In the middle of my yoga teacher training course, when I got my multiple sclerosis diagnosis, it went something like this:
- No reaction – leave exam room – make follow up appointment.
- Fumble with keys get into car, begin to cry.
- See that someone in the parking lot is staring at me, wipe away my tears and call my husband.
Driving while talking on a cell phone is a bad idea. Driving while talking on a cell phone to tell your husband that you’re fucked is worse so it did force me to keep it together until I could get home.
- Get home, stand in the middle of the kitchen and think: I need to seriously consider going back to work.
Crazy, right? I should have went straight to my yoga mat. I should have been praying, or meditating or freaking myself out by reading up on the most terrifying symptoms on Web MD. But at the time of my diagnosis, health care reform was one of the biggest political topics folks were fighting about. To come to the realization that I officially had a medical bankruptcy bullseye on my back, meant that I needed to guarantee I would ALWAYS have health insurance in the event that something happened to my husband. I have kids and now that I had a progressive condition, I needed to be proactive about protecting everyone’s financial future. In that moment I made a silent promise to myself that no matter what, my disease would not take down my family financially.
Then I started chain smoking and called my best girl friends to give them the news. Eventually I came up with a plan:
- Tell the kids but stress that it’s no big deal. I have a disease, I’ll take medicine. Everything will be fine.
- So as to not freak them out, tell jokes and don’t cry – act like nothing is wrong.
- Actually believe that nothing is wrong and simply get on with my life, focusing on getting back to work,
This major shift in my thinking threw everything into flux. My yoga teacher training took a back seat and instead of focusing on unifying my mind, body and spirit, I focused on all things monetary. Specifically I spent all of my free time earning the continuing education credits I needed to be re-certified in my field of speech-language pathology and licensed by my state.
I still went to my yoga teacher weekends and classes, but honestly, the wind had left my sails. I remember my first yoga class after my diagnosis. Luckily it was a hot one so no one realized that I crying through out most of it. In fact, every time I got on my mat the MS I was trying to ignore was brought to the front and center of my consciousness.
As I teacher I tell my students to “notice the thoughts that you have without judging them”. Simply acknowledge the thought, then gently push it aside and bring your consciousness back to the breath. Unfortunately, when I got quiet it allowed all the thoughts that I was ignoring to bubble up to the surface. I found it was easier to avoid my mat as much as possible.
Eventually I graduated and the only smart thing I did as a newly certified, yoga teacher was to say “yes” every time I was asked to teach a class. I officially started teaching on January 1st, 2010 and eventually got my own Thursday lunch class to helm. Truthfully though, yoga had settled back in my head and wasn’t something I was truly experiencing. It was something that I was planning, sequencing, memorizing and articulating.
Besides, I didn’t have time to give myself the gift of yoga. I had to find a job. One that paid well and had benefits. So like a good teacher, I came to class prepared but as soon as the class ended, I spent all of my free time re-introducing myself to the world of speech therapy: Diagnosis, Treatment, Documentation, Billing, as well as creating test and therapy materials. Although I still took yoga classes and was always preparing for the ones that I taught, yoga yet again took the back seat to my life. If I’m going to be honest, it didn’t even have the back seat. I think it had the wheel-well in the back of a beat up pick up truck if we’re going to stick to the vehicle analogy. I was not only driving fast, but taking curvy back roads with lots of pot holes. I’m surprise yoga didn’t fly out completely and suffer a traumatic head injury. Maybe then I would’ve noticed it – when it came in to see me for speech therapy.
Its been well over a year since I went back to my field. I needed this time to slowly ease back after a 12-year hiatus. But I’m grounded now and it’s time to switch my focus back to my yoga practice. Not just from a teaching perspective, but from a student’s perspective, albeit a sick student’s perspective.
Its officially time to journey back to yoga. If you don’t mind I’d like to share with you what I find along the way.