Here’s A Reminder to Listen to Your Body

When you hit a wall, accept the time as a gift.

For example, when I unlock my front door at the end of a day, turn the knob, and say, “Whoosh.” I feel a flush that travels from the base of my neck, across my shoulders, and down past my heart.

I am tired.

The Symptoms

Sometimes my body will force me to take the break that my mind told me I didn’t need. I resented the lack of energy when I first faced this problem, but now I see it as a gift of “me” time.

When my body decides to give me a smackdown, I am depleted.

I can do what I need to but no more. Work then back home. I stop cooking and use the microwave to warm up food if I bother to warm up anything at all. Chores pile up. I go to bed early and wake up late. I feel empty inside.

This physical reckoning occurs when my various iron measurements start to dip below the low end of normal.

The Diagnosis

During the last decade, I have developed intermittent bouts of anemia that eventually lower my iron to levels that can cause me to faint.

I have always been a little anemic since the time that I began menstruating, so I have learned to function when feeling a little out of sorts.

For example, the first time that I was specifically told that I was anemic, the doctor was giving the teenage-me a sports physical as required by the city of Baltimore at that time. It wasn’t a big deal, but she wanted me to know.

A few years later, I had been screened before participating in a blood drive, and I received a denial that particular day: my hematocrit indicated a low iron level. I could come back on another day and try again, the phlebotomist said. So, I remember this day as one of the first that my anemia made me ineligible for participation in a desirable activity.

For a few decades, I occasionally had to increase my iron uptake but I didn’t think about it much until the day I collapsed at a festival and cut my chin on the pavement.

Okay, that day was a little less dramatic than the previous sentence sounds because I had alerted someone nearby that I did not feel well and I was already trying to sit down.

The Outcome

So, I did not crash to the ground.

I was told that I kind of “crumpled,” collapsed, and was “out of it” for what seemed like a lot of seconds, I am sure. When I opened my eyes and found myself parallel to the ground, I was sure as heck surprised. Then I was annoyed by the scrape and drops of blood on my chin. Finally, I was grateful that I did not shatter my glasses. I called myself an idiot for skipping breakfast.

But my body had been talking to me, and I just had not been listening.

I had had some woozy moments where I needed to put my head down by my knees, and I knew that was not normal. I just had not decided what to do about it.

Once before, I had gone to the emergency room for dizziness, and the diagnosis was undetermined.

The prescribed medicine had not worked, and the working solution had been to lie down and wait it out. However, the previous instance did not involve my coming to consciousness while on the ground.

Getting back on track

So, I sought a better level of medical assistance.

Instead of the emergency room or immediate care center, I needed a doctor who knew some of my history and could make a diagnosis. I was fortunate to find medical personnel who did just that. That person guided me back to the hematologist’s office, a place where I had been in the past, and that specialist recommended that I begin infusions.

I now do infusions and expect to do them a few times a year until menopause. I use this medical intervention along with tranexamic acid as prescribed by my gynecologist because diet changes and basic iron pills stopped working for me many years ago, pretty much around the time when I started fainting.

But the weeks just before a transfusion can be rough, and this time period does not come at entirely predictable intervals. This time can act like a menstrual cycle: predictable for six months then wacky for the next two. Or any combination thereof. It is during these times that I “hit a wall.”

I might be so busy grinding that I forgot to go for bloodwork. Or I might be in that nebulous time where I qualify according to the doctor but not to the insurance company. In my mind, I imagine a health maintenance inspector saying, You need to suffer a little bit more. Get .8 less on this indicator and the computer program will switch you over to approved.

Since I cannot change the state of health insurance in America, I just look at these days as a time when I practice doing what I need: sleep and positive thoughts will get me through.

Maintain until you can restart and make gains

As the dictionary says, the idiom “hit a wall” means that you cannot physically or mentally move forward.

So, my solution is to maintain and ask myself, “What are the basics?”

  1. I need to sleep. Sleep is the recovery time for the body.

  2. Eat when I am hungry but don’t stress about the details of how the food is made.

  3. Save up energy to be focused during the workday.

Sleep, eat, and do the work that pays my bills. Also, I have to feed and walk the dog for at least two or three twenty-minute intervals.

If it is a good “bad day,” I can add in some slow exercise and meditation.

If I maintain until I can make gains, then I can at least even the score—Physical me, Mental me, tied at 2— and I lay the groundwork for success on another day.

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