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The Upside of Dis-ease: What Living with an Auto-Immune Disease has Taught Me

Never judge a book by its cover. This sounds obvious and trivial, right? I will admit that I have committed the crime of making snap judgments. I like to tell myself that I make them intuitively, but I KNOW there have been times where there was no validity for my judgments other than my own ego. Living with an auto-immune disease has REALLY put this into perspective for me. On one hand, I need to be grateful that those around me value my strength at such caliber. I am seen as someone who gets stuff done! The downside of this is that even though these people may know about my condition, few of them really get what that means in my life. Because, for the most part, there are not many visible signs, people don't understand what my fatigue means. They say, 'oh yeah I'm tired too but I'm still going to do it.' Umm no friend, that's NOT how my fatigue works. If I work past my energy level, I will get sick and feverish, 9 times out of 10. Not to mention, how do you explain to someone for their comprehension, about your skin hurting? Oh yeah sister, this shirt on my back feels like its poking me in a million places. No big deal. At first (and still at times) I get angry at the lack of impact that my communication of my symptoms can have on those around me. Those closest to me rarely ask how I am doing with my health, because I am seen as superwoman. I have learned to take this as a lesson of growth for myself. A deep understanding of what it means to judge a book by its cover. We do not know what others are going through, but trust we all have our own hardships. The best thing we can do is have a deep desire for compassion. Compassion towards others and of course ourselves.

 
The body's desire for balance and healing. As I mentioned, with diagnosis of illness comes A LOT of emotion. Emotions including sadness, anger, and even maybe a little relief. At first, I was so blinded by the emotion that I did not realize my body's deep desire to be whole and healed. As I started my research and implementing changes in my life, I began to hear more clearly the message of my heart. ONE deficiency in an essential vitamin can throw many of our body's systems out of whack. For example, a deficiency in zinc can lead to a compromised immune system, hair loss, impaired cognition, rashes and the list goes on. To me, this illustrates the grave importance of balance. This also illuminates the fact that in many ways, we are dealing with disease from all of the wrong angles. With statistics rising of auto-immunity, are we really getting better at diagnosing or are we possibly simply becoming more deficient? Food for thought.
 

Living in the presence of now. I have fought tooth and nail to be as healthy as I am. Then I came to a massive realization...WHY am I fighting what is? You see, although I have made leaps and bounds in my healing, I still experience EXTREME exhaustion, chronic infections, and times where just about standing up takes the life out of me. I get so frustrated during these times because if you know me personally, I put the buzz in busy bee. With my new realization of surrendering to the reality of the situation, I have come to have a deep compassion for myself and my body. It has also allowed me to truly understand the gift that that is called the present. I MUST always check in with my body and listen to her messages and needs. If I don't listen and I continue to fight and push, I wind up sick in bed. Listening compassionately and presently has allowed me to become friends with my disease. I have had massive awakenings since my 'diagnosis' and boy am I thankful.

 
Our illusion of freedom. To elaborate on my last point, are we really getting better at diagnosing all of these chronic illnesses or are variables present that have led to an increase in these illnesses? I'd like to point out another grand lesson my 'dis-ease' has taught me. The glass ceiling in which we live. America is known as the land of the free and the home of the brave. I think that motto has been replaced with the land of the sick and the home of the media-driven masses. On a daily basis, how many advertisements do you think you are bombarded with? Have you ever thought of the effects these bombardments may have in influencing your choices? Interrupting your cognition? And maybe, just maybe, what if what was being said was dressed up fancy for the purpose of 'selling'? Let's talk food for a minute, shall we? It is my opinion that if a food needs a commercial and ONLY appeals to the emotions as a selling point, then WATCH OUT. Coke promises a more invigorating life with the purchase of their products. Let's take it step further. WHY are the very companies, whose products actually INCREASE your chances of cancer and other illnesses, raising and donating money to cancer research? Do we not see the conflict of interest here? Lets remember back to grade school science when we are taught that we can control the outcome of a study by controlling the variables in which we include in the equation or experiment. So, lets make this connection. Company A chocks their products full of cancer and learning disorder promoting chemicals, and THEN they are going to fund research for these diseases. And the outcome my friends, will ALWAYS be in their favor. Genetic predisposition has led us to believe that we are doomed to hereditary diseases. However we know now that 40-60% of our genes are influenced by outside influences. Which means, we can actually break the cycle of inherited disease. This also shows us of our responsibility when it come to our own health. We have a responsibility to be mindful of all of the chemicals we're putting on, around and in our bodies. This allows us to see through the false advertising and base our decisions on facts and label reading. (make sure you know what you are looking for!)
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Yoga is more than just bendy moves.  

 

My first experience with yoga took place when I was a freshman in high school. My step mom had bought some DVDs and was practicing herself. She said it was really relaxing and helpful for her body. What I remember witnessing was a lot of foreign ways to put your body into different positions. I was confused, but intrigued all the more. I started trying it myself, and at first, great frustration accompanied my practice. I soon realized there must be a mental aspect to yoga that I was missing. One that was more about willing your body into the poses, rather than forcing contortion. I practiced yoga on and off, and when I was at my physical worst, I decided to give it a try again. At first, I started by just breathing air into the parts of my body that I could not feel, or that were extremely tight. I began to envision movement and relaxation of my rigid muscles. I would then incorporate stretching if it felt right that day. I very quickly fell in love with the practice. Finally, 5 years after originally practicing yoga, I decided to take my first class in a studio. I researched some studios in the town I was living and was immediately drawn to one such studio. The second I walked into that yoga space, I felt hOMe. I knew I was where I was suppose to be and every experience with that studio since has been a blessing. I am learning and feeling the deep undulalation that yoga provides within our body and spirit. I am practicing my yoga ways off of the mat too, because as I said, yoga is much more than just some bendy poses. It is a mind, body and soul experience that has the ability to transform your whole life if you have the power to trust. I eat in a more yogic way, I speak in a more yogic way, and I practice being more connected in a yogic way.... taking my practice off of the mat and into the real world.

 

Energy is everything.  

 

This seems like a relatively easy statement to grasp. However, since living with an auto-immune disease, this statement has taken on an entirely new meaning in my life. I have become so aware of energy around me and within me. I made the decision that in order to heal my condition, I have to find a way to bring more energy in than I am putting out. Seems simple, right? Well, let me say again...energy is EVERYTHING. Meaning every word that comes out of my mouth, every conversation I have with another, every thought I think (good or bad), and the list goes on. My point here being that when we decide to consciously refill our cups before letting it run dry...energies began to shift. You start to notice which relationships are pulling the life out of you, and which ones leave you feeling recharged. You are acutely aware of the tasks in your life that do not bring you joy and again, those tasks that make you feel like you are pulling teeth. I have come to a personal realization that I just simply do not desire to live a life of those practices that drain my energy and life force. Of course this has called for A LOT of rearranging in my personal and professional life, but the energy is good my friends, real good.:)

 

Love & compassion for myself. I am not sure why, but this has always been a difficult responsibility for me. To love myself, unconditionally. I seem to notice every detail about myself that is out of place. I have been driven by living and working in a world where visual appeal is EVERYTHING, and if you aren't just this way...well then you are basically a failure. So that's how my journey of self-loathing started, mixed in with always being tall AND the new kid. I've faced teasing and bullying most of my younger years in school. Those are things you assume you grow out of, except many of us do not. We allow that pain to guide our choices in how we are dressing, speaking, socializing, etc. It may take us a long time to acknowledge this pattern of living through our past fears, but for me getting sick blew that all out of the water. Really, I can say, for the past few years I have been confronting Danae Demons, sometimes on a daily basis. One of the times that I was having a flare-up and laying on the floor in tears and pain, I started praying. This was a typical practice for me, prayer while in pain. I'm so glad this has become an even more regular practice. This particular time, I begged God for some solutions and in return I would make a promise. My promise was to share my experience of my healing journey. I promised that I would be completely humble and vulnerable in sharing what has worked (and not worked) in hopes of leading others to less pain and more peace. I promised that I would devote my life to learning more about the causes of pain, and to create solutions based off facts and my heart-filled desire to serve. Little did I know that this promise would equate to me facing those Danae Demons, regularly, so that I could become even more cleansed, vulnerable, and able to see clearly past that which is keeping me stuck. As I watched my shortcomings, like a personal movie play before my eyes, a plethora of emotions would sweep over me. At first, I was mostly disgusted! Look at those memories you tried to hide! Look at that 'flaw' you're exposing...put IT AWAY!! As I am learning more about my condition and guiding others to healthier lifestyles, I have starting viewing those personal movies from a different viewpoint. Now, I have a deep compassion for my trials. 'WOW Danae! You did THAT and now you're HERE?! That's pretty terrific sister, I mean DON'T do that again, but lesson well learned!' Much different than crucifying myself for each indiscretion. I know changing my viewpoint and loving myself deeply has been and will be a special key that unlocks exponential healing over me.

 

Acknowledging the strength in vulnerability and humility.  

 

As I mentioned earlier, I have been the butt of many jokes and target of ridicule. From a young age I understood, on various levels, that I stood out from the rest. I made a decision to fit in, to look and act like most everybody else. To practice what others saw as 'cool'. Looking back, it really became an obsession. Always having to leave the house with a full face of makeup, outfit on point, and an attitude that came with it. In reality, all I was doing was masking my pain and fear of rejection. When your body starts responding to you by giving out or getting sick, everything you think you know flies right out of the window. Before, I found strength in uniformity and fitting in with the crowd. After falling ill, I knew that crowd would just trample me. Again, in my praying times, I was asking God how to rise above my current situation. I was told and have been shown that my path to healing lies in my willingness to share my vulnerability through humility. How can I share with my friends how these situations have improved or manifested in my life? What message has the Lord given me that may help someone else through their hard times? Should I really tell them about my experience with THAT?! The good news is, God also gives me some very hilarious situations to experience, making it MUCH easier to be vulnerable when you have a funny story to go with it. Each time I share something that I was afraid to share, my strength is acknowledged through the feedback I receive. The truth is my friends, deep down we all have the same fears. We all find ways to sabotage our happiness, and we are all looking for ways to live more from our hearts rather than our ego.

 

If you desire a particular outcome, you will have to pave your own path.  

 

I thank God consistently for my inner voice that led me off of the beaten path that's called 'traditional medicine'. If I had been 'traditional' I may not be writing this blog today as I wholeheartedly believe my quality of life would be drastically diminished. There was something inside of me that 6 years ago told me my diagnostics were NOT correct. I have refused to believe that my health would continue to deteriorate as a result of my conditions and dependency on medication. I knew in my being that there were answers and causes for my situation. I knew that with a HUGE faith and a humble heart, I could find peace and healing. So my real journey began. I have been building my path stone by stone. Sometimes I have to use a machete to cut back all that stands in my way, but here I am, 7 years later and in many ways in better health than I have ever been. Paving your own path is not for the faint of heart, but it is always deeply rewarding.

 

I am more than just this body. Paving my own path has led to many realizations that otherwise may have gone unbeknownst to me. One of which is the presence of my physical body. For a long time I just assumed my body should work perfectly. When this was tested, I was left feeling completely betrayed. I let this betrayal and negative feelings reside in my being for awhile, until I realized the contribution those feelings had to my overall health, or lack of wellness. As I began to question my state of health, many layers were peeled back. Underneath it all, I realized the delicate dance of the human spirit and body. While I was denying myself the right to feel my emotions and validate my pain, my cells, nervous system and immune system began to cry out. At the time, I was so numb to the pain that I did not realize my contribution to my illness. Through this heightened awareness, I have made the connection between physical ailments and those of my soul. The greatest discovery was just that! I am not just my body. I am a soul; a glowing, thriving, manifesting goddess that had the courage to speak up and remind my body of the intrinsic relationship between the two.  

 
Phew!! There you have it! Some of the MANY ways my 'dis-ease' has actually led to more love, strength and understanding. Thank you so much for allowing me the space to share my vulnerability and I hope at least one of the reasons inspire YOU to view one of your life situations from a different, more hopeful view. Leave a comment on the blog or on our facebook page. Keep your eyes peeled for many, many new additions to Nutrish'N on a Mission coming in the next few months. :)


Sending you all lots of love & healing,

Danae
Miss Nutrish
 

Friday, June 13, 2014