When You Need Time to Focus on Your Own Health

When most people think about E coli, the first thing that comes to mind likely is eating tainted food or as a result of improper handwashing. What came as a surprise to me was that it can also show up as a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) caused by kidney stones that back up in the urethra, which prohibits the flow of urine. It is more than an academic exercise that had me researching this all too common condition in men and women. As I am writing, I am less than 24 hours post-surgery to remove these pesky critters that have been backing up the works since 2014. It was my fourth go around that culminated in a cystoscopy, which removed them rather than let them pass on their own since they were wreaking havoc with my day-to-day functioning. 

Nausea, loss of appetite, exhaustion, cognitive impairment, and pain were the hallmarks that had me returning to the ER for the third time in so many weeks. Since I am a Type A recovering workaholic, I did my best to maintain my typical work schedule and assisting with my newborn grandson so his parents can rest. This would send me crashing back to bed when I got home, sleeping 12-14 hours (when my normal is 7-8). I awoke still feeling as if it was a struggle to do “normal people stuff.” I wasn’t feeling motivated to do most of my routine, would start something and then put it aside. My “get up and go had got up and went,” and I feared it would be on permanent leave.  

The condition was diagnosed with a urine sample that indicated an elevated white blood cell count. IV antibiotics and fluids to rehydrate me brought my 103 temp down to the high 90’s and an unusually low BP of 95/58 back to my normal range. I trusted myself to the care of the staff of Doylestown Health, which has been my go-to place since moving to the area in 1993. Since they were familiar with my health history, including the heart attack back in 2014, everything went more smoothly than if I had needed to go elsewhere. 

I counted my blessings, even though I was tethered to a pump with IVs that had to be changed three times since my tuckered out veins weren’t having it, couldn’t shower for three days (don’t worry, I did body wipe baths by the sink) and — more frustrating — couldn’t see clients. My son wouldn’t even pick up my laptop so I could write articles. “You need to rest, mom.” Who’s the parent here? This role reversal thing sucks. But he and other family members and friends who wagged their fingers at me and invoked the same message, were right. The world didn’t stop spinning since I took some time off to heal, watch ’80s comedies and two of my favorite movies, E.T. and Back to the Future. I tuned into the New-Born Channel since I was having withdrawals and missing my grandson. I got to watch other cute babies — not as adorable as mine of course — to get my baby fix.

Another blessing was a wonderful roommate who reminded me of my mother, who died in 2010, even saying some of the same things she would have said. We had wee hours in the morning talks when we couldn’t sleep, about “life, the universe and everything.” We agreed that we were meant to meet and plan to keep in touch.

The most challenging aspect was that this consummate caregiver required 24/7 care. I was literally dependent on professionals to administer meds, help me in and out of bed in the beginning, screening my urine to see if any of the stones flowed out, run scans (CT and abdominal ultrasound) to determine if anything else was causing the symptoms. Friends and family came to visit, and through the phenom of Facebook, countless offered prayers and healing energy.

I am reminded of this reference from an article I wrote for Psych Central in 2018, called A Therapist Practices Necessary Self Care:

Ashley Davis Bush, author of Simple Self-Care for Therapists: Restorative Practices to Weave Through Your Workday shares that we, “need to keep our instrument, our presence, well cared for.” As therapists, we are called on to be in tune with our clients. I question how I can do that as well if I am tone deaf to my own basic needs. Although I could anticipate the outcome that I am facing now, I didn’t take the necessary action until I was in the throes of respiratory distress. My well-meaning friends and family have noticed for years my tendency to burn the candle at both ends until there was no more wax left.

Cleary, as after every major health diagnosis over the past six years, I still haven’t gotten the message since each time that has occurred, I have said that I was going to change my routine. For a short time, I ease back and then opportunity, financial concerns or general need, impel me forward, beckoning me into a dance that I don’t have the stamina to maintain. In part, it is age related. At 61, which is not all that old, I feel much older when these experience occur.  As my mother would have described it, sometimes I feel “decrepit”. Many of the staff there thought that my appearance defied the date on my arm band which they scanned every time they were giving treatment or taking vital signs.  

Louise Hay, author of You Can Heal Your Life, combines physical and psychological symptoms with her interpretation of the psycho-spiritual root cause. She considers kidney stones to be “lumps of undissolved anger,” and UTIs related to being “pissed off.” Both make a great deal of sense since I tend to be conflict avoidant and allow anger to build up. 

This healer is once again called on to heal her life or will find it nigh unto impossible to help her clients to heal themselves.

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