Approximately 50 million Americans, or 20 % of the population, suffer from an autoimmune disease. 50 million people! The range of autoimmune diseases is vast, from rheumatoid arthritis to lupus to inflammatory bowel disease. While the diversity of diseases is broad, the common thread is the immune system. Living with an autoimmune disease has its fair share of challenges; however, the severity truly depends on the disease and the person’s bodily reaction to it. Living with an autoimmune disease has forced me to become more aware and in touch with my body, mind, and spirit. I firmly believe this has and will continue to change my life for the better.
I lived with an undiagnosed thyroid condition for the majority of my life. Even as a small child, I had signs of depression and extreme fatigue. In my early twenties, a doctor requested blood work for my thyroid. A few days later, we sat down and he told me I had hypothyroidism. I knew deep down there was more to this because my symptoms were not strictly the signs of hypothyroidism. Not settling for the “quick fix,” I decided to say no to the lifelong prescription he handed me and chose to venture out and do my own digging. After years of flip-flopping between doctors’ appointments for different symptoms i.e. heart palpitations, fatigue, weight loss, weight gain, amenorrhea, I decided to give up.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me make this clear: DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOURSELF! No one will fight as hard for you as YOU. Positive struggle, always 🙂
Many years later, a wonderful doctor sat me down after several extensive blood tests and told me I have an autoimmune disease. Welcome to Hashimoto’s disease.
I will admit I felt a little defeated at first. It’s a scary thought learning that my body is essential turning against itself. So in order to get over that phase, I threw myself a pity party! Do whatever you have to do to get those emotions out! Dance, yell, cry, kick and scream, trust me you will feel better after you release the emotions. Post pity party, I was able to clearly see how my life has been thus far. My daily life was a was an endless battle within myself–a constant roller coaster of energy, moods, focus, and worst of all, happiness.
I plowed through life because experiencing life felt awful. I hated waking up only to conjure barely enough energy to get out of bed paired with minimal desire for the day ahead. But now I had clarity, an answer, and direction. I decided I was done living life half awake, so I buckled down and researched day and night about Hashimoto’s disease. I was determined to find a balance within my body and learn how to adapt my life to my newly discovered autoimmune disease.
This is what I know about Hashimoto’s and my body. I get sick very, very, very easily. If someone near me coughs, I get sick. If I fly on an airplane, I get sick. Late nights? Forget it, I’m getting sick! I had to find a way to stop the chronic colds and cases of the flu. On the journey to finding and using natural supplements and diet to combat my disease, I knew I had to adjust my current lifestyle.
1. Let go of STRESS! Many of us know how brutal stress is both mentally and physically, but add in an autoimmune disease, and that’s a recipe for disaster. Of course, we can’t always avoid stressful situations, but I have had to learn how to slow down with breath and relax so my nervous system doesn’t get stuck in overdrive.
2. SLEEP: 7-9 hours a night. I can’t stress (the good stress) that enough! You’re body repairs and heals while you are asleep. You are not a bad person because you sleep more than 6 hours a night! Pay NO attention to those memes and quotes “sleep when you’re dead” *insert angry face*
3. SOCIAL LIFE: 2-3 nights out on the town in a row will cause my body to wear down, FAST. I had to accept that my social life was going to change. I couldn’t put myself through night after night of late nights. Learning how to honor where my health is at right now and say no was a big step in the right direction. You’ve got to love yourself first! If my job requires I have late nights, I prepare for it with vitamins and essential oils to support my immune system, nourishing foods, adequate rest before and after, and, of course, hot Epsom salt baths. * insert HUGE smile*
4. FOOD: I learned to shift my focus to eating more plant-based whole foods such as sweet potatoes, fruits, veggies, and my new favorite food: plantains (YUMMY!) With an autoimmune disease, it’s vital to get as much nutrients as possible from our foods, aiming to steer clear of inflammatory foods: dairy, grains, processed foods. For more food information, check out the autoimmune protocol.
To sum it all up: Yes, I have an autoimmune disease! Yes, my lifestyle has significantly changed! BUT I wouldn’t change it for the world. Throughout this journey, I have learned how to slow down my life and avoid rushing around doing a million things at once. I’ve learned to listen to my body and not ignore any warning signs. To take action if and when those warning signs come up, not sit in denial and hope it will all go away.
Essentially, it boils down to truly loving my whole self and my body regardless of what illness I may have. A very wise mentor once told me:
“the outcome can be much worse if you deny your illness. Team up and give yourself as much love as possible as you learn how to work with this.”
For all my autoimmune health warriors out there, know that you are not alone! Continue to learn about your body every day, ask questions, be patient and always always always love yourself.
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Photo: Kayla Adams, Rose Walker Photography, Picture Quotes