I’ve never been good at winter.
For one thing I was allergic. Quite literally.
Cold air. Cold water. Cold surfaces. Cold urticaria.
It’s a chronic autoimmune disease. The onset is generally between 18-25.
Right on schedule mine arrived as I turned 18. A rash of red hives that induced anaphylactic shock. Yep, you can die.
I was in the process of completing an elimination diet testing process – the word was that tomatoes were the suspected culprit – when I went for a swim with friends that quite nearly became my last.
When an ambulance wasn’t going to get to our town in time, a quick thinking local doctor, who figured out what was going on because his sister-in-law had it too (amazingly!), broke into the doctors surgery, grabbed a shot of adrenaline and hurrah! I returned back to the land of consciousness.
This meant I was relegated to a life of carrying an epipen (an injectable form of epinephrine for these exact occasions), daily high dose antihistamines (inducing heavy drowsiness, amongst other lovely side effects), wearing a medical bracelet and the best treatment available being to avoid “exposure to cold temperatures.”
Easier said than done in winter.
But it wasn’t just winter. It was summer too.
I’m talking jeans to the beach. In summer!
I was affected by breeze. By air-conditioning. Cold food. And drinks. Cold surfaces. Even sweat.
Living, in general, was difficult.
And things weren’t improving. I seemed to be becoming more and more affected the more time that went by.
Stem cell therepy was the only idea being thrown around to assist, but it was decided that I was too young and managing things too well (ie not dying), to take on the risks involved.
So frustrated, uncomfortable, some days bed ridden (for warmth) other days bed ridden with exhaustion (it physically felt like all of my body’s energy supplies were being used just to keep me warm) and generally feeling like a completely defective human being, life was a constant struggle.
The condition was exacerbated when I was stressed. Which was all the time so that aspect went pretty much unnoticed by me. It was an observation pointed out to me by my bestie.
Hmmm. She was right.
Here’s the thing we know about the immune system. It’s one of the first things that gets switched off when we get caught it the fight/flight response. It makes sense too. The body kinda says, hey we’re running away from a bear right now, having a functioning immune system seems completely irrelevant for these few minutes while we hightail it out of here. And boom, immune system is switched off purely as a resource management decision. A way to save some energy that can be redirected towards the more pressing and imminent task at hand.
Makes sense right?!
From an Auyrvedic perspective, being super affected by the cold is also the way that a massive vata imbalance presents itself.
When I started to look into the whole Ayurveda thing and how a vata imbalance physically prints out in the body, I could literally tick every box. It was a line of knowledge validating my own experience.
And for the very first time so many of my seemingly unrelated health issues appeared to have a common thread.
The sense of relief that brought is simply indescribable. I desperately wanted to be better, but there didn’t seem to be any practical ways to go about attempting to achieve that. Take drugs for the rest of your life. Avoid the cold. Wear your medical bracelet. Carry your adrenaline shot at all times.
So I began to shift things from both the inside out, and the outside in.
Well firstly, I got meditating. Changing the body’s biochemistry, moving out of flight/fight and moving into the ‘stay and play’ response. Why the f*ck hadn’t I done this sooner?
Gradually over time the general day-to-day discomfort caused by the slightest of breeze, sweat, or cold surface began to subside. Hallelujah!!
And then to my amazement I was in a heated pool – in a steamer. Then in my steamer in the ocean in summer. Then winter. Then no steamer at all.
On Saturday I went surfing. In winter. In a steamer admittedly. But so was every other guy (and they were all guys) out there.
That’s huge for so many reasons.
My body’s ability to restore, repair and regenerate never ceases to amaze me.
And as a result I’m finally living.
That’s ultimately what meditation has given me. The ability to live more.