Press PAUSEPosted: May 17, 2012
Sometimes it’s hard to make sense of everything around you, until it all stops.
That’s where I found myself eight months ago when I fell ill and it forced me to take a medical leave of absence. In and out of the hospital for months, doctors sent me home with painkillers and without answers.
Eventually, my health reached a point where I could no longer work or do everyday activities like exercise, cook, or even drive. This was a struggle for me, as I’ve been a busybody for as long as I can remember. For the first time in my life, everything came to a standstill–my high-pressure job, bustling social life, and most importantly for me–my ambitions as a young journalist just beginning my career.
Two to three day, recurring episodes of debilitating pain left me bed-ridden for days at a time, and the recovery following those episodes made me exhausted and weak. I was home, alone inside my own head. Unable to find resolve in doctors, I sought comfort in faith.
Born the daughter of Muslim parents, I clung to the one surah, or verse, that I’d memorized as a child in my basic knowledge of Arabic. In the evenings, overwhelmed with anxiety, and with depression slowly creeping up on me, I would turn off all the lights and play audio verses from the Koran that I’d found on the Internet. Still fresh in my journey in faith, I also read Psalms from a Bible given to me by a dear friend. These were the only things that comforted me.
My family flew in town to help care for me during my intermittent hospital stays. My closest friends helped the days pass with support and encouragement.I prayed that the series of tests I had undergone to no avail would bring an answer. But mostly I prayed that the pain would go away. I was afraid my body could not endure it any longer. In my darkest hours of physical and emotional uncertainty, I called upon God.
Finally, six, painful months later, I received a proper diagnosis.I returned to my parents’ home in New Orleans for recovery. I spent much of that time in prayer, meditation and reflection. I honored the value of having my family and friends with me.
When I returned to ‘normal life’, which included my ultra fast-paced job at a news network, I felt as though I was seeing things with a new set of eyes. I was looking from the outside, in. Everything and everyone around me was moving a hundred miles per hour, but I had found a slow, and steady stride. The superficial stressors that had once consumed me were suddenly irrelevant.
One day, I woke up and felt healthy and strong enough to go for a walk for the first time in months. It was exhilarating. Overcome with joy and relief, I began to cry. I was excited about the things that I once considered mundane chores, like going grocery shopping. I had a new appreciation for the things that had real substance in my life–faith, health and love.
Today I strive to practice mindfulness each day and be present in every moment, whatever it may bring. I made a commitment to dedicate more time to the people who enrich my life in a way that far surpasses any worldly possession. I do more of what I love—reading, writing, taking in the sun. But above all, I continue to seek faith, because that’s what brought me through those dark months.
I pray that I never forget the clarity that pause has given me, and that I may always be filled with the inspiration I found after it.
Summer Suleiman is a Palestinian-American journalist and writer. A New Orleans native, she received her BA in Journalism and English at Louisiana State University. You can read more of her writing at CNN.com and AllArabi.com.