A few weeks ago, chest pain woke me up in the middle of the night. Sitting on the couch googling heart attack symptoms had me almost certain that what I was experiencing was not a heart attack so I eventually decided not to call 911 or to drive myself to the ER. After a few hours of sitting up, the pain seemed to have subsided and I slept a few hours before the alarm went off the next morning. An appointment at the clinic followed by multiple tests at the hospital and I was diagnosed with Pericarditis. The condition had come up on Google the night before, but I hadn’t really heard of it before then.
The internet defines Pericarditis as “swelling and irritation of the pericardium, the thin sac-like membrane surrounding the heart”. Its causes are often viral, but it could also be autoimmune (like Celiac disease, Type 1 Diabetes and Hypothyroidism which are all in my immediate family). The treatment is anti-inflammatory meds and rest. 24 hours after starting the meds, the symptoms were 90% better. The rest part of the treatment meant no exercise whatsoever except for very light cardio like walking at a pace where you can easily maintain a conversation. I have been off work since the diagnosis.
My body has spoken now am I ready to listen?
Like any other addiction, I have long realized that my bike has become a survival tool, a way to calm the mind demons, an escape, and a way to numb the pain. It has become a crutch that I have been leaning on. I’ve known this for a long while and was totally fine with it except now it has become obvious that this approach is no longer sustainable. I can’t push through this. My return back to health can only happen by focusing inward. For the longest time, when things got tough, I remember feeling that everything was OK as long as I was riding well. My cycling and to a large extent racing have become large pillars on which I based my overall wellbeing.
So now, in an instant, this ego based foundation that I was standing on is crumbling. As I mature, I have recognized that Mike the cyclist and bike racer isn’t really who I am but rather a big part of my ego that I have been identifying with for the better part of my life. As with all aspects of the ego, Mike the bike racer isn’t really a very happy guy. He’s only content when he’s racing well and getting the results that he believes he deserves. But how often does this happen? Bike racing when taken too seriously becomes a shallow, selfish, egocentric, self-seeking meaningless pursuit. Looking at my Pericarditis diagnosis through the eyes of Mike the cyclist and bike racer, I am pretty bummed and depressed right now. Mike the bike racer and cyclist feels betrayed by his body and lots of self-pity. Mike the cyclist and bike racers reaction is typical of the ego.
By focusing inward, I am trying to go beyond this false self or ego where I believe true healing needs to happen. It’s been a whole lot of hard work with the ego constantly popping up resisting its own demise but my intentions remain. My focus has been mindful rest. Some days I’m very good at achieving this, other days not so much. But then I get another chance the next day. Growth cannot happen without a certain amount of suffering and a lot of hard work. I can't forget that.
Almost 13 years ago, Adele’s Type 1 diagnosis broke my heart and today I am suffering with the physical manifestation of this life event. My heart is literally broken. Maybe there was no other way for me to begin letting go of trying to control too many aspects of Adele’s day to day Diabetes care? Maybe this is the meaning of all of this? It does make me feel better thinking of it this way. It gives purpose to my recovery. It helps me honor what is. I have not been very good at listening to my body in the past. Maybe I was never still for long enough to really listen? Maybe this is exactly what I need at this moment?