(Yes, it’s another lengthy personal post. If you’re not into the juicy details, feel free to skip to a post about cookies).
The end of the year is a standard time for inner reflection, plus it’s been awhile since I’ve shared how I’m feeling, so I thought it was time to update you on the (unexpectedly) lengthy process of healing myself from Crohn’s disease.
The good stuff
I began tapering off my medication in September 2011, and completely eliminated it by November 2011. That means it has been almost 14 months since I’ve swallowed a drug, and it’s incredible how quickly I was able to drop the habit of taking pills every morning.
After an initial dip in ferritin levels (ferritin is the storage form of iron, and is considered the true measure of iron-deficiency anemia), in the last eight months my iron levels have risen every single time they’ve been tested. Yay!
I took iron supplements for 13 years, and was consistently anemic – I’ve even had to go for several rounds of iron infusions at the hospital because my levels were so low. Now that I’ve been off them for a year, my body is finally repleting itself. Hmm. Interesting coincidence, wouldn’t you say?
Last autumn, as my immune system adjusted to working on its own, I developed terrible sinus and respiratory problems. I had the grossest cough for 10 months, which I just couldn’t shake. But it’s gone now, and I don’t know who is more relieved – me, the husband, or the strangers who gave me dirty looks as I hacked up a lung on public transit.
In the last several months, I’ve had a blast experimenting with five-ingredient dishes. Not only has this simplified my life and maximized my efficiency in the kitchen, but it’s also been an accessible way for many of you to venture into easy and delicious healthy living (I love hearing feedback from you, so keep it coming, please and thank you).
Getting my ‘om’ on
Those of you who have known me in real life for a long time may be surprised to hear that I’ve been exploring meditation and meditative yoga.
I know. A year ago, I would have scoffed at myself for even writing that, much less actually doing it.
I purchased an online membership to YogaGlo, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in the last year. I can do yoga at any time in the privacy of my own home, plus I can specialise my practice based on how I’m feeling or which area of my body I’d like to focus on (by the by, YogaGlo is not sponsoring me, I just really love the service).
I ventured into yoga eight years ago through power yoga. My practise was all about sweating it out, feeling sore and making sure I could hold the pose as long as everyone else in the class, regardless of what my body was telling me.
Now, I focus on yoga that is gentle and nourishing, and I actually pay attention to my breath. I’ve also been trying guided meditations, where I just sit and breathe. This has been a huge challenge for me, since my mind constantly wanders off course. But since I incorporated meditation, I’ve been sleeping better, felt less stressed and it even helps when I have stomachaches.
You knew it was coming: the challenges
When I dropped my medication, many deep-seated imbalances began to emerge. My bone density fell below normal again. My hormones revealed themselves to be completely out of whack. I struggled to gain weight.
It sounds naive, but I genuinely thought it would be easy. That I’d stop taking pills, drink green smoothies and eat vegetables and instantly be healed. Whoops.
Obviously, you can’t erase 13 years of damage in only a year. It may take two. It may take ten. And given my lack of patience, this has been a difficult thing for me to accept.
To tell you the truth, much of the time I feel caught between a medical system that tells me I’m crazy for eliminating meds and that naturopaths are quacks, and the holistic approach that thinks doctors are heinous money-grubbers and if we all just ate kelp we’d be dandy.
It’s not that simplistic. Medication isn’t the cure-all and food doesn’t mend the entire picture.
It’s common for me to get lost in the what-ifs and the shoulds and the self-doubt. To lift myself out of this, I continually put things in perspective (which is very different from looking on the bright side).
I remind myself that I feel much, much better since I changed my diet and lifestyle. And any condition I’ve developed because of my Crohn’s (osteoporosis, anemia, etc.) began during the time I was on medication, not since I stopped it. Almost everything I contend with today I battled three, five, eight years ago – minus the incessant bloating, gas, raging diarrhea and lack of appetite. Anyone out there who has ever had a digestive issue knows that reducing those last four symptoms is an enormous win. Right, peeps?
I am just beginning to learn how incredibly complex my body is, and how grateful I am to it for being there for me.
As I wrote earlier in the year in the guest post Finding Blessings in Disease and Illness, the point here is not to dwell on the crappy aspects of illness, or pine for days when I might feel better, but to notice all the wonderful moments in between.
And that’s my only resolution for the year to come.
What about you?