Why I’m Thankful for my Crohn’s Diagnosis
I was sitting at the yoga studio that I’m doing my teacher training at, in a “Meditation/ Philosophy” class, and we began to discuss how it usually isn’t until something “expensive” to our bodies or minds happen, that we begin to take action. Action could mean a variety of things. It could mean having empathy for those around you. It could mean drastically changing your habits so you encounter less stress.
For me, it meant taking a look at what I was eating, and radically shifting that to a place where I could feel healthy.
I was having issues with my digestion for years. I tried random things here and there to help, but never really stuck with a course of action, since I didn’t see immediate results. After my official diagnosis, I did endless hours of research. What has worked for people, what hasn’t? Would I have to start medications immediately or could I do this thing holistically? Many people claimed a paleo diet would help.
So I jumped right in. No refined sugar, no grains, no beans or legumes, no soy, no dairy. I know it sounds tough, but in all honesty, it’s pretty easy to stick to once you know what you’re doing.
After a few months, I started to feel better. Slowly, but definitely noticeably better. I would have more good days than bad days. Check. I wasn’t feeling so run down all the time. Check. My weight normalized and I was able to maintain. Check. All in all, it was great.
I decided to start reincorporating things I felt I could handle. Rice was and still is my favorite of all those things. I don’t know why, but holy shit, I love rice. I sometimes allow some beans and corn in there, and the occasional thing with sugar in it if I’m treating myself. I stick starkly to a dairy and gluten free lifestyle, but hope to add back in goat’s milk and aged cheeses some day.
So why am I thankful for this diagnosis that makes me think about everything I put into my body?
1. I’ve become more self aware
We talk a lot about this concept of “awareness” in yoga. How, once you’re in tune with your body, you can begin to really notice small signals it’s sending you and take corrective action to avoid further pain or suffering.
I’ve been able to start really listening to what my body is telling me. When I was first figuring this stuff out, I was having a month… All around, I was feeling awful. I had daily cramping and super loud intestinal noises. I was exhausted. The kind of exhausted where you want to just close your eyes at the red light for just a second more of rest. I just assumed that this was the way I’m supposed to feel now. I just feel like crap and that’s that. Well, it turns out, I was severely anemic and needed an iron transfusion, STAT. Post infusion… I started to feel like myself again. The exhaustion went away, and I was able to pay attention to my digestive system a little better.
I look back at that now, and I ask myself “how in the world did I not see that this was totally not normal?” I chalk it up to my lack of self awareness, or really even just ignoring what I didn’t want to see. Now, I make it a point to try to listen. What is my body trying to tell me?
2. I’ve learned about REAL food
I grew up eating whatever I wanted. Even in college, I was a vegetarian, where I thought I was being super healthy. But then I look back at all the frankenmeats and processed foods I used to eat and shudder.
Learning how to read food labels and ingredient lists quickly has become a super skill of mine. I love going to the grocery store and loading up 90% of my cart with fresh foods. I still treat myself to the occasional packaged product, don’t get me wrong… (have you tried Pumpkin O’s from Trader Joes?! How could one resist?!) But now, I see food for what it is and what it can do for me. I love drinking a super packed smoothie or juice and just feeling the benefits coursing through my veins. (Yes, I know I don’t really FEEL it, but you get what I’m saying.)
3. I’m nicer to myself
I am a go-go-go person. I like to get up, rule the day, fit in as much as I can, and sleep knowing that I was productive. Some days, I’ve learned, it’s just not in the cards. I may get a few things here and there done, but a full-scale day that I used to do just sometimes doesn’t happen. I’ve had to learn to be ok with that.
I’ve had to learn that sometimes just taking a bath and hanging on the couch is the best thing I can do to ensure tomorrow is a better day. And that’s O.K.
4. I appreciate my family even more
Watching my husband take care of everything during my “dark times” pre and post diagnosis, I asked myself daily, “how in the world did I get so lucky?” Having my parents visit me at the hospital and take our dog whenever we needed, made me ask the same question. The amount of love and support these wonderful humans show me on a daily basis is unsurpassed.
My friends have begun to learn and understand as much as they can to help keep me included no matter what or when. They let me pick the restaurant to ensure I can eat something, they understand my no-drinking, they even make me 3-ingredient chocolate coconut cookies… which HOLY MAN they’re amazing.
All in all, being diagnosed with a chronic illness SUCKS. But, if you can find the silver lining, it makes it a little less sucky.