“Peace is not a place somewhere on this planet that we can find and visit. It is a state of being in the midst of chaos that is always available to us.”
Here are two versions of my story of what I have experienced in the last two weeks – first, the mind-created, self-induced, hard-to-experience, embellished, painful drama; and then second, what really happened.
My scary story…
On July 29th at 10:46 pm, I finally gave in and sent a picture of the red marks on my forehead to my daughter asking her for advice. I had lived the previous 2 days lost in the midst of crazy thoughts that I might have a brain tumour, some other kind of terminal disease, or maybe I was going blind in one eye. I had thoughts like, I guess this is finally it, and I was about to start the painful journey to my final demise. These are a few of the many scary thoughts that were invading my sense of well being.
And then, I would rationalize and have a conversation with myself that it was just some kind of bug bite that I got working in my garden. It started with a little red, raised spot just above my left eye. I kept telling myself to calm down and that it was nothing to worry about but my inner dialogue continued to torment. I finally gave in and set the ball rolling by taking my life in my hands and talking to someone about it.
I was hoping my daughter would simply take a look at the picture I texted to her and tell me I had nothing to worry about. And it did go back and forth for a while. “Yah, it’s a bug bite – probably nothing to worry about.” And then, “Here check out these links about spiders and other toxic insect bites.” I wanted to stop the conversation at “probably nothing to worry about” but once I gathered my courage and forced myself to check out the website links, my story just kept evolving to the possibilities of some kind of infection or allergic reaction.
By this time, it was two hours later, and the next suggestion I got was that I should be “safe rather than sorry” and call 811 (Alberta’s Health Services, Health link) and get expert, nurse advice. Of course, at first I resisted doing this trying to tell myself I was ok and this was just going to make a mountain out of the little molehill on my forehead.
So I found myself pressing the 8-1-1 on my cell phone all the while starting to shake inside because I knew involving medical professionals could evolve in many ways and most of them not usually very pleasant. Being newly moved to Alberta, I had never used my Alberta Health care card and for the life of me, I had no idea if I ever even received one, or if I did, where I might have hidden it. The calm voice on the other end of the phone told me not to worry and that she would simply look me up in her computer system. That behind me, I explained my concerns and listened intently, while this very compassionate female voice took me on another roller coaster ride. Back and forth again, with “should not be a problem” but then after another question answered “get to the ER within the next 4 hours”.
Again new to Edmonton and due to COVID, I had not been out and about much to even know where the hospital was. Long gone are the days in my life where I have a husband or best friend or a close relative that would swoop me up and take care of everything. Someone that would stay with me while all of my problems got resolved and then return me home to my warm and cozy bed and look after me until all was well in my world again. Nope, I only had Linda to depend on. She had to put one foot in front of the other and get things done. She had to get through this and do what ever was needed.
After shoving some clothes on, my next thought was, what do I do with my dog Sunshine? Much like me, she is an old senior too, and she gets into all kinds of trouble, if life doesn’t work out for her the way she wants it to. Mostly, I just take her everywhere I go to appease her anxieties but obviously, a hospital ER was not someplace she could go with me. So having no other options, I dragged her little kennel to the basement where it was coolest to leave her in the last place she wanted to be – alone and without me.
My next step was to program the hospital destination in to my I-phone. All I could think of was Blue Nun Hospital. Thank goodness for Google maps as it let me know that I was to be headed for the “Grey” not Blue Nun Hospital. Not an easy trip for me since it was so dark and it was hard to see the street names. 7 or 8 minutes later, I found myself in the parking lot searching for the emergency entrance. The temperature of 28 degrees celsius had dipped to 17 and I found myself shivering as I made my way towards the big, red ER letters. I was feeling weak, scared and alone but managed to get myself in to the lengthy social distancing line up. It was my first experience of having to wear a COVID mask and later I found out that I not only had it on back to front, but also was wearing it upside down. No wonder I found it hard to breath.
After 4 line changes and several hours of waiting – waited to be tri-aged, waited to be registered, waited to get to the exam room, waited for the doctor to arrive, I was finally diagnosed and then had to wait again to get to the eye examination room.
Within seconds of the doctor arriving, he announced that I had not been attacked by an insect but was the victim of a resurrection of the chicken pox virus. He called it shingles and said that with medication, it should be gone in 3 or 4 days. He then explained that to be sure it didn’t get in to my eye, he needed to get me to the optician room and do another examination. Waited some more since the exam room had to be disinfected before I could enter. He also explained that the virus was contagious for anyone that had not already had chicken pox and I was to keep it covered if I had to go out in public.
Armed with the doctor’s prescription, being surprised that is was daylight, I shivered my way back to my van. Out comes the I-phone again to spend the next half hour frantically searching for a 24/7 pharmacy. By this time, it was 5:45 AM and the earliest a drug store in the area would be open was 8 AM. So I decided to go home, check on Sunshine and try and stay awake until I could procure the much-needed medicine.
Exhausted, nauseous and feeling so vulnerable and alone, I fumbled for my house key and got myself through the front door of my newly acquired town home. As it turns out, my unexpected experiences were not finished happening. As tired as I was, and just wanting to drop on my couch to try and regain some energy and composure, alas it was not yet meant to be. My little buddy Sunshine, had a surprise waiting for me. Being crated, without me being nearby, she experiences extreme separation anxiety and defecates in her kennel. I didn’t think I could take one more thing and I just wanted to leave the house and run away but where would I run to? So one foot in front of the other, I dragged the crap-filled cage up the basement stairs and out to my tiny back yard and set to work cleaning up the dirty deed.
Thank goodness, I did not find a pharmacy to go to before stopping at home first. To keep myself awake, I decided to go upstairs and wash my face and freshen up and to put a band aid on my forehead before making the trip to Costco to get my pills. Looking in the mirror, I saw someone I did not recognize. Not only had the raised, burning red spots spread to more of my forehead and eyelid, my eye above and below was covered in a reddish, pinkish dye making me look like something out of a hallowe’en movie. The drops the doctor put in my left eye, also managed to cover other parts of my face. If I had gone directly to a drug store, I cannot imagine what people seeing me would have been thinking or how they might have reacted. Remember, due to COVID, most people panic if someone just sneezes close to them, let alone seeing a face like mine in their presence.
So I got my medicine and for the next 7 days (not 3 or 4 as the doctor stated), I stayed isolated and at times, really believed that I was not going to make it. It was one of the most painful experiences that I ever had to endure. It took every ounce of my energy and will power to do what I needed to do, to feed myself, get to the bathroom when I needed to, take my pills 2 at a time, 3 times a day and feed my dog but I made it through and lived to tell the tale.
What really happened – removing all of the scary thoughts…
I had a spot on my forehead that started to become bigger.
Went to the hospital.
It spread and also covered my eyelid.
Got a prescription for Shingles.
Took the medicine for 7 days.
Was very sick for a few days.
Shared my story with you.
Do you see the difference in the 2 stories? Do you see how we as human beings have been programmed to be so dramatic? It is very clear to me that if I am finding something unbearable, it is always, only 100% of the time, because I have made a decision to feel sorry for myself. I have decided that something should not be, that something is not fair or what ever is happening is not acceptable.
As dramatic as my story number one is portrayed to be, I have to be honest and tell you that what got me through was me noticing all of the scary thoughts I was having and just letting them come and go. I didn’t buy in to any of them and as fast as one uncomfortable thought would present itself, I would replace it with the un-embellished truth, the simple facts. For example, “I cannot take another thing going wrong” became “what do I need to do next?” “I can’t do this” became “I am doing this”. “I shouldn’t have to clean up dog poop when I am so tired, sick and alone” was replaced with “I will just get a bucket and some soap and water and get this done”. Seriously, at the end of the day, what’s the worst that can happen? I think most of us would say “well geez, I might die!”
Then I am blessed to remember, that inevitably that is going to happen sooner or later anyway, so stop the resistance and the self-induced fear and agony, and just do what ever you can do in the moment. And after that, just let go and let God (or whoever or whatever you believe brought you in to existence) take care of everything else. The truth is that that is what’s been happening to each and everyone of us since the day we were born. We do some things, and the universe does the rest. Every so-called bad experience is not actually that. They are just happenings and instead of attaching all of the descriptors to them, we can just notice this is happening and that is happening and if something needs to be done and I can do it, I do it and if not, I just bring my attention to the beauty that is always surrounding me, even in the midst of chaos, and say thank you.
Onward and upward…