The art of being ‘Gentle’ – a story of my (Sue Kira) journey with Ross River
(p.s if you don’t want to read about the pain you can skip to the happy ending of the last 7 paragraphs.)
I was trying to get fit from spending too much time sitting down at work, so I had embarked on daily walks to the Cape Byron Lighthouse from Clarks beach, an up and down stair trip of around 6 kms I think, plus going to the gym 3 times per week. I was loving it all and felt great for a while, and then I started to notice that I couldn’t get on my left knee in the gym class and thought that I must have bruised it or something. Then I had a really sore thumb and thought that I must have bent it back with the weights bar or something. Then after my walks my feet really hurt but put this down to trying to increase my speed too quickly. Bit of ‘bull at fence’ syndrome or ‘something’.
Then I noticed that the aches weren’t getting any better even after cutting back on the gym and stopping the walks thinking that I just needed to slow down a bit and let my body catch up with my brains enthusiasm. This didn’t work in fact it all just got worse till I woke one morning and could hardly walk. It felt like I had broken the bones in my feet and my left thumb hurt like crazy. I thought this was bad enough, but over the next few days it actually got worse, till I could hardly move my body. It hurt sooo much but it hurt not to move too.
I’m not normally one who would go to a doctor, but by this time I knew something was terribly wrong. I was thinking maybe Rheumatoid arthritis as I didn’t feel at all sick or feverish at this stage so I didn’t think of Ross River. It was a struggle to get to the doctors room. I just felt like my whole body was broken, and with tears running down my cheeks from the pain, I shuffled into the doctors rooms as slow as a snail. I collapsed into the chair and fell to pieces emotionally.
The Dr. had me do all sorts of bending things and said my joints were swollen and that he would have to put me on anti-inflammatories and do some blood tests. Normally I would never take any drugs, but the pain was so bad I would have taken a general anesthetic if it were available. My next challenge was to get to the blood collecting rooms. Everything was hard to do. Life was too much pain. It must have been putting pressure on my nerves or something because the anti-inflammatories didn’t work so I gave them up after a few days, and tried aspro, paracetamol, codeine, all to no avail.
I just had to bear it. Nights were excruciating as laying still made everything throb, but to get up and move hurt too much to. I was beside myself and I could no longer think rationally what to do with myself. Life was one big PAIN and I wanted the pain to end. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse I got a rash all over my body and started to get fevers, mostly at night. What was my body doing, I thought.
Then a phone call from my G.P. He said, guess what? you have Ross River. I was relieved, in fact I was excited. Everyone thought that I was strange to get excited over this diagnosis and that maybe my brain had fried with the fevers, but I was happy even in pain as I knew it would go away. The thought that I may have this forever was not attractive, so knowing that it was a virus that ‘this too shall pass’ was comforting in a quirky kind of way. I never thought such a tiny creature could cause so much pain. Now that I knew I was dealing with a virus I got stuck into Olive leaf extract and vitamin C in mega-doses as well as herbal anti-inflammatories including fish oil. I thought I’ll at least drown the virus out of my system if nothing else.
I guess it all helped a bit, but I was still in so much pain. Then I guess the pain settled enough that I could think again and started to meditate by connecting to the ‘gentleness’ of my breath. My days were filled by being gentle with myself. After 3 weeks had passed and just starting to actually sleep at night, someone told me about having intravenous Vitamin C to help, so I did this, but this was a decision made by my head not my heart. My heart didn’t feel good about it, but I wanted it to work. I wanted it to all go away. Even though the pain was less, my tolerance was lowered and any pain was still too much.
Also, when I had the IV C I had a reaction the first night where I thought that I’d had a close call on a stroke when the weirdest feeling rushed over me and up my head But this passed and I was just left with lots of pain again for three weeks. After this settled I started to ‘breath’ again.
My recovery did seem slow, but one thing was for sure, whenever I tried to push myself and not be gentle it hurt heaps for ages. I learnt how to be gentle. How crazy are we? Why can’t we be gentle with ourselves always? With not being able to do much but think or read or meditate I learnt the art of being gentle. If I approached everything with gentleness I had no pain. When I had no pain for a while and tried to do something not gentle, I paid for it with more pain. Just like a mouse with the reward cage, I learnt gentleness.
Three months later most of my symptoms are now gone and I am being gentle most of the time and this is working. But I still get reminded if I step out of gentleness even a bit. The pain is so minimal now but I still use it as a barometer of gentleness.
The other thing that helped me was that I decided not to ‘suffer’ or be a ‘sufferer’, but rather to ‘experience’ the condition and not own it. I saw it as a passing energy. After all, everything IS just energy, stuck energy in this case.
So, you might be thinking, what does gentleness mean? Well to start with, it means choosing consciously a gentle in and out breathe. Gentle in, and gentle out. And going about the day in ‘gentleness’, not rushed or stressed, but allowing yourself to do things with ‘gentleness’, being kind to yourself, nurturing, soothing, relaxing, instead of the usual push-push attitude of hectic life. And not allowing others to bug you, just letting things go with love.
This virus has been a most valuable experience that although I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, I’m glad I got it because of the gift that gentleness has brought into my life. The other part to this gift is that I also learnt how to say NO to people’s requests and also how to ask for help when I needed it. A lot of women feel that they need to be tough and do most things for themselves, but this only disconnects us from our ‘femaleness’, an important balance of energies needed in this day of equality of the sexes.
History has shown others that it can re-occur with repeated flair-ups, but I only expect this to happen if I forget to be gentle with myself. You know what?, I actually feel that this has been a ‘healing’ rather than a ‘cure’ I’ll talk more on this another time, as there’s a big difference. Do you know what I mean? If you have any thing you would like to share about this (cure vs. heal), then I’d love to hear about it. Wishing you never get Ross River, but you get ‘gentleness’- it’s truly lovely.