Posts Tagged With: mental-health

Why Yoga

sun-salutationWhen talking to a friend over the weekend, he mentioned that he had been going to yoga a lot recently and that he, his wife, and his new baby were all better off because of it.  He is debating taking the teacher training at CorePower (which, of course, I gushed about…not biased at all seeing as that’s where I teach), and he wanted to know if it deepened or weakened my practice.  That question put the fire under me to write this post that has been sitting patiently in my brain until now: WHY YOGA?

For me personally, I practice yoga because…..actually, let’s back up.  A little history with why I started yoga to begin with, why I continued with yoga, and why I am waking up to practice tomorrow morning despite writing this post well past midnight.

I took my first yoga class at CorePower Yoga (or CPY) back in March 2009.  As an understatement, I’ll say that I was not hooked right away.  This was not love at first pose.  I, in fact, was only there because my friend Silvia invited me and I have a hard time turning things down.  Plus I think Silvia is cool and I wanted to be cool too.  Combine that with the fact that my sister had already been practicing yoga for a few years and was chirping at me to get in the studio ASAP!!!  Like most things Michelle insists that I will like if I just freaking try it already, I resist as much as humanly possible, inevitably give in, and invariably fall in love with said suggestion.  It’s a fun cycle.  For me, anyway.  Not sure about her sisterly interpretation.  :)

Off I went to yoga class.  And it was honestly pretty terrible.  I won’t say I hated it, but I definitely did not enjoy it.  But Silvia kept inviting me to different yoga studios around PB and it became a little bit of a Saturday morning outing for us and a few others.  I didn’t go consistently, but I went….semi-regularly.  At the time, I knew I had to do something active and I couldn’t find an adult dance studio that I liked.  That’s what I really wanted to do was dance.  I loved my adult jazz class that I grew up with (started sneaking in when I was 12 despite the minimum age being 13), but there was simply no San Diego equivalent to the amazing Tim Hill’s class.   So I persisted with this yoga thing, kind of half-heartedly because I didn’t feel I had many other options.

Why did I initially get turned off by yoga?  The answer I told myself: I sucked at it.  And I hated that I sucked at it.  In general, I can pick things up pretty damn quickly.  I take it for granted that typically (outside of sports), if I focus on something for a relatively short amount of time, I’m decent at it.  Yoga was not one of those things.  I was sore, I was out of shape, I was falling over, I was out of breath, I was in my head and I was “bad” at it.  I did not like going in, time and time again, feeling like I sucked.  To add insult to injury, I didn’t even improve right away!  I didn’t feel comfortable in a yoga studio for about a year.  A year!

But I kept going.  A big reason is that there is a ton of free yoga in San Diego, and who doesn’t like free stuff?  I was bouncing around studios, trying out free week trials and figuring out what I liked/didn’t like about various yoga studios.  This one was too hot, this one too cold.  This one had great class times, but a bad location.  That one had a great location, but crappy teachers.  This one was not enough of a workout, that one left me feeling like I ran a marathon.  Me being the Goldilocks in this situation, CorePower was just right.  I like to call it the Starbucks of yoga.  It’s commercialized, but it’s a top-notch, consistent product.  There’s a lot to be said for that.  Plus I loved the format: we did sit ups in the middle of class, it was heated but not ridiculous,  there were classes all the time, and so many locations that I could drive to four studios within ten minutes of my house.  They have beautiful locker rooms with hairspray and tampons always stocked….they know their audience.  I decided to become a member a full year after that first class.  As you may remember, 2010 was a big year for me trying to finally take care of myself and not be such a doofus anymore about my health.

As I found out along the way, yoga is not something you can suck at.  Turns out the answer I told myself years ago (“I sucked at it”) isn’t actually the true one.  The true answer is that I was not ready to embrace yoga, or to embrace change in my life.  If you compare my yoga timeline to my food/nutrition/lifestyle timeline, yoga came first.  Well, technically the chiropractor came first, but yoga was a close second.  :)  And most importantly, yoga has stuck around the longest.  I think it was inevitable that I stuck with it.  It almost wasn’t even a choice.  I think my ego told myself that I had to keep going in order to “get better” at it.  The reality is that my body needed it, my spirit needed it, and the universe used my ego as the carrot to keep me going back.  Honestly, I’m so grateful that I have yoga now in my life, that I don’t care why I kept going.  I’m just glad that I did.

Being the person I am, I took CPY by the horns once I got there.  I enrolled in a few boot camps, I started cleaning as a trade to get free yoga all the time, I became pretty immersed in the culture and actually starting enjoying myself.  I had a few cathartic moments on the mat and was finally hooked.  Pretty soon, everyone was trying to talk me into teacher training.  I had zero intentions of becoming a yoga teacher.  I’m still not 100% sure why I decided to do it.  However it happened, in the fall of 2011, I found myself enrolled in a 200-hour teacher training program for an activity I had only taken seriously for less than two years.  I was in way over my head.

Teacher training is a 8 week format at CPY.  That’s 200 hours to get done in 8 weeks.  I was extremely naive about how quickly I could become trained.  Even in a 10 week format, that’s an extra 20 hours a week to your normal routine!  Luckily (?), CPY makes you do what is called an “extensions” program once you are done with the first 8 weeks, which meant I then had an additional 4 weeks to get more teaching practice in, and to finalize my hours.  Although teacher training was a grueling process, it was one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done in my life.  It changed how I approach my mat, each of my postures, my breath, my life.  That was the one life-changing event where yoga went from a task I enjoyed to an activity that affected my mind-body-spirit health.  There is SO MUCH to learn and teach about yoga that cannot be contained in this blog, but suffice to say that it truly changed my life.  I now teach twice a week and try to practice three times a week, although I don’t always hit that mark.

One of my fellow UCers once said to me that they are pursuing this holistic lifestyle as a treatment method because they prefer meditation, not medication.  That sums up where I am with yoga today.  Yoga has introduced me to meditation, retreats at the Chopra Center, regular therapeutic massage, and I know that I would still be on my medication if not for yoga.  The short answer I regularly give people when they ask why I practice yoga is that it allows me to breathe.  If only for one hour, I allow myself to shut up, breathe, meditate in motion, and relax.  There is incalculable benefit for deep breathing all on its own!  Yoga inspires me, forces me, enables me to keep breathing.  Today, that’s my why.

ALISA’S MUSIC CORNER

I found this band….or actually, Spotify thought I would like this band (cocky jerks!), called Lake Street Dive…and Spotify was right.  I like them.  They can get a little repetitive, but the lead singer has a really cool Alabama Shakes meets Adele thing going for her.  Two great people to rip off if you ask me.  I was listening to their studio album, but then Jon found this fun video of them singing Jackson 5 live and I was sold.  Check it out!

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Categories: Balance, Colitis, Healing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Balance

Awhile ago, Jon asked me what this term balance was all about because I’ve been throwing the word around like beads at a Mardi Gras parade (with less flashing).  My hippie friends and I are often saying things like: “My doshas are not in balance” or “I need to work on being more balanced” or “Get that balance out of your pocket!”…..okay the last one doesn’t make sense, but what is this elusive balance that we are trying to achieve?

I’ve come to realize that no matter what you eat, or how you eat it, there are going to be toxins in life that need to be addressed.  Disease cannot be managed by medicine alone.  These toxins come in not just through your food, but through your thought patterns and emotional choices.  Don’t get me wrong, food is wildly important in health.  It clears out the excessive toxins so your body can work on the real crap (pun intended).  Food is my medicine, thank you Hippocrates, and it is much preferred to 9 pills a day or steroids for me.  But it’s not the whole picture.  This pyramid seems a closer for nutritional guidelines:

primary food pyramid3

I think it’s missing a component on sleep and also fun.  I also think vegetables should be a larger section with fewer grains, definitely fewer proteins, and maybe even less fruit.  Veggies are pretty important.  At any rate, what this pyramid does show is that there has to be a balance between ALL of these areas in your life.  Without that balance, you can eat as much organic broccoli as you want….if your outer red circle is toxic crap, you will feel like toxic crap.  And for relationships, this applies hugely to the relationship with yourself as well as others.

I didn’t realize it, but somewhere along the way, I was fighting my inner wisdom and had sort of misaligned my relationship with self.  I was at war with my self-acceptance, my natural beauty, and now I have this “disease” that is literally eating up my colon with its own acids.  Great.  It left me with many feelings of shame, guilt, anger, imbalance, confusion and discouragement.  The strange part is that throughout this whole process, I was and am a super happy person.  I love my life and my family and friends.  But it is so hard for me to allow myself to feel true, unadulterated joy.  I often stop myself from being 100% vulnerable or 100% free.  I get damn close!  But still I stop at 98%.  That’s my move!  I stop short.  Why??  I feel….undeserving for some reason.  I struggle with the concept that I am special and that I have a right to a good life because I don’t want to come off as an entitled jerk.  What makes me different from the person who is outside, right now as I type this, without a home, without someone to take of them, shivering cold and hungry?  I am a human, same as them.  To me, my joy and amazing life is somehow a smack in their face.

I also have never enjoyed the idea that I am not in control.  Of anything.  And everything.  :)  So when situations occur where I am not in control of my body or my surroundings, I become very anxious.  Toxically anxious.  I don’t want to go to a place where I have to surrender everything.  This was a completely foreign concept for me when I was first introduced to it.  Surrender?  Give in?  Never!!??!  I am an amazonian woman warrior and I can do ANYTHING.  Give me something.  I will dominate it.  Giving in felt like giving up and I had not once opened myself up to having an experience where I had to give in and surrender.  I refused to show any weakness.

This may seem like a jump, but I’ll bring it back together.  :)  My therapist had me do an exercise the other day where I had to invite different feelings into my body, including love, guilt and joy.  Inviting love and joy into your body is one thing, that was awesome.  :)  Inviting guilt??!  I have tried for so so long to push guilt out of my body that it was a strange guest.  But it was immensely powerful to do it.  I made a few realizations with the exercise:

1–I am really good at breathing now!  I am very effective at breathing into areas, thoughts….being breathed by them is wonderful as well.  And through yoga and ujjayi breathing, I can bring these emotions in and out of my body relatively easily.  So I have that going for me.  Which is nice.

2–There’s only so many parts of your body and consequently, only so many parts of your body where you can experience emotions.  As luck would have it, love and guilt were both felt for me in my gut.  Shocker.

3–Emotions and feelings can only last so long.  Some longer than others, definitely, but they are not with you forever.  Reminding myself of that and experiencing it physically was very eye-opening.  I tried to hold on to each feeling as long as I could but eventually it just went away, no matter how hard I tried.  I feel empowered by this knowledge and it has helped me in the practice of non-attachment (aparigraha or vairagya in hippie Sanskrit yogi terms).

The fun part is that I am in the middle of this process and that I am living life!  I’m going through this seemingly tough time working my way through an “incurable” illness. (I put incurable in quotes because I refuse to believe it, despite the Mayo clinic’s warning.)  But in the meantime, I am becoming a more whole, assertive, loving version of myself.  I think I’ve been pretty darn excellent in how I treat other people in my life.  I’m trying to allow myself the opportunity to apply that same kindness to me.  I am allowed to be me and to be happy.  I know that my purpose in life is to help others.  I’ve known that for a long time.  What I didn’t fully understand is something I’d heard a million times, I just didn’t absorb and accept it: in order to truly and effectively help others, I have to accept myself.  Which means having moments of pure, unadulterated joy.  Having moments of complete, utter sadness.  Knowing that giving in and giving up are two completely different concepts.  Realizing that I am unique and special, and that is okay.  Just like this poster.

you are unique

None of this makes me “better” than the person who is homeless in the streets, it just makes me different.  (sidenote: I know nothing about this anonymous street person or their journey….why was I feeling bad about them when they could be having a completely normal or even great day?)

That “thing” that seemed out of reach just a few weeks ago when I wrote the post on my patient history is coming into focus and I am happy about that.  I am striving to set myself up for success by being honest with myself and doing what is right so I can function at an optimal level.  It is only from a place of love and acceptance that I can fully help others.  It’s the patience part that is hard now.  :)

Well.  That was a load off.  I’m going to go process now.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

I was having an urge for baked goods (my kryptonite) so I made some muffins last night that turned out to be delicious!  I did use a 3/4 cup of flour (ahh!) but they were still super clean and tasty.  Not super sweet which was what I was going for, so you can add honey once you are eating them if you want.  Here’s the recipe if you want to try them out:

Carrot-banana-walnut-raisin Muffins adapted from the “Coffee & Quinoa” blog

Ingredients

¾ cup flour of your choice (almond or 100% whole wheat would be my suggestion)
¾ cup ground flaxseed
¾ cup rolled oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp clove
2 ripe to overripe bananas
1/3 cup canned pumpkin
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup applesauce
2 medium-sized carrots, grated
½ cup walnuts (I just smashed them with my hands, you don’t want them too small)
some raisins to taste…..I didn’t measure them!

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour, oats, flaxseed meal, baking soda and spices).

In another bowl, mash the bananas (with a fork is fine). Add the pumpkin, maple syrup and applesauce and stir until combined.

Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir to combine. I added in a little bit of water here, not much.  Gently mix in the grated carrots, walnuts and raisins.

Place muffin cups in tin and fill 90% of the way full with batter. Bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and serve warm.  Tasty!

Categories: Balance, Colitis, Love, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Patient history

Caduceus

Disclaimer: I started writing this post before our vacation and did not finish it because there is so much to tell.  Consequently, I’m wrapping it up today.  It’s incredible to me the amount of growth and change I’m experiencing in my life right now after reading this and then reflecting on where I am today, right now.   I’m excited.

—————–

I’ve been reading a lot online lately about healthy living, clean eating, holistic approaches, medical approaches, stories of others with UC, surgery, meditating, medicating….it’s all pretty overwhelming sometimes.  I think it’s worth covering some personal history to maybe find insight on why it is so hard for me to stick to a relatively raw, 100% whole-food diet, paired with a regular meditation and exercise practice, while maintaining an active social life with others who are eating and drinking whatever they want.  I may be asking too much of myself.  :)  But I feel as if it is doable, just a little out of reach.

I realized after reading my posts that I’ve been focusing a lot on symptoms here on the blog and that mirrors what I did in real life.  I know now there is much more than that, that symptoms are the outcome and the CAUSE of the symptoms is what actually needs to be addressed.  However, this is easier for my brain to grab on to, I guess.  And I know the symptoms are important so they can be recognized.  So here goes: a look at my long, tumultuous relationship with this imbalance manifested in my body and known as ulcerative colitis.

I unfortunately (or fortunately, whatever) did not document a lot of the early going-ons of my UC.  From what I can piece together, when I was 22, I got sick (diarrhea-style) in mid-November of 2004.  I could not stop going to the bathroom for about a week.   So I took a few Imodium AD.  It had my initials in it, couldn’t have been that bad.  Well it stopped the pooping, that’s for sure.  Stopped it up for four days.  And when I resumed bowel activity, there was blood in it.  Awesome.  I had had a tiny drop of blood in my poop about a month prior, but nothing else seemed off and it was only the one time which was easy to write off.  This one I could not write off.  It was pretty gnarly.

The next logical step that I knew to take at the time was to go to the doctor.  I had to do bunch of tests which were super fun and completely necessary (yeah, sure).  My favorite was where I had to put a drop cloth over my toilet so I could catch my poop and put it on a tester thing over three different bowel movements.  This way they could see if there were “potentially invisible traces of blood or blood-like substances”.  So I smeared my blood-mucus BMs all over that thing, haha.  I really did laugh out loud when I was doing it because it was that ridiculous.  But they have to go through their protocol.

After the test came back positive for blood being present (who would have guessed that??), they finally scheduled and performed a flexible sigmoidoscopy where they don’t put you under like a colonoscopy, they just stick a camera up your butt and check out what’s going on locally.  If you know the colon, they go up and to the left but don’t make the first big turn.  Basically, they check out the sigmoid colon (an aptly named procedure).  They determined I had proctitis, which is local inflammation of the rectum.  After the diagnosis, I was given a pamphlet, a prescription, and asked if I had any questions.  Ummm….yes, my main question is, what the F is going on?  Actually I wasn’t super alarmed by this (my apathy is alarming to me now), I was just happy to have a diagnosis and a way to treat it.  Seemed like a 1-2 punch.  1-you have colitis.  2-take this drug and it will go away. At the time, I didn’t know it was an “incurable” disease according to western medicine, unless you have a colectomy (removal of the infected area in your colon).  The doctor may have told me that, but I don’t remember and I’m fairly sure something like that would stick in my head.  I do remember him saying they don’t know what causes it, could be genetics or who knows.  So not to worry, don’t change a thing, just take these pills and you’ll be fine.  In terms of disease genesis, it wasn’t until years later I learned the link between Accutane and UC, or links between stress/diet and UC but I don’t attribute any one thing to me having colitis.  It’s so much more than one thing.

Side story: this flexible sigmoidoscopy provided the ultimate setup for one of my favorite moments in life and also in my UC history.  My parents, the very kind and wonderful creatures they are, offered to come with me to the procedure.  After it was over, as my mom and I walked out of the hospital and toward the car, she asked me if I ever had anal sex with Jon and if I felt that may be a contributing factor to my bleeding.  I was like NO!!!! and also….why didn’t the freaking doctor ask me that???  haha.  Seems like an issue that should have come up during all of the questioning and testing that I had to do for months prior to the flexible sig appointment.  Come on.  Plus, I love my mom for asking me that question with genuineness and without making it feel weird if I had said yes.  Mama’s the best.

So there I was with my little diagnosis and my little drugs.  I started taking 3 pills, 3 times a day along with suppositories every single night.  The prescription brand name of the oral drug was Asacol which cracks me up.  Who was sitting around the table deciding that one?  “Well, it is in the colon.” “Yes, and poop does come out of your a-hole.” “What word can we come up with that sounds like a-hole but also incorporates the colon?” “I know!  Asacol!”

At this point, I had just turned 23.  I didn’t change my lifestyle, my eating habits, anything else in my life.  It was my first year out of college meaning there was still quite a bit of drinking and partying on the weekends, so I continued with that.  I also had no desire to do dishes and I was almost never in the kitchen cooking.  I lived on drive-throughs and take-out.  Cheap take-out at that, since I had no money.  I also routinely processed all of my emotions through my stomach but I wouldn’t figure that out for a few years.  The symptoms got better for awhile and then the blood started picking up again.  They put me on different suppositories.  (I was maintaining 9 pills a day mind you, through this whole thing.)  Better for awhile then the blood came back.  Switched me to medicated enemas.

These were amazing drugs.  To this day, they are the most effective medication for me.  The suppositories and enemas are not used as a long term solution for maintenance care like the pills.  They are intended to put you in remission with the pills being the life-long solution.  You administer one enema every night for anywhere from 1-9 weeks.  The first time I used them, I did a 3 week run of nightly enemas, then tapered off, taking them every other day for an additional 3 weeks, and finally twice a week for 3 more weeks (9 weeks total).  It’s strange because all of these drugs I was trying have the same active ingredient but they are administered in a different form with very different results.  There’s a lesson in there somewhere.  :)  With the enemas, I saw the blood switch off overnight.  Literally.  The enemas would go in and I could feel the entire infected part of my colon cool off while the medicine spread through like a welcome breeze.  It reminded me of the old Pepto-bismol commercials and how it would coat the tummy.  The enemas basically coat the blood/mucus areas and wrap them up in beautiful mesalamine until the blood goes away.

I was SO happy.   Here it was, the reset button I needed to have the colitis go away, have my body be happy once again and I could start fresh.  I would keep the pills going at 9 per day until I could taper off and go to 1 pill, twice a day which was my goal for maintenance.  Whew.  What a load off!  Couldn’t believe I had found relief from this thing which had now been going on for almost two years.  My euphoria lasted a few months post-enema treatment.

Unfortunately, life finds a way, or in this case, colitis found a way to keep coming back and tapping me on the shoulder. “I’m here!” it woud say.  “Pay attention to me!  I’m telling you to pay attention to your body and soul!”  But I didn’t get that message.  All I got was, “These stupid pills and enemas are not working.  I’m not going to take them anymore.”  So I stopped taking them.  I still didn’t change any emotional processing, drinking or eating patterns.  The symptoms and causes were rampant but I didn’t care.  I was in a serious state of denial.  I didn’t talk to anyone about it, I just pooped out blood everyday and went about my business like it was no big deal.  Every few years I would think to myself, “man I should really get this under control and go back on meds.”  I would then take some enemas and/or pills (even tried a different oral mesalamine prescription called Colazal, at least they didn’t put ass in the name), clear up the symptoms for a few weeks to a few months, the blood would come back, I’d get frustrated and go off the pills, cycle starts over.  What a fun, blissfully unaware, destructive cycle.  Apparently, I physically wanted someone to slap me in the face before I got any messages.  I went through this for about 6 years.

I did go back and forth to my GI and was told repeatedly that nothing could be done about this with my diet.  I even found some case studies online of people who had cured themselves with diet changes and took those in to my appointments.  My doctor told me they were anomalies and although it couldn’t hurt to try it, she did not see a scenario where I would stop taking drugs.  I trusted her for a long time.  Looking back, she was not exactly a good fit for me as a health practitioner.  :)  I never actually told her that the Asacol wasn’t working anymore because I knew the next line of defense: steroids.  I was NOT about to go on steroids.  To this day I will not.  I would rather have surgery.  I’ve seen those things and I knew, even in my most non-aware days, that the side-effects would be worse than what I have now.  Prednisone is the most often prescribed for UC patients and it works for a lot of people…but at what cost?  I did a lot of prayer on that and knew it was not a way for me.  If steroids are ineffective after awhile for treatment, then the doctors start prescribing drugs that completely suppress or weaken the entire immune system.  (6MP is a commonly prescribed one for colitis.)  A lot of these same drugs are used to fight cancer.  If those don’t work, they start cutting and remove the infected region through J-pouch or ostemy bag surgery.  This slideshow does a good illustration of the surgeries.   Again, I didn’t know much back then, but I knew this was not something I wanted to put my body through.  I feel blessed that I never was told to go through with these severe medications or surgery, because if I was worse in the beginning, and the doctor had told me to do that first thing or in the first few years…..I probably would have blindly said yes.

During this time, I had many, many nights where I would stay up doing research on the after-effects of having UC for an extended amount of time and my main concern was (still is there sometimes) having this turn into colon cancer.  I didn’t care about what was going on right now, but I was worried that if I didn’t get it taken care of then I would be at a hugely increased risk of cancer.  Most websites will tell you that having UC for 5-8 years really makes the risk factor take off.  I spent more nights than I care to remember just crying about not being able to grow old with my wonderful husband (bf at the time) or have kids or whatever just from this stupid disease.  I had bouts of anger and “why me” pity-parties and all of the stuff that comes along with chronic disease.  I knew I had to do something, but I honestly did not know what.

In 2010, I finally started evaluating my lifestyle choices.  I thought to myself, well maybe it is worth looking at this because obviously these meds are not a long-term solution.  I started going to a chiropractor 3 times a week.  She also had a background in nutrition which was a nice bonus.  First step toward better physical health: check.  Step two: exercise.  I had tried yoga a few times but didn’t like it because I wasn’t very good at it.  I am nothing if not competitive and if I couldn’t dominate yoga, I didn’t want to do it.  What I in fact wanted to do was dance, but couldn’t find a good adult studio in San Diego.  So I started going to every yoga studio in SD that offered a free week of classes.  There are a TON of yoga places in SD and it was fun to check them out.  I ended up at CorePower because they were a little more hardcore than other yoga places.  They sat down and did freaking situps in the middle of class for goodness sake.  I was in.  I joined as a member and started going 3-4 times per week.  Physical movement: check.

Next big step was food.  I honestly did not think my diet was that bad.  Plus I was thin so I didn’t have to ever think about counting calories, which of course means my nutrition didn’t matter (or so I apparently thought).  My first foray into a diet shift was an all-raw food diet at the suggestion of my chiropractor.  She suggested a 5-day cleanse (Mon-Fri) with a juice-only day on Wednesday.  I agreed, but she did not know my insane competitive nature….I said, 5 days?  That’s for lame-o people.  I’m doing it for at least two weeks, if not longer.  I lasted just under 3 weeks.  I did “cheat” and have oatmeal for breakfast for the last week.  The major thing I noticed was not a shift in UC symptoms (which did do well for awhile) but rather my ENERGY.  I had always been a person who falls asleep anywhere and everywhere.  I didn’t think it was weird.  After this 3 week raw food thing, I was bouncing off of walls, and with zero caffeine.  Almost three years later, I rarely take naps and that feeling of tiredness in the middle of the day or early evening is just gone.  I used to be tired all the time.  I am so happy I did that first cleanse just so I could see how easily my body could adapt to something new.

However, as Papa would say, that worked so well that I stopped doing it.  I didn’t realize at the time that the diet/cleanse would have to be a lifestyle change.  I thought it would be a temporary reset and I could go back to my normal food.  So I went back to eating crap food….better than before with the drive-through and take out, but crap nonetheless.  I love anything that comes out of an oven, mostly desserts and breads.  I transitioned to more salads in my lunch life, which is good and continues now, but breakfast, dinner and snacks were not balanced.  Mostly processed, refined flour and lots of meat and dairy.  Back marched in the bloody poop and I pressed on.

I saw an acupuncturist for a few visits which was immensely helpful.  Like all of my treatments, it worked for awhile, then it stopped working (sensing a theme yet?) plus it was expensive.  I know I didn’t I got out of it what I could have had I stayed for more treatments.   I would like to return to an acupuncturist actually.  I loved it.

om

Blah, blah, blah, is this over yet?  haha. I’m falling asleep yet again writing it.  There’s an om symbol so we can have a picture to keep us awake.  Anyway, at this point of late 2010, I’m starting to get the message that there may be concerns more deeply at play than food and exercise.  I experimented with even more therapies: I stopped drinking alcohol for months at a time; I slowly tried to clean up my food choices and started cooking more and more.  I practiced yoga a lot and even did a teacher training so I could teach others about this beautiful practice.  I started brewing my own kombucha (quite delicious if I do say so myself).  All came to a head this past August when I made a strong decision to not be on the meds again which I had resumed in June of 2010, this time hopefully for the duration.  I started the vegan, non-processed adventure.  I started seeing an actual therapist to work through deeper emotional issues.  Last week, I started getting regular massages.  I began the process of shifting my perspective of my “disease.”  Maybe it’s something that I need to listen to rather than be pissed off at.  What is this persistant illness telling me?  Where am I off kilter? What can I do to reverse this damage that I’ve done to my spirit and self-image?

At this point, I’m truly appreciative of having UC.  It’s like a spotlight on where and when I need to focus my attention.  My body/spirit doesn’t like that?  Pain in the butt starts.  “Look at me!  Pay attention!”  It has been a long and interesting road, but I finally feel as if I’m in a place to do that.  I have been blessed with a rewarding job that allows me to only work 30 hours a week, leaving more time for grocery shopping, going to yoga, prepping food and loving my whole self again.  It’s exciting to know that all of the necessary elements are already in my body to heal me!  I just have to set them up for success.

This has been a cathartic opus of an entry.  Bravo for sticking it out to the end.  I’m going to go eat a pepperoni pizza now.  HA!  That was a joke.

ALISA’S MUSIC CORNER

CountingCrowsRecoveringTheSatellites

I had it on shuffle but then “Goodnight Elisabeth” came on so I had to listen to the album.  It’s on “Recovering the Satellites” by Jon’s favorite band, the Counting Crows.  Before I met him, I was pretty sure CC had only written two or three songs after Mr. Jones.  Since we started dating, I’ve now listened to all of their albums about 100 times each and attended 6 live concerts, each of which was better than the last.  Adam Duritz is a haunted soul who writes damn good music and performs it even better.  I’m not sure what I did with my life before “Raining in Baltimore” but I know it’s better now because of that song and so many others.  Thank you husband.

Categories: Colitis, Patient History | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

FAQs

First of all, WOW!  Thank you to everyone who has already reached out to say “hey” or “cool” or “my other friend has colitis too!” or “we don’t care if you talk about poop.”  It has been really amazing and overwhelming to remember how lucky I am to be so surrounded by love and support from my family and friends.  So thank you.

Also, a lot of questions have already come up that I will try to answer.  In my head, the blog would be very logical and either follow a timeline or at least themes, but I can tell it’s going to be much more jumpy.  Which is fine.  Works for me.

Questions that people have about me and/or UC in general:

Does it hurt?  Are you in pain all the time?

No. I am rarely in actual pain which is great.  I do have some pain, but it’s usually when I’m actually going to the bathroom and it’s few and far between.  Much more often, I feel gross, bloated, uncomfortable, gassy and anxious.  I realized that I process my emotions through my stomach and it was my body’s way of compensating for a lot of other things. The toxins in my body love to start at my digestive system.  I also feel….pressure? I think is the word I’m looking for.  I sometimes feel physical pressure right at the rectum (which is where most of my inflammation is and where it started).  It kind of feels like I have to go to the bathroom, but really I don’t.  This is really weird to talk/write about, haha.

How are you feeling right now?

Right now, today, I am feeling fantastic.  I’ve been feeling fantastic for a few months.  On August 13, I decided to make a huge change.  I stopped taking my medication.  (My parents don’t know this yet!  aah!)  The 9 pills I was taking each day were obviously doing nothing for me anymore since I still had full flare-up symptoms every single day.  That same day, I started a super strict cleansing diet for about 3 weeks which consisted of only plant-based, whole foods.  Nothing processed, nothing else except whole, living foods.  I did cook some grains, etc.  But tried to do as many raw foods as possible.  It was the second time I’d tried to do something like this.  (I did a raw-food only situation for a few weeks in 2010.  It worked well but there were still other parts of my life that weren’t in balance so it didn’t give me full remission.)  Because of all of the balance I’d created everywhere else in my life, it really worked this time.  The bloody poop I’d been working with for so long (almost 8 years at that point) went away IN EIGHT DAYS.  Seriously.  It didn’t stay for too long, but just to have one day of no bloody poop with no medication was a miracle for me.  I was so happy.  I still am!  As of today, I typically have a few days in a row of no blood, then traces of blood, then a bit more, then traces of blood, then no blood for a few days.  It follows my period which is SUPER DUPER interesting.  Anyway, I’m off topic.  More on all of that later, but had to get a little bit out there now.

What are you eating now? Is it working?

I’m on Day 6 of another plant-based, whole foods cleanse/diet.  I hate the word diet because of the negative connotations, so know that when I say “diet” I just mean, food that I’m eating.  Anyway, I had veered off of the path for a few months (late Sept-Nov) eating some bread, a little pasta, tortillas here and there, some cheese, some alcohol….not a lot of this stuff, but here and there.  In the future, I don’t see that stuff as bad in moderation, but for now, as I’m still trying to heal, I’m going to have to be super strict.  At least until I have a better balance and my body can more easily process the hard to process stuff.

Basically I’m eating mostly fruits and vegetables, but also grains, beans, nuts and seeds.  I feel amazing and fantastic.  The hardest part for me has always been the social side.  This weekend for example, I’m supposed to do all liquids for 3 days as part of the supported cleanse.  This weekend is also December Nights, a Christmas/going-away party for a guy in my building, and the annual watching of Badder Santa which usually involves a lot of white russians for some reason (probably because they are delicious).  I have a lot of social eating and drinking in my life.  Which is super fun, but it just isn’t going to work for me right now.  So I’m working on being excited about my modified diet and owning it instead of apologizing for it.  Usually when I’m doing these cleanses, I say “yeah, I know, it’s weird, it’s sucks but whatever, it’s only for a few weeks.”  This time I’m excited to say “Yeah, I know!  It’s great, it’s making me feel better and heal faster.  I’m proud of the work I am doing!”  We’ll see how that plays out in real life!!

I have so much more to talk about but I have to go to work!  We only have a few more days of the semester and my awesome students are waiting for me to give them a test and a really cool lecture on “where do I go from here with my life?”….I love my job.  :)

Talk to you all soon!

music_notesALISA’S MUSIC CORNER

I think it will be fun to also incorporate what I’m listening to right now because I love music and it’s fun to share.  I’m obsessed with Spotify recently because of the accessibility you have to everything.  Right now I’m listening to Little Dragon’s “Ritual Union” album.  They hooked me with the song “Twice” and I love to put them on in the background when I’m working on something.  Ironically, this seems like it would probably have been played on 94.9’s old Big Sonic Chill which I hated for years.  Oh well!

Categories: Colitis | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

What is Ulcerative Colitis, exactly?

A great question.  I could go with a wikipedia answer (a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)…It is a form of colitis, a disease of the colon (large intestine), that includes characteristic ulcers, or open sores. The main symptom of active disease is usually constant diarrhea mixed with blood, of gradual onset.) This is actually a really good description.  Or medicinenet describes it as “chronic inflammation of the large intestine (colon). Ulcers and inflammation of the inner lining of the colon lead to symptoms of abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding.”  That one is good too.

What I am coming to terms with in my own life is that ulcerative colitis has really become my teacher as well as my assignment.  After dealing with my tiny little ulcers for 8 years now (eek!), I have come to the conclusion that I am actually happy that I was diagnosed with it.  Or at least grateful.  There have been so many emotions and ailments and ups and downs and highs and lows with it all…but along the way, I have learned so much about my body, my mind, my spirit, and of course, my colon.  Until a few years ago, I was pretty sure a balanced diet meant sometimes getting a bean burrito instead of a bean tostada with my double decker taco.  I was living on a pretty strict diet of stress, Taco Bell, cereal and alcohol.  And lots of each.  At this point of my life, it is the norm for me to be brewing kombucha, teaching yoga and going through my vegetables to make sure I’m getting enough colors and nutrients for my body.  Without colitis, I’m really not sure where I would be right now.  But it probably would not be at the state of awesome health that I’m finding myself in.

But back to the point….ulcerative colitis has a really wide array of symptoms that are associated with it.  Many people have to go to the bathroom 10-20 times per day with UC.  I feel extremely fortunate that this particular symptom never came up with me.  But I do have the inflammation, the uncomfortable bloating, some urgency at times, and my favorite, the blood and mucousy stool.  For a long time, I would sit on the toilet for extended periods of time while trying to poop, even though nothing would actually come out.  And when it did, it was super loud and ridiculous sounding.  I try not to do that anymore because A) it’s a waste of time and B) I don’t think it was helping the situation.

At the end of the day, my colitis is not nearly as bad as some others that I’ve read about.  But it’s not exactly ideal either.  I’ve been in a constant “flare-up” (I use quotes because it’s really more of a norm) of bloody stool since November 2004.  It has gone away for a few weeks to a few months at a time using a variety of medication (more on this later) but nothing has really stuck yet.  I am extremely hopeful that my current lifestyle choices (MUCH more on this later) will help me stay out of my “flare-up” zone.  It’s only been a few days in a row so far, but I feel so much better that the minor traces of blood that I sometimes get now don’t bother me nearly as much.

To close out, here’s a super gross picture of exactly what my colon looked like last time I saw it, except I had more mucus:

UC_granularity

my colon on colitis

Hopefully that is the last time it will look like that!!  Only time will tell  :)

Categories: Colitis | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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