I started my podcast and blog about 9 months ago in an effort to deal with my depression and anxiety and hopefully help other chronically ill patients advocate for themselves. I’ve come a long way baby. I still struggle with depression and anxiety of course. I’ve learned that this isn’t something that just goes away, and every day brings something new. What I’ve learned is there are techniques to tackle these kinds of issues and the more I learn, the better I feel. Each guest on my podcast has helped me to understand my struggles and has taught me at least one new technique, concept, or exercise. Each guest has taught me something about myself and made me not feel so alone. In August of 2022, I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue this life with this disease and this pain. The struggle just felt overwhelming. Crohn’s disease and the many health issues I’ve been diagnosed with since have felt like obstacles too difficult to overcome. Today, I’m putting together everything I’ve learned from my guests and friends to forge a new life. I’ve been calling this phase of my life “Operation Get My Life Back.”
The first and most important thing I’ve learned is to ask for help. I have never been the type of person to show weakness, vulnerability, or ask for help. The easiest way to remain stoic is to just ignore the problem. That is exactly what I did. By not admitting that my disease was very real, very serious, and it was going to change my life, I took away the most important step in my journey, acknowledgement, and grieving. I never grieved my former life and waiting ten years to go through that journey has really taken its toll. If I could go back in time and speak to my newly diagnosed self, I would tell her to take the time to grieve and then make deliberate decisions to work the Crohn’s disease within my life rather than revolving my entire life around the Crohn’s. The next most important thing I’ve learned is gratitude. No, I’m not grateful for the numerous health issues I face. No one deserves this and it is, in fact, not fair. I’ve been dealt a difficult hand in life and that is a truth that cannot be changed. I can, however, live my life with gratitude, an important lesson I learned from Holly Bertone. I don’t have to be grateful for my disease or other challenges to be grateful in life and I’m learning how to live with gratitude. I’ve started writing down what I’m thankful for as soon as I wake up and it has changed my outlook on the day. The most life changing thing I’ve learned is “Ahimsa”. Emma Polette taught me this concept and I’ve been trying to apply this to my life because I just can’t keep doing myself harm. Instead of beating myself up for skipping a run because I hurt too much or taking a nap because the fatigue is overwhelming, I accept that I just need rest. This has been the most dramatic change in my mindset. I’ve been hard on myself since birth, and it only became worse after my chronic illness diagnosis. I’ve learned to take a holistic approach to my treatment from Potomac Psychiatry, Dr. Rashidian, Dr. Debra Stroiney, and so many other guests. My diseases are incurable but I can use my mind, body, diet, and approach to life to help me to feel better. I always ask my guests what they wish they knew when they were first diagnosed and the one consistent answer among them all is, there is hope. You can live a full life. Operation Get My Life Back is all about living a full life. I’m reclaiming my autonomy by making conscious decisions and putting my life back on the track I want to be on. There has been so much change in my life. Friends who have not seen me in many years probably wouldn’t recognize this vulnerable, open, and emotional person. They may not even believe that I made decisions over the past ten years in reaction to my disease rather than conscious decisions to do what I want. Ten years ago, I would have never admitted that I was unhappy and not taking control of my own life, that I was a slave to my disease and circumstances. Today, after so many great guests and friends helping me, I can admit that I’ve been unhappy and lacked control but I’m working hard to get my life and a degree of autonomy back. I’m focused on being happy and being grateful for the life I have. There is hope, I can live a full life, and I’m ready to be the best person I can be. Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, nerve damage, and all.