Hope. As autoimmune warriors, we can feel hopeless, both leading up to a diagnosis and years after that. In the beginning, it felt like I lost so much when I was diagnosed, but in hindsight, it was the start of an incredible journey of self-discovery.
Is having Crohn’s disease hard? Absolutely! It’s the hardest thing I have had to endure and accept. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in May 2016 during emergency surgery. You can read more about my story on my website, so I won’t get into it much here. My journey has involved a lot of pain, countless treatments, and a couple of surgeries. Much like yours, I am sure.
What’s the first (crazy) thing I did after my diagnosis?
The craziest thing I did after my diagnosis was this:
My husband and I sold our home, our cars, we cashed out our savings and decided to LIVE a life of adventure. Let me back up a second. I first recovered from surgery, went on a month-long trip around Europe (Spain, France, and Italy), came back, then decided to LIVE A LIFE OF ADVENTURE!
We moved to Sweden 11 months after my diagnosis, all the way from sunny South Africa.
When I look back at the decision to move and the months leading up to that, I really do have Crohn’s to thank for it.
I wanted a created life.
It’s pretty crazy what needs to happen for you to realize how precious life truly is. Laying in the hospital for a week, I realized that I wanted to live my life in a way that made me happy. I wanted a created life.
I felt that I was living a life half-full until that point, afraid to take chances, afraid to do life on my terms.
Crohn’s made me decide to live. To find what makes me thrive.
Hope is finding what makes you thrive.
After a series of failed treatments and a second surgery in February 2019, I decided it was time. My first step was believing that I could take back control of the things I knew I had control over.
I needed to accept that I could not control that I have an autoimmune disease, but I can control how I choose to live my life with chronic illness. This choice led me to start the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet in May 2019, and it completely changed my life. I now follow a mostly Paleo diet, and I do everything I can to thrive with chronic illness.
That means prioritizing my sleep, leaning into stress management tools that support me, setting and holding onto boundaries, and learning to listen to my body. AIP was the starting point for me to understand myself and my body a little better, and I learned how to advocate for myself in a whole new way.
Hope is finding your definition of Health.
“Health is not the absence of disease and physical pain. Health is the ability to live out your best life, filled with rich and rewarding experiences.”
This quote is why I choose to empower others in the autoimmune community through Health Coaching.
Health is so personal, and it evolves as we learn about our diagnosis and as we go through all the motions of acceptance, anger, and grief.
My new definition of health.
It’s taken a while for me to accept that life with a chronic illness is different. I have had to form my own personal definition of health.
Here’s what health means for me:
- Trusting my intuition and becoming an advocate for my own body
- The awareness to listen to my body when it craves rest
- Finding the right type and amount of exercise that I thrive on and making time to move my body in that way
- To identify food intolerances more easily when I flare
- Leaning into my stress management tools because I know how much I need them
- Setting and holding boundaries because I know my limits both physically and emotionally
- Asking for help and support when I need it most, and learning to be okay with that
What is your hope for a created life?
It can be hard to imagine a life on your terms, but the first step is believing that you can take that step. I invite you to reflect on what your hope for a life with a chronic illness is? What is the life that you want to create? Make a distinction between the things you can and the things you can’t control. It all starts with you and the belief that you are completely capable of building out YOUR created life.