• kelly keena

listen for the birds


When the panic sets in, I listen for the birds.


Twenty-five years ago I was in a drug-induced coma and given my last rights. Seven weeks later, I was home. That’s not a simple transition. I clearly remember the first awareness I had that I could do hard things came with the ongoing rattling song of the finches.


What’s rarely discussed in chronic illness is the PTSD caused by big events. And small events. Events that threaten our sense of safety and kick our fight or flight systems into overdrive. Events like a coma and a ventilator. The smell of plastic nasal cannulas (the part that sits in your nose) from wearing oxygen triggers a small part of that trauma for me. Or, events like a code blue call somewhere in the hospital triggering the trauma of my throat and chest closing during an anaphylactic reaction to an IV antibiotic.


PTSD lingers even when our bodies are well.


But, the birds. Those sweet songs of possibility. They fill the quiet. They fill the void. Imagine a world without them. If you can, go outside and listen. Sit and listen. If you can’t, go outside and listen.


We know that nature heals us. Before you bring the wall down because this is too woo-woo for your tastes, know that this statement is grounded in a quickly growing body of scientific research. Being in or even seeing nature is healing to humans. While there are many theories as to why, the important part for us is that studies show time and time again that our mental and physical well-being improves when we sit, stand, walk outside.


Like PTSD, the mental health of people with chronic health issues like Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is only now becoming part of our treatment and care plans. This is good news. But, we’ve been on our own for a while. We need tools and treatments for the special situation of repeated traumas. From the wide range of transplants to leaving our kids for two weeks for “tune-ups,” we don’t know when the next event is coming, we only know that it is coming.


That’s some heavy shit.


Add this pandemic to the mix, and you can practically see our cortisol levels rise.

But the treatment is simple (not easy!!). We can go into the outside world, a safe distance from people, and listen to the birds. The beauty and joy is that birds inhabit every crack and crevice of our human worlds. In the densest of cities to the most vast open spaces, they are there. Singing. Filling the spaces of worry with sweet calm.


#resilience #healingnature #chronichealing

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