I don’t remember who it was that first told me that if I watched too much TV my eyeballs were going to fall out. It’s gross enough that it seems like the identity of the bearer of such a lovely prediction would have stuck with me. Even though it may not be medically accurate, it’s advice that we all should heed. If we ignore the health of our mind, body and spirit, our beings will start to fall apart. It’s advice that I shoved pretty far down over the past year.
I’ve been sick for a long time. Cancer when I was 24, chemotherapy, lots of surgery, migraines, endometriosis for probably my entire adult life even though it wasn’t discovered until a few years ago, and the still undiagnosed chronic pain. Not surprisingly, I’ve also struggled with depression. It would be almost impossible for my brain to not be affected by all of the trials my body has been through. For a long time, my brain has been a scary place. It has had too many questions and few answers. Too many griefs, too many wounds that needed healing.
The last year has been worse than usual. When we moved to Colorado, my chronic pain kicked into high gear and I was lucky if I spent one day in five out of bed and functional. And of course, my brain didn’t do very well either.
Thankfully, because of a diligent pain specialist and some new drugs that make me only a little nuts, that bad time seems to be behind me. As my body has begun to heal, I have been startled to see the atrophy that has taken place in my brain. I truly believe that the mind, body and spirit are undividedly intertwined. If one gets sick, the other two suffer. In the struggle to take care of my body, I forgot to take care of my mind. Like all choices, the choice to ignore the health of my brain was a gradual one.
When I was going through chemotherapy, I would feel like the couch was rocking back and forth if I read a book or focused on anything within two feet of my eyes. I watched a lot of movies during that time to get my mind off how I was feeling and what I was thinking and my bad patterns started then. It only got worse when the rest of my illnesses set in. I watched TV. A lot. When I wasn’t feeling good, when I couldn’t sleep, when I didn’t want to think my computer opened or my TV turned on. Now, ANY time I feel sick, I find myself attracted to television, movies, my computer, anything that will get my mind off how I feel.
If I was sick once every two months, that would be fine. But, as often as I am sick? Yikes!
And, then I realized not only was I not making myself better by distracting myself, I was making myself worse! You know that really gross feeling you have when you eat one too many donuts and watched about five too many episodes of your favorite junk TV.? I had that feeling way too often. I was also in the dark. Literally. I had heavy curtains over my windows so that if my head hurt the light wouldn’t bother me. My bed was comfortable and I would stay there, in the dark, curtains drawn. I have always loved the sunlight and forgot how much warm light gets into my bones and heals me. How much fresh air would bring a smile to my face. Any Tolkien fans will know what I mean when I say I was starting to feel like Gollum.
I forgot what it felt like to curl up with a good book and laugh and have my brain work over something. Sure, there is junk literature just like junk TV, but I was never really attracted to that kind of writing. I have read some pretty amazing works of fiction and my study of the Holocaust and the chain of world events that allowed such an atrocity was extensive. I’m one of the only people I know that has actually read Mein Kampf, even if I did feel a little sick the entire time. (By the way, being nuts did nothing to help Hitler’s writing style.) The point is, I studied, I read, I used my brain. And now, it’s kinda tired and not very well used.
About a month ago, that dire warning of “your eyeballs are gonna fall out“ started to echo in my brain. Finally, just to get that nagging voice to shut up, I took stock of where I was body, mind and spirit. I wasn’t real happy with what I saw and I realized I had some work to do. And, so I’ve been reading my Bible. And I’m amazed at how God’s voice is louder in my head than my own thoughts and how much easier it is to listen to truth than to lies. Truth is getting into the dusty corners of my brain and while that’s not always comfortable, it‘s good. I’ve been turning off my computer and the TV for a while every day. I’ve been reading again and while not going through books at the rate I was before I got sick, it’s been getting better. I finished Animal Farm this morning and I’m working on a book about the translation of the King James Bible. I’ve been sitting in the sun and being still. I’ve been going for walks without my phone and without my iPod. My camera has been coming out more and more and I’m starting to “see” pictures in the air again. And, I’ve talked myself into running a 5K on Thanksgiving morning.
I feel like the real me is waking up after a long time and taking good, deep, clean breaths of fresh air.
I’m still not totally happy with how dusty my brain feels, but it’s getting better. I’m hopeful that I’m not a lost cause. The good news is, for the first time in a decade, I’m pretty sure that my eyeballs aren’t going to fall out.
P.S. To any loyal readers that are out there, I promise my next post won’t be a tear-jerker, depressing, sad or in any other way a downer. I’ll celebrate my dusted off brain with a fun essay. Promise, promise. J