Back of woman wearing scarf and heavy coat looking over the sea

This is the fourth post in The Year of the Quitter, a five-part series on how quitting paved the way to better living for me in 2018. Previously, I’ve covered quitting self-sabotage, comparison and coloring my hair.

The funny thing about the human body is that most of us don’t think much about how it works. Same with electricity. When we flip a light switch, we don’t give any thought to the mechanism that illuminates a room. We’re just satisfied that it does. Except when it doesn’t. How many times have you walked into a room, flipped the switch and had a flicker and then darkness? How many times have you continued flipping the switch, in awe that the light wasn’t coming on, before realizing the bulb needs replacing?

Let’s go back to the human body. Do you ever stop to think about the mechanisms that make it function? Or is it like a light bulb? Taken for granted while running like usual?

The fast pace in which I live makes overlooking declining health easy. It’s easy for me to think I just need to catch up on my sleep, work a little less, rest a little more. It’s even easier to procrastinate. Things will calm down over summer, but they don’t. Then I think it’ll get easier when school starts, but it doesn’t. Then I think that if I can just get through the holidays, I can take a breather.

Meanwhile, I’m a walking, talking “Dory.” I just keep swimming, thinking – and saying – “Everything’s fine. It’s fine.” Even when nothing is fine. A year ago, things had become so “not fine” that night terrors, insomnia, anxiety attacks and stomach discomfort were chronic. I lost 30 pounds in less than a month earlier this year because I couldn’t keep down food. Chest pains, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue followed. I was worn out, resentful. My temper flared, and my patience disappeared without warning, surprising even myself.

I drastically changed my diet. I started an anxiety medication. Some things were better; others not so much.

By mid-year, making spaghetti for dinner looked like this: Fill pot with water. Set on stove to boil. Sit down. Get up. Put pasta in pot. Set timer. Sit down. Heat up jar of sauce on the stove. Drain pasta. Sit down. Take bagged vegetables out of the freezer, toss in microwave. Sit down.

See a pattern? By the time dinner was ready, I was so tired I had no appetite.

Luckily blood tests offered answers: deficiencies in Vitamins D, B1, B6, B12 and iron. My doctor asked if I had been taking my supplements. Duh. I never skip a day, unless I’m sick. Wait, I had been sick a lot. Somehow in the frenzy of life, that routine was forgotten. High-dose prescriptions, IV infusions and injections are getting me back to where I need to be. Not overnight, but over time. It’s a work in progress.

A year ago, I didn’t have time to slow down. I cringe when I think now of the time I’ve spent in medical offices and hooked up to IV poles this year. An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. I know I am not alone, though. I’ve lost several friends and loved ones over the years to “sudden” death only to find that they hadn’t been feeling well for some time. They just didn’t have the time to deal with it.

As I close out the year, I’m taking stock. The way I eat needs a few more tweaks. The anxiety medication is here to stay. I’m still struggling to breathe with moderate activity and I fatigue easily, but I can make dinner with fewer periods of rest. The insomnia, nightmares and inexplicable pains are mostly gone. As I look ahead to 2018, I have goals to keep my health and well-being at the topic of the priority list. I’ll share more about those when the new year begins.

Tonya Kubo is co-director of the Clutter Free Academy Facebook group, founded by author/speaker Kathi Lipp and based on her best-selling book, Clutter Free. Tonya and her husband, Brian, are raising two spirited girls in the agricultural heart of California. By day, she cultivates community in digital spaces for a public university. At night, you can find her either cooking, cuddling or helping others to fight the demons of comparison, clutter and compulsion.

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