When I was 16, I was diagnosed with infectious mononucleosis.
At the time, I figured it was a typical case of high school contagious "mono," better known at the time as the "kissing disease" that would require a necessary amount of R&R to recover. Once I felt better and made a "full recovery," I immediately jumped back into the normal routine of overdoing it as a high school junior with my nonstop schedule. I was balancing school, dancing six days a week, and other extracurricular activities — all while trying to have a social life.
Currently, I have been diagnosed in more recent years with not only celiac disease but also chronic Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), better known as chronic fatigue syndrome. Living with this virus in my body is, unfortunately, something I have had to accept — that my energy won't make a full recovery until I am able to figure out a way to kill the virus completely. It feels like an intrusion on my life, having something that won't leave and wasn't invited in the first place.
I have worked with a handful of herbalists, acupuncturists, naturopaths, integrative physicians, and functional medicine doctors in an attempt to ease my symptoms. However, it has been a constant cycle of repetition with one step forward and two steps back over the past several years.
I am tired, fatigued, and sick of feeling this way all the time.
I am so limited in what I can actually eat that anything other than a strict Paleo meets FODMAP diet is the only thing that allows me to get through each day symptom-free (for the most part). Besides my gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free diet, I have also found that most legumes, sugar, alcohol, grains, nightshades, and caffeine also set me back, causing my energy and body to suffer in response. I struggle each day trying to understand why this has become my norm when I was once such an active, energetic person.
I have found that my calling and true passion in life has transitioned into healing not only me but others who suffer from similar diseases and illnesses. In my opinion, our stress loads have hit an all-time high, primarily from the amount of information thrown at us on a regular basis all day long.
My full-time job has become taking care of myself, worrying about what foods I put into my body and hoping that I have enough energy to handle an hour or so of working out. There are some days when I can walk a few miles, take a dance class, and wind my day down with restorative yoga. Other days, though, I can barely find enough energy to move from my bed over to the couch. There isn't any rhyme or reason as to why this is happening, other than the occasional day when I forget to take one of my many supplements prescribed by my doctors to help alleviate my symptoms.
When I made the choice to commit to healing myself once and for all, I realized that all the noise around me in my life was causing this constant pressure, the pressure to look a certain way, to reach an unattainable criterion for my way of being and living. I can still feel my spine start to tingle and my energy weaken the minute I allow the stressors in my life to take over.
The world today is much different than it was 50 years ago. We have the media shoving information into our brains and putting so much pressure on us to be perfect. Who decided it was healthy to force ourselves to get things done on days when we don't feel good and need the take the day to relax and recover? We put such a demand on ourselves to accomplish so much in one day alone that we don't even know how to unplug anymore. How can we release control of being superhuman and honestly and openly let go?
One word: meditation.
Sit with yourself and your thoughts. Allow them to come and go with no judgment. I was trained in Transcendental Meditation (TM) last year, and it has been the one thing that has actually changed my life. I feel the control being released throughout my spine and nervous system where my virus lives.
I can feel myself relax into knowing that it's OK to let go. If that means that I'm going to fall asleep, so be it. It doesn't mean that I am going to miss anything; it just means my body clearly needs to decompress and rest.
I know what you're thinking. What if I don't have time to do this? I can't quit my job and meditate. Let me tell you — you CAN find the time, and if you really want to feel better, then by all means, eat lunch at your desk and take those 20 to 30 minutes of your lunch break and go sit in a church, park, or empty conference room with yourself.
Sit somewhere quiet enough that you can actually allow yourself to feel safe and let go. If this isn't an option, then instead of forcing yourself to go work out after work, take the day and meditate instead. Your body needs it. All of our bodies do with the current state of the world — and your body will start to crave it once you develop a regular practice.
You owe it to yourself to make self-care a priority, and working out too much and overdoing it in general when you don't have the energy increases your cortisol levels, counteracting why you need to exercise in the first place.
Please be gentle with yourself and recognize that you are human. This is all a process, and you will heal. You just have to prioritize what matters at the root of who you are. The best way to work through all of your insecurities, fears, doubts, and judgments is through meditation.
Through meditation, you will develop an inner knowledge and crank the volume up on your inner voice in no time. This has allowed me to enjoy the journey, one day at a time, knowing that truly everything will be OK and it will work out.
I am proud to say I have become a healer, and I know this is only the beginning of what's to come in my life. And that I believe is the reason for all illness: It teaches you something invaluable that nothing else can.