has helped me in allowing my body to catch up with the rest I’ve denied it for so many years.
However, as a physician I know that it is important to do as much rehabilitation as possible in the immediate 3-6 months after a stroke. It’s been almost a month now and-with holter monitor (heart monitor) in place I decided to try the gym again for the first time since the stroke.
I felt precarious and some fear come over me as I got ready to go. Wishing I had a partner and running through the possible outcomes (most negative-because western medicine training) that could occur. I sat with my body and asked it if I’m afraid because I’m not ready for the gym or am I afraid because it’s time to build courage?
This is where I use my intuitive health education a lot. What is my fear telling me? This is why it is vitally important for me to know needing to not do something feels in my body because it’s not a one size fits all. I can tell you that for me when I am truly not supposed to do something it feels tight where my stomach is anatomically (which is just below your sternum) like when you get the wind knocked out of you. A little bit nauseated kind of out of disgust. Again, this is NOT exactly the same for everyone but it has helped me dodge many, many situations (and men) that I didn’t need in my life. Why didn’t I just avoid the stroke then? Because the stroke was because I wasn’t listening.
Western medicine doesn’t have answers yet for sure why I had a stroke (and quite often doesn’t). The hematologist said I don’t clot more easily than anyone else, the neurologist said the blood vessels in my head and neck were clean, my blood sugar and cholesterol are pristine. The Cardiologist did all the imaging he could without putting something directly in my heart and (despite a closure device I’ve had in my heart for 12 years) it was beautiful, without any answers. All the clean studies have helped me grow in gratitude and appreciation for this poor body I have overworked and under-loved for years.
While at the gym I realized my focus shifted. Admittedly, I am a human being and therefore sometimes I look at other gym-goers and wish my body looked like theirs. Today though, I focused on myself. I made sure I was my own partner, checking in with my body and heart and slowing it down when I needed to. Sure, I definitely have lost a large amount of fitness but I gained such a pure appreciation for all of these organ systems my body contains. A new sense of honoring myself-mind, body, soul and integrating that love instead of pushing myself harder out of a desire to be different than where I am.
The fear slowly gave way to courage which was my second gift of listening to my body. I think that’s the way we gain confidence after all, stepping up and taking that first step back into something we aren’t sure we would ever be able to do (either again…or for the first time). The reason intuitive health education is a big part of being healthy is because I had to allow the fear, intuitively know my body, discern what the fear was about, then continue to listen to it intently while trusting myself to reap those rewards.