A few weeks ago, before there were more pressing issues, I wrote an introduction to what became the greatest challenge of my life – a health crisis eight years ago that would set me on a completely different path than I had imagined. I ended that column by saying I decided to pursue a holistic approach to my health.

My wellness journey began with long, slow, purposeful walks. Walking was not easy. My entire body hurt after my surgery which involved a long slice down the middle of my body. There’s no other way to describe it. I remember the first time I was allowed to sit in my hospital room and look in a mirror. I will never forget the feeling of seeing the row of staples holding me together physically. At that point, nothing was holding me together emotionally as tears streamed down my face and landed like shards of glass on my swollen abdomen.

My first steps toward renewed health were tiny, with hardly any space between each one. I recall the day I walked three miles in two and a half hours and felt as victorious as I had running 11-minute miles before my surgery. Don’t let anyone tell you that going downhill is more manageable than uphill because it is not. You use different muscles, and it was painfully clear which muscles those were as I held myself back from tumbling down the steepest hill. Today, I think that experience was metaphoric.

Each step was a journey within a journey. At times, I would freeze and think, “why me?” and the answer would come, “why not you?” Then I would consider, I am meant to do something more, but what is that more?

I spent hours each day meditating in a grove of trees. In my former life of stunningly excellent health, I was not one to slow down. I was constantly working on many projects at once. Preceding my health attack, I was working on a festival and about to leave for India to meet with coffee farmers and talk to women about empowerment and education. Then off to Italy, where I had arranged to meet with policy leaders on agriculture. Life was grand! And yet, when I look back, I realize I was happy with the opportunities, but not with life in general. Lurking in the shadows were unresolved issues.

I want to pause here and say that while accused of being dramatic in telling my story. I find these kinds of comments from those who haven’t experienced trauma so severe that it rocks your entire world and leaves you stranded in a world of disbelief. I’m sharing my story not to convert unbelievers but because even if no one, except those who have experienced trauma, believes it, I want those people to know they are not alone on their journey. I want them not to give up trying and living for themselves. To share our stories is to know the experience of walking each other home.

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