In passing, a colleague mentioned the ‘reluctant males’ of her family and how she had to encourage her aging father to go to the doctor when it was evident his sickness was not “just a cold”. Turns out he has pneumonia, not for the first time. Given the serious nature of his illness, the exacerbated affect because of his age (70), and that he was familiar with the relative ease of the treatment, I was puzzled why he had declined seeking help before now. Then I remembered my own health journey and some of the decisions that in retrospect seem silly to me.
I recently wrote about my ‘seasonal allergies’ that routinely required Urgent Care visits and semi-annual antibiotics. Yet one simple change (nutrition) has saved me from taking any antibiotics in the last 3 years. Why didn’t I listen to my body sooner? Why didn’t I take a moment to consider how much diet was affecting my health?
I wasn’t trained to approach my health that way. Growing up, we rarely went to the doctor and most everything was treated with goldenseal and echinacea or peroxide and band-aids. As I started a professional career that offered relatively inexpensive medical care, I became more inclined to find a solution for the symptoms and attribute the cause to some external force over which I had no control: “There’s a nasty bug going around”, “People always get sick this time of year”, “I just got off an airplane, no wonder I’m not feeling well”.
While all of the above statements have some truth, I was so busy trying to get over feeling poorly and get back to my busy schedule that I never stopped to consider the true cause of my respiratory distress and what I might be contributing to my repeated illnesses. As an American living in a fast-paced city, I hear myself and others talk about our busy lives and ability to push through a sickness like it’s a badge of honor. Being part of The Jealous Vegan Team and learning to tune into what my inner self is trying to tell my conscious self has helped me realize what small changes might have a big impact on my mental, emotional and physical health.
In this week’s podcast, I interview my Favorite Niece (ok, she’s my only niece 😉) who reveals that she had some alarming health concerns present themselves but that she didn’t pay attention to them until a couple of years later. As an Auntie, it broke my heart to hear her reluctance to pay attention to the signals she was getting. Had our family contributed to her pushing past the warning in favor of ‘getting it all done’? Thankfully, she eventually realized that it was serious enough to check it out and in the interim made some dietary changes that made a real difference in how she felt.
If you listened to “The Lies We Love”, you may recall my confession to the team, “I’m not ok”. My emotional pain was wearing me out and there were way too many days that I went to bed feeling like it might be ok not to wake up. Thankfully, I didn’t just use peroxide and band-aids and a result of the loving assistance of “The Entrepreneur", Jendayi, I sought the help of a qualified mental health professional. The root: My father’s alcoholism and the traumatic effects of the violence and volatility of my childhood home were still plaguing me. For many years my body and brain were sounding warnings but I kept telling them to go away. See, my Dad died in October 2014 and we had not lived in the same household since July 1993. How was it possible that this was the thing that was still bothering me? My logical self refused to believe it was even possible. Even when I knew something was wrong, I delayed getting help because I didn’t want to be broken. It’s only been about 3 months but I can see how the changes I’ve been making are having a real impact on my daily happiness and thus my ability to help others.
Thinking about all these situations took me back to “The Power of Vulnerability” by Dr. Brené Brown and our podcast episode on Shame Triggers. How many of us are sacrificing our physical, emotional, or mental health because we don’t want to be seen as weak? In a rush to get over the worst of the symptoms so we can get back to work/life/love, are we smothering the alarm our body is desperately trying to sound?
While it can be difficult and even counterintuitive in our microwave-speed society, we encourage you to slow….down. Keep a journal of the disquieting thoughts and feelings that repeat in your life to discern a possible pattern. Do whatever you can to get the help and support you need.
Learn to listen to your body and change your health forever.
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