Things I Wish I Knew: When the Body Talks, Listen
Don’t get me wrong, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it an onslaught of unique challenges and obstacles for all of us. It has tested us in ways we never would have imagined. But personally with less buzzing, fewer email notifications and more blank space in my schedule, I am grateful that the pandemic afforded me the time, space and mental clarity to finally push harder on an issue I had been dealing with for months— arguably years.
Pre-pandemic, I was finally at the top of my game. Over the past decade I completed two Master’s degrees, I had attained countless professional credentials, I was being awarded top positions in my field and was successfully running not one, but two small businesses (check out Press Play Physio). I didn’t have the time to let anything slow me down.
I took Advil and muscle relaxants for 10 days every month in order to work through my otherwise debilitating cramps.
I laughed off my increasingly frequent need to urinate claiming my bladder was the size of a pea.
I told myself I was just ‘too tired’ when the truth was I had zero sex drive.
I blamed not dealing with an old injury for the deep ache in my hip and groin every time I tried to work out.
I thought the dark hairs starting to sprout up on my chin were just a part of getting older.
I cursed my massive belly bloat thinking I just needed to be better at drinking water (lol).
I thought my deep sense of exhaustion was just me doing what it took to be successful.
You know, women stuff. It seemed like everyone was dealing with similar things. So like so many, I pressed on. I thought I was ‘dealing’ with it.
But after many months of being business on the top with heating pad and track pants on the bottom, that existence was starting to wear thin.
“Maybe you should consider birth control”, “Have you tried taking warm baths?” and “Maybe those hard workouts are too much for you” weren’t really the answers I was looking for from my health care team. So, as the world was slowing down and I was able to really check in with myself, I had an inner knowing that there was more to the story. I demanded a requisition for a pelvic ultrasound.
And there they were, two massive cysts on each of my ovaries, one being over 3x the size of my ovary itself. MRI’s, hospital visits and cancer screenings later, I will say I am still ‘in it’ — awaiting more answers and next steps. Nonetheless I must say I am already grateful for the lessons that my body’s disease has brought forth.
YOU KNOW YOUR BODY BEST. You are the only one who knows exactly how you feel so strive to be the informed patient, ask all the questions, challenge the answers and advocate for yourself. Always (always always) follow your own instincts and your gut. No symptom is too small or too insignificant. None of the symptoms I have been experiencing should I have every deemed ‘normal’ and I urge you to speak up.
ASK FOR HELP (especially if you are a health care professional yourself). I’ve worked with a pelvic floor physiotherapist, a naturopath, a group of specialists, and a spiritual healer. I have read books (I highly recommend Alissa Vitti’s In the Flo), listened to podcasts and have spoken with other women who have gone through similar issues. Asking for help doesn’t come easy for me but the more I feel I am asking for help and taking control, the better I feel. I don’t have the answers but I am so grateful to have learned from brilliant people who do (Thanks team)!
GIVE YOUR BODY WHAT IT’S ASKING FOR. I would love to claim I am crushing this one but it’s probably where I need to do the most work. I LOVE what I do but I know that sometimes what my body needs most is to simply relax, release and rest. I have needed to set projects aside, overhaul my schedule and pull back from some opportunities so that my body can work its magique. My real work is leaning into listening, stillness and slowness — my feminine energy. Taking a step back and truly trusting that I can continue to pursue my dreams and ambitions armed with the proper energy, compassion and resources my body needs.
SHARE (but only when you are ready.) For me, it was starting to feel like I was hiding something from my family, friends and community and I didn’t like how it felt. Early on though, I needed some time to process and learn for myself before I felt comfortable sharing. I still don’t know what lays ahead for me and there are many unknowns but what I have found is that the more I share the more in some way I give permission to others to share their stories. This whole experience has helped me to realize that so many women have been fighting similar issues in silence. We need to make these conversations the norm.
The past few months have been A LOT. We can’t ignore it. The world is shifting in so many ways and we all find ourselves in an important political and cultural moment. But in this shift, I hope I can underscore how it is important that in order to serve our communities and the outside world we first must tend to ourselves. Check in, slow down and understand how YOU are first. Listen. Because there may be a lot that your body is saying. And if ovaries are one of your problems too, please know you are not alone. Reach out anytime.Follow along with Emma on her journey @pressplayphysio