Two months ago I was sitting at my computer and *pop*, suddenly I was staring at a big black circle in my field of vision accompanied by trippy flashes of neon lights and a fun-house case of vertigo I couldn’t shake. What the hell…? I thought, and automatically assumed it was a retinal tear. Fast forward a day and I had another diagnosis. My eye doctor told me it wasn’t a retinal tear but something called a Central Serous Retinopathy, something caused by too much cortisol in the system. In layman’s terms, I stressed myself out to the point of blowing a vessel in my eye, causing fluid/serum to leak under my retina. The big circle in my vision was a liquid bubble, rendering vision in my left eye a thing of the past; I had none and likely wouldn’t for five or six months. I never do anything half-assed, as my retinal bubble revealed, one of the most severe cases the ophthalmic specialist had seen in some time. I took a deep breath and tried not to have a melt-down. Nothing like medicating a stress disorder with more stress.
I won’t go into the spiritual significance this experience represented for me. It was big. Because of my eye, I had to look 40 years of the running myself ragged habit in the face, wondering how it was I could be expecting to partner with my clients in the sorting out of their own harmful tendencies when I had such a hard time seeing my own. It’s deceptive, this tendency, because to others it looks a lot like “productivity” or “success”. I can’t deny I have a history of getting stuff done, accomplishing my goals. Meanwhile my poor adrenal system has been sending S.O.S. signals through my body for years, but my mind just kept pushing. Pop goes the eyeball, and suddenly a re-visioning is in order. Blindness has a way of getting our attention much more effectively than an occasional headache or an achy hip. We lose one of our senses, and suddenly all the rest stand at attention, holding emergency counsel with our entire being.
So, I changed everything.
It wasn’t easy. I started allowing myself to get 9-10 hours of sleep a day. I read books on hypo-adrenalism. I started gauging my activities based on how much “fun” I’d have doing them. I spent some time reading non-work related books. I watched T.V. In two months, I watched all five seasons of Mad Men available on Netflix! (A little Don Draper therapy!) I scheduled hikes into my day rather than meetings and appointments. I visited my network chiropractor religiously. Wow, were there some protestations going on internally. My analytical side was beating me over the head mercilessly, telling me I was slacking, lazy, unproductive, all the while gazing through a blind eye, literally.
And then a metamorphosis took place. I started enjoying the R & R. My eye improved so fast my ophthalmologist thought I was lying; trying to paint a rose-colored version of the truth. He was talking to me about surgery and I was telling him, “I don’t even notice it, I’m telling you!” He’d just shake his head, offering me condolences as though I just wasn’t strong enough to face the reality.
Fast forward to yesterday when I had another recheck with the specialist. In two and a half months, my little life-altering bubble is gone. My vision’s been clear for weeks. My ophthalmologist couldn’t believe it when the scan showed that I had totally cleared it, something he predicted would take twice as long to resolve based on the severity of my condition. A testament to my body!, he exclaimed.
And now my push-me tendency, the task-master of my life, is feeling a little sheepish. Because no matter how we look at it, running ourselves into the ground, or at least to temporary blindness, is just plain stupid. There’s just no better response to that argument than the healing capacity of the human body to restore the damage inflicted upon us by our own compulsive tendencies. I love the task-master side of me, no doubt. My tendencies to enjoy productivity, to keep a fast pace, to look to the future… they drive my creativity which I cherish. But when these tendencies start to dictate my every action, my every choice, and they keep whipping even when I’m tired and spent, then it’s time for some reorganizing, some down-time. Not to silence them or lull them to sleep, but to allow them to start screaming their protestations. Only then can I really communicate with them, to hear why they’re pushing so much, why they’re becoming inhumane, just what are they afraid of…? Just what am I afraid of?
Sometimes listening to the inner voices requires stepping into the eye of the storm, where they’re the loudest. That’s where transformation takes place. That’s where healing occurs. The fastest way to conflict resolution, even if that conflict is our own body, is to enter it, navigate right through it and see what wisdom it has for us along the way. Avoiding it, ignoring it, tip-toeing around it… well that only prolongs the pain.