This past week has been a challenging one for me personally. Tuesday evening, atypically, I felt very cold and chilled despite the mild Bahamas weather. I went to bed with a warm blanket on top of me. The cool cotton sheets seemed too cold and so I slept on top of my comforter. I put on wool socks, a long sleeve shirt with my nightgown and winter leg warmers on my legs. I spent a feverish night alternating between chills and sweats, and my body, suddenly ached horribly.
Likely you’ve had this experience before. It is common with the flu.
I had to alert members of my team that I would not lead the early morning meeting. Looking at my cell phone screen was quite painful, as my eyes hurt from the light. Still, I sent the necessary messages and then crawled back under my covers. I stayed in the dark for two days. Earplugs were put in to block sounds. I missed some knocks on the door of people concerned and checking on me. I slept right through the day and by late afternoon, the fever seemed better but now my head and eyes were extremely painful, and I was in agony.
I drank lots of water but ate no food until Thursday dinner when I ate a small bowl of plain white rice. It tasted fine going down, but my stomach was all jumpy and emitting gases for a good portion of the night. By Thursday evening, my headache had subsided after lots of sleep and applying a cold pack and taking ibuprofen. I was able to read for about an hour and used my cell phone a little.
I wasn’t sure how it was possible, but I was still so tired and slept pretty well until 4am! Then an hour long bout of diarrhea, which was not fun, left me further exhausted. Luckily my living accommodations are right near the restroom.
I didn’t wake until 8AM, but I felt so much better-not much body ache, no fever and only a mild headache. Compared to the prior two days, I felt good. Due to diarrhea, I knew I was still confined to my room for a day. So after brushing my teeth, what did I do?
Start up my computer and proceeded to do work for what turned out to be close to 6 hours. The only time my eyes left the computer was when I went for a nature call. I had one more diarrhea episode after drinking a cup of ginger tea that a friend brought me, but I continued to work on the computer. I ate no more that day, letting my digestive tract rest. Then, by 3:00 in the afternoon my headache got progressively worse, but not as bad as it had been. Also, the fever and chills returned. I found myself needing to go back to bed, wrapped in blankets and feeling miserable. My eyes hurt again.
This time though, sleep was a struggle. My mind was just not cooperating, no matter how many times I did my mantra or breathing exercises. I had a long and miserable night and another diarrhea attack at midnight. Finally, falling asleep sometime after 3:30am, I was awakened by a visit from Isvari who is a friend and also an Ayurveda practitioner on our team! She wondered why I hadn’t asked her for help the past couple of days and inquired about how I was doing. She confirmed that the computer work before complete recovery probably set me on a backtrack with symptoms raging back at me.
Her guidance for Saturday (day 4) was no computer or work, minimal use of cell phone - only to ask for something I needed - and Cumin, Coriander, & Fennel Tea (1 Tsp each of these seeds steeped in hot water for 20 minutes or so). She brought me plain white rice and almond milk yogurt which I was instructed to mix together and eat very slowly. These two taken together are binding and would help alleviate the diarrhea. She insisted that I rest.
I can't even say to you, "what did I learn?" as each of these lessons are not new to me. Somehow I still need more practice with them. I hope to say I've learned the lessons someday. I'm sure I'll be tested again.
Lesson 1 Do Not push the body back to work before it’s fully healed and well.
Lesson 2 Do Not use much technology while recuperating from the flu. Blue light screens cause disturbance to the nervous system, especially with prolonged use.
Lesson 3 Do Not ignore type of symptoms. Flu symptoms of fever and diarrhea indicate imbalances in pitta - the fire and digestive system of our body being upset. Prolonged work also aggravates pitta, and results in more heat and inflammation - thus fever and increased headache and eye pain from pressure pushed by overuse of computer, which aggravated the nervous system.
Much of this I know from my own training in Ayurveda and other life experiences. Yet, I figured I knew how to handle being sick and didn’t reach out to others for help.
Lesson 4 Do Not be your own doctor. When I am sick I do not think clearly. Over the years I have frequently erred on the side of too little recuperation time and a too rushed return to work. My natural tendency is to overrate the necessity of my personal contribution to any given situation. I underrate the value of a healthy balanced, joyful contribution in favor of pushing myself at all costs, thinking it is imperative that I am doing my work.
As I look back, I realize from the time we are little, we are encouraged to push through whatever our body may be suffering as I recall how I and my classmates sought “Perfect Attendance” Awards". I received many of those awards and shared in fun days at the ballpark as reward for “Perfect Attendance.” This was a big treat when I was a child.
Interesting to ponder this message, with its positive intention, perhaps fostering an unanticipated long term effect of feeling illness is unacceptable and therefore often ignored until it becomes extreme. Also, it is interesting to ponder why we can give wise advice to others while we ignore the very same advice ourselves.
Knowing does not necessarily lead to doing what we know.
Good thing yoga and life are about daily practice!
Loving Life and Living Love,
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