스트레스는 만병의 근원이다 – Stress is the main cause of all kinds of illnesses. This is a common saying in Korean and something my best friend used to say from time to time if I ever mentioned anything about being stressed. And he was right, stress is truly the root of all evil.
Googling the main stress triggers will give you the following results:
- The death of a loved one
- Loss of a job
- Financial obligations
- Getting married
- Moving to a new home
- Chronic illness
- Depression, anxiety etc.
I did this google search a few days ago. For the past few weeks I had been feeling weird. No pain, just extreme fatigue, nausea, lightheadedness, and changes in my appetite. I had a few spells where I was sure I was going to faint but didn’t. I felt my heart galloping and had trouble taking deep breaths. It felt as if the air got stuck in my throat and never reached my lungs.
I’m a firm believer in never ignoring any health issues, but I didn’t have the energy to schedule an appointment with my doctor. One night as I was lying in bed without being able to fall asleep with my heart racing, I asked myself “what the hell is wrong with me?”. Within seconds I heard my friend’s voice in my head calmly repeating what he had told me so many times before “스트레스는 만병의 근원이다 – Stress is the main cause of all kinds of illnesses”. “Right”, I thought to myself, “that must be it – I’m stressed out from grieving the loss of him” and feeling a bit calmer I finally drifted into sleep.
The next day I called the office of my doctor and scheduled an appointment to confirm that it was in fact stress that was causing my symptoms. When I then went to see her last week, my doctor said that knowing my story she had every reason to believe that it was stress but that she would run some tests just to make sure. She took a few blood samples and while she drew my blood, she told me that it was very common to feel physical grief-related stress symptoms a few months following a traumatic incident.
Within 24 hours she sent me an email assuring me that all my tests were fine and that she believed that my symptoms were indeed caused by grief. She suggested that I mention this to my therapist in order to get help managing my symptoms.
It never ceases to amaze me how much mind and body work together. In the early weeks of my grief, I remember feeling an intense stabbing pain in my chest and back, frequent headaches and problems with my digestion from either eating nothing at all or far too much at once, giving me pretty severe stomach aches as well. If your mind is not well for a prolonged period of time, it will inevitable be reflected in your physical health. Likewise, taking care of your physical health by eating well and getting moderate regular exercise like taking a long walk is crucial when you’re trying to heal from grief.
I’m thankful for having a wonderful doctor and a great grief therapist helping me with both my physical and mental health in this dark period of my life. I firmly believe that admitting your weaknesses and asking for help shows much more strength than pretending that you have everything covered and trying to manage on your own. Life hurts sometimes – losing a loved one always sucks – and there’s no shame in admitting that you need help to carry on.