Two days after burying Mother, I was finally at home, trying to rest from the anxiety-filled month leading up to her death. I was exhausted. I was grieving. I was simply sad. But I knew I needed to sleep, I had been unable to sleep throughout the duration of the funeral. So there I was, in bed, trying to catch some sleep but I was miserably failing, and I didn’t understand why. All the conditions were right. I had drawn my blackout curtains, the offsprings were in the living room enjoying some cartoons and it was pretty quiet. But why was I just tossing and turning? I then realised that I had a headache which had not responded to some painkillers I took about an hour ago. What was going on?

Now, any big gathering like a funeral will have one or two people with a suspicious cough, so I wondered if I could be coming down with Covid and I made a l decision to go to the hospital. Once there, it was the usual routine, register, check vitals, only, this time was different. My blood pressure reading was the highest I had ever seen it and the nurse said she’d repeat it, but the second reading wasn’t any different. So she pulled out a red pen and wrote it down in my book – 153/112. What did it all mean? I wondered. I didn’t have to wonder much longer because the moment I walked into the doctor’s office, he read my file and said “Madam, you have hypertension. So I am prescribing…”

“Hypertension?” I interrupted him. I always like to understand any diagnosis before I take medication. So I had some questions.“Is it possible for stress to cause a temporarily high reading? I’ve been under a lot of stress lately,” I asked.

“Usually, stress can cause a spike but from my experience, these spikes don’t just happen unless you were already predisposed to this condition”.

“But I’ve never had such high readings. It’s the first time I am seeing this.”

“Madam, I am prescribing some medication for 10 days and after that, come back so that we can discuss other medication options,” he said, seemingly eager to see the next person in the long queue outside his office. I guess he didn’t have time to get into a Q and A session. But I left his office dissatisfied and with a diagnosis I definitely did not understand. And I was skeptical about taking the drugs he tried to shove down my throat.

But one of the drugs he prescribed was diazepam and it was instantly administered as an injection. I had to call Hubby to pick me up because I was warned against driving. Shortly after that drug was introduced into my body, I realised just how stressed out I had been. It was as though I had been on the edge for such a long time, I had forgotten how it felt to be relaxed. Yes, I was worried about the hypertension diagnosis, yes, I was still grieving but I felt calm in that moment and I started to wonder, “how can I naturally maintain this state of being?”

And then solutions started popping into my head. I knew that for starters, I needed to find ways of turning my grief into something positive. I needed to find a way of stopping the flashbacks of seeing Mother frail and weak, of seeing the sole of her foot greying up just hours before her demise. I needed to find ways of ending the playbacks of her hallucinations. I needed to conquer my newly-found fear of the dark. I needed to re-wire my brain – or else – I’d literally die.

Secondly, I had to address my body. It had become way bigger than it needed to be and surely, this was responsible for most of my health problems. I needed to lose weight and include some physical activity back in my life. This is a plan I had had all along, but I needed to expedite it. I couldn’t go on existing in this body I was unable to style, a body which constantly suffered from flus and other infections, I couldn’t do it anymore.

One thing I was sure I didn’t want to do was to take that medication which the doctor prescribed. For some reason, all the molecules in my body were rejecting it. I wanted to fix the problem, not put a bandage on it. And my husband was in support. So we stopped over at a Pharmacy and bought a blood pressure monitoring machine and for the rest of our drive home, we discussed how I’d reclaim my health. Step one was therapy. I immediately booked some sessions with the best therapist in the world, well, the only one I’ve ever seen – but she does the trick. It’s unlike any other therapy we see in movies where you sit down and vent and someone talks you through it until you internally reach some sort of resolution. It is called PSYCH-K® and it sets in motion a set of processes which enable you to re-write the sub-conscious programming (beliefs) which run behind the scenes of your life. This work enhances your ability to tap your inner resources and use the power within, to affect the changes you need. And in plain English, you do some mental exercises to reset some traumatic memories so that you can find ways of moving forward on a more positive path.

I’m not sure this works for everyone, but it definitely works for me. After our first session, I was able to sleep with the lights off for the first time in about two weeks – Hubby was excited. Until that point, darkness had become synonymous with extreme danger, pain and death. A week before mum passed, my sister and I, and our daughters, survived a terrible accident as we returned from a night-time supply run to the hospital. Without processing what had happened, I was back on the road the very next day – I was the official errand girl, so I couldn’t abandon my duties when mum needed me. So yes, before doing those exercises, every time evening approached, I’d be gripped by anxiety and I drew some comfort from keeping the lights on.

After that session, I was also able to remember Mother’s grey foot without reliving the crippling fear I had when I observed it. I can now remember and write about her hallucinations in those final hours without feeling the confusion and pain it evoked in me. I instead remember it, acknowledge that it was sad and difficult, but know that it was part of a normal end of life process.

I decided, instead, to focus on the good. Every time those negative memories would threaten to override my brain, I’d quickly shift to our happy memories, when we’d laugh about the silly things, or fight about them. I would remember her smile and find comfort in the gratitude for all the years God allowed us to spend with her. Most importantly, I decided to use my grief for good – I gave myself to the health education cause, and this column was born, my YouTube Channel too. Rather than sit down and feel sorry for myself, I sit down and flood my head with ideas of how I can make a small difference in the world with regards to encouraging people to take accountability for their own health and focus on prevention. I was feeling better, breathing lighter.

Now that the ‘software’ problem was under control, it was time to deal with the ‘hardware problem’. My body was weighing a whooping 113 kg! I actually weighed 115 kg before Mother was admitted to hospital, so those strides up and down the UTH halls gave me a 2kg head start in my weight loss journey. For starters, my husband and I decided to start taking some long walks over the weekend rather than signing up to some aggressive gym workout sessions. On our first day, I actually realised that most of my sneakers had gotten small – yep, feet also get fat. The only ones I was able to get into made my feet feel sore only two kilometers into our walk and my husband gave me his shoes, opting to cover the rest of the 5km stretch barefooted, for my comfort! I love him!

Anyway, the walks were beautiful. We discussed so many ideas, argued about how far to walk, and I started to feel better about myself, I felt in control. And so, I went on a quest to find a way to lose weight without going back to the keto diet, which at the time, I blamed for my rapid weight gain after quitting it twice before. I came across a video from a heart surgeon on YouTube who made me realise that I’m a junkie, but that’s a story I’ll tell you next week.

Long story short, there’s a happy ending to this story. Within a month of constant walks and some few lifestyle adjustments which I’ll tell you about in next week’s article, my blood pressure readings were within the normal range! And I downed ZERO of those pills that doctor had prescribed. I was feeling better about myself and more determined to keep making small changes everyday in order to get into better shape.

Disclaimer, I am not a medical practitioner. I am just a regular overweight lady with an internet connection and a drive to reclaim her health and her youth. So please, don’t try anything I write without carrying out your own research or consulting your doctor, if you have a Good Doctor.

To be continued.