Shifting beliefs—and diet—to thrive with a chronic health condition
Technically you could say that I was an expert at being sick. At age 14, back pain incapacitated me. At 25, a perfect storm of health issues plagued me after a trip abroad—thyroid disorder, celiac disease that was undiagnosed for many years, parasite infections, Lyme disease, and a severe gastric motility disorder of the colon.
My long and winding journey through the modern medical landscape taught me so much about health, happiness and strength; it brought me to a place where I can now help others like me, who are having a tough time dealing with chronic illness.
This calling is especially close to my heart, because I know how lonely, frustrating, and isolating it can be to feel sick all the time. What I didn’t realize then is that I wasn’t alone.
According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 2 people in the US have at least one chronic health condition.
This could be anything from celiac disease to rheumatoid arthritis, from MS to thyroid disorders, from Crohn’s disease to lupus. This means that 133 million people in our country are struggling with at least one chronic condition. Pretty astounding, right?
In an effort to get well, I embarked on an intense journey through doctors’ offices, medical clinics, IV labs, fancy specialists’ offices and assorted spiritual communities. It was a huge wake up call. Did every doctor, healer, specialist and guru have my best interests in mind? Some did—some didn’t, but they all handed me big bills before I left.
I hit rock bottom the day a prominent specialist informed me that, at 27 years of age, my colon wasn’t working and they weren’t sure why, but it would have to be removed because my digestion would never be normal again. His words blurred as I crumpled to the floor in despair, and tremendous sadness.
I thought, “Why is this happening?! This isn’t part of my life plan!”
I had had it. I took a big long break from all of it. Up until that point, I had always relied on other people to figure out the plan for my health. After my big long strike, I realized that it was up to me—to be my own health advocate and take matters into my own hands. I had to grow up, face the facts, and adjust my life so that my highest priority was my own well-being.
Instead of focusing on what was wrong, I got back to basics and focused on what felt right. I paid special attention to how I ate, how I slept, how I paced my life.
I completely removed inflammatory foods from my diet, and incorporated dark leafy greens and a high alkaline diet.
I realized that just because the latest health trend or exclusive specialist worked for some, it didn’t necessarily work for me. I learned how crucial it was to focus on my needs first and surround myself with a team of professionals best suited for me. I realized I had to start questioning even the most established ‘professionals’, putting the right team together, and finding out what my individual needs really were, and putting them first.
When we are diagnosed with something, we mentally, physically, and spiritually hear that diagnosis as a limitation, something permanent that we need to adjust to, a wound that will never heal, if you will. If we believe that limitation is our reality forever and ever, our spirit will break or be injured or bruised. That is where faith and belief come in.
I realized that I had to start relating to myself in a very different, kinder, softer way than I was used to, and deeply connecting with myself again.
The childhood pain took me on a detour away from peace and into fear. I had to start to speak to myself with a more loving voice: the person inside yourself is still there, exactly as she was before the whole mess of chronic illness started. She is whole. She is your essence. She is your spirit. All you have to do to get back in touch with her is believe that things can and will change. Believe that there is a better life for you than the one you have now. Believe that no matter what the diagnosis, there is a better, more positive reality waiting for you when you open the door for it.
When you commit to believing, everything shifts, and you make room for that being inside and for a better version of life. There is a place deep within each and every one of us that contains overwhelming love, serenity, and peace. When we are struggling in our physical body and worrying about a million things that could go wrong or that might happen or that “will be,” we are completely disconnected from our heart center, where love lies, and we are living in a place of constant fear. In other words, when we’re not living in the present—we’re stuck in an unknown and unpredictable future that is controlled and rooted in fear.
The opposite of fear is love. The more we can focus on the present, the more we can feel and receive love.
Shifting your mindset, opening your heart to receive the abundance of life, and deeply trusting yourself — creates the foundation from which to build your physical self back up again (and to maintain it). Once I did this, along with creating my medical all-star “A Team,” getting to the root cause of what was causing my symptoms, treating them wisely, and establishing daily personal self-care rituals, my relationship to my healthy self unfolded in a new and fortified way.
I used to live in fear that I would always be the ‘sick chick’. Now I listen to my inner guide, make everyday a chance to move for fitness and emotional well-being, eat right for nourishment and pleasure, and connect with people who feed my spirit. You can prioritize your health, educate yourself on your body’s needs, tap into the power of self-care and live life full speed ahead. You can make the choice at any moment that you are on mission to rise up above your chronic condition to become a healthier, happier, YOU.
By finding a more mindful way to view your chronic condition, you can begin to understand the concept that healing is a process and not a destination.
You can embrace the idea that your physical body is only a part of you—it doesn’t define you. You are embarking on a journey to do whatever you can possibly do to heal your body while consciously removing the thought patterns that hinder your healing. We have to have the conviction to lead our lives from a different space—a space of yes, where our reality, no matter what our diagnosis, is better tomorrow than it is today. Believe in the possible.
Watch the trailer for Amy’s new book: