Today is a very important day for me.
The 20th of November last year was the day that I was diagnosed with vasculitis. Owing to my belief that the body, mind and soul is all one entity, I knew that in order to gain control of my disease, I was going to have to make some drastic changes. As many of you know, I do not and cannot believe that there is a miracle pill that can cure diseases. There are many factors that drive healing and a combination of treatment modalities is essential.
On the 25th of November 2018, I had a consultation with my Integrative doctor. He emphasised the essential need for making lifestyle changes. He reiterated the importance of an anti-inflammatory diet, organic eating, natural phytochemicals that tweak inflammatory pathways etc. After this consultation, I went and did an intensive research stint, to discover any other information I needed to guide me and allow me to make the important changes in my life.
A year ago today, my entire life changed. I began the intense elimination phase of the Autoimmune Paleo diet, I began my mindfulness practice of meditation, breath work and yoga, I started building my management protocol and I made the vital decision that this disease was a journey that was here to teach me about myself, about being a doctor and about how to truly heal myself and others. I knew this was going to be a difficult path, but I decided there and then that it would be a beautiful path too, that I would remain positive and take each challenge as a lesson and use them as pathways to personal evolution.
This year has been filled with many challenges. 3 Hospital admissions, an operation, more tests and scans than I can count, burnout, excruciating pain, a river of tears, relapsing, having to stop working and resign from my dream job, not being able to live the life of a 26 year old by being confined to my house and bed most of the time, having to start immunosuppressants despite trying to avoid them like the plague, having to adapt to an entirely new lifestyle and mourn the loss of the one I had pictured. Living with a chronic disease is really difficult, your entire life does change, even if you try not to let it. You have to learn that your body cannot do the things it was once able to do, you have to analyse your energy expenditure and plan everyday, you have to really know your limits, set new boundaries and let go of the healthy life you had envisioned. Having a family may become more difficult because the treatment affects egg production, pregnancy becomes high risk, the risk of future relapses is high - provided I get into remission first, the future can really start to look scary and dismal. This last year has been a whirlwind, a really difficult one.
Despite it all, I can honestly say that I am grateful for all that has happened. The lessons I have learnt are invaluable. I have grown and evolved more as a person than ever before and my entire outlook on life has changed for the better. I have begun to overcome many issues including my terrible anxiety and panic attacks, I have learnt to let go of my controlling nature and to just go with the flow, I am less highly strung, more empathetic and a vastly more balanced and grounded person. I have learnt to listen to and respect my body, to be fully in tune with it, to nourish it with only the best nutrition, to move it and appreciate it for whatever it can do for me in that day. I have learnt that your health is really all that you have, no matter what your dreams and aspirations are, you cannot achieve them if your health is not optimised. I have learnt that life is so unpredictable and despite thinking you know exactly where you are headed, you never truly know anything. It doesn't matter if you're living with a potentially life threatening disease, everyone has a limited life time, everyone is going to die, having a disease just opens your eyes to this and allows you to appreciate the time that you have now, and to live it as best as you can. I have come so far and things are finally starting to look up. I am so proud of myself, and if no one had told you that lately, then I'm proud of you too!
I know things can look bleak, especially when you are in the thick of a tough time. I know how easy it is to focus on the negatives and to get trapped in the vicious cycle of rumination. Just know that when you are able to process the sadness and negativity and focus on any positive, no matter how small, things will start to get a little brighter.
Today is also the 6 month mark for no alcohol. Previously having pancreatitis and being on methotrexate, it was a no brainer that I would need to stop drinking. I barely drank any alcohol since having pancreatitis last year, aside from a glass of wine here or there or an occasional GnT or vodka, lime and water. Alcohol causes diffuse inflammation in the body and has major effects on many organ systems. I must admit I feel so much better without it in my life, it goes without saying that I do miss a glass of wine when cooking or having a delicious meal, but I'm so much better off without it.
Yes, these changes have been hard and it's taken a lot of time and hard work on myself to get to where I am today, but honestly, I'm the best version of myself I've ever been. My body is cleaner than ever, I'm in an amazing head space, I have a new lease on life and I can genuinely say that I'm a more well rounded person overall. I'm still struggling with my health and I still have many challenges to face, but I know that I am more ready and willing to face them than ever.
Thank you for the beautiful lessons, thank you for helping me evolve and grow, thank you for guiding me to the path I'm meant to follow. I have a grateful ( and leaking ;) ) heart , all thanks to you.
Keep fighting, things will get brighter, it's all just a matter of perspective.