Patience – again

Quite some time ago, when I was educating myself on Twelve Step programs in the course of learning about addictions, I was told about a phenomenon noted among participants that was too often a contributor to relapse – the emergence of serious health challenges in the months after sobriety was achieved.
“I was never sick when I was using, except for withdrawals when I couldn’t get a new supply.”
“I didn’t have any health problems until after I got sober.”

It never occurred to me that there might be a similar response to retirement and its accompanying cessation of the adrenalin rush which faded with the end of deadline pressures.

Feeling somewhat at sea, unsure how to structure one’s days, seeking a new balance of tasks and relaxation – those were feelings I anticipated or had been alerted to expect, and ones that seemed reasonable. A marked decrease in interpersonal contacts would also be inevitable, given the necessary isolation already in place due to the pandemic. Loss of energy would naturally follow from a drop in adrenalin. I was prepared to avert a parallel mental/emotional sag that could seem misleadingly like depression.

I was not prepared to experience the above referenced upsurge in health issues.

The explanation generally accepted in the Twelve Step situation is that the addict/alcoholic/codependent has been too engaged with the focus of their addiction to care for themselves. Not so different a situation as that of health caregivers who ignore their own needs in the process of tending to their parent or partner ill with cancer, Alzheimer’s or other care-demanding conditions. Once attention returns to the individual, previously ignored symptoms become salient and require attention.

I did not need a day of sick leave in the last 4 years of my employment. I maintained – still do – a regular weekly schedule of health support treatments. I am an appropriate weight, have never smoked, drink very sparingly, and exercise daily. I do not have any “underlying conditions” to make me vulnerable, other than being somewhat up there in years (late 70’s) and having lived through a 5 year period, some 35 years ago, of a bad time with bronchitis. It has not been an issue since, beyond a bit of congestion if I become seriously overtired.

So why, 6 weeks into retirement, free of stress and sleeping well, am I experiencing an upsurge in frequency of ocular migraine headaches and an aggravating bout of bronchitis?

The more rest I get, the less energy I seem to have. Breathing in an unknown contaminant last week apparently triggered the bronchitis (Covid test negative) that now refuses to subside. Yes our air in New Mexico is seriously smoky, downwind from the West Coast fires and that undoubtedly is exacerbating the bronchitis flare up. But why is this lung irritation stubbornly persistent while I am relaxed and rested, when it never did so while I was highly stressed and working 50 plus hour weeks?

Probably the question I should be asking is “what, that I have not yet identified, needs my attention just now?” such that I am being slowed down, held in place, prevented from moving into new activities until I recognize the missing element. At least, that seems to be how illness has played out in my life so far.

Sometimes, when I frame the question, I get the answer promptly. Other times, I get to practice the difficult lesson of patience. This seems to be one of those latter occasions.

I’ll let you know when the insight arrives.

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4 Responses to “Patience – again”

  1. Cheryl @ Artzzle Says:

    Hello, Friend. I’ve stepped away from computer connections for a while, but went to WordPress today to find you again. It seems that retirement is rather unsettling for you as well. I didn’t have nearly as much discomfort with it BEFORE Covid. But even then, as now, I find it difficult to get enough enthusiasm and/or initiative to accomplish much beyond the everyday, necessary household chores. I’ll have to peruse some of your previous posts and catch up on your current life situations. Don’t see you in my email lately. Maybe I changed it to just catch you here. I’ve been considering some sort of letter writing group … actual handwritten with stamps and everything LOL. Health has been up and down since mid-summer 2018, for both of us, but at present we’re good. Nice to connect with you today.

    Cheryl @ Artzzle

    • chelawriter Says:

      Just sent you an email and then the comment came in so I can reply twice. Actual letters with stamps sounds like fun. While I enjoy using Jacquie Lawson site for ecards I also mail the old fashioned kind. So glad to hear you both are now in stable health. Awaiting my hubs arrival from work for his short weekend at home. Expect to get a new post up early next week. Take care and stay safe and well. Niki

  2. kipallen Says:

    Hi there, chela writer.

    You have spent years and years as a health professional. You have been serving other people, often at the expense of putting yourself last. (You certainly took good care of me!)

    As Pentheus discovers in Euripides’ THE BACCHAE, a repressed inner life needs outlets. You are hardly repressed (!), but you have put others’ needs before your own for so long that you are vulnerable. You have a distant history of bronchitis – it is an area where your body is weakend, where your energies can’t plug the dike of exhaustion.

    You are expecting retirement to be easy. It is not. You feel that whatever retirement is, and wherever it is, you should be there by now. Nuh-uh. It is time to be selfish. You need to let off steam. You need to indulge. Buy a pound of bacon. Fry it to a perfect crispiness. Then eat it — all of it. If Jackson dares to eat even the tiniest bite, buy two pounds, fry it, eat it all.

    The dance has changed.

    Love, Kip

    • chelawriter Says:

      Jackson gave me his bacon when I still ate it, neither of us does now. But I appreciate the directive to indulge myself. Not at all clear, at this time, what would/will constitute an indulgence. Maybe that is precisely the challenge of retirement?

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