I have always had a love/hate relationship with my body. I was the girl who never liked what I saw in the mirror, so I would self-sabotage any chance I got. I would purposely suppress any emotions my body would try to bring to the surface because I felt it was easier than dealing with reality. I would abuse my body through food and alcohol because at the time it was easier to handle, and honestly I had no self-worth. I was miserable and I knew the life I was leading wasn't serving me or allowing me to live to my highest potential, but I didn't carry the confidence to make a change.
Ironically, it wasn't until I was staring down a life with chronic illness that I would finally start to see my self-worth.
I never thought that I would be faced with chronic illness, or become an autoimmune disease advocate helping women all over the world reconnect with their bodies and live a life free from disease, but I've learned that the universe ultimately has a bigger plan. I'm grateful for my disease every day because it allowed me to have a deeper understanding of my body—to finally love and embrace it, along with the life I've been given.
Illness has a way of changing us from the inside out, allowing us to see the blockages that occur in our lives. Here are five life lessons that my disease has taught me and, hopefully, can help you whether you're living with an autoimmune disease or not.
1. True healing requires introspection.
We often look at the blockages in life such as finances, health concerns, and relationships and think we need to fix the issues externally. In my experience, unless we start to take time to sit with our thoughts and feelings and work through them on a deeper level, life will stay the same. The sooner we start to have a deeper connection to ourselves and start listening to our bodies, the quicker we can start to transform and heal the blockages in our lives. Take time to sit in stillness daily, or even journal your thoughts and see what comes to the surface; you may even surprise yourself with what deep emotions are brewing under the surface.
2. The company you keep can either help your healing or drain your energy.
I was lucky to notice early on in my healing journey that the friends who I thought had my best interest at heart weren't there when I needed them the most. Any healing journey can be really isolating, especially disease, but it also gives you time to assess the areas in your life that may not be best serving you. I was able to see that it was better to have one true friend who supported me through the dark times than have a group of friends that weren't there for me when I needed them the most, or worse, drained my precious energy when we were together.
3. Compassion and empathy help release negatively charged emotions.
I've always felt deeply, which is both a blessing and a curse, but one thing it's taught me is that the way we show up in this world is important. Fear, jealousy, and other negative-based energies will only drain you and, to be honest, those emotions are part of the reason disease occurs in the body in the first place. To rise above and come from a place of love—not only for others but for yourself as well—takes courage. If we let fear and ill will rule our minds, the only one we are hurting is ultimately ourselves. Don't forget the past, but rising above and seeing yourself and others from a place of love helps energetically raise the vibration so we can start to heal on a deeper level.
4. Magic happens all the time—don't miss it.
Before I was diagnosed, I felt like I was walking this world with my eyes closed. I always felt that I just existed and lacked that passion everyone else seemed to have. Later I'd realize that I couldn't see my purpose clearly. When I became sick with my autoimmune disease, I could see the world from a different angle and was able to be receptive to the magic and the wonder in my life. I began to enjoy sunrises and sunsets, witnessing the magic that nature could teach me. I would spend time with loved ones and just be in their presence and listen to the stories they would share with me. I would read and get lost in the words of some of the most creative writers and poets. All this magic had been right in front of me all these years, but I never bothered to notice until my disease gave me a different perspective. It's important to see magic as a daily occurrence because then you start to realize how truly blessed you are even in spite of hardship.
5. Self-care is not selfish; it's essential!
We spend our lives constantly putting other people's needs before our own. We tend to put our self-worth on perpetual hold, and our self-care last simply because, deep down, we don't actually believe we should take the time to do what makes us happy. But, how can you give 100 percent of yourself to others if you won't even give it to yourself? It's necessary to take time to do the things that make you happy, and how can you enjoy your life and be content within yourself if you are constantly living your life for someone else? It's a sure-fire way to burn yourself out and will lead to disease. This life is here for you, and it's not selfish to put yourself first; it's necessary for your health and to live a life that feels authentic to you.