Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Kneading Healing

In our complicated world with high stress and medical issues, there are only a few things that give me peace when I feel like hell. And that's exactly how I've felt the past few weeks as I've battled bronchitis. Not only did I get to spend Thanksgiving in the ER, but they gave me a steroid to "help my lungs". I'm truly unable to comprehend how athletes are capable of taking steroids and are then able to throw, hit and catch balls (other than their own), how they lift weights without crushing themselves with the dumbbell bars, how they run so fast and not have heart attacks right after they cross the finish line, etc. (you get my point.)

I happily accepted the steroids, as they were supposed to help. But after this steroid experience, I would sooner run around my neighborhood block naked than deal with the side effects that have gone along with what I can only call a messed the hell up experience. Yes, it has helped my bronchitis a bit, but the crazy side effects have been hell, such as anxiety, insomnia, crazy thinking, anger, fear, and those are the easy ones.

Allow me to paint you a picture:
I received my first dose of the steroid in the Emergency Room on Thanksgiving. That night my sleep was very disrupted. I woke up at 5am and all I could find on TV was Rocky IV. It was the part where Rocky was in Russia training, and they kept showing the Russian boxer using all these fancy machines, whereas Rocky is running with lumber on his back, he's working out in this old, rundown barn where he's doing pull ups. He's got  YO ADRIAN, her brother Pauly and his coach all in a wheelbarrow and was lifting them. Basically, he was training like a bad ass.

Anyway, that night (I had been up since 5 am), I was giving my mom a foot rub, and when she winced I told her what Rocky's coach kept telling him. "No pain. No pain. You feel no pain."

This resulted in a gaggle of giggles, the type that practically wrestle you into submission. I went on to relay the rest of the movie when Rocky starts winning, and even the Gorbachev character stood up and cheered for him. When the fight was over, Rocky got up and talked about our countries' potential for change, yada, yada, yada. My mom was still in stitches about my "No pain" speech. I don't know what moment made the floodgates open, but suddenly I was crying. She tried to talk to me, but I was in a torrent of tears. The mood swings have been unbelievable.

When my tears settled momentarily to a sniffle, I attempted to explain to my mom what had happened:

I told her that I had grown up during the Cold War, and that I remember it being known that Russia was our enemy. And I told her that in the second grade, we had an assignment to write a letter to someone famous.  I chose to write Gorbachev a letter, which I wanted to hand deliver, to sit on his lap and ask him to be friends with America. At that part I was sobbing. and I do mean sobbing, about the amazing transformation of our history.

These steroids really screwed with my mind, and my poor mother had to witness all of it!

Yesterday was the first day I didn't feel like Cybil on crack. I felt like just Cybil, but even.she has been quiet. Thank GOD, because she's dropped enough F-bombs along the way to sink a battleship. Instead, I'm withdrawing from the damn things, which is causing all kinds of symptoms that I need not share. I'm not enjoying it, but it's better than when I was ON the steroids.

When I was little, my Nana would make the best homemade noodles whenever I didn't feel well, emotionally or physically. I can still taste them. They weren't complicated at all, but there is a specific kind of unconditional love that must go in them. Since Nana's passing, my mom has been making the noodles. She puts her own kind of unconditional love and peace into them.  Not to mention, she always seemed to sense when I needed some noodle therapy, and soon you would find yourself with the best noodles in the world.

Yesterday, I was feeling so frustrated with all the crazy withdrawal side effects of the Prednisone (steroid), I decided to do something that would make me feel good. I was standing at the kitchen counter thinking about this, and my eyes meandered to the canisters in front of me full of flour and sugar. My brain started spinning. I went to the fridge and we did have eggs. Hhhmm.... I'm feeling yucky, and I could make some Nana Noodles!

I first need to disclose that I have NEVER made these noodles. So I started with the mound of flour and poured the egg into the middle. I started mixing it together with my fingers. It was gross. So I added a little more flour and another egg. I did more gooey mixing. I repeated last two steps. At this point, I had what looked like a bread loaf of dough. I started kneading the dough.

The feeling of it in between my fingers and the smell of the flour took me back to a time when I was standing on a chair and watching my Nana doing the same thing. It wasn't so much about being young. It was the security of being with my Nana. It was the feeling of sharing something special with her.

Back to my kitchen, I was kneading the dough with both hands, putting all the happiness and fond memories into my motions, when I suddenly felt as though my hands were entwined with an other's. I was reminded of the poem about the footprints  ("The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.")  As I kneaded that dough, it was as if my Nana's soft, porcelain hands were entwined with mine, and together we were making something I've associated with comfort and love my whole life. When it was time to roll out the dough, I felt her presence again. The whole thing (the mixing, rolling out, cutting noodles, drying noodles) was a rite of passage. I found it therapeutic and calming.

There are traditions in each family, but they will only remain as traditions if they are passed along to the next generation.  What effects they have on us is a mixed bag of emotions, although even the less positive ones can teach us great lessons. The most important thing I have learned (and continue to learn) is to stay educated on the treatment I've been given. I blindly took those steroids, and the next thing I know, my mom is staring at me as I cry over a letter to Gorbachev I wrote in the 2nd grade about the Cold War. It wasn't pretty, and it could have been prevented had I known more about the medication.

We have to be aware of every substance we put in our body, from benefits to side effects. The sacred vessels we've been given aren't returnable or exchangeable. I have no idea how long the withdrawal effects of these steroids will last, but I am praying that they will be gone soon. Until then, I just call on my angels, especially my Nana when I am kneading healing.