It’s 6 am, and I’ve been up since 4 am.
I’m sitting wrapped up in a blanket in the cool morning air, watching the barefoot monks in their saffron robes pass by collecting their morning alms. The waning crescent moon is giving way to the new light and the deep indigo sky is fading into the golden colors of the sunrise.
For the past week, this has been my schedule:
Wake up. Take anti-nausea pills. Lay in bed. Eat breakfast. Take all my other pills (6 to be exact). Write, or research, or read or plan. More anti-nausea pills. Eat lunch. Watch Netflix sitting up until I feel too ill. Lay down. Lie there until I’m so unbearably bored that I force myself to get up. Go for a walk. Struggle a bit. More anti-nausea pills. Get dinner and snacks. Proud of myself for getting up. Return to bed. Netflix. Try to sleep. Get frustrated when that doe not come. More Netflix. More reading. Finally fall asleep at an unbearably late hour. Sleep for two hours. Wake up. Snack. More Netflix. More reading. Take more anti-nausea pills. Sleep again, somehow. Wake up.
Over. And over again.
I’ve always had it in my head that when you’re at the stage of needing to go to the hospital, you’re already at your worst. I mean, why else would you be there? I assumed that the hospital was the very last resort, the thing you choose when you’ve exhausted all of your other options and are no longer able to help yourself. I assumed that once you are finally in the care of intelligent, capable professionals, that your suffering would end. I can’t believe I’ve gone these 22 years with thinking this way, as that is in no way how that goes.
In fact, it gets a WHOLE lot worse before it gets any better. Medication is a really incredible thing, and I can’t even imagine to think what would have happened if I did not have these resources accessible to me. But what these medications have been doing to me (besides the mending…) WOW has it make me feel like crap. Normally when I am sick or in pain or anything of the sort, I refuse to take medicine. I believe that my body is capable of so much, and instead of immediately masking with medication I try to find the root of the problem and solve whatever may be causing it. I mean, if something is off, there’s a reason for it! I also feel that even simple, non prescription, non over-the-counter medicine, it just makes me feel gross! And with this whole new feeling worse with the cocktail of medications I’ve been on… well, I’ve just proved myself right with my thoughts on that one.
In addition to the inhalers, the antibiotics, the anti-inflammatory, the expectorants, and the bronchodilators, I’ve needed anti-nausea pills to help cope with the crappiness that this mixture does to my body. Oh, and then some sleeping pills to (try) to help my body and mind calm down after taking my nighttime does which makes my heart beat crazy out of my chest and my breathing fast and shallow. This has lead me to have a seriously whole new perspective on people who have any sort of condition that requires a cocktail mix of medications, or frequents the emergency room. I am so fortunate to have not yet in my life needed hospitalization like that, and I have a whole new sympathy for people who have had to go through that at all.
And the eye-openingness of this experience hasn’t stopped with those realizations:
I’ve always thought of my optimism to be something so positive about myself. No matter the person, thing, or situation, I pride myself on so often being able to flip the unfortunate around and nurture it into something beautiful.
And over the past month (to the exact day, in fact), I’ve tried to stick so strongly to that way of thinking. But through that, I’ve learned a very valuable lesson: While staying positive, hoping for the best, and reassuring myself – every single freaking day for over 20 days – that tomorrow I WILL be better, I blinded myself. Instead of my optimism helping and healing me as it normally does, this time it’s turned me away from reality. The reality that this has not been normal, being so sick for so long and feeling so horribly is not okay. When EVERY tomorrow is not better, despite the (desperate) hope for good things to come, it’s time to put the optimism slightly to the side and make room for reality. It took me
to reach the point of accepting how sick I actually was.
I’ve been learning so much on this trip, and through this I’ve been learning the physical and mental limits of my health. While I normally lean so much towards natural medicine and gentle homeopathic healing, I learned my limit, I caved and I RAN for the western medicine. And honestly, nausea and sleeplessness aside, I am so happy to be pumped full of all sorts of medicine.
My lungs are breathing how they should. My entire body feels so much better. And although I can’t sleep from the jitteriness, I am thankful to feel my body healing, FINALLY.
Optimism – 0 Realism – 1 … this time.
One positive thing did come from this experience though: the support of family, friends and strangers. I have repeatedly been brought to tears through all of this, especially over the days spent in the hospital. First tears of frustration, of hopelessness, of so-close-to-getting-on-a-plane-and-coming-home-because-I-don’t-know-what-to-do. But then came the tears of gratitude, tears of relief, tears of contentment and of understanding.
The morning before I went into the hospital I made a post on a Facebook group I’m part of called Girls Love Travel. And it’s exactly what it sounds like – a community of girls who love travel, talk about it, and encourage each other to see the world! The post I made was essentially asking for opinions on what to do, how to handle it, if they’ve experienced anything similar, etc. I explained that I had seen two doctors: one with a diagnosis of Walking Pneumonia and one who was this horrible lady two touched my arm and told me I was dehydrated – not kidding. I explained my frustration and how I was on the edge of having a breakdown because of it. I explained my hardship with feeling so horrible, being tired of being in bed, and especially of not being able to get out and explore the world I’ve worked so hard to explore!
What came next, I never would have expected: a collective 519 responses, 95 comments, and a handful of personal messages.
I couldn’t believe it.
These comments – from absolute strangers – were filled with so much love and support and encouragement. With suggestions for which doctors to see in Thailand, and offers of coming to hang out with me and watch movies. Offers to bring me anything I need. They were kind words supporting my hardship and reassuring me that this was just a small bit of the trip and soon I’ll be over this and I’ll be back to my regular, adventuring, girls-love-travel self! There were some that were telling me to go home. Some encouraging me to use natural methods of relief and to aid my healing. There were some girls saying that they, too, had pneumonia and couldn’t imagine being in a freaking foreign country dealing with this.
After all of the supportive, wonderful, kind, helpful, encouraging responses, I left my hostel and walked to meet my parents. I saw my mom on the street and I just started sobbing. We walked right to the nearest hospital. They admitted me for two nights and three days.
With the help of both the support of this online community, as well as my own online community and my parents who I was lucky enough to have with me, it hit me hard: this is part of the experience that is going to help me grow as a person, it is not something to push me to give up. It’s been an extremely unpleasant experience, but it is pushing me to learn my physical and mental limits, teaching me to LISTEN TO MY BODY, and to put expectation aside to make room for what’s most important: me. Especially when it comes to my health.
My heart is beating, my lungs are breathing, and I am filled with so much gratitude.
fortunately for me and unfortunately for my parents, they came to meet me in Thailand. It was fortunate that I was able to have familiarity and love, the opportunity to be taken care of, and comfort placed around me. But, it is so unfortunate that my parents once-in-a-life-time trip to come and meet their daughter in Thailand was consumed by all of this. I’ve been so excited all my life at the prospect of them coming to meet me across the world. And when they booked their flights I couldn’t believe that I would finally get the chance to show them why I’ve fallen so in love with life on this side! I was so excited to get the chance to intimately share with them my knowledge and admiration for this different, incredible culture.
Between doctor visits, medicine and food runs, and giving me hugs and kisses, they were able to explore on their own. I’m so happy that they came, and despite my situation, were able to still enjoy themselves. I’m glad that they bathed elephants with mud, explored the klongs of Bangkok, saw the beaches of the south and the temples of the north. I’m happy they fell in love with Pad Thai and Chang beer. I’m happy that they still got to see this part of the world that I love so much.
After leaving the hospital and saying goodbye to my parents – yes, those happened pretty much simultaneously – I set out to find a place to settle in and recover. My hostel was booked full for fan-rooms, and my lungs were not strong enough for the air conditioned ones they could offer me. So I took alllll the strength I had and walked down the road to see if there were any vacancies nearby. I stumbled across a restaurant that had a sign up reading ‘Room For Rent.’ It was perfect.
I’ve been there since that happened 5 days ago, and I’ve been so happy to be here. This restaurant turns out to just be the living room of a lovely little Thai mom and her adult daughter. They have been so concerned for me, and so caring. They’ve nurtured me back to health with their kindness and generosity, cooking me healthy fresh meals and making sure I was drinking enough water and tea. I’ve woken up to the sounds of them singing and rested listening to the chatter of customers. I honestly could not have imagined a better place to end up, given the circumstances. My family had left me just in time for another to take me in.
All of this leads me to this morning. Sitting on the deck, writing amongst the community that is sleepily starting their days. I have yet to take any medicine so far this morning… not even my inhaler! A sign that my body is truly healing. And soon I’ll be heading to catch a bus to take me to my next destination, Pai – FINALLY. As content as I have been here in Chiang Mai, I am
I’ve watched enough Netflix to kill my brain cells, even though I’ve tried to watch enlightening things. I’ve read about meditation. I’ve redesigned my blog and uploaded photos. I’ve written, a LOT. I’ve been through my Facebook and Instagram feeds a thousand times. I’ve checked all my emails. I’ve contacted bands to book for the bar back home. I’ve planned an itinerary for Myanmar. I’ve organized all my finances, my thoughts, my desires. I’m better off for it for sure, but I am
My heart is beating, my lungs are breathing, and I am filled with so much gratitude.
Today is the first day of the rest of my trip and things are looking up.