Posted by: alegra22 | June 17, 2009

acceptance and other side effects of kryptonite

Personally, I think all mothers should be upgraded to Superwoman status.

Personally, I think all mothers should be upgraded to Superwoman status.

I have hit my personal kryptonite wall with this pregnancy. This last week has left me sitting on the ground, cartoon character birds spinning around my head, and me looking around, stunned to realize that all of these years I have not actually been flying, I’ve been running towards this wall. Yes, running with my feet on the ground, lungs burning, gravity bearing down.

I’ve been operating under the assumption that if I run fast enough, flap my arms and refuse to look at the ground, I’m actually flying. While I may be equipped with a spirit and mind that wants to leap buildings in a single bound, I have been born with a body that would better suit the rhythms of a koala bear. Or a sloth.

A short summary is that I have some form of dysautonomia – my nervous system does not regulate my body the way it should. The result is my adrenaline shoots off, I have tachycardia, my digestive system is over-sensitive to food, and my immune system goes on the blink. You could say I am a woman gone haywire. I have been lucky enough to discover that a small dose of betablocker goes a long way to help regulate my nervous system.

We only discovered this back in November, when my entire family was preparing for the possibility that my symptoms might be the result of a leaking heart that would require open-heart surgery. And, we were all ready for it if it meant a change in my quality of existence after a lifetime of struggle. The betablocker, diagnosis and the instructions to “accept it and learn to live within the restrictions, this is just you” was a nice alternative to having my chest sawed into.

So after beginning the betablocker I had about 4 months of experiencing what will most likely be as ‘normal’ as I ever get. When I got pregnant, I switched betablockers but the nausea overwhelmed anything else going on in my body, so it was not until a week ago that I realized the new medication was not working. I felt like I had been dropped into the spiritual bog of eternal stench (Labyrinth reference anyone?). It is amazing how quickly I had begun to take my new state of being for granted. The realization jolted me.

I immediately switched back to my old betablocker and while it did not take away as much of the fatigue as I wanted (I would be a maniac if given the amount of energy I want), it alleviated things enough to allow me to function again. This whole “respecting limitations” thing is new to me. I don’t  think Spaniards in general are very good at this concept. We like to shout Ole’! and go conquer things.

It isn’t easy to make peace with the view of myself I have been secretly clinging to, one that involves me outrunning this thing in my body. But, I have realized that this is precisely how I will finally learn to fly. It is not by trying to escape the weight of what I am, it is by accepting it.

I said to my friend this morning, “It all sounds very Zen of me doesn’t it?” And then I gave him my Groucho Marx eyebrow waggle because I am the least Zen person on the planet.

In the past, especially when younger, I was drawn to stories about people who learned to transform in the face of terminal illness or a chronic incurable condition, and the heart of those stories always centered on living each day with joy, counting the blessings as they present themselves, until it becomes second nature. It never occurred to me that it was a message I would have to apply to my own circumstances in the same way.
I think sometimes we need to fight against something until that struggle transforms into a dance.

I am beginning to hear the beginning of a new rhythm in my life. It has been beneath the surface, waiting patiently, from the beginning.

So my goals this week?

Plenty to do. Our house is bustling with the activity of my amazing inlaws who have taken two weeks off of work to come over and rebuild our deck for us. I need to have my thesis outlined by, er, noon tomorrow. I am planning on trying to churn out the academic thesis part of this masters, rough draft, within a month, so that I can devote the rest of the time to the novel. Originally I hoped to try to balance the two. I don’t think that is going to work.

Mostly, I am going to focus my mind on the rhythm.



  1. Thesis by tommorw. Obviously why writing here instead. I do it too. A presentation on Smart Metering / Demand Response is due by Friday.


    (PS – best wishes with the reproduction thing)

    • I needed the brain-pause. Plus, it is a weekly commitment of mine started two months ago to write a goal blog every Monday (but that Monday has become a maybe Tuesday or Wednesday…)
      Thanks on the reproduction thing, luck is always welcome.

  2. Wow, it sounds like you are going through such a tumultuous time (which seems to have spanned most, if not all, of your life). I’m glad the old betablockers are helping again, and I think I understand what you mean about taking too much on (though with no children, a rented apartment that I’m not rennovating, no life-altering health issues, and no kick-ass novel at the wheel, I don’t think I necessarily have as much a grasp on the ‘taking too much on’ as you might).

    Goals for the week, continue writing my chapter as best I can and pray that it isn’t blown to smithereens when I meet the captain next week.

    I love outlines!! I have an outline for my whole thesis and a working outline for my chapter. It’s been making such a difference. I’ve also been outlining what I think is the central argument of my thesis, which is exciting. I think forcing 3 years of chaotic research into a nice 1.5 paged outline is more satisfying than anything I can think of at the moment. I feel I’m in control, that this beast has been saddled and domesticated for kiddy parties (that is until I see it foaming and leaking, and then I run for the hills screaming).

    I’m gonna get back to it, but sending you many slowly-stop-the-spinning-birds-and-help-you-get-back-to-your-feet hugsies.

    • Thank you my friend, yes, things have not been smooth riding for years because of the health issues but I think I am finally hitting a level of ‘cruise’ despite all of the amazing commitments and responsibilities I have tugging at me right now.

      Outlines are the best. BEST I tell you! ;o)

  3. Love the post. There is beauty in the struggle with a chronic illness. Do you think acceptance makes it easier? I wonder….I say embrace the struggle.

    • Thank you!
      And, I think for some, embracing the struggle would definitely serve as a source of strength. In my case, acceptance gives me more of a chance of using this as a source of energy, peace, and joy. I have fought for years and the fight began to wear me down. There is a quote, not sure by who because I am pregnant and my brain is hormone-addled, about the strength in gentleness…I guess another good analogy would be surfing – when you are getting held down by a wave and tumbled around, there is no way to escape the situation until the wave is done with you, struggling only drains your energy and oxygen, but surrender can make a beating by an intense wave an almost joyful experience, the kind, that when it stops rag-dolling you, you break surface and hoot with joy.
      I am aiming for that.

  4. Whew!

  5. Familiar thoughts, A. Chronic condition, here, too. I know it doesn’t always feel like it to you, but it’s obvious to me you have what it takes.

    Good luck on your deadline….

    • I am not glad that you have your own challenge, but it is enormously comforting to me when I meet a dynamic person who wrestles with something similiar. It serves as a reassuring mirror to me. I think one of the things I have had to keep working on with this is to not take it so personally, we are handed things in life and there are times that those conditions can not be changed by our own will, but we can change how we deal with them.

      And, thank you for the vote of confidence.

  6. I once heard someone comment that once they accepted the fact that life was embedded with a series of painful struggles, living through those struggles became easier (I’m paraphrasing). That seems to make sense in a practical way, but I’m not sure it offers any real insight. I think this realization should come to most through natural maturation (aka growing up).

    Having had this realization, wisdom comes from finding the determination to reach for what we want – love, happiness, money, sex, power, respect, whatever – in the face of the painful struggles we have to deal with to get there. This is where we really begin to understand the human condition.

    By not letting it own you, you’re owning it Alegra. Finding a way to do what you want with what you’re given – my definition of success. Something to be proud of.

    Right. Zen. Got it.

    As always, IMHO.


    • I always value your “IMHO” Sid. What you have written is perfectly stated or er, paraphrased ;o) and so true. I suppose it is sort of an ultimate challenge to our mental and spiritual attitudes when our bodies are in pain or exhaustion – because it demands that we separate what we are ‘feeling’ from what we ARE. If that makes sense. For me, one of the greatest stumbling blocks in handling this condition with grace is that when my body hits one of it slow points, it is difficult to separate the feeling of exhaustion in my body with who I essentially am, and to remember that “this too shall pass.”
      Sometimes I have to fight it because of obvious demands and responsibilities, but I am also learning to allow myself the blessings of the times when I am allowed to surrender, go rest, until my body has recharged itself, and not worry about what tomorrow will be like, just be grateful that right then and there, I am taken care of.

  7. I have watched you struggle your whole life. You are an amazing person with deep commitment to living. And, yes, those spanish genes keep you out being a “conquistadora.” I am, however, very proud and relieved that you can finally accept things the way they are because in doing that, you will actually get more done and do it better than ever. XOXOXOXOXO

    • I love your mama, A. She reminds me of my own — staunch supporter, biggest fan. 🙂

  8. I came across this by accident .and I’m so glad I did . You are inspiring .

    • Accidental discoveries are my favorite. Glad you found me!

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