My husband has this book he used to talk about all the time- Mind Over Back Pain by Dr. John Sarno. I've never read the book; but the general gist is this: some of the physical pain we carry in our bodies is the result of the stress and pain we carry in our brains.
It always had struck me as pretty rational--after all, when I am stressed my jaw clenches. When I've been recovering from c-sections, I've willed myself through painful moments just to avoid taking constant pain killers that made me drowsy. I've willed myself through so many regular colds or headaches in order to work and mother and vacation--mind over pain and illness--well attitude is everything sometimes.
I needed to mind over my fears today--I went to get my second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
I was not nervous about any sort of immediate anaphylactic reaction. That did not happen before; and there would be no reason that would this time. I was nervous about what would happen hours afterward--would I get the headaches? The body aches? The fevers? The chills? The fatigue?
I arrived home from my vaccine in a total state of anxiety--angry, irrational and with that nagging fear: would I have a reaction? And when?
As I've mentioned before, vaccination carries a particular weight in my life. My younger brother David suffered a permanent brain injury as the result of the DPT shot he received in 1980. It is a story that I am only now becoming courageous enough to talk about--there is so much stigma with vaccine injury accusations (everyone thinks you are automatically anti-vaccine, anti-science and a total nutter) and so much risk (those who are already anti-vaccine can take your story to justify their stance).
The thing is, a vaccine once hurt my family. No matter how much I trust science--I know there is always a risk and it nags at me.
Plus, there is the constant drumbeat of friends--"Make sure to take the day off afterwards." "You will feel awful" "Expect the worst"-- another nag which is in direct opposition to the science: the more moderate to awful reactions do not happen to most people.
I was truly in a state. And then, quite suddenly, I was exhausted and my arms felt "funny." I laid on the couch with chips and a blanket at 11am. Which is absolutely something that I never do. I hate day napping.
Then my arm started to hurt (and it still does) around lunchtime. But I rallied my energy and went out to lunch with my girls. Then I worked through the afternoon. Stopped at some point because I was worried I was exhausted again.
I had no idea if my reaction was because of the sheer fact that I got the second COVID dose or if my reaction was from what was in the COVID dose.
I immediately turned to Facebook to ask all my Average Peloton Moms group about their experience. Everyone had a different story; but everyone sort of understood this strange headspace I was in. It was when I began taking my temperature every 15 minutes that I realized I needed to get out of this headspace.
Could I mind over vaccine reaction?
So I rallied and made dinner and did the things I normally do. I did my abs (although during planks my arm legit hurt so much I had to take a break). Then I opted for a 10 minute healing meditation.
Four minutes and 50 seconds in, the dog came into the den, found a crumb by the outlet and unplugged the internet router.
My healing meditation was paused and it occurred to me that I had made it 4 minutes and 50 seconds without worrying about my vaccine reaction. I plugged the router back in. The meditation restarted and `all I could think about was how badly I wanted to return to who I was before we all needed two doses of the COVID vaccine and masks to go on vacation.
But, I can't. Just like I cannot take away my brother's story and I doubt I'll ever take away the strange space in my head where science and truth and worries and fear make every vaccination an emotional event. I have so many cracks--it is not that I am broken--it is just that there are imperfections. It is not that I have to mind over pain or vaccinations or personal history or trauma--it's that I have to mind through all the beautiful, normal things.
So for tonight, as I mind through today, I had some meetings. I wrote a few things. I caught up with my neighbors. I thought about my landscaping. I had lunch with my girls. I got a vaccine. My arm hurts. I am reading a funny book. And I can't wait to hang out with Mike for an hour before we fall asleep.
These are the things to mind through. I think my mind is over vaccination, at least for now.