Right now I am crying. Not just crying, sobbing.
Uncontrollably sobbing like a child.
A gecko the size of a kitten just crawled up the wall across from me and I desperately willed it to come cuddle me.
It never did.
Now I’m laughing while crying.
I have a fever and it’s made me a bit delirious.
Two weeks ago on Gili Air I stepped on a sea urchin and the stingers became imbedded into the pad of my foot. A local at my homestay insisted he take a smooth stone and pound each stinger repeatedly until it bled. Miraculously, after that the pain became tolerable.
Until I got to Kuta, Lombok.
My first night I danced with the enthusiasm of Lady Gaga barefoot on a dance floor coated in a sand, dirt, and Bintang sludge. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that the sea urchin wound became infected the next day.
So here I am five days later, in a small town on an under developed tropical island, with a fever and a throbbing swollen foot, in unbearable pain, crying because I am about to do something I vowed I would never do again: take antibiotics.
If you’ve read My Travel Wellness Kit, you already understand my hesitation.
Taking antibiotics throughout my life, and in a disturbing concentration since I began traveling, obliterated the healthy bacteria in my gut. Consequently, I was constantly sick on the road. But last summer, by changing my diet and lifestyle, consuming probiotic foods, and doing some serious cleansing, I finally took control of my health.
I am terrified that after an intense course of fifteen antibiotic pills with no access to probiotics, even buying a bar of soap is a challenge here, I will destroy my many efforts to rebuild my immune system.
Since breaking my water kefir jar (my never get sick traveling secret weapon) on a flight to Indonesia, I’ve had two stomach flus, one fever, and now I’m bedridden from a foot infection.
About to ingest my first chemical drug in nearly a year
I am starting to question my beliefs about natural health.
I wonder if pharmaceuticals may in fact be a necessity.
I wonder, can we all actually heal ourselves without Western medicine like I believed?
Honestly, I feel like a failure.
So desperate to be well that I’m about to pop a pill that supports an industry I vehemently abhor.
This is a bit shattering for me to wonder and to admit.
But despite these emotions
I’ve gotten quite attached to having ten toes, two feet, and two legs
and I’d really like to walk again
ahem and maybe even dance again
so I am setting my fears aside
I am being a mature grown ass woman
and I am taking the damn pills
yes, yes, I know
it is not the end of the world.
I acknowledge that strong drugs can be miracles in emergency situations, but I wonder
why do we find ourselves in emergencies in the first place?
Are emergencies inevitable, accidental, or just bad luck?
Or do we in fact have the power to prevent dire circumstances from transpiring?
In my experience every severe situation comes with a warning. The problem is, most of us don’t listen. If we did, perhaps we would never have to resort to these extreme measures like antibiotics, surgery, radiation, in the first place.
How often do we ignore our bodies and allow our desires to lead us, until the all-knowing voice within us becomes a deafening roar?
Do we take our bodies, our detoxification process, our immune system for granted until it can no longer handle the strain?
Will we wait until we develop a fever, our foot doubles in size, our liver fails, or cancer spreads to take a step towards proper self care?
In my case, I ignored the dull pain that never totally went away after the sting.
When my fever set in, I had some locals treat me with natural medicine. One removed the stinger with a thorn from a bush, another massaged out the pus, and one actually chewed up a betel nut and spat on my infection while he prayed.
But concurrently with these natural treatments, I left the wound uncovered, allowed a drunk Indonesian security guard named Kitty to cut at the wound with unsanitary materials, walked barefoot in the sand, drank and danced in bars nearly every night, and instead of resting, pushed my body beyond it’s limit.
I disregarded the pleas that came from my throbbing foot because, well,
after spending most nights in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Bali dedicating myself to my writing and to this blog
I wanted to remember what it felt like to bare my soul on the dance floor instead.
But I know that no matter my age and no matter my desires
I hold myself accountable for my health.
Despite their generosity and kindness
and my absolute gratitude for it
it’s not the responsibility of the family next door
the staff at the surf shop
the doctor in town
nor the pharmaceutical industry
to nurse me back to health.
That is my job.
Just because drugs and doctors stand ready with life rafts doesn’t mean we should swim in riptides and just because locals lived to tell their tale doesn’t mean we trust untrained strangers with our lives.
Wellness can only be attained when we give our bodies exactly what they tell us they need when they need it.
Those are the messages only you can hear.
Moving forward I will work to rebuild my immune system every single day.
I will be more mindful of where I place my body in space
to prevent accidents in the first place.
I will listen to my body when it tells me to slow down and rest.
I will try
despite my pura vida free spirited attitude
to take some things
like my beautiful fabulous precious life
a little more seriously.
And when I fail to do all of these things
I will not judge nor punish myself
for not being perfect.
Alright, the narcotics just kicked in.