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When Stress Takes Control....

Updated: Feb 2, 2022

It has been a while since I’ve wanted to write this mindful moment but my brain and core wasn’t ready for it. I believe to promote health and wellness you must also share the pitfalls and the strength and courage it takes to overcome them. Please bear with me as this is a longer communication with a purpose.

At work I’m a wellness ambassador and over the past few months many have sent me emails, pings or called me to let me know how my research and writings help them get through what they are going through. Therefore today I’m sharing what I did with them. I’m going to talk about STRESS and how it took control of my life. I tell my story so you know that stress can come in many forms and sometimes there is no way to stop it so you need to find a way to survive in parallel with it.

If you follow my journey, you know I’ve gone through many surgeries and I suffer with chronic back pain that I’ve learned to endure so I can get through life. It is always there but it is how I manage the pain that allows me to either live life or just get through it.

In January of 2019 I started my wellness journey, not going to lie it was tough at first but by June of 2020 I was where I wanted to be. Eating healthy, walking and hiking, and living life with quality. Well other than we had COVID in the mix and my mother’s dementia got bad that I had to put her into a care home.

Even with those impacts I found a way to continue to be positive. I was working in a role I loved, leading a very engaged team and being the people and culture as well as wellness prime on the side. Because COVID kept us home the long hours I put in at work were actually welcomed. They kept my mind off of not being able to see my family.

It’s during that time I took to researching more on the wellness communications I compiled and shared. But how long can one continue to work so many hours before it takes a toll? Well I can tell you, not long. Even though I knew the signs that I was overdoing it, I didn’t listen to them. In the near future I will have a coping and managing stress section.

Then came the COVID Vaccine Hotline in March 2021. Where I loved providing appointments to people that were truly happy about getting the vaccine. Working long hours sitting in a chair brought pain in the back, hip, leg and knee like no other time and I began to pop Advil like it was candy.

At the same time I was able to finally visit mom inside the care home. This was bittersweet as it brought to light how fragile she was. I was able to bring her in for x-rays and quickly found she had a large cancerous tumor on her lung. By now it was April and I wasn’t sleeping, actually I couldn’t lay in bed for more than four hours and sitting was becoming more painful. Eight weeks of laser, acupuncture, traction and whatever else physio could throw at me didn’t ease the pain.

The one positive thing was during this time I moved from a leadership role to a business consultant role supporting people and culture and wellness for our leadership team. This meant I didn’t have to work the long hours anymore which gave way for the hours of driving back and forth to visit mom and watching her deteriorate in a way that was gut wrenching.

I couldn’t get a break. Every morning I woke up and went through the motions of just surviving. The stress was not only causing me pain but was chipping away at my positivity.

The last six weeks of mom’s life was a roller coaster ride that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Some days she knew who I was and was doing better, the next she wouldn’t eat for three days and they prepped me for her death. Over and over, I would drive each night and didn’t know if this was the end. Now I couldn’t breathe. And being the wellness person I am, I knew what I had to do to fix this but my mind, body and soul was numb. Stress had taken full control.

It wasn’t until the day my mom passed on August 31st that I felt the weight ease on my shoulders. They were no longer tense. At the same time I had been going for spinal injections to help with the back but at that point they hadn’t helped. I had my last shot on September 4th and when I told the doctor about the stress I had been under, he said “well know I know why they haven’t helped”. Your back absorbed all the stress, as it is your weakest link, and until you can take control back, your back will continue to hurt.

Those of you that have gone through making funeral arrangements and saying your last goodbyes know it isn’t an easy time. It took two weeks to actually have the funeral and the time until that happened was stressful in itself. But I can say, the day I finally got to say goodbye to my mom, was the day I started to take control of the stress.

Again it hasn’t been easy. While mom was dying, she apologized for me having to take care of her instead of her taking care of me. And that opened a floodgate of memories I had pushed away a long time ago. Mom always had anxiety and depression but it went further than that. She had mental illness which 50 years ago was taboo to talk about and I believe if she had lived in this era she would have had a better life.

As a child of seven, I didn’t know how to help her and therefore not until I was 15 did she get the help where I didn’t worry she would harm herself anymore. She continued to have anxiety and depression but the destructive person she was had calmed down with the help of medication.

I’ve always been positive and believe as long as I’m above ground I’m having a great day. But the more I remember about my childhood the more I know my body and mind did what it needed to protect me. It’s amazing how we CAN rise above it all.

Today I can tell you I’m finally feeling better. I am sleeping, my back is getting better, I’m taking in the deep breaths without hurting and I am enjoying time with family and friends. I need to work on the Pandora’s box that opened when mom passed but I’ve already got the support I need to help with that. I’ve also started to create recipes again which I have been sharing.

I know this was a long read, but the intent was to let you know that even though I’m a wellness ambassador, I too can get lost. It’s knowing how to get back on the journey that makes us stronger, sharing and being open to ask for help, and mostly to help others, that makes us grateful to be alive.

Live life well everyone and know I’m here if you ever need a listening ear.

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