There was nothing really wrong with me.
About three summers ago I had a sinus infection. After a few days of antibiotics, I decided to sleep propped up on a stack of pillows in order to alleviate some of the sinus pressure and woke up with terrible neck and shoulder pain. This led to weeks of heating pads and ice packs and massages, along with a very panicky day where I swore I had meningitis. (I didn't. Health anxiety can be very convincing.) The shoulder/neck problems continued on and off for months, which eventually led to an MRI, which led to a diagnosis of herniated discs, which led to months of physical therapy combined with a horrible and completely unwarranted fear of instant paralysis. (Not physically possible. Again, anxiety is a bitch.) Eventually my shoulder got better.
There was nothing really wrong with me then either.
If you know me well you probably have heard me talk about Dr. Sarno and TMS. You have also heard me talk about my belief in psychosomatic illness and the power that fear and anger can have on our physical health. If not, that will be for another blog post.
But, a person who struggles with anxiety has stomach pains? No shock there. A person who puts a lot of pressure on herself to be perfect has neck tension? No s$%t Sherlock. A person who gets a cough and sees tuberculosis should not be too surprised that fear and health are all wrapped up together like a burrito.
Some people dread public speaking. I fear cancer, car crashes, any debilitating illness or injury that will take away this life that I love. That will make me unable to be a good mother, a great karate teacher, a loving wife. I fear anything that will mess with my constant desire to be working on arm bars.
It turns out that all that fear can make you sick. Its a lovely Catch 22.
I am a lot better now. I do not mean that I am physically better, although I am lucky to be very healthy right now. But more importantly, I mean that I am mentally better. I am more in touch with my feelings (and less afraid to connect with them). I can usually tell when a sore muscle is a sore muscle (all that arm barring hurts!) and not a cancerous tumor. I can also tell when a sore muscle really means that I am just furious about Donald Trump.
I have banned myself from using Web MD to diagnose anything, ever.
Most importantly, I have re-learned to trust my body. Turns out that it is much more durable than I thought it was. It can still work really, really hard and then it can go home and magically fix itself. (Most of the time, anyway.)
I am 41 years old and I am thinking of competing in Jiu-jitsu this year for the first time. So that should tell you something. (That I am either really confident or a total masochist. You be the judge.)
Of course I am still terrified of the unexpected. Cancer, car crashes, some asshole tearing out my knee in rolling. Every time someone I know gets sick or hurt I feel a knot in the middle of my belly that no amount of Prilosec can get rid of. But I have learned to not let my fear stop me from doing all of the things that I want to do.
I do not go the doctor very often anymore. Thankfully, I have been lucky in the past year to have not needed to. But I still have pretty good health insurance, just in case.. Because of what I do every day (i.e. the punching, the kicking, the choking). Since I own my own business, I purchase this insurance myself. My "job" does not provide it for me. Yes it is overpriced. But thankfully the Affordable Care Act provided my family with some money every month to help with this expense, making this choice more affordable.
Since I am fortunate to be in pretty good shape, that makes me one of those healthy people who currently "help pay for the sick ones " I am fine with that because I also have the peace of mind to know that if the tables ever turn I will have decent medical care that I can afford. For now.
The Republicans just voted to get rid of all of Obamacare but it seems they do not yet have a plan for what's next.
Meanwhile, I teach very small children every day, children who come to class with coughs and sneezes and then smother me with hugs. Meanwhile, I train karate or BJJ almost every day. I climb rock walls. I do these things despite the fear that sometimes resurfaces. They are what I love. They make me happy. They make me a better wife and a better mother. They also keep me healthy. For now.
Meanwhile those who are not as fortunate as me have used their ACA insurance to treat cancer. They have used it to treat their children's asthma attacks. They have used it to save their own lives, and the lives of their family members.
No Obamacare was not perfect. But it was a start, and it allowed millions of people to live healthier, happier lives.
I will try to be hopeful. But it is hard when it seems more and more that the people in charge of taking care of our country are like children, just trying to win a game. A game where none of the stakes effect them.
Meanwhile, us real people are trying to live a life, one with joy and risk, passion and hard work, and most importantly, one with less fear.
Stop fucking with it.