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Published: April 11th 2015
my rock hard abs
this is how the abdomen looks when you weigh less than a 9 year old
I have had many happy years in my life where I experienced adventure, love, growth, happiness, friendship… 32 was not one of them!
I did in fact experience all of those things in this year alone, but what forces this year off the list of happiest times is the emotional and physical turmoil that overpowered all the good.
If you’re interested, I will share my story with you.
It was a cold, rainy winter day… hahaha just kidding.
Seriously, here it goes.
I turned 32 in Dharamkot, my favorite place to be in the world, especially in April. It’s the only place I can always find peace and this year I even managed to stick to a healthy schedule waking up at 6:00 and eating only the healthy food I cooked for myself. I was nearing the end of my 3 month Intro to Ayurveda course, which I couldn’t get enough of. My teacher became to me what I only imagined people meant when they said they found a Guru. He was a brilliant teacher, who could teach you according to your capabilities. The more I
learnt about Ayurveda, the more my fascination grew. And I was in a rare but peaceful place with Thomas, where we enjoyed each other’s company and solved any conflicts with love and patience. It was the first time he gave me the freedom I needed, which allowed me to give him the attention he desired.
Before too long, the impermanence of this happy state revealed itself. I finished the course, returned to Canada and Thomas came a few weeks later. Our second honeymoon ended (we had broken up for a month just before this time). He once again had a hard time adjusting to my life, with all of my family and friends around constantly. The relationships I love to cultivate, he found exhausting. Being unable to handle it, he took out his frustrations on me and I did not handle it with compassion or sensitivity, but with anger and frustration...which is how we now solved all our conflicts. At the same time I struggled with the stress of making enough money to travel again, while also finding the silence that’s missing living with my needy boyfriend in my parent’s house. I was unable to manage the
Montreal looking beautiful
my sunrise view from my hospital bed
attention everyone wanted from me, which I hadn’t needed to give while living far away in India. Like every year I return, I find it easy enough to continue with my routine of morning meditation and yoga and home cooking, for the first few weeks. But by the second or third month, it’s lost. And around this time, with the addition of the weather change at the end of summer, I begin to feel noticeably weaker. Samantha so intuitively pointed out to me once that I am fragile...it is so true. as of yet, I don't have the strength to overcome my emotional and physical obstacles.
With Thomas back in Italy our relationship struggled and was relegated to a screen. I started to resent my iphone, which showed me his emails and what’s app messages daily. My inability to deal with my emotions and stress became so evident. It was obvious in the past, but my anger and hurt had never been triggered as often and painfully as with Thomas.
The obvious answer seemed to be to break up with him. I had done it twice before, so a final time seemed inevitable. But
I just needed to go back to Italy and discover what my feelings were in person. To see how I felt when I saw him, touched him. Words on a screen didn’t feel like the full truth. Already weak, I made the trip to Italy, finding myself confused from the start. Thomas tried his best to take care of me in my fragile condition but I felt uncomfortable around him all the time. And it didn’t take long before he criticized my behaviour and blamed me for his suffering again. I fluctuated between wanting to learn and grow from our conflicts and knowing in my heart that this was not my idea of love. My health suffered, my weight dropped and my clarity of mind weakened. One day we had a fight and everything became clear. This was it. The words I needed to hear to snap my head in line with my heart. It was over. I left Italy sad but clear. Time to move on.
Dealing with the range of emotions from sadness to anger to relief over my experiences with Thomas did not help my recovery. I went for acupuncture and tried to incorporate
the only positive side effect from the prednisone
my Ayurvedic knowledge into my daily routine but my weight continued to drop along with my strength. I got few stomach pains, even less headaches and no diarrhea…my usual symptoms of the Crohn’s flaring up. Instead I got nauseous, occasionally vomited and lost my appetite to the point of having no interest whatsoever in food. Some days I actually hoped no one else would notice I hadn’t eaten so that I could let the whole day pass without so much as a cracker. Food repulsed me. The thought of it alone made me feel full and uncomfortable. I tried to eat anything that peaked a craving…but even Happy Meals didn’t do it for me. The worst part was the muddiness I felt in my brain. Carrying on long conversations or worse, reading one of my Buddhist philosophy books, was impossible. Focusing on anything but the tree outside my window was difficult. This weakness in my body and my mind left little progress in my daily meditations and yoga, until 1 day they stopped completely.
I knew the only answer western medicine had was steroids and immuno-suppressants. I also knew I was being stubborn in rejecting them. But
I spent 2 years slowly reducing all my medications to enjoy the year 31 medication free, I wasn’t ready yet to jump back on that path. Ayurveda respects the efficacy of western medicine and the ways in which it has surpassed natural medicine, but it also strongly believes in a natural, side-effect free approach to all diseases. The possibility of getting my health back without steroids is high in Ayurveda.
In order to assuage the non-believers and reject my own stubbornness, I got some blood test and saw a gastroenterologist. Knowing what my own gastro would likely say, I decided to get the opinion of a different doctor, who turned out to have studied under mine! His assessment was actually more aggressive than what I had anticipated, as my bloods revealed major malnourishment, lots of inflammation and my weight was down to 82 pounds. More tests and stronger drugs were his only solution. My main concern was whether I was doing more damage to my body by rejecting western medicine and letting my health continue to deteriorate than I would be to just take a dose of steroids. He couldn’t answer that. No one I asked could.
So I continued on, knowing to seek help would be useless if I refused to take the drugs that came with it. Until 1 doctor told me the osteoporosis I was afraid of was just as likely from the lack of calcium due to my malnourishment as it would be from the steroids. And from there I continued to get worse, until a whole weekend passed with no food and less energy. I began to run away from mirrors because the sight of my protruding bones even scared me! Vomiting up my milkshake made me feel so weak the only thing I could do was lie on the floor and cry. It was the first time my mother asked if she could take me to the hospital that I didn’t yell “NO!” so off we went.
This year started out so happily!
I had a boyfriend that I actually considered having kids with. I took an interested in studying for the first time in my life. Found the first teacher I respected. I thought I learnt how to manage my own body. But my mind fucked me! I really have to learn how to
deal with my emotions, which it turns out I really do have.
I spent the first 10 days of December in the hospital, with a feeding tube in my arm, before they set me free. The first few days were physically painful and emotionally draining. But once I surrendered to the doctors, the steroids kicked in and reduced the inflammation and pain and I made the decision to go back on my old meds, the rest of my time there was a breeze. I got used to Bob (the pole permanently attached to my arm), I stopped craving a shower, kept my hair in braids to avoid dreadlocks, developed a new appreciation for soup (which I went from hating to eating twice daily) and enjoyed the momentary peace I could find. The 3 other people in the room snored, coughed, yelled…you name it. And all of our machines beeped incessantly. So I wouldn’t call it peaceful. But I was entertained almost every hour of the day, until I had to kick my mother out at bedtime. The amount of people that came to visit me overwhelmed me….in a good way. First, I never got bored. I only managed to watch 2 movies on my ipad! And second, I welcomed the happy emotions I hadn’t seen in awhile, due to all the attention I received both from the presence of my entertainers and the constant flow of distant love from those who couldn’t physically visit me. I was shocked that I spent almost no time alone, between friends, family and facebook! Normally I would crave silence, but in the hospital sitting on your little bed alone watching other people with visitors is lonely. Watching people who got no visitors was depressing. So, thank you to everyone for your love and attention…
And I’m sorry to those who were there the day I realized the feeding tube did not take away the feeling of starvation in my stomach. I ate a clear liquid diet…so, chicken broth, not soup, broth…for 5 days. Although I grew to like the broth (especially the homemade ones), I also desperately needed bread. So desperately, I ran through the hallway, pulling Bob along, screaming at all the doctors that if I didn’t get bread soon there would be problems. I calmed down and said, this is what happens to me when I am starving. I freak out. And the pain that a piece of bread might or might not cause is much less of a concern for me than death from the pains of starvation. An hour later I got bread. And our love affair is still going. It also gives me less emotional turmoil than people (Thomas, for example) because I can discard it when it gets moldy and always buy more when it runs out….even in India!
The day I got home, I realized the toll the flare-up had taken on me, when I couldn’t make it past the second stair into the house. My dad had to push me up. I didn’t take many stairs in the hospital, because Bob wouldn’t allow it. I started to understand why the doctors didn’t believe how few symptoms I had, now that I was finally feeling weak. They commented in my hospital report that despite showing obvious signs of a flare-up, I seemed to simply adapt my daily life around the struggles of my health. Only after being in the hospital did I even realize how fragile my health had been. I guess people can be good at ignoring facts. I hope in the future to be more aware of my condition and more realistic about when it’s out of my control and time to seek help.
The 3 months that followed, my tumultuous relationship with food changed a lot. I ate like a horse, pig seemed too small. Every hour for 2 weeks I ate. I went to sleep, excited to wake up so that I could eat again. Steroids worked. I suddenly loved food, it tasted great, even foods I refused to try in the past. The advice of the nutritionists confused me, since it contradicted everything Ayurveda taught, convincing me to eat as much fat as possible, good or bad. Even though I still tried to gain my strength with a healthy diet, those who spent any time with me in those days knows I thought everything tasted better with bacon. The day I discovered how great it tasted covered in maple syrup my whole life changed! It’s safe to say I was not a vegetarian most days.
After working in Vancouver and bringing my weight to well over 100 (a condition my doctor made me agree to before traveling again), I finally managed to board a plane to the motherland. First stop…Goa.
I decided to avoid Varkala, where Thomas and I met every year and fell in love, partly because its charm faded last year and partly because I knew he would be there. My plan didn’t work…a few days later he met me in Goa. For 2 weeks we relaxed on Palolem beach….living in a hut a few feet from the ocean. I never needed to wear shoes…my feet met the sand as soon as I left the hut. Not a hard place to get along with someone….even Thomas. We spent our days lounging in beach chairs, eating and floating on my floaty bed in the calm bay of our small, quiet beach. I also relaxed, trying not to let me emotions send me back into the hospital. I ate delicious indian food, slept a lot and did whatever exercise I could (yoga, swimming, walking) with my little abilities due to the blood clot that hard formed in my arm from the feeding tube.
As we contemplated heading to another beach in northern Goa to meet a mutual friend, Thomas spotted a sailboat parked in the bay. Within the hour we had plans to sail to our next destination with the Australian couple who sail here every year and their friends, rather than take the 4 buses that most travelers use to make that journey.
Here’s how that journey went:
Mrs sailor started to sing a song she said was called “Still Standing” and asked the rest of us who sang it. I debated claiming it’s by The Rasmus, my favourite Finish band (ok the only Finish band I’ve ever heard of) but quickly realized the 60-something-year-old lady who asked the question surely was not singing a punk band’s song (no idea if they are really a punk band, Google them and find out for yourself!) Anyways, a few minutes later, after I assumed everyone had forgotten about the song trivia – or that no one had cared to begin with – the other older lady yelled out “Elton John.” Which excited the first lady to no end….apparently this is what passed for fun on a sailboat. Not for me, my body had other ideas.
I have no idea if I was blogging when I lived in Hawaii but if I was I for sure would have written about my snorkeling boat trip where I vomited on a family. Being even more sensitive these days, I don’t know why I imagined I would escape motion sickness. Luckily, everyone on this 12 hour journey managed to escape being hit by all 3 and a half times I vomited…but I did vomit all over the boat as I heaved myself over the wrong side and couldn’t quite get my vomit to land in the water. While Thomas trying to catch me from going overboard by putting his arm around my stomach was nice, it also encouraged more vomit to come up.
Sailing in the ocean, seeing dolphins and witnessing the most beautiful sunset dip right into the ocean should make a much more enjoyable form of travel than a local Indian bus…for me however, it means peeing over the side of boat because I’m too seasick to finagle myself down to the toilet beneath the deck and spending the next 2 days with forgotten Kleenex in my pocket covered in piss and vomit!
This experience helped me appreciate that Thomas and I broke up and I will never again have to step foot on a sailboat.
In Arambol, north Goa, things started to go south. And settled any confusing my heart was having about the nice feelings that were coming back regarding Thomas. In short, (so that Marissa can now go back to taking care of her kids) we happily parted, Thomas going south and me making the 4 day journey north to Dharamsala….India is a big country. Do not travel here if your time is limited!
That’s enough for today.
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