How My Body Told Me (and My Mind) to Slow Down

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I am notorious for binge-watching television shows and have watched The Office in its entirety countless times. There is one particular scene with Holly Flax that has resinated with me as of late. She tells the camera, “You know how you say something over and over and the words start to sound weird? Going to be just fine…just fine…just fine… just fine…” For almost a year, I’ve been telling myself that it is going to be just fine…just fine… During the pandemic, I’ve been running a lot, I’ve been doing strength-based workouts, I’ve been spending time outside regardless of weather, I’ve been killing it at work (seriously – I love my job), our house is organized, the kids are happy and well-adjusted for having to leave the life they’d known in Virginia behind, and Clay and I are enjoying him being home more than he ever has in his Army career. On paper – life is pretty darn good. So why do I feel like I am constantly not living up to my potential?

A couple of months ago, a 6’5” man named Vlad told me, “Your body is telling you to slow down” in a thick Russian accent as he deeply pushed an ultrasound wand into my bruise-covered thigh. The 45-minute venous ultrasound found no life-threatening blood clots and only revealed garden variety varicose veins (yay?). My legs at the time were covered with bruises of various shades and a rash that doctors and other medical professionals had been unable to identify; and my joints were noticeably swollen to the naked eye. The next handful of days were full of more blood tests, doctor visits, x-rays, and prescriptions. I was exhausted. I was itchy. And I was frustrated that the medical community was unable to give me answers. Thankfully, the doctors I saw all took my symptoms seriously and agreed that something was wrong autoimmune-wise…they just didn’t know what.

I emerged from the ordeal without a formal diagnosis. The mysterious bruising and symmetrical rashes eventually subsided with medication and my joint pain is now minimal. I may receive more answers as I have more blood analyzed throughout the year but in the meantime, I’m thankful that the scary diagnoses are no longer in play, at least for now. But the new year greeted me with shattered molars due to a combination of poor genetics and jaw-clenching anxiety, which has resulted in painful dentistry that I’m still suffering through and Trigeminal nerve pain that comes and goes. I understand that in the grand scheme of things my health issues are quite minimal but with every razor sharp sear of pain or swollen ache, I can’t help but think of what Vlad said, “Your body is telling you to slow down.

I know that I am not alone with placing high expectations on myself. And life is especially exhausting right now so the extra pressure of having to be all things to everybody can sometimes feel like a vice that is literally squeezing the life out of me. I know I need to slow down. My mind isn’t meant to race as fast as it has been this past year. I need more sleep and I need to find a way to shed the guilt that consumes me when I do slow down. It is as if I am in a constant restless state with the ability to move forward but paralyzed by self-doubt. My body is telling me to slow down – both physically and mentally. But if I’m being honest, I’m not quite sure how. I’ve been attempting to take a more holistic view of my wellness and not just focus on fitness goals. I haven’t had another autoimmune flare-up since the holidays, which I take as a sign that I am heading in the right direction. I am going to continue to work hard and do my best but also hopefully extend myself some grace along the way. Because I don’t want to see what my body does if I don’t.

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