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Self-care: Getting an expensive wake-up call

When I gave up my home-based business to start working in an outside office full time more than two years ago, I gave up a lot more than writing in my basement while wearing yoga pants and burning incense. I stopped exercising. I stopped cooking healthy dinners. I stopped eating healthy food. I stopped doing yoga. I stopped blogging. I stopped using my downtime as downtime and turned everything (even vacations) into work time, or at least work worry. That’s a lot of stopping. Did I start doing anything new? Why, yes, now that you ask. I started drinking coffee by the bucketfuls. I started eating at my desk without even noticing I was eating (exactly what I tell everyone NOT to do in my book Cravings). I started skipping prayer and meditation time. I started turning into an absolute basket of nerves. 

Which brings us to this past weekend, when severe pressure in my chest and shoulder and neck had me checking into the ER at St. Peter’s Hospital — the first time I have ever gone to an ER for myself for anything other than childbirth check-in. Between the pressure and my family history, I felt like I couldn’t take a chance. I ended up spending the night in the cardio unit for observation, and, although the cardiologist doesn’t think it’s my heart (I’ll be going for more testing this week to be sure), it certainly served as a wake-up call to me, because whether it’s a heart issue, a gastro issue (suspected at this point), a stress issue, or all of the above, the fact is that I did this to myself. An expensive way to learn this lesson, but I guess if it causes me to rethink my habits, it’s worth it. I was NOT being so philosophical about this when I was going through it, I’d like to add. Just ask my husband, Dennis, who was holding his head in his hands (literally) as I threatened to remove my own IV and check myself out after nine hours in ER and the prospect of an overnight stay looming. (Gee, I wonder why I have chest pain?)

But, on this morning after, when I’m still not feeling 100 percent and I realize this was not just some passing anxiety attack and is probably going to require medicine, treatment of some sort, and lifestyle changes, I am grateful that my miserable hospital experience has caused me to pull out my juicer and my favorite health book (Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr), check out a few more clean eating cookbooks from the library, and start looking for a way back into exercise and yoga. For the record, I did sign up for a five-week meditation class three weeks ago, in part because I knew I needed a way to balance my life and calm myself down, so on some level I recognized the fact that I was speeding toward a health crisis on multiple levels: physical, mental, and spiritual.

So, I’m here now as a way to not only return to blogging, which is something I have always loved, but as a way to hold myself accountable. Last December, I formed the Cravings Tribe for those who wanted to journey through my own book with me toward a saner relationship with food and a more peaceful life in general. And while that lasted a few weeks, I’ll admit that I did not practice what I preached. I hope some of you did. It’s time I join you.

When I told a work colleague that I had landed in the cardio unit of the hospital, he said, “You’re too young to end up in that ward.” Not true. At 55 years old, I am exactly the right age to end up in that ward, but I don’t intend to go back any time soon. I’m hoping the doctor is right and my heart is still healthy and this is just some diet and stress issue I can handle with minimally invasive help, but, I have no intention of sitting by passively and waiting for others to figure things out. I’m going to reclaim the pieces of my life I gave away in a misguided attempt at being an above-and-beyond type of worker. The email can wait. The phone call can wait. My health cannot. (I only checked work email twice during the writing of this blog post on my sick day. That’s progress!)

If you’re dealing with similar stress and health issues, chime in. We can work through this together.

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18 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mary Beth #

    Go Mary!

    November 27, 2017
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Thanks! 🙂

      November 27, 2017
  2. Annie #

    I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease and the stress of having a long treatmemt with IV antibiotics has me eating everything in site. I can’t think enough to pray or pray enough to think. I can related to neglecting self care…prayer is so hard right now and, to be real, it would be a win to simply brush my teeth!

    November 27, 2017
  3. Anne Samson #

    Mary, glad you got the wake up call! I had a similar one when I was working for the state–heart attack symptoms and long ER visit. I know you will make the changes you need to make to be healthier! If you want to join me on a Yoga retreat in February, FB message me (we have to plan these things or they don’t happen!) Sending love & prayer

    November 27, 2017
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Thanks, Anne! I’ll be in touch about the yoga retreat.

      November 27, 2017
  4. dianeC #

    Thank you for sharing this. Our strength is that we work so hard and our weakness is that we work so hard. I totally feel you. Glad you have the good habits to return to. big love! dianeC

    November 27, 2017
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Thanks, Diane! I’ve been flirting with getting back to a regular yoga practice off and on. I’m hoping this will push me to recommit. Why do we skip the stuff that makes us feel better?!?

      November 27, 2017
  5. Michelle #

    Just a friendly reminder that self care is not selfish. Hoping and praying that your “wake up call” is the jump start to healthy, happy living . I shall join you in mending my ways… My exercise and eating habits are desperately in need of change.

    November 27, 2017
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      “Self care is not selfish.” Amen to that. I do a whole spiritual workshop on learning to put your own mask on first. If only I took my own advice!

      November 27, 2017
  6. Linda #

    Mary, my thoughts and prayers are with you! My dad died of a heart attack at age 61, and as I am 61, I have been very focused on my health. Once I returned to work at the high school, I developed extremely high blood pressure. While I have always had eating issues and therefore tried to eat in a healthy manner, stress can still get the best of me! Our bodies (and spirits) speak to us, and I’m glad that you are listening.

    November 27, 2017
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Thanks! I am glad to be refocusing on my health. It’s been too long!

      November 27, 2017
  7. Good for you. Both my parents died of heart disease; neither lived past 71 (barely a decade older than I am now). My doctor is aggressive in watching my BP and cholesterol. (I need to be more attentive to my diet…all things pumpkin notwithstanding…harumph…) Get well and BE well!

    November 27, 2017
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Thanks! Yeah, I’ve got heart disease in my family; I should know better.
      I’m sure all things pumpkin (and there were quite a few) didn’t help me in this situation!

      November 27, 2017
  8. Susan Peters #

    I’m glad you took your symptoms seriously and went to the ER. Hope all goes well with the further testing, and that you can find your way back to a more calm existence. I miss our conversations at the bus stop when you were working from home. I hope you can find the balance you need to be both a good employee and a healthy Mary — not easy to do, but I’m sure you can do it. Feel better —

    November 27, 2017
  9. Michele B. #

    Such a beautiful reflection. Thank you for your honesty, Mary.

    November 28, 2017
  10. Kathleen Albert #

    Less coffee, more walking, more meditation ; advice we all can use.
    Read the Gita. “…perform your actions, casting off attachment and remaining even-minded both in success and failure. This even-mindedness is called yoga.” 2:48
    Thanks for sharing.

    December 1, 2017
  11. Margaret Reilly-Antalec #

    My thoughts and prayers and love are with you. Please keep us up-dated.

    December 4, 2017
  12. Lisa Ann #

    This is such a late comment, but I want to thank you! I am at midlife, too. I have a chronic health issue, and the stress of work is sapping the joy out of life. Both this post, and your Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas, have helped me to reset my compass. There is no substitute for meditation and prayer. Our spirit is more permanent than the material world, or our bodies, and needs the most care.
    Merry Christmas!
    Lisa

    December 14, 2017

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