When I wrote my last column, I had no idea that my old dog Merlin was on the verge of dying. Despite having suffered from nasty arthritic hind legs for a while, he still had a good quality of life and was managing with pain relief and lots of TLC. However, he suddenly went downhill and we had to say farewell to our lovely old boy.
I was terribly sad and cried and cried. The grief hurt so much, even physically. There were times that I felt as if my heart was going to burst out of my chest, and I was emotionally drained and heartbroken.
Determined to soldier on, I tried to keep busy. I was allowing my grief to happen, but I was fervently focusing on trying to restore some kind of normality to life, despite the gaping hole that losing Merlin had left.
Unfortunately, while my grief surged, something else was as well.
My body was becoming more and more painful, with aching joints, throbbing muscles, and fatigue that was much worse than normal. I thought I had been crying too much, as my nose had blocked up and my throat was sore, but things continued to progress, and I became increasingly unwell.
As I lie in bed, I realized the reason I was becoming so physically sick. I had forgotten that humans are such interconnected beings. The physical, emotional, spiritual, and cognitive elements are all linked, and as such, when one is not OK, it affects the others.
By the time I had understood what was going on, I realized that I had effectively neglected to engage in any extra special physical self-care at all. While trying to deal with my grief by keeping busy and trying to soldier on, I ended up with a nasty flare on top of my fragile emotional state.
Grief, stress, worry — in fact, any emotional distress — is a particular warning bell for those who are chronically unwell. I believe these things have a powerfully negative effect on the physical self, a fact I certainly will not be overlooking in the future.
It is so important that I pay extra attention to rest, eating well, a little exercise if appropriate, and early bedtimes during times of emotional upheaval. It is paramount. Even if my body seems to be coping initially, I cannot neglect these essentials.
It is impossible to separate the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical. Yet another life lesson learned from my old dog.
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