I consider the life I am living now my third life. Why? Let me explain.
My first life was rather short. I was born 10 weeks prematurely and a few days after my birth, I died (I think I had a heart attack). The doctors brought me back – I guess the universe had some plans for me – and this marks the beginning of my second life. In it the usual things happened – I went to school, graduated from college, then got a job, etc.
But on 18th of October, 2012, the life as I knew it was over. I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (a form of inflammatory bowel disease); after colonoscopy the doctor said I might have Crohn’s disease. It’s a rather unpleasant disease – meaning that when it is active, you get abdominal pain, diarrhea, there might be blood in your stool, you can throw up (not because of food poisoning), you can lose weight rapidly, you can have non-healing sores in your mouth, you are tired, etc. There is no cure for it at the moment, there are only drugs that help you reach and stay in remission.
The doctor didn’t say much about the disease, only that I could no longer eat fresh fruit and vegetables. This really hit me hard because I absolutely adore fresh fruit and vegetables! In fact, a year prior to getting diagnosed with this disease I cut back on meat and usually had a big bowl of salad for lunch, and I looked forward to it every single day.
I felt that I could not live the life I wanted to, I felt that the disease would control my life, instead of me being in control which is hard for a control freak. If I couldn’t eat fresh fruits and vegetables, what could I eat then? And where would I get the necessary minerals and vitamins? It still is something that I wonder about. Never eating fried or greasy food again is not a problem as I was never really a fan of them. When it comes to sugar (they say it is supposed to worsen the situation), I must admit that I did and still do have a bit of a sweet tooth, especially during my period. But when you weigh the pros and the cons, you get the strength to resist …. most of the time. 🙂 One of the most challenging things is trying to figure out what you can eat – just because you could eat something before the onset of the disease, it doesn’t mean that you can eat it after you’ve been diagnosed; and just because you can eat something today without any problems, it doesn’t mean that you can eat it in one month or vice versa. When you search the internet, you can find some diets that are supposed to heal it, but not everyone gets the same results, and because there are quite a few diets, you don’t know which to follow. At the same time, they often include food that the doctors say you should avoid, which leaves you puzzled. Testing food can also have a downside – if certain food doesn’t agree with you, your intestines hurt, you can get cramps or diarrhea. It’s not pleasant having to go to work in the morning while having to go to the toilet every 5 minutes.
The second challenge is getting to know what causes it so that you can avoid it in the future. The trouble is that not even the doctors know – some say it’s a genetic disease, some that it is caused by the environment, others that it’s autoimmune, some say stress plays an important parts, etc. Looking back on how I lead my life a few years before the disease, I can see that I worked a lot, with stress being on the menu almost every day, and I didn’t really give myself real downtime. I wasn’t kind to my body, and in return my body wasn’t kind to me. I would say that stress had a big part in me getting this disease or in setting the first flare up.
So, what can I do to avoid stress, or to minimize it? Avoiding it completely seems a dream because life in general can be stressful, and not everyone sees the same situation as stressful so it is hard to predict how your body will react to a situation. Just imagine having to perform in front of a crowd – some might get nervous and visit the toilet a few times, while others would have no problems. Then, everyone can also handle different amounts of stress – some more, some less. What I’ve noticed is that I can no longer handle stress as well as before, so what I now have to figure out is how to make my body not react severely to (even small amounts of) stress, and how to minimise stress in general.
I am not trying to fight this disease, I am trying to walk hand in hand with It. I know that many have succeeded so I know that I can, too.