How I Finally Healed My Chronic Illness When Nothing Else Worked

Written by Shannon Conway

Photo by Stocksy

A few years ago I was hit with a huge health crisis, right as the economy was collapsing, destroying my small business. I went from being a happy, healthy yoga entrepreneur to a depressed, anxious, socially withdrawn shell of myself. I was unable to eat almost anything. My hair was falling out and my fingers and heels were peeling.

Every time I ate something that didn't agree with my newly fragile system, I felt as though I had swallowed knives and was left physically and mentally fatigued for two to five days. Today I am fit and healthy: I walk 12 to 20 miles a week and practice vinyasa yoga four days per week. I healed my own depression, too.

The secret to bringing myself back to true health eluded me until I applied the principles of my yoga practice to my own healing. Using skills I'd gained through becoming a student of yoga, I healed myself.

Margaritas are Paleo and grain-free. You’re welcome.

Solving a health problem while feeling horrible feels downright impossible. I spent thousands of dollars trying to figure it out—Western medicine, naturopathy, countless tests, acupuncture, infusion therapy, restricted diets, online and in-person classes, books and supplements, and on and on the list goes.

Many of those therapies and lessons proved useful tools in my ultimate cure. Part of my issue was Hashimoto’s disease, and I now have protocols to manage it. But I never would have gotten that diagnosis, nor would I ever have truly gotten better if I had not learned to really listen to what my body was telling me.

You won’t get the answers you seek just by talking to your doctor, naturopath, or acupuncturist, though those relationships can be valuable parts of your toolkit. You won’t find the answers in a supplement bottle, though supplements can be helpful for balancing out dietary deficiencies.

The true prescription for healing—the key—is learning to listen to yourself and cultivating a repeatable set of practices that works for you. Healing starts at home.

The secret to feeling good is simple. The challenge is in cultivating that healing practice and sticking with it. For a long time, I didn’t consider myself qualified to share what I have learned as a healing modality because I'm not a nutritionist or even certified as a health coach.

But I have been in the trenches of illness and know the bliss of wellness. I understand how to create a personal path to absolute wellness. It’s totally accessible.

Here are three practices you can start today to cultivate a sustainable path to healing:

1. Laugh. As hard as possible.

If I need to laugh, I usually start by texting something funny to someone in my humor posse. We have been cracking each other up for years, and we all know it’s the best medicine. You need to laugh hard enough to totally change your mental state. I like the immediate hit, which is why I usually go for texting—texting something funny to someone funny gets a response that gets me into a silly state of mind rather than a serious one.

If no one is available, Pinterest memes are a quick alternative. Videos are my last choice because they’re unpredictable and too long—if I need humor, I need it right now. In those moments, I go for ones I've seen before—like Ryan Gosling cracking up in the alien abduction sketch on SNL—that got me through a few tough days last winter. We used to have Legally Blonde showings in my house on difficult days.

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2. Think about the meal that sounds most nourishing to you.

For me, it’s greens and grilled organic chicken or grass-fed beef if I'm feeling triggered (meaning I ate something that didn’t fit into my tender belly’s accepted items list). If I’m not triggered, I might take myself out for a quiet dinner, alone with a book or magazine. I’m empathic, so if I'm recalibrating my nervous system, I have to be careful about how I spend my energy.

Margaritas are Paleo and grain-free. You’re welcome. Make a plan for that meal. No excuses—nothing can get in the way of you having that meal tonight, and you need to finish it before 8 p.m. Eating after that time can stress your digestive system. Stop it.

3. Plan tonight's sleep right now.

Commit to a sleep hygiene plan that includes no digital devices for 30 to 45 minutes before lights out. Finish all water consumption by 8 or 9 p.m. so you don’t have to wake up to go to the bathroom. Allow only soothing experiences in your world after 8. I had (and still do have) an ironclad rule with my two daughters born of years of single parenting: no difficult conversations after 8.

That includes late-night requests to go to Michael’s or Target for supplies. Train your kids by setting this boundary and enforcing it. You need peace and quiet to let your system wind down and prepare for rest. Our lives are busy and we're overstimulated. After the time you set, your home is a haven for winding down and sleep preparation.

I have a refrigerator magnet that says, "Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day that says 'I’ll try again tomorrow.'" Rest is the most healing thing you can do for your body and mind. Make it an absolute priority.

Try these three tips today, and start feeling better as soon as you sink into a deep, restful sleep tonight.

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