This year I wanted to do something special for my birthday.
I intended to celebrate by visiting some dear friends in Istanbul. I couldn’t think of a better way to experience this exotic city than with locals. Besides, Turkey was just a hop, skip and a jump away from Israel, where I was going to be only days before my birthday.
Everything appeared to be lining up and falling into place. I got the green light for additional time off work and a great deal on my flight. Most importantly, my friend Sally was available to take care of Clawed, my cat.
Meanwhile, my friends in Istanbul, Suzy and Değer, began creating an itinerary of the places they wanted to show me; the Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar, Galata Tower, Hagia Sophia Museum, Topkapi Palace, Whirling Dervish’s and even sailing on the Bosphorus Straight. The night of my 47th would be spent at the Nardis Jazz Club.
It was shaping up to be the best birthday ever! I took it as a sign and jumped at the chance.
However, I soon discovered that sometimes life has other plans for you.
Within 24 hours of arriving in Turkey I came down with a fever, developed a hacking cough and lost my appetite. I felt exhausted and was too weak to get out of bed. Instead of experiencing the sights of Istanbul, I spent seven days either deep in slumber or fitfully, tossing and turning.
I was so disappointed. In my delirium, I began questioning my decision to extend my trip as a treat myself for my birthday. Spending a week confined to bed, without the comforts of home and usual day-to-day distractions, proved to be a real test of my mental wellbeing.
Although I was feverish and physically depleted, my mind was in overdrive. Analysing the situation with the hope to find meaning and beating myself up only made things worse and was feeding my anxiety. Old fears and worries, that I thought I’d processed, began to surface and I felt myself spiralling into a state of depression.
My situation really challenged me to apply much of the information I share here on this site.
Rather than trying to push myself to get out and about, I had to accept my circumstance and surrender to the virus that had taken up residence in my body. I’d learnt that the only way to do this was to really feel into the emotions I was experiencing, without fuelling the thoughts that were creating the feelings.
This wasn’t easy. It meant that I had to stop futurising. I had let go of any notions and desires I had about my birthday celebrations and places I wanted to visit in Istanbul. I also had to stop myself from reliving unpleasant situations from the past that I feared playing out again in the future.
Instead, I needed to stay fully present and work with the feelings of deep disappointment, sadness, remorse and dread as they arose. I did so by identifying the location of where each of these feelings resided in my body every time I felt another wave of emotion. I focused my attention on this part of my body and allowed myself to feel the full intensity of the emotion until it dissipated, which it quickly did when my mind wasn’t involved.
By doing so, I felt immediate relief from the mental anguish I’d been experiencing and was able to fall into deep sleep for several hours at a time. I repeated the process again and again.
Though it wasn’t the gift I’d hoped for my birthday, this experience gave me a taste of my former mindset and demonstrated to me how far I’ve come over the last four years. Most importantly, my vulnerable state revealed another layer of self-sabotaging programming I’d been running. I was able to observe how my mind dissected my life, honing in on areas in which I felt like I’d failed, ways in which I could have done things better and scenarios that I was afraid of playing out again.
This new information has allowed me to identity and pin point the faulty beliefs I’ve been carrying so I can change my experience of life by consciously creating and seeding my subconscious mind with more desirable positive belief statements. (Chapter 5 explains more on this process)
As I leave Turkey today, and though I’m still very unwell, I do feel that a healing at a very deep level has taken place. I’m curious to see what the outcome will be.
Suzy and Değer, thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking such good care of me. I do hope I can reciprocate your hospitality in the near future.
Photo: The view from my apartment in Istanbul.