Do you love your Inflammatory Bowel Disease? Your Crohn's? Your ulcerative colitis? Have you fully welcomed it into your life? Have you put in the effort to truly nurture and care for you disease? Are you proud of your IBD? You may be thinking this all sounds crazy but just stay with me here, I've got a proposal for you.
I propose that we change out mindset around Inflammatory Bowel Disease. I propose that we LOVE our disease, unconditionally. That we welcome it, respect its purpose for appearing in our lives and nurture it, just as we would nurture a child or loved family member. I propose that we stop fighting IBD as warriors and start loving it as thrivers.
For years now I've seen people refer to themselves as "IBD Warriors" and I've personally never related to that. Let me quickly state that I in no way intend to demoralize or offend anybody out there that does identify with being an IBD Warrior. This disease can be incredibly isolating, painful, embarrassing and generally soul crushing, among other things. So I get it. Joining an army of other IBD warriors can make you feel strong, empowered and provide you with a support system. But here's the thing.
I don't want to be a warrior. I want to be a thriver.
To me, being an "IBD Warrior" implies that you are, like it sounds, always at war. The Fight with your disease is infinite and your body is the battlefield. You're required to constantly be at attention, on high alert and ready to fight at any given notice. I envision a feeling of constant stress about how and when your enemy will strike again. How long will this battle go on for? As we know from history, being at war exhausts our resources, puts our lives at risk and doesn't guarantee a positive outcome. Wouldn't it be easier to reach some sort of peace treaty and collaborate with our disease, meeting it where it's at, in an attempt to peacefully resolve the issues at hand and enjoy life while doing so? I believe we need to move away from this idea of being an IBD Warrior and focus on how we can become IBD Thrivers.
When we're diagnosed with IBD we're told by our doctors that it's a chronic and incurable disease. We will live with this disease the rest of our lives. While that may or may not be true, we don't have to live a life in the shadow of our disease. In fact, we can very much live in harmony with our IBD and use simple tools such as mindset, nutrition, exercise and lifestyle to heal ourselves and live an even more vibrant life than ever before. And yes, we have the power to heal ourselves.
I truly believe that by prioritizing diet, lifestyle and re-framing how we think about our disease, we can drastically alter our quality of life and heal our disease. By healing I am referring to the process of becoming whole again, not curing our disease. As Lissa Rankin points out in her book "Mind Over Medicine", "healing" is not to be confused with "curing". "You can be cured without being healed, and you can be healed without being cured." So while we may not "cure" our disease, we can certainly heal it to the best of our ability and create a life that is whole and balanced.
Th idea of changing my mindset around my disease really started to really take root within me after I read Jessica Flanigan's book The Loving Diet and was validated on this thought; in order to heal the best I could, I needed to unconditionally love my disease. I needed to fully accept colitis into my life, with open and loving arms. That's not to say I wanted this disease to begin with. I don't think anybody wakes up and thinks "Gee, I really wish I had an Inflammatory Bowel Disease". That doesn't really happen. But I did wake up one morning (so to speak) at the age of 22, to receive the diagnose of my IBD, ulcerative colitis.
I truly believe that it was not just by chance that this specific disease manifested itself into my life. Because of IBD becoming a part of my life, I had the strength to remove myself from a bad relationship that was wreaking havoc on my emotional, spiritual and physical health. My painful symptoms encouraged me to cut back on consuming an inappropriate amount of gin & tonics and eventually led me to give up drinking all together, nipping a potential harmful habit in the bud before it could really take root. I gradually started to improve my eating habits, something that I had never really cared to think about before, which ultimately led me to my passion for holistic nutrition and health and provided me with the motivation to seek an education in Nutrition Therapy and become a Certified Nutrition Therapy Practitioner.
I can say with a lot of certainty that NONE of these things would have happened if I hadn't been diagnosed with IBD. I would have continued living life, status quo, remaining blissfully ignorant and wildly unhappy about my purpose in the world.
All of the above may sound wildly optimistic and woo woo-y but I truly believe there is always a silver lining. That's not to say I don't have days where I end up sobbing in Corey's arms, nights of no sleep because I'm in incredible pain and running to the bathroom hour after hour or feelings of guilt because I wasn't able to make the family party. During those times it's hard not to have the thoughts "why me?" or "I wish I didn't have this disease" run across your mind. I think it's incredibly important and part of the healing process to recognize these feelings and evaluate their purpose for appearing in our lives. When I have these thoughts, I try to focus on all of the positive outcomes that I've experienced as a result of my IBD and all of the good that has yet to come. This is why I want to be an IBD Thriver. There is still so much life left to live and I'm not about to let it pass me by just because I have IBD. I want to travel all over the world, backpack as many mountain ranges as possible, hike the Pacific Crest Trail (my BIG goal), maintain an optimal state of health to keep my IBD in remission and help as many people as possible along my journey.
After being diagnosed with my IBD, one of the things I wish I had realized sooner is that I am not alone in this journey. For years I went through my day to day life feeling incredibly embarrassed by my IBD. I would avoid talking about it at all costs and when I did talk about it, I referred to it as a "digestive disease" so I wouldn't gross people out or embarrass myself by using the word "bowel" or "colon". I believe that there is a need for those of us with IBD to talk more openly about our disease with anybody who will respectfully listen and feeling comfortable spreading awareness.
Thousands of people throughout the world live with IBD that shouldn't have to cope with feelings of fear, embarrassment and despair on their own. Everyone should have access to the guidance and support they need to manage their disease properly. Additionally, we should be able to communicate more effectively about our disease with friends and family so they are better able to understand and offer the right kind of support. We're all in this together and deserve to continue living a fulfilling, happy and vibrant life, in harmony with our IBD. Through a positive mindset, a strong support system, improved diet and healthy lifestyle habits we can make our lives whole again. We can be IBD Thrivers.
I'm putting this idea to action. If you're on board and would like to join my community of IBD Thrivers, I've created a private Facebook group for people to connect, share their stories, gain support and provide inspiration. I'll regularly be posting resources, relevant articles/research, videos and motivation.
Join IBD Thrivers here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1234887799926369/
I also know that not everyone is on Facebook and I don't really blame them. Facebook can be overwhelming. I think it would be really awesome to create a member based site that was accessible to more people, had the option of offering anonymity to those who wanted it and would provide the tools and resources needed to truly become an IBD Thriver.
Does this sound like something that would be beneficial to you? Does the idea of a community like this interest you? Would you pay for something like this? What else would you want to see included? Where do you feel you need the greatest amount of support in healing your IBD?
I seriously want your feedback!!
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know your thoughts. I'm hear to serve you the best I can but I need to know what you want.