Last week I found myself in inexplicable pain. Normally I would try to move forward because there is so much to accomplish. Unfortunately the pain became blinding and all I could do was cry. This situation required medical attention.
I had been in pain for a few weeks, so I already had an appointment with my doctor, but it was in two weeks. Knowing that we are still in the midst of a pandemic and not wanting to add to the overloaded system, I thought twice about where I should go. I had to decide if my pain was emerging or urgent.
Thinking of our healthcare providers across the state and how they haven’t had a break from the pandemic, it broke my heart, but decided that emergency care was needed. required. As you might expect, and unfortunately when my husband drove me to the clinic it was packed.
The friendly woman on admission followed protocol and provided me with a sanitized space to wait. All around, people were at various stages of the disease; some, like me, were crying in silence, while others sat watching Harry Potter on the monitors. After what seemed like hours, but was closer to 30 minutes, I was seen by a doctor.
This doctor treated me with respect, asked me questions and then told me I had to go to the emergency room. All I could think of was how many clinicians, support staff and teams of facility workers were going on and on, and now I was going to throw myself into the mix. Fortunately, I was able to roll into the hallway and be admitted to the ER for further testing.
Along with a mix of somewhat minor issues, the ER team discovered that I had an ulcer in my small intestine that occurs when stomach acid damages the lining of the digestive tract. Treatment usually includes drugs to decrease stomach acid production and active efforts to take stress out of your life. When you have ulcers, you should limit coffee, spicy foods, and caffeine.
In other words, my body was rebelling against my self stress, eating spicy foods and drinking coffee.
What was I supposed to do? I have a full time job, I have a 3 year old son, I sit on boards and commissions, I have a spouse that I love and in my free time I am doing my thesis . What more can I do? I can’t give up anything. Everything is important.
It was then that I realized that by doing less, I could make more sense of the things I chose to do. The things I have to do. The things I want to do. By being careful, I can potentially reduce my personal stress, which has been feeling a bit off the charts lately. I can focus more intentionally on work projects, be fully engaged with my husband and son, and even set aside time to work on my thesis, rather than feeling guilty for not writing it.
By taking care of myself, I can model better behavior for my little boy and my colleagues. By taking care, I can honor the relationships that anchor my life (Chip Andrews, I’m talking about you). By being careful, I can cross projects off my list, not just the little fires that pop up every day, taking time out of the job I’m hired for.
I suddenly realized that by taking care of myself, that is, by not saying often anymore, I could also take better care of the people around me who are just as busy, just as stressed, everything. as tired and inundated as I am. Maybe when we start to take care of ourselves, before anything becomes a problem, we will create space for our bodies to heal from the trauma of the past 18 months.
Please learn from my actions and see how you are dealing with your current needs. I faced the pain for weeks and always thought I could wait longer. I tried to throw the box further and further down the road. Don’t be me.
In other words, I ask that we all be careful. Eighteen months into the onset of this pandemic and I just realize that if we don’t slow down, our stress will begin to show up in a physical way. We need to take care of ourselves and each other. To this end, perhaps we all need to address our pain points and, rather than move forward, rest, especially those on the front line of care. Well done to the doctors, nurses, support staff, technicians and everyone who works to keep us alive. And, if you can, get vaccinated. Take care.
Adrienne G. Andrews is Assistant Vice President and Director of Diversity at Weber State University. Twitter: AdieAndrewsCDO