After living with an autoimmune disease for over a decade I have experienced both living well, and not so well during that time. I’ve had periods of flares, years of remission and years of soul-growth and healing. Each of your personal experiences in living well with a chronic illness will have parallels to mine and yet also be different. There are a few key factors to living well with an autoimmune disease that have profound impacts on daily life. They are spiritual, mental and physical aspects that when all working together help me to live the best life possible.
Life is such a funny thing. Maybe it’s the interconnections of the social sphere’s maybe divine intervention and purpose, but the world seems so small when we think about how we are brought together. I’ve never met Dominique Stratton, but when she reached out about contributing to Soul Power, and I immediately read her blog, I knew that her story was one of power and relatability. One that only she can share. Little did I know, that she actually is the sister of a woman I went to high school with! I had no idea, until I saw her sister share a totally “bragging rights” post about Dominque’s blog, a mental life. I couldn’t believe it. What a small world. I know that her vulnerability and REAL talk about depression and mental illness is going to have you all shaking your heads in agreement and uttering, “hell yes”. But I’ll let her do the rest of the talking :)
6.8% of U.S. women, less than the age of 34, have high blood pressure; a statistic that I never imagined that I would be a part of at the ripe age of 28. Happily married, in the throws of a master’s degree program (nearly finished), and less than a week into basking in the emotional sunshine of newfound motherhood, I knew I was strong, but strength hadn’t reached its full potential in my life. It wasn’t until this year, that I’ve realized what strength truly encompasses. How beautiful it would be to grow as strong as an earthed tree, yet avoid all the tears and turmoil it took to get there; maybe in another life.
Self-care isn’t selfish, it is however, a choice to actively love yourself through actions, practices and rituals. Self-care is about learning refinement of how best to take care of yourself, not about attaining perfection. This comes from a deeper commitment to love yourself. It doesn’t matter whether you love every inch of your body, or if there are certain things you’re working on to better yourself. It is a strong connection to honoring yourself for where you are right now. It is a deep, loving support of yourself so that you can live with intention and peace within your life.
It’s the season of cleanses, juices, and fasting. But no worries, I am not here to tell you to stop eating or to go on any diet plan. No in fact, I tell my clients the exact opposite. I took my time in healing, and yes that involved various aspects of food restrictions, and there are a good many foods I still choose not to eat at this current time. That’s my own choice, and you should feel confident and empowered in your own.
No, instead I am all about helping people figure out what to ADD to their life, both in diet and lifestyle to bring even more joy, energy and health. This green juice is exactly one of those things.
Some people either love or hate okra, but maybe you haven’t even tried it! Oh this is exciting. If you love it already, then this recipe is definitely for you and if you’ve not liked it in the past I encourage you to give it another shot, that ultra slimy feel and taste that cause most people to shy away from okra is not present here. Just simply delicious flavor and a decent crunch factor.
Okra of course reminds me of my Southern roots. It’s gotten it’s popularity in America as a fried food mostly or a vegetable addition to soups, stews and gumbos. Hailing from Africa, these pods were prevalent in the Southern states.
I love them because they are so versatile. They’re great fried up with onions, added to my morning soups, chopped in a fresh salad, or like here, roasted with plantains!
Confession: A month and a half ago I hit rock bottom. I wasn’t feeling well at all, in fact I was feeling worse than I did when I started acupuncture with joint pain but also digestive issues and I began having other strange symptoms as well like rashes, insomnia, diarrhea, and weight gain. I started feeling like a fraud. Like this “healthy lifestyle” and acupuncture really wasn’t working for me, and questioned whether in fact it was making me sicker?
Through this journey I’ve done a ton of research on acupuncture, Chinese Medicine and especially on what to eat. I looking deeply into all of the symptoms I was having, talking to my acupuncturist about the different things I was experiencing and asking her what I should be doing. One day as we were talking we started a conversation centered around my childhood. I explained to her how crazy it was growing up, I was sick a lot, but not just with a common cold but with really random diseases like the Measles, Chickenpox, Fifth disease, Cellulitis, Shingles, truthfully the list is exhaustive. It was a light bulb that shed brightness into the shadowed problem. This whole time we’d been focusing on eliminating a potential parasite or candida when in fact there were other problems specific to me that needed addressing.
I hope to explain a bit about acupuncture for you all and the benefits of acupuncture for autoimmune diseases as many of you have been curious of my ongoing treatment. Understand that I am not an expert on this and I do not have all the answers, but I present to you my understanding, research, along with my personal experience.
A major component of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is qi, pronounced as “chee”, sometimes it is spelled as chi. Qi is vital in all things and has aspects of matter and energy. The qi in the body represents and measures the vitality of a person. There can be qi in foods as well, though that may be a topic for a different discussion. In the words of Paul Pitchford, “From a therapeutic standpoint, there are several functional aspects of qi. It is warming and is the source of all movement; it protects the body, flows through the acupuncture channels and maintains the activity of the body systems and organs. Sources of qi in the body are three-fold 1) from food; 2) from the air we breathe and 3) from the essence of the kidneys, some part of which we are born with.” Qi simply put and the way I understand it is the energy that moves within you, keeps your organs and systems moving and working together. How well we use qi depends on how we live our lives, what food we eat, our attitudes, mental state, relationships with people, and experiences.
To better understand how it all works, we must also understand yin and yang. Everything can be described in terms of yin-yang principles. It is rare for someone to be defined as only yin or only yang since they work in congruence together and when health is attained they are in balance. With autoimmune diseases in particular we know that there is an imbalance in the body simply because the immune system cannot recognize self from non-self invasive cells. Studies have shown that acupuncture can help to restore the body to homeostasis aka balance in the body.
Yang is associated with active, masculine, outside mind, light, time, heat, energy of the body, function to name a few. Yin on the other hand is passive, Earth, substance, inside, body, feminine, dark, cold, blood, to identify a few. Everything is whole in nature, and it’s the balance of yin and yang that makes them so, as one cannot exist without the other. Since this is all a bit complicated to understand, and I am deep in the learning process this video explains it visually, which helps for my learning style.
Acupuncture works to stimulate the blood flow, which helps to stimulate the body’s capability to heal. Acupuncture practitioners can use pulse diagnosis tests to identify different areas of the body that need work, certain pulse reads can indicate the areas of imbalance. A person can be too yin, or too yang in certain areas, the goal is to activate the qi to return the energy to a whole balanced state. It helps to activate the stagnant areas of the body to move and/or release the qi to get the body systems and organs working together in balance.
Acupuncture is a very personal and intimate experience but there is no doubt that it helps with anxiety, depression, chronic pain and disease management. Chris Kresser explains perfectly HERE just how acupuncture works to alleviate pain.
“Genetically the body is not designed to be in chronic pain. It will do everything it can to get us out of pain. Acupuncture “reminds” the body how it should be functioning, and helps its powerful inbuilt pain relieving mechanisms kick into gear. It’s a bit like jump-starting a car. You’re not changing how the car works, or even adding anything to the engine. You’re just giving the battery a little jolt so the car can run how it’s supposed to.”
My First Acupuncture Treatment
I was nervous the day of my first acupuncture treatment a back in November though, I’m not afraid of needles. I’ve spent the last nine years of my life getting stuck for blood drawings, infusions, and self-injecting medications. Needles were not my issue. Truthfully, I didn’t know what to expect and most often, the unknown causes anxiety. What happens to your body when the needles go in? I knew the science of it, but I didn’t know how it would pertain to me as an individual.
Going into my initial session I had no idea how I was going to react. As I talked with my acupuncturist we addressed the main issues I wanted to focus on treating, my arthritis (Ankylosing Spondylitis) you can read how that affects me here, leaky gut and digestive issues, hypothyroidism, adrenal fatigue and amenorrhea. I was feeling like I had no energy for life. The day to day was draining me and I had no space for anything extra. Fortunately she is extremely sensitive, detailed and thoroughly discussed how each of these problems made me feel. I instantly felt a connection with her and it put me at ease. It was as if I had known her for a long time, I was only returning to see and be comforted by an old friend.
Her explanation of how my treatments would work helped me to understand more of the process of acupuncture. While I hadn’t yet committed to a full treatment plan I was seeing her for the first session to gauge whether it was something I really wanted to do for a longer term. She explained that during the first few sessions we’d be working towards getting the stuck and negative energy currently inside of me out, so that my qi can move properly throughout my body.
With hypothyroidism a major symptom is sensitivity to cold and coldness of the extremities. Most often my hands and feet are icy cold even if the rest of my body is warm even if I am covered up with blankets. I understand now there isn’t enough qi in my body to reach my extremities and warm up all parts of my body, the energy I do have is working overtime to take care of other things. Simply staying warm is a task and for the qi to reach the ends of my body is low on priority right now. She explained that the first few sessions she would leave the needles in my body on the pressure points for a longer period of time. Depending on the treatment the needles can stay in, or simply go in and come right back out.
The first day I saw her I was having terrible digestive upset, I was eating nutrient dense foods, doing yoga and all the “right ” things, but still my stomach and intestines were in knots. When we began treatment she started in my abdomen by placing needles in the lower two sides near my hips, one at the bottom of my sternum and another at the crown of my head. She told me to just relax for 15 minutes and covered me up with the blankets in order to keep me warm (remember extremities). What felt like a half an hour passed and my anxiety began to stir.
“ I am having a really hard time just laying here, being here with myself,” I didn’t even realize what I was saying but it all began pouring out of me as if these were words I had spoken at another time. I then said, “ I’m feeling like I do when I have my regular MRI’s to check my spine for bone fusion,” and at this point the tears began to roll away from my eyes. She asked what that feeling was like and began to release the blankets from each of my sides. The tears continued to stream steadily and while I was not hysterical, everything inside of me was screaming, “Get up, get out, move you have to MOVE!”
“It’s really hard being trapped, in there, not being able to move,” I said to her as she laid a tissue by my hand. “It’s really scary not being able to move,” I repeated and she replied “Have you experienced that feeling at other times?” BOOM! “Yes,” I said muddled with tears. Instantly I was 15 again unable to walk, my fingers curling into my hands, unable grip, students laughed and whispering behind my back, completely out of control and trapped in my own body unable to move. During those times I felt like a hostage inside my own body.
“It’s terrifying to not be able to move,” I told her, “it’s my biggest fear of all.”
It’s the most powerful and emotionally draining experience I’ve ever had, but my digestive upset was completely alleviated. It felt as though I was on the table and talking with her for over an hour and I wondered how I had been there so long, but it was only 15 minutes. In confusion and disillusion I left, exhausted. My body had done so much work and energy had shifted so much by the time I made it home that afternoon I crashed.
The important thing for you to know is that this doesn’t always happen to people. This is not necessarily the norm. From my understanding people can have extremely emotional releases during acupuncture but more often than not they don’t. This was simply my experience, my body has so much depleted qi because of all of these issues, arthritis, hypothyroid, potential parasite, adrenal fatigue, lack of blood, let alone the day to day activities and showing up in the world, emotional stress and past experiences buried deep inside of me. This may be the case for you too, but it’s completely individual. And I should mention that this strong of an emotional release has not happened since, there have been other things, but not like this.
I felt so light after. Regardless of the extreme fatigue, I felt a weight lifted off as me as if I had been keeping someone’s secret and just got to vent with my best friend. However, the fear of not being able to move is not something I even knew I had. I have never given a thought to it consciously before. Sure, the prognosis for my disease is spinal fusion and being wheelchair-bound, but what caused that fear was having experienced immobility and that experience along with the emotions attached to it have been stored in my body ever since. I just never realized it consumed me. Yet it’s an epiphany for me, I have this new understanding of myself, of why I enjoy movement through yoga, why traveling and physically relocating makes me feel alive. It’s the freedom of moving that I love, and the loss of that which terrifies me in every aspect. I understand deeply my motivation for everything I do, the way I live life, the way I eat, the way I treat people, how I care in my relationships it truly comes back to a determination to always be mobile.
I instantly knew after this session that I needed to commit to further to a treatment plan. What I learned of myself in one single appointment was revolutionary and now what I have learned after a consistent two months of treatment is invaluable. Dr. Perlmutter a neurologist and author of the popular book Grain Brain put my perspective into words perfectly,
Acupuncture has given me more insight into the why’s of my health challenges more than any other form of treatment I’ve sought out before.
I am still deep in this journey and I want to provide you with the best information to make an informed decision as to whether acupuncture is a treatment you wish to pursue. Since it varies to every individual experience I want you all to know how much it has truly affected me, and though I do recommend it, I also encourage doing thorough research, looking into your acupuncture’s credentials and mostly trusting your intuition with your decision as that is what led me to mine. In my next post on acupuncture I will discuss where I am now after two months of continual treatment and some more of what I have learned along the way about autoimmunity, vitality and myself.
Occasionally, the outer sphere of my eyes appear blue. The deeper part of my iris changes from light to a deep green hue. Since there isn’t a hint of grey to them they aren’t really considered hazel, and I like to think that sometimes makes them more of a light emerald-green.
I spent my day yesterday doing things I love. I started with a nutritious breakfast, I sipped on liver supporting tea, challenged my body to an hour yoga practice, cooked and meal prepped, did a little detoxing from social media, and set my 2015 plans. I planted this baby jade succulent as a start to the new year, new growth, for prosperity and relationships.
Jade is one if my favorite stones, the intense green reminds me of my eyes as a window into the deepest parts of me. Something I can say I love about myself.
Most of the time, I am fairly easy to judge. I don’t hold back with facial expressions and generally vocalize my feelings. But I have yearnings that many would not know and just as my eyes, these desires are unique to me.
But I don’t think it’d be too far out there for me to say that many of you feel similarly. There are things we want so badly they almost make us desperate. Often desperation leads us to an entirely different path and sometimes not even to what we wanted in the first place. In desperation there is no definition to thoughts. I’m not saying that out of desperation cannot come resolution, but in the moments where desperation consumes us we are not able to articulate what it is we’re actually looking for. We’re basically just resolving to look for anything.
I struggle, personally with this. My mind shuffles in a figure-eight only slightly less symmetrical and unorganized, intertwined with other interjections resulting in a tangled mess. In yoga just before you’re about to end with meditation, and the instructor tells you to “quiet your mind”? Yep, that doesn’t happen for me. In fact it’s usually the exact opposite. I become anxious in hoping to slow down my thoughts that it pretty much defeats the initial purpose since I am constantly repeating “hush”, “shh” or “shutup” to myself. Really nice, right?
I now realize it’s not really quietness I am seeking, its clear thoughts, clarity. I’ve been searching for this feeling for a long time. In fact, I think it’s one of my deepest desires. But I didn’t know that until a few months ago. Not until I was able to look at how I want to feel in life directly correlates to what I want to accomplish, experience, and be as a human being.
To seek out what you want in life, there has to be intention.
I was given this journal inscribed “believe in yourself” just after I graduated college by a woman whose grace and strength I admire. The pages are filled with scribbled thoughts, stories and memories. But this journal also holds an entirely different meaning to me.
I actually didn’t start writing in it until the end of 2013. For a while I had let go of writing entirely. I was uninspired and lacked drive for something I loved. When I opened the first page I decided that it was about time I look at all that I had accomplished during the past year.
As I began to write about all the achievements, all the small meaningful experiences, the moments of happiness, I realized I had done an awful lot that I wanted to. I wasn’t sure what to attribute this to other than an extreme determination on my part.
It felt so good to write it all down on paper. I’m a visual person and seeing all that I had done in a year accumulate on paper was gratifying. So then, I wrote what I wanted to see accomplished in 2014. I wrote in the journal throughout the year, but I never once looked back at that page.
So when I opened it up yesterday to read it with a fresh perspective I noticed that most of what I had written had nothing to do with goals I had set the previous year, but rather things I had truly wanted. And even better, what I had written in hopes to do, I did.
It was neat to see, by writing a clear intention for example – save XXXXX amount of money I then validated in my mind it was something I wanted. But reflecting on that I now I know what I truly desired was the sense of security that comes with having that money saved.
And I didn’t constantly remind myself by looking at that page or berate myself with expectations of saving, I did it because having that security was more important to me than buying a new pair of shoes (an admitted weakness of mine).
So this year, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to outline my intentions, as I had done before but I wanted to focus on the feelings that directly correlate with those goals. This is how I came to know and love Desire Map Journal and the Desire Map Day Planner.
I’ve followed Danielle Laporte for over a year now and am constantly deriving inspiration from her #truthbombs and the way she uses words draw up the inner desires and get people to be in tune with what they’re heart is saying. Everything she puts out there resonates with me.
“You are worthy of your desires.”
“Get clear on why you’re chasing what you’re chasing.”
“Shift the focus from ‘being loving’, to: ‘being love itself’.”
“Declare your intentions.”
“Truth & freedom are first cousins.”
These are all just a few examples of her #truthbombs that she sends out in her newsletters and posts on social media. They always seem to arrive at the perfect and unexpected times for me. If you like these, you may also like her #truthbomb card deck.
The Desire Map Journal is unlike any writing tool I’ve ever seen. There are tons of pages for space to fill with your thoughts, and sentiments. The special part of this journal is the way it uses words and quotes to stimulate your writing. I gave this as a gift for Christmas to my Mom and good friend, and each of them said how much they loved this journal simply because they aren’t writers, but felt like they could actually stimulate writing from the text on each page!
One quote I especially love,
“What do you know for sure? With every cell of your being, what are you so certain of that you would holler it from the edge of a canyon, or whisper it into the ear of a just born New Year’s baby?”
I just LOVE THAT! It gets you thinking, writing and not just “stuff” but deep, meaningful, true words that matter to YOU. Who cares if it matters to anyone else!
When was the last time you thought about how you want to feel?
So yesterday I outlined the way I want to feel using my Desire Map Day Planner. This planner focuses on how you want to feel, everyday and relates them to your major desired feelings and goals for the year. It generates ideas in ways to help your lifestyle, relationships, how you can serve, and generally how to be most productive to get what you want! I can tell already this is going to serve me well because I love outlining and planning my day, but being able to reflect on my life, what I am grateful for and how I can feel amazing all in one place is even better.
I wrote these feelings:
Beautiful and alive, deeply loved, joy, well, inspired by fears
and this is how those feelings translate into my intentional 2015:
Live with less “stuff” and more meaning
Create a business I am proud of
Help others see themselves as the light and love of their souls
Travel and write for and from my soul
Extend my personal physical and emotional healing
This isn’t exclusively ALL I want to do in 2015 either but they are clear action points of intention I had for generating the feelings I want to cultivate for myself.
This can be anything and I believe you can have what you want if you set clear intentions to get there. For me, it helped to stop focusing on whatever end result there was going to be, like lose ten pounds in three months. And instead now on how attaining that goal will make me feel, joy, well, beautiful, alive, loved, etc.
So if your goal is to get stronger for example, some of your desires might be to feel beautiful, to feel strong, to feel empowered, to feel alive, or even to feel well.
When you understand it’s a feeling you’re chasing it makes the result so much more accessible and achievable because now you know exactly what you’re searching for.
Wishing you all love and a happy New Year!
If you are looking for more resources related to attaining your goals you should check out the Family Resolution Revolution bundle. I have promoted it on social media because it has over 40 resources including Paleo cookbooks, essential oil guides, yoga instructions, healing methods, lifestyle changes and special discounts. People who have already purchased it say that it’s by far the best bundle they have ever bought, and they are constantly blown away by the overwhelming amount of information for such a reasonable price.
For your information, there are affiliate links included in my post. I’ve included them so you can access the resources I have talked about, but also so the seller knows that I referred you to them. You also may noticed there are image links to these same affiliates on my sidebar. This is so you can easily access them, and see what they look like. I don’t offer or represent anything I don’t already own and love, so please know that everything I recommend is for a genuine reason and belief in the product. These links also help in serving to support me and this blog! Thank you!
I am staring at a blank screen thinking about all the things I want to say – how can I tell the story of my disease in a way that you can understand? It’s an ongoing theme in my life, and for many I believe, to seek understanding. But the reality (at least my reality) has been that most people don’t understand. So writing about my journey so that you might know how my autoimmune disease affects me is difficult, but I’m not going to shy away from that.
I was 15, a young naive freshman in high school who actively played sports and enjoyed being around a multitude of friends. At the start of the new year I began having sharp pain in my hands. I would try to straighten my hair or hold a pencil and I couldn’t. My fingers were swollen up like sausages and the pain resonated deep into my bones. At first, my Mom thought it was just from my period — but after a week she knew that was wrong. And thus began the agonizing journey to find a diagnosis, a label to answer the nagging question I repeated over and over in my mind.
I seriously love my Instagram family – that’s what they are really, super supportive, kind, thoughtful, encouraging! What’s not to love? I asked today if it would be helpful for me to post the recipes I shared while guest posting for Whole30’sInstagram account. And I got a definitive answer of – YES PLEASE!! So here is the beginning of a series of those recipe posts, this one is an easy favorite!