“It is health that is real wealth”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
I have only told a few people about my struggle with painful digestive disorders that I have had over the past four years. The choice to keep my disorders private was fueled by fear and embarrassment of what was happening to my body.
Anyone going through a similar journey can understand the feeling of helplessness and confusion that arise as a byproduct of watching a body malfunction (and the exhaustion, desperation and detachment that comes with long-term disorders).
However, all life experiences teach us something.
I would like to share what I have learned in order to help anyone who may be going through a similar experience:
1. Don’t just ignore the pain—get help early.
I first started having symptoms four years ago but discounted them as the effects of working way too much and not eating as healthy as I should. I didn’t know how to listen to my body.
Around the time I turned 24, my symptoms became a lot worse and then grew exponentially. When the doctor told me that I was fine, I tried self diagnosing myself for almost a year. I began seeing specialists when it became evident that I was not “fine.”
During my self-diagnosis everything I tried to do to help myself seemed not to work and my symptoms only got worse. Much worse.
Every night I was in pain. One day I broke out in hives all over my body; another day I was in so much pain I couldn’t walk and had to go to the emergency room because I felt like my abdomen was going to explode. It grew exponentially worse until I had no energy at all, was barely sleeping, hardly eating and was just exhausted everyday.
The more I did and the more doctors I saw, the more helpless and hopeless I felt. I would throw myself diligently into work and anything that I felt I could control and would boost my self-esteem. I tried to ignore what was happening to me.
It may take a lot of time to find answers but do not give up and, if problems are persistent, do not see only one doctor. If there is not good access to doctors, read everything available online regarding symptoms and treatments. My personal research online in conjunction with a specialist helped lead me to my final healing. Also, be sure to contact family and ask specifically about health issues.
2. It will affect us emotionally as well as physically.
For those of us that have had similar symptoms or know someone that has gone through a health-related struggle, we can understand how difficult it is to be open and talk to others about what is happening to our bodies.
I remember feeling completely embarrassed and ashamed of my body. I felt defective and not in control. The feeling of not being in control was the most painful because I pride myself on being strong and independent.
My body was weak and I was in pain everyday. I felt like I couldn’t control the situation. I felt defeated and not good enough. The only predictable thing was the pain that would come in the evening after eating dinner.
I would turn down invitations to go out with friends because of the pain and exhaustion that came each evening. Saying over and over again that I was tired and didn’t feel good gets old after awhile. To say my relationships suffered is an understatement. I always had so much love and energy to give to others and was so strong and outgoing. I suffered just as much emotionally as I did physically.
Health disorders will have an effect emotionally, even on the very strong. It is helpful to be surrounded with family and friends that can be a positive support system during the time of pain and healing. Counseling and therapy are also options during this time.
Having positive support is essential and identifying this as a need is not a sign of weakness. I did not understand how my physical illness was affecting me emotionally and I wish I would have reached out for help earlier.
3. We are worthy of love.
No matter what stage of the journey, never forget that every body is beautiful. Our bodies are fascinating and complex and it is inevitable that sometimes things will go wrong.
But our bodies ability to heal is astounding. Just because an issue arises in the body does not mean we are defective. With long-term disorders it is easy to start to lose self-esteem and optimism as weeks turn into months with no answers and more pain.
During my journey I lost over 30 pounds. My skin became unhealthy and I was beyond exhausted everyday. Because I was exhausted, each day felt like a whirlwind. I had nothing to give and so I felt like I was not worthy of love. I wanted to give love but everyday was such a struggle to simply keep myself afloat. I felt like a shell of my former healthy self.
It’s easy to look back now and reflect on my experiences but during that period, I would take it one day at a time because of exhaustion and confusion. The only thing I could do was think positive and keep looking for answers as well as reassure myself I could be strong.
We must keep reassuring ourselves that we are worthy of love everyday—even when we feel at our lowest.
Real friends know that when we are at our “worst” is when we need love the most. Focus on recovery and take care. Remove unnecessary stress or people that bring feelings of unworthiness. We are a beautiful souls—don’t be afraid to accept the love of all those around us.
4. Commit to health and be grateful everyday.
Everyone’s journey and recovery times are different. It took me over six months to learn how to help myself heal after finding my diagnosis. Everything is connected in the body and long-term issues may take a long time to heal completely.
We heal fastest when we are surrounded by committed friends and family that will help to support us and remove unnecessary stress out of life. Taking time to heal and learning self-love will restore health and enable us to love others.
My personal health journey has taught me to be grateful for the health that I have and the love of friends and family around me. Practice gratitude everyday for the blessings in life.
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Apprentice Editor: Karissa Kneeland
Photo: Melissa Dalal