“Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing”
Winnie the Pooh
“It’s a 10-33.” That is what my friend said when she called for an ambulance. It means emergency, all units stand by.
It was my 33rd birthday. I lost consciousness around 5:30pm, the same time I was born. My family and friends waited for an ambulance to transport me to the emergency room of the local hospital. The entire experience was a bad dream. I came to a few times during the transport but only enough to recall small moments. It did not feel real. It felt like a bad dream that I could not wake up from.
When I woke up in the emergency room I realized I was not dreaming. I was in a hospital. I was the patient. The first people I saw were my husband, Agnes, and Iwona. I was disoriented. My parents and sister were on their way. My cousin in Florida was on the phone with my husband. My husband was living the in sickness and in health part of our vows in our very new marriage.
I felt confused, disoriented, weak, disappointed, and scared. I am not used to being the patient. I am used to being the caretaker of a patient. So what just happened? My stubborn and strong personality did not feel like accepting that current reality.
Doctors took tests, my parents and sibling arrived, and my friends stopped in to check on my status. All my tests came back normal! I was healthy. So why did I collapse and need medical attention?
Once I came to and was feeling like my normal self I realized that this visit was a long time coming. I had spent the summer on the edge of exhaustion. I had lost myself…AGAIN (I have a really bad habit of this). The summer had been a blur of projects, personal commitments, and a new marriage. I felt that I was on the edge of collapse several times over the course of the summer. It all culminated on my birthday.
I landed on my dupa.
I was helpless.
I did not like it. I actually hated every minute of it.
I was released from the emergency room later that night. The next day my friends filled in some of the gaps I had from the collapse. I quickly realized the chain of events were a bit odd.
I collapsed on my 33rd birthday. The emergency code was a 10-33. I collapsed around 5:30pm (the time I was born). The hospital visit was eye opening enough. This realization reinforced to me that it was time for change.
The next few days were filled with doctor’s appointments and additional tests. They all came back with good results. I was a healthy woman! Yay! In addition to my health check ups, I also took days off from work. I learned the beauty of doing nothing.
The week before my collapse my husband and I saw the Christopher Robin movie. In the movie, Winnie the Pooh tells Christopher Robin that “doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.” The words of an animated plush bear became so real to me that week. I re learned the power of taking a break to do absolutely nothing and it was amazing. It helped me to clear my mind and find a new direction.
While this was one of the most frightening events of my life, there are some key lessons to learn from it:
- Listen to your body: my body was giving me signs all summer (feeling fatigue, faint, and cloudy in my mind). I ignored the signs and thought it would pass. I was trying to make it to my upcoming vacation at Walt Disney World (my happiest place on earth). My body gave out a week before we were scheduled to leave.
- Life is not about being perfect: I am so hard on myself. I work really hard. Often too hard. I am a perfectionist in all that I do. This experience made me realize, it is not about being perfect. I can not do everything well but I can do some things really well. I should put my focus on those things.
- My friends and family are awesome: it is during times of trouble that we get to know who our real friends are. While I always knew they are awesome, this situation proved it. Everyone played a role. They were all ready and willing to help out. They stayed at the hospital until the doctor assured them I was fine and he was running additional tests solely as a precaution. I can never repay them for their kindness that they showed to me that evening. I can only say that I am forever grateful.
- Put myself first: I can honestly say I do not know how to do this. I am used to being a caregiver. The morning after my hospital visit, I woke up and checked in on everyone who was involved. I wanted to make sure they were ok. While this was an act of kindness, I never stopped to check if I was ok.
I waited to write this post until I felt ready to do so. It has only been a few weeks since my collapse. I needed the time to understand, recover, and reflect. I slowed down my schedule. I went on my vacation (a second honeymoon) with my husband and we enjoyed it. We relaxed. We left our phones in our room and were present in the moment. I also did not let myself feel guilty for doing so. There is a freedom in not feeling the guilt. I will not allow it anymore.
I wrote this post for a few reasons. The first is, do not land in a hospital before you remember to slow down. I did. Do not make my same mistake.
The second is be kind to yourself. My friend Agnes and I had a conversation about not being mean to ourselves. I think this is something that needs to be put into practice everyday.
The third, this experience reminded me I am only human. I am not perfect. I am not superwoman. I can not do everything and that is OK!
Sometimes in order to move forward we need to take two steps back. This is my turn to take two steps back.
Be kind. Be happy. Be well.