I always saw myself as a strong, athletic woman who could get through anything. I grew up as a ballerina, dancing hours a day in my mother's dance studio. The rigorous dedication that required gave me the discipline necessary to push through pain, despite injury or illness.
As I got older and became a mother, I found a more delicate way of life through yoga, and decided to become certified in 2008. During my certification, my body gave up on me, and I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
Having never heard of the illness and despite my concerns and apprehension toward Western medicine, I took my doctor's orders and started treatment right away. Most rheumatologists believe in treating the disease vigorously with harsh immunosuppressants, increasing the chance of remission. My body rejected the pharmaceuticals, and the lines became blurred between the disease itself and the medicines' side effects.
My journey continued, and the pendulum swung the other way as I gave up on Western medicine and did everything Eastern to heal myself. I gave everything to the macrobiotic way of life. I became a guinea pig and investigated every aspect of my physical and spiritual lifestyle. I hit rock bottom, eventually becoming unable to walk; at 5'10" I was barely 100 pounds.
Unable to move or care for myself, I had no quality of life. That's when the real work started. The tools I acquired during this time eventually got me to where I am now. There's no pill or remedy; it's an ongoing lesson. I've been in remission for several years now and thrive on sharing the wisdom that I attained during one of the hardest times of my life.
Here are the top five things I did to heal myself.
1. I changed my diet.
It's not about becoming a vegetarian or going gluten-free. It's a mixture of factors unique to you. Taking into consideration your heritage, your blood type, where you live and your personal experience with certain foods. Being aware of allergies or negative reactions to certain foods is essential. Often what we love most is what we're allergic to, or what is causing the pain and inflammation. If your instinct is telling you something isn't good for you, then listen to it. The sicker you are, the cleaner your diet needs to be.
2. I overhauled my lifestyle.
Take a good look at your lifestyle and the people in it. Toxic environments or relationships are like poison to the body. Everybody is predisposed to certain illnesses but our environment and lifestyle can trigger them and bring them about sooner than need be or at all. Positive changes in your daily routine need to be made in order for their to be positive changes in your life.
3. I got moving.
I find that most people with autoimmune diseases are attracted to high-intensity workouts and pushing themselves to the extreme. Rheumatoid arthritis makes the immune system to over-respond, causing pain, inflammation and eventually deformation. Overworking the body can entice the immune system to overreact. Finding a gentler way to move on a daily basis is key and when the body is not physically able is when you need to listen, go internal and do the work within. It's essential to get in some moderate exercise to keep the joints lubricated and mobile, and adding in meditative stillness is great as well.
4. I started setting boundaries.
Set boundaries and limits on expectations for yourself and others. Know that it's OK to say no, and, most importantly, don't have guilt when you do say no. Self-care and self-love aren't selfish, because you can't serve from an empty vessel.
I truly learned these boundaries when I became a mother. I could no longer say yes to everyone, as my son was my number one priority. But until he came along, I never felt worthy to say no on my own. Know that you're righteous, and having self-love and boundaries is vital for your journey to optimal wellness.
5. I stopped comparing myself to others.
Everybody has her own regimen or recipe to have their body work at it's optimal performance. You're a rare piece of china and need to be treated as one. You're a sensitive antenna and feel everything on a higher vibration, so you need to treat yourself with love and compassion. Refrain from comparing yourself to what others are able to get away with in abusing their bodies. Treat your body as you would a child, and nourish it with good foods, compassion and lots of love.
The ability to heal yourself is far greater than anybody has given you permission to believe.
Photo courtesy of Marcel Indik