When I realized that Cipro was the cause of my body going completely hay-wire (I didn’t know immediately because my reaction was delayed), and I saw stories on the internet of people getting worse and worse indefinitely, and/or living with pain and disability caused by fluoroquinolones, I thought that I had accidentally killed myself. I thought of writing letters to my family and friends to say goodbye, to let them know that I was gone and that I was so, so, so sorry that I had taken those pills.
In some ways, even though I survived, obviously, I think that I should have written those letters (even though they would have scared the crap out of my loved ones and probably gotten me locked in a psych ward). Because I am different now. The old Lisa is gone. I certainly didn’t die in the physical sense, but who I was changed in an instant, with those 6 pills.
Before I got sick, my identity was formed by what I did, thought and felt. I was active and athletic. In the summer of 2010 I hiked the entire 500 mile Colorado Trail. I was a gym-rat. I’d get up at 5:30 so that I could hit the gym before work. I was trying out CrossFit gyms just weeks before I took Cipro. I took pride in being strong; in being healthy, active and fit. My appetites in all areas was larger than most. I loved food and I could pack it away (only keeping my weight in check by being as into exercise as I was into food). I liked to drink and I was good at it. I liked sex and, well, I dunno, I’ll tell you who to ask if you care. :p I had strong opinions on politics and religion and would express them willingly. I liked to travel and I was proud of my travels all over the world – I have seen and done some interesting stuff. I was a voracious reader as a kid but had slowed down a bit as an adult, but I still read The New Yorker regularly. I considered myself to be smart. I considered myself to be a good conversationalist.
All of that went away while I was sick. I could barely walk, I certainly couldn’t go to the gym, and CrossFit is a recipe for torn tendons for a Floxie. I was weak. I lost my energy. Strong is not something anyone would call me. I stopped eating and didn’t care about food in the least – it actually scared me a bit. Sex was approximately the last thing on my mind and I was scared of it too – it can lead to urinary tract infections and urinary tract infections can lead to antibiotics, and that chain reaction had gotten me into the rotten place where I was. My ability to handle alcohol was diminished. Even if I wanted to drink, and I didn’t, I couldn’t drink much and it wasn’t fun any more. I lost my reading comprehension. I lost my memory. I lost my capacity to do many mental tasks, so I couldn’t consider myself to be smart any more. I felt anxious in social situations and I couldn’t seem to find the words to communicate or connect with people, so I certainly wasn’t a good conversationalist.
All of the things that I thought made me who I was, were gone.
But I was still alive. I was still breathing. I wasn’t able to do the things that I thought made me me, but I was still a being, just now I was a being without any of the things that defined me.
So I fought to get those things that defined me back. I took supplement after supplement, hoping that the next one would be the cure that would bring me back. I scoured the internet, looking for the magic cure, whether it be in the form of a diet, a pill, a specialist or a method. Some of the things that I tried were helpful, some were harmful, most were neutral. None of them turned back the hands of time.
I started the spirituality sampler platter. I meditated. It helped immensely. I went to a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class. It helped me as well. I went to Buddhism classes and retreats. I read Marianne Williamson’s, “A Return to Love” and went to classes on A Course in Miracles (ACIM). I went to Hippy Dance Class / Rhythm Sanctuary / Hippy Church and felt the healing power of Hippies saying “OM” together and dancing to trance music. I learned about Chakras. I went to a Crystal Bowl concert.
Meditating, Buddhism classes and a course in Miracles all helped me to get to a point where mentally, emotionally and spiritually, I came to terms with my inability to turn back the hands of time. I started to accept what life had brought me. I started to feel okay about the fact that, even though I couldn’t run, I could still walk. Even though my memory and reading comprehension were shot (those scared me so much), I could still work (sort of). Even though I couldn’t do the things that I thought made me me, I could still breathe, love, feel and see beauty and depth in the moment, etc. With meditation, Buddhism and ACIM, I was able to gain patience, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, etc., mainly for myself, but for others as well.
Eventually I got to a place where I started to like who I was post-flox. Even though I wasn’t as physically strong as I used to be, I found out that I was a fighter. I learned that I’m a survivor. Cipro messed with my ability to communicate verbally, but I could still communicate through writing, and I became a writer. I found something that I feel passionate about, something to scream about, and I stopped hating that my world-view had changed and started to appreciate, in a strange way, that I now had a cause to fight for.
Certainly, this mental, emotional and spiritual healing was possible because I was healing physically. I had the benefit of my body cooperating with me and ceasing the downward spiral that it was intent on for a while. But it’s all interconnected. Our emotional, mental and spiritual health is related to our physical health, and vice versa.
Getting better physically was a long, slow process. Most of my issues were central, peripheral and autonomic nervous system issues. Nerves take a while to heal. They just do. Tendons aren’t fast healers either. But the jumps in my identity, the shifts in my psyche, were sudden. Just the other day, my appetite came back. I started to want food again. Dating has more appeal than it used to (I dated through being floxed, it just felt different). As I’ve been writing, I’ve started to feel smart again. I started to feel like ME again – like the old Lisa. Perhaps these changes (changes back) are just part of healing, part of my brain rewiring itself back to how it was for 32 years, but I prefer to think of it in more spiritual terms. As soon as I accepted and appreciated my new self, my old self returned. Life is interesting, strange and funny like that sometimes.
Even though some, maybe most of my old self traits are back, I now realize that all of those things, what I do, what I think and even what I feel, are transient. I am not the same person as I was before I got sick. But you know what? That’s okay. Because I wasn’t the same person as I was just before I got sick 2 years prior to that. We are all constantly evolving and changing. Nothing is permanent, except, perhaps the soul, love, God, whatever you want to call that constant that is in each of us. Sudden, painful changes that are thrust upon us from the outside are lousy ways to change, and they invite some resistance, but I truly did find peace, and even healing, in acceptance of the changes that came and letting go of resistance and fear.
I suppose that anyone who goes through a life-changing or traumatic event goes through what I went through when I got knocked down by Cipro. When you lose your health, your job, a loved one, etc., whenever something changes for the worse in a way that can’t be reversed, there is the tendency to want to claw back to where you were before the trauma happened, because where you were was good and where you are now is bad. It’s natural. But it never works. It’s impossible to turn back time. You can only move on. Part of moving on is acceptance of where you’re at. Acceptance does not mean that what happened is okay in any way shape or form, it doesn’t mean that you’re complacent and it doesn’t mean that you’re going to stay where you are, it just means that you let go of the notion that you can go backward. Moving forward, from where you’re at, can be an amazing, beautiful thing. It in no way means that you stay sick, or stay where you’re at in life. It’s just as impossible to stay where you’re at as it is to move backward, but in order to move on, to go forward, I have found that acceptance of the impossibility of going back, is crucial.
So, I guess that my closing message to anyone who is struggling with the loss of their former self, is to breathe. Cry and grieve for the parts of yourself that have been brutally taken away from you. Then, once you are done with the grief, know that you can’t go backward, accept that you can’t turn back time, and find some ways to move on, to find peace, happiness and healing. It worked for me. I will hope and pray that it will work for you.