Much of Jewish wisdom teaches us that slowing down can often be the best medicine—whether it’s the weekly reminder to pause during Shabbat, or the many mindfulness practices weaved into various rituals of our tradition. For me, slowing down came as a lesson through fertility, or rather, the lack thereof.
My husband and I were trying to conceive for six months. So when I first missed my period, I was thrilled. However, when I took a urine pregnancy test the next day, it was negative, leaving me confused. I had never missed a period before. What else could it be? I thought maybe I took the test too early, but when Aunt Flo visited me later that week, the mystery was solved.
After 3 months of trying, I finally missed my period, giving me another chance. This time, I waited an entire week before taking the test, and when I did, it was still negative. The very next day, I got my period again. Being a doctor and a medical writer myself, I contemplated all the possibilities of how this could happen. Was it possible I was conceiving, but my uterus was unable to hold the pregnancy? Back then, I was working two jobs, slogging for 15 hours a day, 6 days a week. Could it be stress?
I decided to meet a gynecologist who ordered a few basic tests, then later wrote down something in my chart that I had never seen myself as: “obese.” That reality shook me.
I had ignored my health for a long time now. Though I always wanted to prioritize my health—to wake up early and exercise or join a dance class— I was always too tired to make it happen.
The next day, my test results showed I was experiencing borderline hypothyroidism. So, that was it—the reason my period was delayed. Believe it or not, I was thrilled to know that. It was like the wake-up call I needed to make changes in my lifestyle.
That same day, the Indian government announced a nation-wide lockdown due to the pandemic. Over the next week, I lost 50% of my employment and salary, which meant I had more time on my hands, but I was homebound and had to think out of the box to make the best of my situation. It was a very funny paradox. So, I would wake up early and exercise in my bedroom. I joined an online yoga class and consulted a homeopathic physician. With a newfound sense of time and space to care for my body, I was determined to treat my hypothyroidism without taking conventional medications. After 3 months, I managed to lose a couple of pounds and also somehow missed my period again. I thought to myself, nothing was helping. This was it. I’d need to give up and treat my hypothyroidism the conventional way by taking medicine. I took a pregnancy test again anyway, not hoping for anything but disappointment. But, to my surprise, this time it was positive. I could not believe it. I tested my thyroid hormones again and these were normal too.
Today, I am five months pregnant. I spend a lot of time with my family and take care of my health. The lockdown gave me an opportunity to heal myself. I have a much more relaxed lifestyle today, which is probably what my disease was trying to get me to do! Indeed, the symptoms of hypothyroidism are slowing down the metabolism; in retrospect, I realize now that what I needed to do was slow down my life.
What I learnt from my body healing is to become whole, physically and spiritually. Often, illnesses or symptoms are messages from our inner healer seeking to integrate our body and soul. When I allowed my body time and space for its wisdom to take over, I believe a higher power took charge of the healing process. Creating the connection between our body and soul is what makes us whole. In short, our bodies are talking to us through symptoms—are we listening?
Sit or lie down in a relaxed position, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. When you are sufficiently relaxed, scan your body from head to toe, gradually paying attention to each and every body part. If there are any aches or pains in a particular part of your body, ask yourself what needs to change in order for it to get better. Slowly feel the connection between your body and the surface on which you are sitting or lying down. Feel the pull of gravity grounding you and open your eyes.
Rub your palms together until you feel a pleasant sensation of warmth. Then, close your eyes and place your palms on your face. Gradually move your fingers onto your scalp and towards the back of your head and shoulders, slowly taking them downwards to touch each and every part of your body right up to your toes. As you do this, mindfully acknowledge each cell and each tissue that is a part of your existence.