“If you look it up in the dictionary,
to be cured is to be free of disease,
but to be healed means to become whole.”
-Dr. Lissa Rankin
Five years ago, I was a “normal” young adult. I was in college and trying to figure out my place within this huge world around me. While I was confused about what I wanted to do with my life, I was thrown a curve ball that would change everything.
In 2012, after 2.5 years of living with strange abdominal symptoms, I was finally given an official diagnosis: Crohn’s Disease. I had never heard of this disease and didn’t know how I was going to continue being me with this new diagnosis. Previously, I had been a healthy young woman. Now, I was thrust into a world full of doctors and medications; a world that I knew nothing about. I was angry, sad and lost. I felt like my life was crumbling down around me as my body was attacking itself.
Fast forward to today: I am healthy, happy and in remission. However, it has been such a crazy roller coaster ride to get to this point. I’ve felt good, made mistakes, went to the ER, started a biologic drug, made lifestyle changes, changed my diet and learned so much during my short time as an IBD patient. My journey has put me on this path of living with an autoimmune disease, then helped me to deviate once again.
While learning about how to live with Crohn’s Disease, I was also immersing myself within the world of holistic health and wellness at the same time. The knowledge that I’ve gained and applied to my life has been a key tool in helping me feel my best (mentally and physically) while living with Crohn’s. I’ve come to realize that, in order for me to live well with my autoimmune disease, I must take care of my whole self: body, mind and soul.
- I eat whole foods: While the topic of diet is controversial in the IBD community, slowly easing myself into eating foods that come from nature proved to be a crucial step on my journey. It ensured that my body was getting the nutrients that it needed to function to the best of its ability and helped me feel less fatigued. However, being able to tolerate whole foods didn’t happen overnight. It was a trial and error process to find out what I could tolerate, then I continued to eat what worked for me.
- I move: When I am feeling downright awful, the last thing I want to do is exercise. However, moving my body boosts my mood and helps me to feel better about myself. The form of exercise I do depends on how I’m feeling. If I feel good, the workout will be intense. If not, I’ll stick to stretching and yoga. Being flexible with different types of workouts has helped me be more consistent and relieve daily stress, which is a huge trigger for me.
- Love yourself (and your disease): This mindset came a lot later for me, but I feel like it is one of the most important pieces of my IBD puzzle. When I got diagnosed, I felt so angry and alone. Along my journey, I’ve realized that I’m not a fighter and that I wanted to learn to thrive with this disease instead. Since then, #ThrivingNotFighting has been my mantra and, with help from some amazing friends (Jessica Flanagan and Sarah Choueiry Simkin), I am on my way to loving all of me.
- Meditation: When I got diagnosed, I was bombarded with information and advice from various sources. While all of that information was very helpful, I was unable to figure out how I felt about living with IBD and how I wanted to manage my symptoms. Meditation was a tool that I utilized to silence my mind and become present so that I could figure out what I actually wanted when it came to my new life with Crohn’s Disease. I started with 5 minutes a day, sitting in silence, and it has helped me decrease stress and become clear on who I am as an IBD patient, and as a person.
- Finding My Voice: Before living with Crohn’s Disease, I was reserved and shy around people that I didn’t know. I had trouble expressing myself and didn’t see myself as a creative person. While coming to terms with my illness, I wrote constantly over different mediums (journals, my personal blog, and social media) and shared my story. Sharing what I was going through with an invisible illness proved to be a double-edged sword: difficult because I was being vulnerable to the world about a topic that is rarely talked about, but as I look back, sharing my story and perspective has helped me heal. It has allowed me to find my voice and is one of the most important things that I’ve gained from having IBD.
- Living with an autoimmune disease is a whirlwind of events; a whirlwind that I definitely got lost in at first. In my early stages of living with IBD, I didn’t know how to differentiate myself from my disease. I used it as my most important identifier and wondered who I was, other than someone who lived with Crohn’s. As I’ve matured and gotten used to my new way of living, I’ve realized that I needed to add more things into my life that I was passionate about, so that I could identify with something else other than my illness. I am also a twin, daughter, niece, health coach, foodie, yogi, runner etc. By personally identifying more with my passions, I’ve found a new sense of self. I am someone who lives with Crohn’s Disease, but I am also so much more than that.
After 6 years (undiagnosed and diagnosed) of living with the ups and downs of Crohn’s Disease,
I finally feel whole.