It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That’s what everyone likes to tell us, but I’m here to affirm it’s not necessarily true.
In December 2012, Ebenezer Scrooge was my role model.
Not only did I “celebrate” Christmas completely alone (I refused several invitations of holiday dinners and family get-togethers), I did not decorate my house or office, I did not buy anyone gifts (that I can remember), and I did not eat a single Christmas cookie. The last one wasn’t by choice, more medical necessity.
For months leading up to that holiday season, I felt overworked and utterly exhausted. My body was no longer successfully processing any food I ate, and I spent my days sick. After invasive procedures recommended by a gastroenterologist found absolutely nothing wrong, an integrative medicine doctor recommended I cut out all sugars, gluten, and dairy from my diet.
As someone who loves cupcakes, I never would have followed such ridiculous advice if I hadn’t been so desperate for something to change. Also, the doctor had excellent logic. Here’s how the conversation went:
Kelly: I’m just so tired. I feel exhausted all the time.
Doctor: Well, what have you been eating.
In my defense, they were peppermint flavored and I love all things peppermint. Seriously, though, I saw his point and something had to give because of how crappy I felt, literally and figuratively. Here was someone offering me something tangible and concrete to try.
I wasn’t sure if I could do it but I also couldn’t imagine continuing the way I had been.
A lot changed in that following year. My digestive health improved, although it was still what I would deem “poor.” There were many foods I could not eat without experiencing ill effects, including grains, soy, dairy, and most fruits and vegetables. On the positive side, I was getting ready for my sabbatical and feeling grateful I could finally take a break.
When I was in graduate school, I used to fantasize I would be in a car accident – nothing fatal, just enough so that I could lay in a hospital bed and do nothing but rest. I had started feeling that way again the past few semesters at my university job. Yes, I know this is not healthy thinking and something I discussed with my therapist(s) on several occasions. They often encouraged me to quit my job if I was so unhappy, something I didn’t think would ever be possible. What would I do? What would people say? How will I make any money? These are the questions that plagued my mind which discouraged me from making any real changes. Of course, it was also around this time I started meditating. I was looking for other ways to relieve my stress and just happened to get an email inviting me to participate in a Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey free 21-day-meditation challenge on the theme of Desire and Destiny.
Little did I know that would be the start of some truly big changes in my life.
But at the time, while I was able to appreciate some improvements in my life, I was still feeling empty and alone. Having a therapist helped me during this time and I began to understand what I was contributing to these feelings of lack in my life. And, for the first time in a long time, I put up a tiny Christmas tree.
If you had told me next year at the same time I would be in Peru, I would have said you were nuts. That’s exactly where I was though. Two years ago, in December 2014, I attended COP-20, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Lima. The invitation happened rather serendipitously but it was one I thought I would regret if I didn’t take it.
It was right around then, I began wondering why I didn’t miss teaching more and worrying that my sabbatical would be over too soon. I still classified my physical health as “poor,” but my digestion issues had improved. My biggest concern was sleep. I had stopped taking my narcolepsy medicine for a variety of reasons, including worsening drug side effects of anxiety and paranoia, as well as post-traumatic stress from an accidental overdose of my narcolepsy medicine a few weeks prior. Since I wasn’t working and I could take multiple naps throughout the day, I managed.
One year later (December 2015), I was in Paris, France, attending COP-21. I had already turned in my resignation as an associate professor so I could pursue my dream of writing. I started writing on a regular basis and I completed several children’s stories and a short story. My physical health was good due to hot yoga and Dailey Method classes several times per week. My diet became much more diverse, and I even enjoyed crepes while in Paris. High quality sleep still alluded me on most nights, but with a good diet and regular exercise I was better than okay.
Now here we are in December, 2016. I’m living in Norfolk, CT, with my amazing husband, and I’m a writer! One of my short stories was published by Outrider Press this past year and I regularly write on my blog (THANKS FOR READING!). I can now eat all the foods I eliminated from diet without too much worry of ill effects, except I’ve gone overboard having spent years not eating these foods and now I need to exercise even more. I can’t really complain, because more exercise helps my sleep which is still meh.
All this to say, as we countdown to Christmas
please remember the greatest gift we can give ourselves is time.
There is no way we can predict where we will be in our lives one year, one month, one week, or even one day from now. Life gets better; life gets worse. And if you happen to be in one of the worse stages, just know that you are not alone.