Sunday, October 16, 2011

As the plane goes down

When was the last time you felt short of breath?  After exercising?  After laughing with friends?  Rushing to a meeting?  Or perhaps because of being ill?

In August of 2010, I dealt with a protracted bout of pneumonia.  It lasted for well over a month, with the recovery process a long, grinding one.  I wrote a blog about this experience, called The Manifestation of Wellness (Healing Morning, 09/27/2010) in an effort to better understand what was happening with and to my body.  Most of us are aware that there is a strong mind-body connection that has impact on our health, although there are differing opinions on the veracity of this concept.  Depending on which side of the proverbial fence you stand, it makes sense or it's a bunch of nonsense.

Why am I bringing this up?  Because I am currently battling through another bout of pneumonia.  What surprised me was that in my mind, I had somehow convinced myself that that last bout of pneumonia had occurred more than two years ago.  Imagine my dismay when I searched for the blog article here on Healing Morning and found a clear pattern of approximately a year between recurrences.  Granted, last year's pneumonia was in August and this year, it has hit me in October, but they both occurred in fall months and they both progressed rapidly to full blown pneumonia.  Of course, many will say that this is simple logic - we're in the thick of flu season, with myriad viruses, bacteria and germs flying about in fall months.  I don't dispute that logic at all, and I agree that it is definitely a part of the cycle and pattern I've detected.

What I'm looking at is the mind-body aspect.  There are many esoteric tenets that have identified an emotional tie to specific health concerns.  I have talked with friends who follow/practice some of these esoteric tenets over the years to identify what the emotional tie is with flu and pneumonia.  The following are individual comments that happened during private conversations, so in the interests of protecting the privacy of all, I am not going to annotate a specific dogma, religion or person's name.  I will say that I have discussed this topic with people from a wide range of walks of life, spanning many organized religions, esoteric tenets and even what we would call "mountain wisdom" here in the southeastern region.

One friend offered the following information:

"...fatal bouts of pneumonia and influenza usually result from an individual's inability to handle multiple fears and challenges overwhelming them in a shorter, more compressed timeframe. Usually the person is drowned in the flood of emotions (fear, anxiety, panic) that engulf them. The 'internal floods' manifest as severe lung congestion which cuts off their connection to breath and sometimes, ultimately, their connection to life."

Another opinion:

"...issues involving the lungs indicate a need to address grief that may have been tucked away and not properly dealt with..."

Yet another, of a mountain wisdom perspective:

"Anything around the heart and the lungs that is severe is telling you that you're literally cutting off your own air.  You're allowing something emotional to grow to such proportions that it feels as though you're suffocating, and that begins to manifest physically in your body."
I think many of us can admit to being guilty of any of those three.  We all battle fear based thoughts on a daily, sometime minute by minute basis.  We all have had moments of loss where we didn't properly address the grief stages, whether from personal preference or from necessity of getting back into the hectic pace of work life, we've all done it.

When I began to delve deeply and pick apart the layers of my own life in this past year, I was able to easily identify areas and experiences that I could have dealt with more efficiently and more honestly.  I say "easily identify" because when I began this process, it was with a borderline ruthless determination to put an end to this cycle of repetitive illness.  I have dealt with pneumonia and respiratory issues most of my life, and I feel it is time to put stop to that cycle.

So, this inner searching had to be very honest.  I had to admit to areas where I had possibly been sloppy in my own processing, or where I had avoided tending to my own emotions.  THAT was the bigger wake-up call...that I was clearly slapped in the face with the fact that I had been regularly neglecting my own emotions.  Those who know me well would say that I am a very nurturing, caring, loving person, yet there I sat, confronting my own culpability.  There were both small and large issues where I had failed to care for myself properly because I was focused on caring for the world at large.  Over time, this type of personal neglect is going to build up and eventually, something will have to give.  The most obvious effect is illness, as all that toxic build-up has to find a path of exit.  Now that this illness has set into my body, I am doing my best to ride the wave of it all and allow it to burn off what is necessary to be burned off.

Am I saying that I've been walking around in a constant robotic state, endlessly stuffing down my emotions? Not at all.  What I have been guilty of, however, is of allowing myself to fall into what I call a "frozen state" when a slew of crisis points hit all at once.  I think that's probably a common reaction, because it hits that instinctive, reptilian fight or flight response deep within our brains.  We shut down on some levels in order to keep functioning, promising ourselves that when things calm down, we will address the emotional side of things.  The reality of life, however, is that things rarely calm down.  Life offers us a steady supply of challenges, scary moments, stressful experiences that lead to grief, anger, loss, frustration and more.  My own life in the last calendar year has been chock full of virtually every aspect that I just listed, and I now am looking at the fact that I need to go back and address some of the emotions that I put on hold out of necessity.

I need to create a more timely approach where I am honoring my own fears and reactions.  Everyone has a different freak out point - that thing or event that hits that will cause a meltdown to occur.  I won't go into specific detail about my own freak out point, but I think the central, common denominator for most is a loss of control.  We all have a very clear picture in our minds of who we are "supposed" to be, how we are "supposed" to project ourselves and how we are "supposed" to be perceived.  Strong.  Independent.  Intelligent.  Powerful.  Happy.  Successful.  Plug in the label of choice - we all have a persona we identify with.  It's when something....or many somethings....hit all at once and possibly jeopardize that persona that fears set in.  Freezing up, for many, is the result.  For me, that freezing up process is an internal one.  While that can be a good coping mechanism for the short term, it is the long term fall out that I am now focused on mitigating.  It's time to find a better method for dealing with high levels of stress, rather than putting them immediately on the side burner to tend to at some foggy future date that rarely receives true attention.

I know the habits I've neglected that are helpful - yoga, meditation, reading and writing for pleasure, spending time with family and friends, being out in nature, being artistically creative.  The firm truth is that I need to get back to creating time for myself first. This is a malady that has reached epidemic proportions the world over, putting ourselves last.  We all know that if we are not healthy, we are not going to be of any good to those we love, we are not going to be efficient co-workers, employers or employees.  That analogy of the airplane going down is a good one - unless YOU put the air mask on yourself FIRST, you won't be able to be of any use to anyone else as the plane goes down.

In my own personal experience, how apt is that analogy?  I failed to put my proverbial oxygen mask on throughout much of 2011, and the result has been that my body finally rebelled in a manner that mimicked my emotions....I got sick with a respiratory illness that rapidly progressed to pneumonia.  I cut off my own oxygen supply, in a way, from freezing up over and over.  From putting my own emotions on hold to tend to everything else in the world, I was communicating to myself on an emotional level that I didn't matter....and I slowly cut off the oxygen.  The smarter move would have been to immediately reach for that proverbial oxygen mask, to take care of myself first, to establish a clear airway for myself first, so that I was given time to access tools to carry on.

As that proverbial plane goes down, reverting to crisis thinking has become a negative habit for me that I  now need to change.  Will it be an easy process?  It can be, if I embrace change instantly, but that's not a realistic expectation.  I'm like most people in that I adapt to change slowly, and my own spin on it is to be very methodical in my approach.  Falling dramatically ill is as good a wake-up call as any, I guess.  It's highly unpleasant to be this ill, so who wouldn't want to investigate new behaviors that can help to avoid a repeat of that experience?

I also want to stress that I am not indicating that I believe we are 100% masterful creators of every single illness that strikes us.  I would not suggest that certain dread diseases are brought about by our own intentions, conscious or otherwise.  I do, however, believe there is truth to some of the emotional tenets I've discussed here; I think that if we are not mindful of our emotional state, this, in turn, can possibly compromise our immune systems enough to allow opportunistic maladies a toe hold in our bodies and then illness can be the result.  If there is even a fraction of truth to this concept, then it behooves me to do some personal house cleaning and put some clear focus into my daily habits and the care that I give myself.  Yearly bouts of pneumonia are unnecessary and I am aware that each bout is dancing with a knife-edge of uncertainty as to the outcome.  Pneumonia, as has been impressed upon me over and over by medical professionals, is not something to take lightly.

So, getting back to that plane going down analogy, we know that I'm not a pilot, obviously.  I can't fly a corporeal plane.  But I CAN  pilot my own Life Path and I can make better, more conscious choices when I am in the midst of a maelstrom of stressors.  I can choose better reactions and I can take care of myself FIRST, and don that oxygen mask as the plane goes down.  That plane going down isn't necessarily a bad thing, because all stories have a natural life cycle. That is a topic for another blog, perhaps.  For now, as this specific plane goes down, it is absolutely possible to save the flight by donning that personal oxygen mask.  By saving myself first, I can do so much more for the rest of the world.  Breathing is good, yes?  I remind loved ones of this regularly, so it is with a gracious acceptance that I embrace the concept as well.


  1. Hi, Dawn,
    A great post! Yes, we do need to care for ourselves first in a nurturing, loving way or we cannot truly be there for others. I believe stress weakens our immune system; we get ill and we are forced to slow down and rest as we have no other choice.

    Jesus told us to "love our neighbors as ourselves"; it was a given that love for self comes first.


  2. We all have to calm down from time to find the shabbath for our souls so we can get true relief for our inner soul.There is so much stress in today´s society and this puts a burden on peoples shoulders, breath and hearts.

  3. Self realization, I keep having to visit this to keep myself in check. I hope that you are well soon and the pneumonia does not return as you are learning to take the time for you.

  4. Martha, yes, I agree with you about stress being a strong factor in affecting our immune systems. Science has proved this to be true, after all. That alone should be enough to convince us all to slow down and take care of ourselves more. Some of us do, most of us don't, at least not until we're forced to a couple of times! Thank you for visiting and leaving such a wonderful comment today. :)

    - Dawn

  5. Mattias, how nice to see your name here! I appreciate your thoughts on this topic, particularly the comment about finding the Shabbat for our souls. That's where I was stumbling and where I am now refocusing. :)

    - Dawn

  6. First of all...great post have experienced an your down time.Within my belief, everything you said within the Mind-Body experience is true.

    I believe that what is going on internally manifests itself externally when we are in denial of our emotions and not speaking our truth. Release has to happen for the body to function healthily. If we are not expressing our emotions...then they will find their own way to express. Like you...I am talking about how emotions affect the physical body. Fluid in the lungs...( You are literally drowning emotionally)....not being truthful within your emotions and denying what is really happening..( constriction in the throat area..and where most viruses begin to manifest starting with sore scratchy throat) ...and the feeling of suffocating...( all those emotions...built up over time...beginning to come to the surface and literally take your breath away)..

    As to the reasons we do it...yes, fear, acceptance, love...etc...all those things you mentioned.

    When we are in Emotion, we do not come from the Power and Strenth of Logic...when we are in emotion we do not always see what is really going on in the moment with our life challenges. Only when you are ready to face all the fears that emotion can bring up around life challenges and be in the moment...can you then move your perspective to Logic and release the Emotion from that position of Power and Knowing of " Self"...

    If we begin to know where we are within our emotions at all times..only then can we mitigate the impact they have on our Mind, Body and Spirit...

    And Yes, Breathing is good! Breath.....may you begin the Journey of Healing through Mindfullness... Always friend...

  7. Jan, I loved your thought about keeping self in check! It sounds so easy in theory, doesn't it? Yet rather challenging in actual practice, as all it takes is losing focus for a short time. Focus. I come back to that word quite often. Thank you for the good wishes about my health; I am slowly going through the recovery process and I hope that this new realization will prevent future recurrences!

    - Dawn

  8. Raven, what a beautiful comment! Yes, I have been analyzing all the aspects that you mentioned regarding the way illness will manifest. I would much rather be focused and be an analyzing sort, so that I am able to better understand my own experiences. As we all know, knowledge is power. Unless I understand it, I can't effectively change the habits that caused the disruption in the first place.

    Life is good, and I am continuing the growth process. Thank you so much for the beautiful friendship and love, dear one. <3

    - Dawn

  9. One doesn't have to buy into the mind-body, or spiritual aspect of what you're talking about to totally agree with the rest of what you're saying. We are all guilty of letting the caretaking of ourselves be put on the backburner and putting others first.

    When you do that, and you allow the stress of everyday life to build up inside you without taking care of it, it's going to happen.

    That's what I like about your posts, Dawn. Whether somebody buys into the more esoteric aspects of what you're saying, they can still find a lot of value in your posts because you are addressing universal truths.

    I hope you get feeling better soon, hon!!!

    Oh, and sorry for taking what little breath you have left away by actually showing up and commenting on the day you post. Won't happen again. :P

  10. LOL....Dave, laughter at the moment causes a bit of a coughing fit, but that's okay. Anytime you visit is a happy moment! So, wow, what a cool thing to hear that I have a knack for addressing Universal Truths - I really like that thought! I do my best to look at both sides of any given coin when I'm writing, and I never expect people to embrace my own beliefs if they don't click on a personal level. The universal truth part, however, that's just nice. I'm happy to hear that I'm accomplishing what I set out to do in that regard.

    I'm getting better slowly, Dave. Pneumonia takes some time, but I am doing a bit better with each day. Laughter, even accompanied by coughing fits, is healing and that's another Universal Truth!

    Much love to you, buddy.

    - Dawnie

  11. I can't stand the idea of a plane going down...I have been battling my own demons ,,I had a rare but scarey reaction to a rendered me helpless for 4 being the first day i'm functioning,,I hate fear ...but I fear...As always...XOXOXOXO

  12. Bonnie, I'm so sorry for your own recent illness. I have some drug sensitivities myself, so I know how alarming the experience can be. I hope that you're doing better and I will send you healing energy and prayer to speed the process along. We all have fear, if we're honest. I think it's how we choose to react to that fear that defines us. Be well, my dear. <3

    - Dawn

  13. Now let we see, here is a good old home remedy. First off, take a tea spoon of good fresh horse radish swallow whole, and then eat a full hot bowl of potato and onion soup lot of pepper a pinch more than your taste. Take a good hot tub of Epson salts bath; now apply a strong mustard plaster. Then fix some hot lemon aid add a touch of honey, And the best part add a full shot of good old Tennessee sourer mash 100 proof, then get to bed with a good heavy quilt cover up and drink the hot lemon aid. In the morning go out to a quite part of the woods and scream your head off. And you will be ready to get back to work on Tuesday. Good post there gal. Take care of yourself we need you. God bless. Oh! Get a pneumonia shot they are good for two years. Get better soon. God bless.

  14. A great psychotherapy session Dawn! All the metaphors are apt and timely for me, as I also have respiratory issues ;-( You have addressed health problems on a deeper level than mainstream society cares to delve. As Henry David Thoreau once said, There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” Our culture treats symptoms and disease, not people and souls.

    “A frozen state.” Interesting phrase. I’ve had numerous recurring dreams of being paralyzed. I know it’s related to an outer circumstance over which I have no control. All I CAN control is my inner state, how I handle situations beyond my control.

    Attending to “some foggy future date.” Perfect phrase to describe procrastinating the inner work necessary to our well being.
    I wish you a miraculously speedy recovery, dear friend. Sending you a cup of Gypsy Cold Care with honey and lots of TLC!
    BTW, I tweeted this.

  15. My Dear Dawn,
    I’ve read so many different things over the years about disease and the connection to soul and mind. I know that as a whole person that my mind affects my body and my body affects my mind and my soul…it is all one, therefore connected.
    I’m not a very smart person with some things. I can’t always balance it all out, or figure out exactly how it all works. I only know that each day I try to do my best to live a healthy life. I do what I know and at other times I’m lazy. But of one thing I’m certain, and that is that I’m loved, and that my deficits, though they be many, are not uncommon to men, and with grace I am made whole. I rest in this.
    From one flawed human with an eternal soul to another, I pray for your health, and am so grateful that you are here with me.
    Peace & Blessings,

  16. Roy, I am now laughing and coughing at the same time after reading your comment! My, that's a whole boatload of remedies you suggested. I've already done a few of them over the past 10 days - the Espom Salts and the mustard pack, and the hot lemonade minus the alcohol (because I don't drink alcohol). The screaming in the woods part was what tipped me into helpless giggles. I adore you, sweet man! I am on the mend, although it will take another couple of weeks before I'm 100% again. Knowing that friends such as you find value in me staying around gave my heart a big smile. Much love to you, my friend. <3

    - Dawn

  17. Debra, I'm happy to hear this post had some validity and worth for you. I don't like hearing that someone I love also battles respiratory issues, but perhaps something that I wrote here will help you, along with me, to find a better balance in the clear (not foggy) future and be better able to avoid those respiratory fumbles. I know we can both find that inner and outer balance. It's just a matter of being as good to ourselves as we are to the rest of the world. Thank you for the lovely Gypsy cure, the love and the Tweet! I love you, dear one. <3

    - Dawnie

  18. "With Grace I remain whole. I rest in this." Leah, that brought tears to my eyes with the simplicity of it all. It really is that simple. I, too, know that I am loved and accepted on a spiritual level that surpasses anything I could put into words. The logical knowing sometimes gets clouded up and the emotional side of things will become forgetful and doubtful. Then someone like you writes such a beautiful, simple comment and it all falls back into place. My soul sighs with an, "Ahhh...NOW I remember. And all is well." I am so happy you're in my life, sweetheart. Much, much love to you.

    - Dawnie

  19. yet again an insightful post Dawn :)
    it was so deeply n intensely written.
    Loved the whole concept relating illness with emotions and then in return relating it to again with healing process :)

    Get well soon Dear !!

  20. Jyoti, thank you for the lovely words on this one! Thank you, also, for the healing wishes. I'm working on that part and getting there slowly. Much love to you, honey. And now I'm off to visit you in return. <3

    - Dawn

  21. I hope you get well quickly. I am normally very verbose, but this time all i want to say is this is a truly awesome article. I hope people heed what you explain!

  22. Hi Larry, thank you for the good wishes! I'm improving slowly, with each day being a bit better. I'm so happy you enjoyed this article and I appreciate your wonderful comment. :)