More, more more! This was the voice in my head about 75% of the time. Have a thriving career, be an entrepreneur, make quality time for all your relationships, work out daily, meditate daily, eat homemade healthy food, work longer hours, say yes to everything, do a 110% job on what you do. Do more. Be more. Get more done in a shorter amount of time. Be productive. Be efficient. Sometimes I felt like I was on a hamster wheel, but I’m not sure I was actually getting anywhere. In fact, I know I was doing damage, because my life wasn’t working.
About four years ago the headaches started. Then the extreme fatigue set in. My body and mind yelled “REST!” but I didn’t. I needed to not only keep doing what I was doing but I needed to do more- or at least I thought. I pushed through the headaches whenever I could. I definitely pushed through the fatigue making my body do way more than it felt like doing. I didn’t actually address anything. Instead I just suffered and decided that my body was against me and I kept adding to my plate without stopping to figure out what was actually going on. Needless to say nothing got better, and the worst part was I did this for years. Years!!!
Finally about a year ago the headaches and the fatigue prompted me to start acupuncture as well as a trip to the doctor and a blood test. The diagnosis: a blood deficiency (in Chinese medicine terms) and low iron (in Western medicine terms) which are similar diagnoses which were brought on by chronic stress. I couldn’t wish these symptoms away anymore. They were so pervasive and adamant that I had to stop and figure this all out. They were starting to debilitate me and I was getting to the point where I couldn’t function in my life, and I started to panic. What if I’m so tired I can’t get through the work day (it was to this point) and then I can’t make money and I end up on the streets, homeless and starving? It seems far-fetched but it was a pervasive thought. The headaches were preventing me not only from working, but from relationships and doing extra fun things in my life. Something had to change. Yes, I did start taking an iron supplement but this issue went deeper. I spent about six months unraveling this situation and continue to do so. It’s going to be an on-going process that I’ll happily work on since if you aren’t healthy, it’s pretty darn hard to live your life.
What was at the heart of my issues? Overwhelm and anxiety that pushed me to literally never rest. I was recently divorced, living in the Bay Area (the most expensive part of the country), living in a home I couldn’t afford, with a fledgling culinary business while also going to nutrition school. Plus I was just winging it at this point without a plan or an end goal. BAM. I was feeling like I had to do it all and be all and it was too much, but I just kept going. I became so used to the feeling of overwhelm, that it became my new normal, and it stayed that way for 4 years…
I now realize that my body was communicating with me. It wasn’t working against me, it was actually working for me trying to alert me to a life that wasn’t working for me. It was alerting me to the overwhelm, but it took me awhile to actually listen. When I realized that, I knew some big changes had to be made. The biggest change: I needed to rest and I needed to rest consistently over time. I couldn’t continue to go at my current pace and it was alarmingly clear that my body was simply going to keep telling me it was too much until I made changes.
It’s overwhelming to know you need a different life than the one you have, and not really know how to get there. The answer is to stop and let your intuition talk. What is it telling you? Be quiet and tune in. Journal. Get some help. Lean on friends, family, a therapist, a coach, whoever, but we are all on this Earth together and we are here to help one another. I conveniently was terrible at asking for help. I felt like I needed to do it all. That right there is at the heart of this: I felt like I had to do it all. I felt I was literally responsible for everything- even things and people outside of my control. Cue in overwhelm.
In order to heal these headaches and this awful fatigue (a fatigue that I called “bone tired”) my gut was telling me that an iron pill alone wasn’t going to fix this (although getting my iron levels back up certainly helped), a healthy diet wasn’t even going to fix this, what I needed most was some serious rest. I meditated on what I should do. How do I create time for rest with a life that is going at full speed? Sometimes I hear the answer in my head. What I heard was, “The Bay Area isn’t financially sustainable for you. You need to move.”
Through reflection, talking with others, and a very clear feeling of expansion when I sat with the idea of moving, I decided to bring it up with my boyfriend. I was quite sure he would be on board as he had been wanting to move back to his home town of Philadelphia for years. He was 100% receptive to the ideas so we started making plans to move.
His job was to ask his employer if he could work remotely and keep the job he had (as you probably have guessed they agreed). So now the question was where would we go? Denver? Portland? Philadelphia? Austin? Where did I want to start my new business? Where did we want to be? Denver and Philadelphia were the top two contenders since we had family in both cities. In the end Philadelphia won out. It was Brian’s first choice and I had a gut feeling. As you can tell, I place a lot of stock in my intuition and tend to follow it 99% of the time.
We now had the decision to move, a city to move to, and now it was a matter of creating a list of things I needed to do to make this happen and by only doing one thing at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day so I knew to take this all one step at a time. It will happen if you make a plan and break that plan down into do-able steps.
If you would have told me I would have left California of my own free will five years ago I would have told you that you were crazy. California was so special to me that I couldn’t dream of leaving. But when your health is deteriorating to the point you cannot function, you take action you never thought you could. I needed some serious long-term rest and I knew in my heart that I wasn’t going to be able to get it in the Bay Area.
Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. Moving is the opposite of rest. In fact, moving is one of the most stressful things you can do. But this was a complete life overhaul and a long term plan so drastic action had to be taken in the short term to make it happen. In my case, I felt that deeply in my gut. So I’m currently at the end of the initial moving phase which has left me still quite tired, but recovering more and more each day. I know I am setting up the life I truly want and the life my body needs me to live to feel good. Will Philadelphia be our forever home? Who knows, but for now it works. Brick by brick this change will happen and I’m sure I will get back to 100% with time and consistency.
What will my this chapter of my Philly life be? Only time will tell, and I’ll try to blog about it too.