I've been living with Ulcerative Colitis for just about 7 years now and it has done nothing short of rock my world. It's taken me a long time to get to where I am today with my disease.
A state of acceptance and love.
Here are just a few things I've learned (so far) in living with this chronic disease.
1. Listen to your body
Our bodies work tirelessly to keep us up and running as efficiently as possible but sometimes they just need a break. Practice becoming in tune with your body and recognizing its cries for help. When you're tired, turn off Netflix and go to bed! If you feel a cold coming on, cut back on your work load, set aside time for rest and make sure you're eating as many nourishing foods as possible.
2. Do whats right for you
Just because you know or read about someone whose life was changed after they became a vegetarian, started taking a fish oil supplement or became a CrossFitter, doesn't mean you have to take the same route. These things very well may work wonders for some people but if you have that feeling in your gut that it's just not right for you, then don't do it! You have to do what works best for YOUR body, mind and spirit. It may take some trial and error to figure out what exactly does work best for you, but remember to always listen to your body for answers.
3. Be grateful for the little things in life
I've had many mornings where I can barely stand long enough to take a shower. Days where I couldn't walk my dogs any farther than the backyard because I knew I'd need the bathroom at any instant. Sleepless nights being curled up in a ball in pain. You best believe I find tremendous joy and appreciation when I wake up well rested, with abundant energy and can go out on an hour or longer walk around town with my pups. Don't take these tiny things in life for granted because not everyone can even experience them.
4. You need a support system
Whether it be an online support group, friends, family, coworkers, or healthcare providers. You can't do this alone and you shouldn't have too. Whatever you're experiencing someone else is out there experiencing something similar. Reach out to find these people. It's also important that the friends and family you surround yourself with understand your disease and are supportive of your decisions surrounding it. This is often when you find out who your true friends are and don't be afraid to let go of negative relationships that are no longer serving you.
5. Don't be ashamed or embarrassed about your disease
When I was first diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis I didn't want anyone to know. Having to explain what having an Inflammatory Bowel Disease means is a less than a flattering topic of conversation. I used to avoid talking about it at all costs (aka denial) and try to hide how horrible it truly made me feel. I didn't want to appear weak. After years and years of this, I finally embraced my disease, became open about my symptoms and I'll tell anyone who wants to listen about the shit I've been through (literally). The point is, don't ever feel the need to hide or apologize for the state of your health. While your disease does not have to define you, it should be embraced as a part of you and at the very least create an awareness for those around you.
6. It's OK to say "No."
Social pressure and personal drive often makes us want to say "yes!" to everything. We feel if we say "no" we're letting ourselves or others down. However, this let down often occurs with the over-use of "yes" and over-committing to responsibilities. Usually someone gets let down when your eyes were bigger than your stomach and you've put too much on your plate. I prefer to weigh my options and decide what's going to be best for me and my health. If you need to buy yourself time simply use "maybe" or "i'll let you know" instead of feeling pressured into saying "yes" immediately.
7. Don't stress
Does it help? Does it make you feel better to sit there and worry? Does it actively solve your problems? Stress is inevitable in life, we all feel it at some point or another but how we respond to it can literately determine the state of our current and future health. When you begin to feel stressed, take a few minutes to breath, close your eyes, gather your thoughts and decide if you're going to let this stress overpower you. Unless you're being held at gunpoint or about to go over a waterfall, you should have enough time to do this. Try to determine what steps you can actively take to alleviate some of this stress and remember that it will all be okay.
8. How to self-discipline
I've really never been that great at self discipline and I'll be the first to admit that it's still a work in progress, but living with this disease has certainly helped to hone in on these skills. After experiencing a certain amount of pain, discomfort or distress, you learn to decide what's worth it and what isn't. Is it really worth having that extra cocktail? If you know eating bread will make you feel horrible for a week afterwards, will you avoid eating it? Can you pull yourself off of the couch and go for a walk knowing it'll help you sleep better that night? If you can, that's awesome and power to you! If you can't, that's okay. Like I said, I'm still a work in progress too. We all find our balance eventually, its the small steps we can take in the meantime that help.
9. Love matters
Bring as much love into your life as possible. Surround yourself with friends and family who love you unconditionally. Choose a partner whose love is deep, unwavering and non-judgmental. If you have the ability too adopt a pet, I highly suggest doing so. There's nothing quite like the love I experience everyday with my pups surrounding me. And most importantly, love yourself to the fullest extent because you are awesome and deserve all of it.
10. Live life to the fullest and with no regrets
I don't know what happens after we leave this life but I do know that we're here now, with a world of opportunities in front of us and I don't plan on letting them pass me by. Yes, there is always the chance of "failure" but rather than think of it as failure, when things don't work out, think of it as just a change in direction. Don't be afraid to take a risk, put yourself out there and experience the unknown. This is your one shot to make the time you spend in this life the greatest you possibly can. No regrets.