Last Updated on: May 6th, 2014
The following is a guest post from Jo Ann Plante. This is her true story!
Stress – A Blessing or A Curse?
The holidays were nearly here. It had been a tough year for me. I quit my previous job due to unethical behavior by the staff and manager, thinking I could just get another job. I was wrong. In April, I went to a temp agency and they sent me to a medical clinic office. I liked the job and did the best I could. I wanted this job badly. When it finally got posted, I was told that it would be a union job and that several people were already lined up for this position.
Taking this in stride, I asked the temp agency for another position. This time they gave me a job at a prestigious university. I was doubly thrilled, because this place is a powerhouse for creative thought and famous people.
I was told the job would only be for 4 months, but I took it and enjoyed every minute. Slowly but surely, low self-confidence and worry crept into my world and I began to worry about not being permanently employed. I had great credentials, but no job offers.
By the time the holidays came, I was getting very tired, even though my routine had not changed. By New Year’s Day, I had a cold and was spending most of my time in bed. I went to the doctor and even he thought I had a cold.
By March, I thought I had pneumonia. My Mom begged me to return to the doctor, but I was having difficulty to making ends meet and didn’t want to spend the money on a doctor visit. By this time, I was collecting unemployment compensation and had no health insurance.
By the end of the month, I could hardly breathe and finally I drove to the doctor’s office. The doctor took one look at me and told me to head into the city. I needed the best hospital in the state and he told me not to drive myself, but to find someone to drive me in.
I was amazed. I thought it was only pneumonia. I did as I was told and not a minute too soon. By the time I got to the hospital, about an hour later, I could hardly breathe. Every time I inhaled, I got a sharp pain in my chest. My fingers started to twist and bend and my face was bright pink.
I was admitted and diagnosed with lupus. What an ugly word! The doctors kept me in the hospital until I was able to go home, a few days. I went home, but by then, I was losing weight, a pound a day. I hardly recognized myself when I looked in the mirror and the smell of food made me even sicker.
A few days later I was back in the hospital. This time they told me that my kidneys were affected. I started to cry. I just couldn’t believe the luck I had. They also told me about all the things I would not be able to do: staying outside in the sun, strenuous exercise, clear skin on my face, maximum of 8 – 10 hours of sleep a night, little or no alcohol consumption and the list went on and on.
The doctor came to see me at 6 p.m. that evening. He sat on the edge of my hospital bed and started asking me about my life and my work. I told him about the job loss, the temp jobs and all the things that bothered me. He smiled for a moment and said, “Do you know what made you sick?” “No,” I answered. He smiled again. “Stress,” he said slowly. I immediately told him I didn’t have stress and that it must be something else. He just shook his head.
This was one of the moments in my life, where reality slapped me in the face and my life changed forever. As I lay there in my hospital bed, looking up at the ceiling, I thought about all the things that bothered me. I realized that the doctor was right. I was so-o-o-o stressed out that I couldn’t even have a conversation with him.
I realized, too, that I had to calm down and get some rest, so my illness wouldn’t get worse. After staying awake most of the night, morning came and the doctor came back to see me. He asked me if I felt any better. I told him I thought about what he said and he was right. I felt sick and ashamed of myself.
He sat down in a chair and we talked for a few minutes. He gave me the best advice I’ve ever received. He told me not to worry about the things I couldn’t do, but do the things I could do. He told me that I would be so busy doing what I could do that I wouldn’t have time to think about the things I couldn’t do.
It was great advice! As I began to get well, I focused on getting from my bed to a chair and then getting from my bed to the bathroom. Each day offered me a chance to stop and appreciate the things around me. I used to whiz by everything. I was always in a hurry to do more and more, thinking it would make me a better worker or better person. I was wrong.
I couldn’t move around too much, I was so tired, but I did notice little things around the house that were there for years, but I never really stopped to look at them. As my appetite came back, I enjoyed my food more. I ate more slowly and really got to enjoy all the flavors.
It took a year before I was back to feeling “normal”. I would be on medication for the rest of my life and I hoped my illness wouldn’t get any worse. I couldn’t go through that again. Ever! I knew in the back of my mind, I could never make the same mistake again.
A friend came over to visit me and commented on how the past year was such a waste of my life. She lamented about the fact that it was too bad I was so sick. I missed out on so much. She was wrong!
I learned a great deal from spending time by myself. I had time to really think about things, about what I wanted out of life and what I had to offer. I enjoyed little things like never before. I found out who cared for me as a friend and who didn’t. In some ways, I had to learn to re-live my life. It was a chance to start over and not make the same mistakes.
I started to feel good about myself and started to take walks to strengthen my legs. I met people on the trail, who didn’t know me or my illness, but waved or smiled at me anyway. I got my confidence back to start living again.
I continued to follow doctor’s orders, but I also focused on the things I could do. With every passing day, I went a little further on my walk or tried to do something new or just took pride in how far I had come.
Since my lupus flare-up, I have become a different person. I have different interests now and see things in a different way. I decided not to return to work, but start my own virtual assistant business, so I could work from home. I’ve taught myself how to set up and run a home business, learn new technology, market my business, write a blog and use all of the skills I acquired as an administrative assistant. I even go camping in a tent, so I can relax and watch nature.
I am not as self-conscious as I was and I take things in stride. I no longer feel I have to conquer the world or compete with anyone, because I have conquered the world in many ways. I nearly died. I’ve been given a second chance and I want to make the most of it. I don’t miss the things I can’t do, because I’m too busy doing the things I can do.
Lupus actually opened my eyes to all the other possibilities out there. It has opened up a whole new world for me and all I had to do was just take the time to rest, not stress, stay calm and not get alarmed over things that really don’t matter. Having gone through all of this, I am happy and healthier than I was and I plan to stay that way.
Jo Ann is a certified freelance writer with articles published on various websites. Her blog is “My Virtual Assistant Blog – How I Got From There to Here” at http://write4yu2.wordpress.com, where she writes about a problem or condition in her life that she has overcome and that led her to start her own successful business. Her website is www.VirtualColleagueLLC.com.