I’ve always been an overachiever so why would I be anything less when it comes to creating and achieving a bodily disorder like colitis? I know, I know, “likelihood is that colitis is a hereditary disease”, but there’s no one in my bloodline familial tribe that suffers from it (or any digestive issue of serious nature, to be quite frank.) My doctor is a gem of a lady and has listened intently to my frustrated rants and comments of “why me, then?” And she reminds me after my rant of the nature of stress as a large component for this disease.
Me? Stressed? Anxious? Fearful? Bahahahahahaha! Well…
Ok, yeah, all of the above could certainly quantify as my personality and overall makeup.
Currently I am 45 years old and am being gifted on an almost daily basis with certain experiences and situations that really show me how tightly wound so many in our modern day society really are. I’m also being gifted with the knowledge that I can only change myself. But ok, I already knew that last part…my first therapist back when I was 21 years old read me that script and until this year, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking that my words and actions can really change another person. Again…laughable.
In 2007 I had my second daughter, a quick, all-natural birth with my baby coming out screaming bejesus. The past eleven years have been wide open with her and my older daughter, work shifts and changes, four dogs and a cat, and a marriage that is in a constant state of evolution. Six months after giving birth to that second lovely lady of mine, I began struggling in my regular running program with the oddest stomach symptoms that seemingly came on overnight. No doctor could find anything relatively wrong, I was super healthy and didn’t fit an image of digestive distress. I was just a new Mom and a busy woman living in 2008.
Flash forward a few years and the symptoms turned a corner and became different, intermittent issues that weren’t necessarily railroading me from life, but were certainly out of the norm.
Again…super healthy yogi, holistically driven Mom and wife (as per doctors.)
And then a few more years passed: Abnormal pains out of the blue began to seriously affect how I was functioning. My quality of life was rapidly changing and I was forced to get a second colonoscopy at the ripe age of 44. Lo and behold, a moderately active ulcerative colitis had been brewing under the surface for me, growing like mold on a pond rock. To my holistic dismay, my doctor suggested FDA pharmaceuticals to put the disorder into remission…and stress relief.
Ok, so WTF? Doesn’t she know that I teach yoga and lift weights, I see a therapist and a chiropractor, I drink pH balanced water and take supportive vitamins and supplements, and I eat an organic, well-balanced diet? And I work with energetic clients to teach meditation and the importance of living clearly and calmly in the face of disorder?
I suppose SHE knew that…maybe it was ME that hadn’t realized how important it was for the practitioner (myself) to heed my own advice and begin making some serious changes.
As any good over-achiever would do after my diagnosis, I began scouring the internet for alternative therapies for ulcerative colitis and don’t you know, the most common marker in everything I read was stress prevention. But I was still fighting the notion that I was doing a pretty damn good job at keeping things in check in a positive way. And I wondered how the rest of the world that I was watching sprint through their lives on fast-forward and high-stress mode weren’t doubled over in colitis pain alongside me? I even wondered if I had done this to myself through my abuse of medications back in my 20’s (and I still question this with a limited amount of research that has been done on that notion.)
But alas, I digress.
I suppose everyone’s different and I’m not one to state that what I say is the God’s honest truth, but I can speak from a state of experience that deals with the stress component for sure. So what does it really take to feed one’s ulcerative colitis? Here’s my personal checklist:
It takes heightened anxiety and apprehension. Regularly.
It takes reliving trauma that hasn’t been completely dealt with.
It takes paranoia. Again, regularly.
It takes issues with trust and acceptance.
It takes worry over others’ issues and situations (namely my kids’.)
It takes constant pressure-cooker status.
It takes a belief that you can control things around you. Regularly.
It takes fear of change and the unknown.
It takes guilt and anger.
It takes a ton of resentment (past and present.) Regularly.
It takes a deep-seeded sadness that you’re never enough.
But to be completely fair, there are some gifts that ulcerative colitis has granted me as well. It has encouraged me to take a serious stock in how I spend my time. It has shown me the immediate physical affects that a disastrous phone call with my parents or a knock-down, irrational fight with my husband can have. It has taught me that it’s ok for me to move on from unhealthy friendships. It has shown me that it’s ok to have a shitty day. And it has shown me that it’s also ok to have a really good day, too. It’s taught me that it’s ok to push myself to excel at what I choose to do, but it’s also ok to take a much needed rest day, too.
As one of my original teachers, Jeff Levine, still touts, “the issues are in our tissues.” I couldn’t agree more. I know I definitely don’t have all the answers to why my issues are centered in my gut but I have a pretty good understanding of the importance of self-care thanks to those flashing yellow light symptoms that I still get. The best I can do, however, is live the life I’m so fortunate to have, as free of fear and anxiety as I can.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” — Joseph Campbell