Why I Haven’t Tried to Have a Good Week

(Disclaimer: There are references to health issues like vomiting, so please don’t read if that’s likely to be triggering!)

I was standing in the kitchen on Sunday afternoon when it happened. I was video chatting with my boyfriend and his son, phone propped up on the counter, while I made devilled eggs. After I’d scooped the hardboiled yolks into a bowl, I turned to the fridge to get the mayo, and…it was happening.

No, please, no! The burning, the dizziness, the strange hallucinatory sensation, the numbness and tingling down my right arm, the feeling of being gripped by something horrendous. I held onto the counter, gently lowered myself to my knees, leant down until my face was on the cold floor, and blacked out. Two minutes later, I came round and gradually worked out where I was. My fist was clenched; my nail had broken the skin on my palm. I stood up carefully and moved to the sofa, lying there until the symptoms wore off. What day was it? What month was it? It took slightly longer than usual for me to remember.

I was gutted. I’ve been free of partial seizures for sixteen months now and had hoped they were a thing of the past. To put it flippantly, this was the perfect climax for the past few weeks…It’s been one thing after another. I spent an unexpected week in Cornwall, where I was ‘on call’, being with my great-uncle at the end of his life. The week after, I was hit by fatigue and emotional exhaustion, and then the following week I had stomach issues (probably anxiety related). Straight after those had eased up, I had a bad migraine, vomited several times, and must have burst a blood vessel, because…you get the picture. The next day, my body decided to attack me for being a woman!

So, yes, the seizure came at a bad time. It’s been a struggle recently; there’s no escaping that. I’m not unaware of the many blessings. It’s not been all bad. I’ve had moments where I’ve felt fine and have been able to post cheerful things on Facebook, but this string of events knocked me back. It has affected my confidence and self-esteem as well as my body and I’ve had bouts of hysterical crying. I’m still trying to find ways to cope, both mentally and physically – the two are intrinsically linked.

Initially I’d started each week with determination to make it a ‘good one’, because I am, basically, an optimist. It didn’t work. Trying to force a positive attitude can’t always help the situation. Sometimes it creates extra pressure that makes the problem worse, causing friction in your mind and increasing the feelings of failure when you find you can’t see past it.

I’m realising that it’s sometimes better to try to employ neutrality: ‘absence of decided views, expression, or strong feeling’. It’s a meditative thing, to observe without judgement. There is also the sense of ‘handing over’ the things that are out of our control – an important element of prayer.

Life is hard enough. It’s okay not to be okay. We shouldn’t feel bad for feeling bad.

Strange New Anxieties

When we went into lockdown, I picked up some weird little anxieties: fear of hair loss and split ends. Eek, is there more hair coming out when I brush it? Are the ends coarser and more broken? Will I be able to go to the hairdresser again before it becomes a problem?

These anxieties had no rational basis. I knew this, even at the time. I wasn’t losing too much hair (and if it seemed a lot, it was only because I hadn’t brushed it all week!), my hair ends were perfectly healthy, and I’d ‘survived’ for 26 years almost entirely without a hairdresser…so I could manage a few more months. Not a problem.

These anxieties were deflection and distraction. I couldn’t immediately engage with the situation, in observation, discussion, or prayer. World events and uncertainty threatened to overwhelm me, so my brain redirected itself to something trivial, engaging with the massive topic of shampoo and conditioner instead. I was surprised by that initial coping mechanism! I still revert to it sometimes.

Did you have any strange responses to lockdown?