It’s not often that I would be waking from an afternoon nap, let alone on a Monday when I would ordinarily be at work. But today I listened to my body.
En route to work last Wednesday I found myself laying on the floor of the public toilets of a train station waiting for an ambulance. Yes, maybe I should have listened to my body a bit sooner.
“The next stop is Wimbledon, change here for…” Then my body interrupted… ‘Get off this train.’ I tried to reason with myself, no, you’ll be fine, you’ve not felt right for a couple of weeks now, that cold is obviously lingering and just like every other day in the past couple of weeks, you’ll be fine once you get there.
I looked out the window, we were pulling in slowly, past Centre Courts shopping centre, past the people stood on the platform. It spoke again, this time a little more sternly.. ‘Get off this train NOW or be the reason that all these people will be late for work.’
I really did not feel right. I felt tired, faint, very sick and very dazed, but at the same time, not so horrendous that I’d be panicked. I somehow managed to put one foot in front of the other and made my way off the train, along the length of the platform and holding the handrail, up the stairs. At the top was a man in a high visibility vest, I softly asked him where the toilets were as I wasn’t feeling too well. I could barely hear myself, I felt so weak.
My fingers and legs were numb, I could barely hold my phone as my fingers had cramped up and were forming claws. My resting heart rate is usually 58 yet the app on my phone was telling me that my heart rate was skipping around between 38 and 146. By the time the guy from the station arrived, I needed to lay down – I simply didn’t have the energy to sit up right anymore.
A paramedic called Rob arrived, I was disorientated thinking his paramedic bag was sending out jets of cold air over my already shivering body. Only to find later that it was the air from the hand drier – activated as people walked past it. I could just about talk – it was getting difficult to get my mouth around words. An ambulance was on its way.
SO, that is how I found myself en route to hospital. I was telling the paramedics that nearly each symptom I had, were not unfamiliar to me. Since falling off my bicycle six and a half years ago and landing on the handle bar, breaking my stomach off my intestine I was familiar with feeling freezing cold, the urge to vomit or run to the loo, palpitations, the complete dazed feeling, the faintness and complete lack of energy. But that I had not ever had the numbness of my limbs to the extent they were and hadn’t felt this bad in about 6 years. The first 4 months after my life saving surgery had been horrendous and I had pretty much got used to going into hospital on an almost weekly basis. I know now that back then wasn’t working for me. I wasn’t listening to my body.
A spot of biology for you…
The consequence of falling off my bicycle meant I no longer had use of the valve at the bottom of the stomach – its job is to hold the solid food in the stomach so stomach acids break the solid food down into liquid format and then it drips through the valve into the intestine. The intestine then draws out the nutrition from this liquid and hey presto, your body receives the nutrition it needs to function properly. In normal folk, things like red meat and pork, or tomato skins etc. are harder for the body to break down and take a lot longer to process and we can feel bloated and uncomfortable for some time. We all hear that we should eat more slowly, chew things well and eat more fruits and vegetables, but we often don’t really know why. It is so the body doesn’t have to work so hard and so that you can get maximum nutritional benefit from your foods.
Well, they say every cloud has a silver lining and I’ve many things to be grateful of my near death experience for. My busted stomach has meant that I learnt the hard way how the digestive system works and what happens when you don’t put the right things in. A petrol car doesn’t work if you put diesel in it. I was now a fine tuned petrol car, so the way in which I was putting in my fuel needed particular attention.
I kept food diaries, tables of what went it, what came out, frequency, quantities, quality, consistency and colour. Oh yes, my life had changed! It was this, or fade into oblivion. The outcome is that I eat a lot more slowly than before, chewing everything really well so my dear little intestine doesn’t have to over work itself – when it can’t cope, it simply lets me know by either giving me the most bloated and painful stomach ever or gets rid of the food as fast as it can. This is often accompanied by palpitations, feeling faint and nausea.
I know my body is one of extremes and because I look ‘normal’ and on most days, when I’ve been looking after my body through my diet, feel perfectly ‘normal’, I do forget that I’m not! I will slip into bad habits… fatty foods, sugary foods and drinks and of course hard to process foods. The consequence… my body can only cope for so long before it shouts out loud and clear. It simply doesn’t want these things and certainly not in abundance.
The thing is, that it’s not just my body that does this. Every body sends signs that we need to listen to, interpret and respond to accordingly. Headaches – don’t just reach for the strongest tablets, ask yourself, are you drinking enough water? Have you been sleeping properly? Are you giving your eyes enough rest from the computer? Are you drinking lots of carbonated drinks? Is there a stress in your life that you could try and let go of / deal with it differently? Constant tiredness – do you then actually give your body the rest it is craving, are you feeding it the right energy providing nutrients? Or do you wait until you are so ill you feel you have an acceptable excuse not to do what ever it was you kept doing over giving your body the nutrition and rest it wanted and needed.
I feel like a bit of a hypocrite, I had heard my body talking to me for weeks and kept ignoring it – thinking that catching one good night’s sleep would make up for the weeks of bad sleep. That eating well for the past two weeks will have made up for the many slippages in my diet. Today I had to make a choice, listen to my body which felt very similar to last week, or go to work. Today I decided to listen to my body and nurture it.
So, this is really just a heads up to you all – while you may not have a stomach with extra special needs, you do have a body that I know, will at times talk to you. Listen to it, accept it and show it some love (regardless of its shape and foibles) – I know I’d much rather spend a day off work doing something nice, not just laying in bed and certainly not spent in hospital. The responsibility of looking after the well being of my body, is mine. I can ensure I am in the best possible shape through the choices I make with food, sleep and exercise.
As my Doctor said this morning – we do only have the one body and we should look after it, so we can live the one life that we have. I appreciate that this may mean more to those who have had a close shave with death but his words really struck a chord.