Posts Tagged With: transparancy

What’s in a diagnosis?

hello-my-name-is-001

What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  Someone smart said that once.

I have been struggling with this concept for a few years now, however in the past few weeks it has come up repeatedly for me.  A diagnosis is the first thing we ask about and want to know things are going wrong.  I did this the other night with a situation that a friend is going through with their sister.  Before I could help it, I found myself asking, “Does anyone know the diagnosis?”  In essence I’m saying, what’s wrong with her and what’s it called?  As if having a name is going to solve all the problems of the world.  That’s obviously not how it is, although it sounds very appealing.  Fortunately or unfortunately, even with a specific diagnosis, we must reexamine our entire life when something is that pervasive and life-changing (like ulcerative colitis or bipolar or diabetes or whatever) to dive beyond the symptoms and figure out what is really going on.

This blog post has been extremely difficult for me to write.  I think it’s because I see both sides of the argument very clearly, and I haven’t decided which side I want to take.  Accordingly, I’m going to break it down as if I’m writing both sides of an opinion piece.  We’ll see if I come to any conclusions….

PRO-DIAGNOSIS

Naming the Game: it’s the way to go!

When I was first struggling with my ulcerative colitis, it was a scary and tenuous time in my life.  I mean, I was 22 years old, no real history of illness, and now there was blood in the toilet at the wrong time of the month.  It was weird.  Especially considering my entrenchment in western medicine at the time, I was desperate for a diagnosis.  Just tell me what’s wrong with me so I can take a pill or have surgery and be done with it.  I heard about a case study once of a woman who was going to the doctor’s office every year afraid of cancer, despite being very healthy.  When she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 42, she reported feeling relieved.  She had spent such a long time agonizing over the possibility of cancer that once she had a category to put herself in, she felt as if she had a place to belong.  And I think that is the most powerful part of someone slapping a label on you.  Humans are categorizing creatures and it makes us feel good to have a spot to neatly classify things.  “Oh, you have XYZ disease.  Don’t worry.  We have XYZ intervention/medication and that will be fine.  Here’s a group of people to talk to with the same problem.”  By having a doctor tell me I have UC, I was given a starting point.  I could join the IBD support groups and google relevant interventions and feel good that I was part of a select cohort who could understand my pain.

In spite of a common diagnosis though, my UC looks incredibly different from all of the other UC patients that I’ve met over the years.  In fact, from the anecdotal perspective that I’ve experienced thus far, no two patients seem to express UC the same way.  Some have to go to the bathroom 20 times a day.  Some go 2-3 days without pooping.  Some eat meat and bread like it’s going out of style.  Others can only find relief in vegetables and fruits.  Some have tons of blood in their stool, some have none at all.  Some have crazy gas pains and acid reflux, others have never experienced such symptoms.

Which leads me to…..

CON-DIAGNOSIS

Name, schname: what’s the flipping point??!

The importance given to a diagnosis is downright dangerous at times, whether it be for a physical or mental illness. Many people find themselves over-identifying with their disease.  Extremists may even use it as an excuse to do or not do things.  At this point of my life/illness/balance though, I don’t think there is a single diagnosis that I could personally receive that would make me change how I treat it.  Now, this may be a bit unfair given all the work I’ve done over the last 9+ years wrestling with a diagnosis.  If I were going through this process without an initial diagnosis, would I be able to attack it in the same way from the beginning?  It’s cute for me to sit here with 20/20 hindsight and say, “Well going forward, I know this is what I would do” because I’ve already been through it.  And maybe we all have to go through it to figure out what works best for our body.  However I am hopeful that even if I had an undiagnosable disease at this point of my life, I would have solid steps and interventions to make my body the best version it could be.

I prefer to think of a diagnosis as a conversation starter.  “Hey you have schizophrenia?  Great, here’s an area to begin, only know that this isn’t the end all/be all for the rest of your life.”  Even something simple like a common cold is extremely vague and unique to the person.  There are medical and homeopathic remedies that work for one person that will never work for another.  Basically the diagnosis is nice and all, but doesn’t answer the true questions or do the real work of finding a cause and treating that.

A few years ago, The Soloist, with Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr. was released in theatres and it wasn’t the greatest movie ever, but it deeply moved me.  In 2009 when it came out, I was in a bad place with my colitis and was extremely unclear about what I was going to do next.  None of the medication was working anymore and I was feeling stuck.  The main character (Jamie Foxx) has fairly severe mental illness and it was very hard on his family and those around him who wanted to help him.  In one scene, there is a group counseling session and a character remarks:

I mean, it’s tired. It’s like they can’t find the medication that’s right for me, you know?”

Whew.  I started crying just by her saying that!  haha.  I’m emotional.  Still, it is SO FRUSTRATING despite having a “diagnosis” that doctors can’t seem to help you.  They have a honest motive, yet medicating a chronic illness is so…..ineffective.  It’s hard on the patient and the doctor.

The best scene though was when Robert Downey, Jr. was talking to the man running the support group.  He still was learning about Jamie Foxx’s condition and desperately wanting to help the only way he knew how.  Here is their exchange (I can’t find it on youtube.  It is about 47 minutes in to the movie if you own it or rent it.)

Robert Downey, Jr, talking about Jamie Foxx: What does he have, schizophrenia?

Group Leader: I don’t know.

Well, we should hook him up with psychiatric services and find out, right?

Yeah…I don’t get too hung up on diagnosis.

What do you mean?

What do I mean?

But how do you help someone if you don’t know what they have?

Look at these people. Every one of them’s been diagnosed more than you can imagine. And as far as I can tell, it hasn’t done them any good.

But he needs medication, right?

I’ll tell you one thing he doesn’t need: one more person telling him he needs medication.

This scene made a lot of sense to me on many levels. To be fair, it comes out of an exasperated situation where people are at the end of their rope.  Would the group leader have the same opinion if all them had never been given a diagnosis or talked to a professional at some point?  Probably not.  I guess at the end of the day, the diagnosis is important only as much as it can help you.  As long as you (or your practitioners and healing helpers) aren’t falling on your disease like a crutch, then it can be productive.  Writing things off simply because of a disease title…well I can’t seem to wrap my head around that one.

I’d love to hear your opinion!  Either here in the comments or in an email or in person next time I see you!  I am fascinated by this right now and want more input as my opinion forms….and then of course I’ll change my opinion 50 times after that.  :)

 

ALISA’S MUSIC CORNER

The Beatles!  Maybe you’ve heard of them?  I’ve been listening to them a lot this week.  They have so many ridiculously amazing songs; it’s hard to pick one to talk about.  I’ll pick a cover actually.  The best cover of Let It Be (in my opinionated opinion, of course) was from the movie Across The Universe.  In the movie, they took Beatles songs and made a musical with only a small amount of dialog which was interesting.  The intention and creativity behind the song choices was very well done despite the movie itself being kind of slow.

On the DVD extras, they show behind-the-scenes footage of the supremely talented woman chosen to sing Let It Be.  This is not on the youtube clip, but the director had asked the woman to simply think about the 1967 riots in Detroit and the meaning of the lyrics as she was singing.  Those riots raged for 5 days and included the National Guard, army, tanks and machine guns.  The riots left behind 43 dead, 1,189 injured, 7,200 arrests and over 2,000 buildings destroyed.  It is devastating to think about.

Wow, I must be my father’s daughter, bringing it to war culture out of nowhere!  Nevertheless it gives you a little context for this clip.  Those darn Beatles sure know how to write a moving song.

 

Categories: Balance, Colitis, Diagnosis, Healing, Patient History | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

“Your diet confuses me”

confused

I get this a lot.  Or variations on the theme:  “I don’t understand what you’re eating right now.” “Are you allowed to eat that?”  “Can you eat _______?”  Well, in theory, I could eat tinfoil and wash it down with bacon grease.  It’s just not a good idea for me at this point.  I got this “your diet confuses me” from my well-intentioned friend Jeff recently.  To be honest, your diet confuses me, Jeff.  haha.  Not really, yours is very straightforward: rare steak, cheddar cheese, Ritz, ranch dressing, Coke and dark beer.   Done.  Oh and Bombay Sapphire, of course.  :)

I think what confuses most people about my “diet” or what I eat is that it is not entirely consistent.  I change it a lot.  I cheat quite a bit now that I’m healthier and my colon is feeling better.  My food choices depend on the day at this point.  But in the end, my main goal is simply to eat a lot of vegetables.  It’s funny how the old, stereotypical message of “eat your vegetables” turns out to be my basic truth!  I would venture to say that we all need to be eating a stupid amount of vegetables.  And fruits of course.  But the green stuff just is going to help you.  Period.  The slick part is that the more green stuff you’re eating (and I don’t mean the apple flavored sour candy), then the less of the other stuff you’re eating.

I happened upon this article titled, “blah blah blah, recycled information that I’ve read 1000 times on mindbodygreen.com, etc., etc.”  Oh I’m sorry, my mistake, it was called Don’t Overthink Your Diet, Just Eat More Plants.  And here I am, super hypocritical, retyping the same message.  But you absolutely can’t hear it enough.  It’s like in teaching where you will say a concept 100 times and the student is not getting it.  But then a guest speaker comes in and says the exact same thing and the student’s like “hey, I wish someone would have told me that earlier!”  And then the teacher wants to punch themselves in the face…..but they are also happy the the student finally got it.  So I feel like if it gets mentioned enough, then at least one new person will get it every time.

At the hippie place in OB where I buy my tea for my kombucha, I was talking to the tea guy about food and eating this and that, and he gave me an example I definitely relate to.  He said he loves and drinks tea because it’s the opposite of nachos.  My reaction was of course, laughter.  Then: “What?  What does that even mean?” “Well, nachos taste amazing.  Sometimes, you really enjoy eating them.  Then later on?  You feel like absolute crap.  Your stomach hurts, you have to run to the bathroom.  But with tea…maybe it sometimes it’s delicious or sometimes it tastes like crap when you are drinking it.  But my goodness.  You feel amazing later on.”  That’s how I want my food to make me feel.  Like a million bucks.  It’s what I have to keep reminding myself of when I want to reach for that extra piece of bread or the free cheesecake that’s on the dinner table at the fancy event I went to tonight!  Hypothetically speaking.  (I ate the cheesecake, by the way.  And felt like crap later on.)

The other side of confusion is helping those who want to eat better but aren’t exactly sure how.  I am pretty good at knowing my body at this point, what’s going to make it feel good and not.  I call my diet “Food That Doesn’t Make Me Feel Like Crap.”  This handle on what’s good/what’s bad does not mean it’s super easy to stick to, but at least I have a little bit of that awareness.  Many people don’t, which is fine, but the lack of knowledge definitely can make picking out what to eat for meals and snacks a challenge.  Keep it simple, as mentioned before: don’t stress over it and eat more vegetables, as close to how you found them in the ground as possible.  I find that when I’m having a stretch of days like today where I’m feeling….not great….then I take stock of what I’ve been eating and it turns out to be mostly non-vegetable.  It’s a continual practice of bringing those foods back in, again and again.  Staying creative and making it interesting helps a lot.

Here’s to green foods and happy tummies.  Now if I could just kick that craving for dark chocolate….

ALISA’S MUSIC CORNER

This is tough because I’ve been listening to a lot of old stuff recently, nothing too new to report here.  I will say that it is the 30th anniversary of Thriller coming up in December.  I was only….1.83 years old when the video came out, which means I didn’t appreciate it right away, but I love it.  I use it often when I’m teaching College Success courses because it’s around this time of year that they learn about note taking.  I make them practice taking notes with the Thriller video!  I learned today that it was the first real music video ever aired by MTV.  Talk about setting a high standard.  Geez.  That thing is epic.  So basically, I listened to a lot of Michael Jackson today.  Truthfully, this was all set off because John Mayer covered a slow, bluesy version of “Off the Wall” when we saw the show last week.  It was great and that song has been in my head ever since!  Enjoy.

Off_the_wall

Categories: Colitis, Food and Diet, Outside viewpoints | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

One year later

calendar

A peek into my day today:

  • Wake up!  Hooray, I’m still here!
  • Take two probiotics
  • Go to the bathroom….another great bathroom trip!
  • Get dressed, grab my fresh green juice and head to yoga
  • Have an awesome yoga class with one of my favorite teachers, Tara
  • Come home, eat a homemade Clif bar, finish my juice, get ready for work
  • Simmer my ayurvedic tea for 10 minutes before putting it in my adult sippy cup
  • Head to work, eat leftover yellow curry with lots of veggies and brown rice/quinoa for lunch
  • Snack on nuts, dried mango, grapes, fresh orange/carrot juice
  • Come home, take my multi-vitamin, triphala and curcumin with aloe vera juice
  • Put the SCOBYs into the new batch of kombucha I started last night
  • Eat a salmon burrito and black beans with my beautiful husband
  • Write a blog entry
  • Take one more probiotic
  • SLEEP!

Whew!  Why is today so important that I felt I had to chronicle the whole thing?  Because today is the official one year anniversary of me not taking any medication.  It completely snuck up on me!  It doesn’t seem possible that I haven’t had a hamburger for a year.  How have I survived?  It has been an interesting road.  The experience has been a struggle at times, but worth every second in the end.  If you could look back even just a few years, this daily routine would have seemed ridiculous!  I mean, everything I do is shrouded in hippie-ness.  I love it, it’s just odd to reflect back on how much has shifted over the years.  Gradual changes and tiny steps… and then one day you look around and it’s all new!

I need to once again thank YOU, my friends and family for your seemingly unending support during this last year.  You have all been really patient with my strange food behavior and my sober ways.  Especially when I was being uber-strict, it was tough to maintain socially.  But no one ever made me feel bad or weird or whatever for doing what I was doing.  In fact, it went the other way, where many friends and family members shifted their own approach to food as a result of this blog and how I’ve been eating.  Most notable are my two amazing parents.  Over the last year, my dad has lost 100+ lbs, my mom completed yoga teacher training and actually started some self-care practices….my dad is even walking!  These are things that I used to only dream about.  I’m insanely proud of them.  So thank you to you all for making that happen through your understanding.

In terms of the colitis itself, I keep getting better and better!  This last month in particular has been really smooth and virtually symptom-free.  It’s pretty incredible.  I’ve already started to ease up on my eating habits, and have transitioned into being more flexible with bread or cheese here and there.  I’ve even had a few drinks!  Gasp!  haha.  Still no meals of steak and ribs or anything like that, but I found that I was becoming a little obsessed with the food I was eating.  And as I am constantly reminding myself, it’s not ALL about the food.  I didn’t want to develop an eating disorder, which I could feel brewing.  So I instead found patience with myself, allowed a moderate amount of processed foods to enter my body and I took them in with love.  For the most part, it is okay when that stuff happens.  I can feel in my body where it is off after I derail from the plan, but the whole system is nowhere near as sensitive as it was.  It’s pretty exciting.

At this time last year, I was having 3 or more painful bowel movements per day that were mostly or entirely blood.  I wasn’t even moving real product anymore.  I had the “burny butthole feeling” virtually all the time.  I was bloated, gassy and pretty sad about the whole thing.  I was still taking 3 pills, 3 times a day of asacol and its effectiveness had gone to zero.  I knew I had to make a drastic change (well, many drastic changes), but even so, it was a risk.  Thank goodness it paid off, and then some!  I’m so glad it did.  What a difference a year can make!

Here’s to many more years of learning, growing and continuing down the path of healing!  Cheers!

 

 

ALISA’S MUSIC CORNER

Rent

 

I think it’s safe to say that I grew up listening to the musical Rent.  I think I’ve seen it three times?  I forget.  But I must have listened to the soundtrack at least 200 times (almost as many times as Les Mis).  Every time I hear “Seasons of Love,” I fall even more in love with the whole show, and most of the time I end up in tears.  I can’t think of a better, more fitting measurement of this last year, medication free.   Measure in love.  Enjoy!

Categories: Colitis, Healing, Patient History | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Supplementary manifestations

Light on the end of railway tunnel.

Supplementary manifestations….sounds more lyrical than “new stuff,” or “current updates” doesn’t it?

There’s a lot to share, but I’ll try to keep it to a reasonable amount of words.  I had a follow-up appt with my GI at the beginning of the June (seriously, has it been that long since I wrote on here??).  He went over the photos with me and re-iterated how well everything is going.  Two things that stood out:

1-I don’t actually have any ulcers right now.  What?  Yeah, apparently it’s just inflammation and mucus.  Although this is good news, it is confusing and frankly, disorienting….which is probably a good thing.  I think it makes for good character development to have your freaking world rocked every now and again.  I’m so used to identifying with these damn tiny little ulcers that I have to now redefine myself.  Do I have to change the name of my blog?  Maybe I should dye my hair a new color.  Do I have to get all new friends and buy new clothes?  I hope not, it all sounds like a lot of work.

2-the “healthy” part above the inflammation is still classified as “inactive colitis” according to their biopsies.  Although this should not have come as some huge surprise to me, it did.  Basically, this stuff doesn’t go away easily, or at all.  It’s like the UC is saying: “Hey, in case you forgot, I will be with you for THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.  Just making sure you don’t forget and F things up again!”  I realize it’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but goodness, it would be nice if it just freaking went away already.  And for good.

The doctor patiently explained again why a daily medication would be helpful.  It would reduce the chance of another bad flare by 50%.  He likened it to a vitamin that you take in the morning, just to make sure everything is running smoothly.  He explained it as a topical intervention….it goes directly to the colon, where it needs to and only affects the first few levels of cells.  The one he wants me to take is not an immuno-suppressant like many other UC drugs are.  It’s safe and relatively harmless on paper. He complimented me on all of my hard work and said I was 90% of the way there.  This just helps you get to that last 10%.  It all sounds very natural and easy when he says it.  :)

Fast forward to a yoga class I took on Saturday with one of my favorite teachers.  After working us really hard for 60 minutes (I thought I was going to die a few times during the flow), he had us sit and meditate.  He asked us to think about our greatest teacher in life.  What it is that keeps us inspired and focused.  What keeps us coming back to our mat.  He asked us to thank those teachers and pay respect to all of them.  I just sat there and cried like a crazy person.  I have had amazing, humbling, brilliant teachers.  But none of them comes to close to changing my life like UC has.  What choice do I have but to be grateful for this annoyingly efficient teacher and spotlight?  And I’m close.  I’m ridiculously close.  I’m 90% of the way there.  I don’t want to turn it off now with a prescription.  I’m still a work in progress.  Maybe I always will be.  But at least I’ll have found my way by listening to my mind, body and spirit.  I know what I’m doing may not work for everyone, but I am absolutely happy that it’s working for me.

Which leads to my other MD appt I had in June, this time with an integrative, Ayurvedic, yoga teacher who just happens to be my new primary care physician.  She is amazing.   I am grateful to have her on my side.  We had a two-hour appointment where she went through the most comprehensive health history that any doctor has ever walked me through.  She (ironically? fittingly?) said the same thing as my GI: Alisa, you’re almost there, we just need to tweak that last 10%.  The HOW was different though.  She prescribed VSL#3 which is a behind-the-counter, super strength probiotic.  I didn’t fill that prescription either.  I’m so stubborn!  haha.  I already have a probiotic that has been working great for me, therefore I’m happy with it, no need for the VSL.  She did make a number of recommendations that I am following, though.  In terms of herbs, I’m now taking triphala, curcumin (turmeric) and aloe vera juice.  I’m also supposed to be doing a digestive tea daily with fennel, coriander and cumin, but I’m still working that one into my routine.  In terms of lifestyle, she recommended more restorative yoga, warming foods, soothing activities, and of course, less stress overall.

For today, there is a growing light at the end of the tunnel: I won’t always have to have colitis as a reminder to be nice to myself.  It’s fine for now (that’s for you, Papa!) but it’s not exactly a sustainable situation.  Knowing that makes it that much easier to let it go, which I’m doing slowly.  I’m learning how to be a real person, functioning in a healthy way on my own, without the help and guidance of my colitis.

ALISA’S MUSIC CORNER

Does it make me a teeny-bopper if I love the new Bruno Mars song?  Is that who buys his stuff?  I don’t even know.  I’m not saying I celebrate his whole catalog, but I’m digging his new wannabe Michael Jackson/Earth, Wind & Fire song, Treasure.  I never got into disco music overall, but this song is just fun.  Check out the music video and you’ll swear it’s actually the Jackson 5 dancing around.  Despite what I said on my last post, I do love when people rip off other people and do it just as well or better.  So keep on rocking it, Bruno.

Bruno-Mars-Treasure-Video

Categories: Balance, Colitis, Healing, Love, Patient History | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Colonoscopy prep

First of all, thank you for all the kind texts, emails, comments and in person comments (real life comments? is that allowed?) about my recently reported reduction in inflammation.  It is truly amazing how lucky I am to have such great people in my life.  Thank you.

Also, many people have been asking about the colon cleanse that I went through instead of taking the drugs that were prescribed for the procedure.  I did not make this decision lightly, and no I didn’t consult my doctor on it.  I did write him an email about a week prior, asking if there were any alternative supplements or anything like that I could take, but didn’t exactly let him in on my plan.  Like so many things in life, I figured it would be easier to ask forgiveness than permission.  This was a dicey maneuver on my part, I realize that.  But it made no sense to me (still doesn’t) why you would ask someone who has diagnosed UC to take such a strong laxative.  Many UC patients have daily symptoms of diarrhea, bloating, stomach cramping, and painful passage of stool.  Then the doctor wants you to take something that induces diarrhea, bloating, stomach cramping, nausea and for many people, vomiting, anal irritation and painful passage of stool (which, granted, probably just comes from all the pooping).  To me, it just doesn’t add up.  Additionally, every single person I talked to who already had a colonoscopy said things like: “The prep is the WORST!” “Good luck, the prep is terrible!” which didn’t add to my excitement.  As a result, I decided to take matters into my own hands and change it up.

There is a decent amount of work that went into the prep, so I created a new page for it.  I hope it serves as a good reference if you ever want to take on this challenge for yourself.  I will say that it was a challenge.  As you may remember, I tried a three day liquid diet in December and it was too hard to stick to.  I didn’t get into too many specifics in that post, but it was a difficult time emotionally, physically and mentally.  I broke down after only a day and a half and made soup for goodness sake.  I didn’t take it seriously enough and was still trying to maintain my everyday life, despite taking in zero calories.  Now that makes no sense.

This time around, I had a larger incentive to “do well” because of the scheduled colonoscopy.  If I didn’t clean out my colon, they couldn’t see what they needed to, and I’d have to reschedule the whole thing.  I did not want that outcome.  Plus I knew that I was breaking new ground by not going the normal route.  I wanted to be an example for other UC peeps to follow (and anyone else that may want to try it for their own colonoscopy).  I was very mindful of clearing out my calendar, and only committing to one social event for the weekend, which is a big deal for me.  I knew I had to let my body fully relax and come into a place of healing on its own, without trying to add in extra stressors.

Check out the new page, feedback is always appreciated and encouraged.  :)

ALISA’S MUSIC CORNER

Over the last year or so, I’ve been semi-obsessed with Allen Stone.  One of my favorite live songs of his is a cover of Bob Marley’s “Is This Love“.  The arrangement is just killer, beautiful harmonies, etc.  The other day, I was watching an old episode of Parenthood (I love that damn show) and in the background, I heard a woman singing the same freaking arrangement!  I immediately jumped on the google machine to figure out this mystery and it turns out that Allen Stone is just ripping off Corinne Bailey Rae’s version!  Granted, he still kills it.  His is a much bigger production with the band, etc.  But the concept was hers…I think?  Who knows, really.  Kind of goes back to an old argument that I’ve had with Jon and the Pirazzinis over whether or not a song is “better” if the person singing is the one who wrote it.  I still stand to the fact that just because a person wrote the song doesn’t make it inherently better when they perform it.  Some songwriters are terribile performers.  Some performers are terrible songwriters.  But for better or worse, wind was definitely taken out of my sail when I found out the innovative arrangement I fell in love with at an Allen Stone show had little to do with Allen Stone himself, other than his great taste in covering cover songs.

Oh yeah, back to what I was listening to.  :)  Corinne Bailey Rae on Spotify, of course.

corinnebaileyrae

Categories: Cleansing, Colonoscopy, Patient History | 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

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