I received my diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis in May of my freshman year of high school, after six grueling months of no answers, loss of mobility, and dozens of dead-end doctors appointments.
Two weeks after receiving my diagnosis I went to my doctor at the Pediatric Rheumatology department at D.C.’s Children Hospital to adjust my treatment. My doctor took a conservative approach at first starting with sulfasalazine and it wasn’t helping in the slightest. My mobility was severely declining, and something had to change. It’s that day that I started Enbrel. If you didn’t know, Enbrel is given by injection, which meant before leaving the hospital I had to learn to give myself a shot. I was old enough to be able to do it myself, and also wouldn’t always have my mom around to do it. It was the beginning of my medication journey, that would start with an injection at the hospital and two every week for the next couple of months.
It was in that moment of giving myself a shot, I realized, that I was the only person who could do this for myself. I was the only person who could give me any relief. It was this great act of self-love that I’ve not fully acknowledged before. This huge action of love that would take me to the next level of myself healing.
My doctor came in after it was over, sat down next to me and asked how I was feeling. I’d been tearing up a bit, emotionally overcome with giving myself a shot, and I just shrugged my shoulders. She then, asked me a question that has stayed with me for the rest of my life. “Kari, would you be willing to speak to some residents at the hospital who are studying this disease? Your experience is really valuable and I’d love for them to learn what this is like for you.”
“No, I can’t do that.” I replied, completely in shock. I could barely hold it together talking to my mom about what was happening to me, let alone a room of strangers. How was I supposed to explain my experience when I didn’t even understand it yet?
The holidays are a time that are typically one of three things for most people; over scheduled busy, joyous but full of obligation, or often tainted by loss. Underneath all of these is stress, and with that our stress hormones spike up. They aren’t such a bad thing, except for when they are prolonged over a period of time. Even when it may not feel like you are super stressed from the Holidays, there can be a certain amount of pressure around this time of year to be social, be happy, and in general have a certain level of output at demand. It can be exhausting, but it doesn’t have to be.
The leaves have begun their transition into a slow, fading form of life. Their yellow has been showing and some deep reds have started to appear. When they fall it’s only with grace that they reach the Earth, and this process of death is actually the beginning of renewal, not simply an ending. It is cyclical, as are the seasons of our own lives. We too, are changing with the seasons and letting go of the old.
Moving from one time in the journey of our life into another chapter which may look vastly different than anything you’ve ever experienced before. To me, the most important part of transitions, new beginnings, or different chapters is about shedding the old, the stagnant and the unnecessary that doesn’t serve us.
“The inertia of the mind urges it to slide down the easy slope of imagination, rather than to climb the steep slope of introspection.” – Marcel Proust
Last weekend I took a last minute trip down to Portland from Seattle. A friend of mine from college just moved there and I was due for a little getaway exploration. The months of January and February have been full to the brim for me with work, and other personal life engagements. I knew I was reaching a point where I just needed to be away from the possibility of working, because truly, with my work I never really “leave the office” or “log off”. I have to make that a distinct and intentional choice and during busier periods that is increasingly harder to do especially since I love everything that I do!
So getting away just came at an opportune time. I needed the time to reconnect with my friend but also to just be. I needed to feel the sideways rain drizzling on my face as we walked along Cannon Beach. I needed to be immersed in the joy of seeing the haystacks for the first time. I needed to relish in the glory of a spectacular rainbow, being in the right place at the right time. To let me mind solely focus on how to get across the water canals that made sand pools along the beach and to contemplate how these giant haystacks are created out in the water. I needed to let my spirit be free and not thinking of anything outside of BEING.
The other week was a bit of a train wreck for me. It seemed like everything was fighting against me. One minute I’d be really on in the universal groove and then wham the next thing I knew I was flat on my ass.
One day I spent an hour walking around the city in the rain thinking I must have forgotten where I’d parked my car. I mean surely I must have forgotten, only to find out it had been towed. Nothing like this has ever happened to me. I mean, I’ve never even been pulled over for speeding before.
In the past decade affirmations have become more mainstream. The use of words or phrases to help change your mental outlook has gained a lot of public notice and support in helping people. Truthfully, affirmations are ancient traditions. Spoken word therapy has been around for centuries and it’s helped people and communities across the globe. They can be traced back to ancient eastern religions, and indigenous tribes. Widely known, mantras are phrases, poems or sayings chanted over and over again during meditation. The word “mantra” Sanskrit and is translated to read “that which protects (tra) the mind (man).” They have been used for spiritual connection to the self and the divine. In so many ways they have been used to free one’s mind of all other thoughts.
Most recently you can find people touting the benefits of affirmations on wellness sites like Well + Good, Mind Body Green and from leaders in the New Age movement like Gabby Bernstein and Deepak Chopra. This wave of self-help ideology has created a movement and momentum behind using therapies such as affirmations in channeling and changing your thought process.
I’d say that my way of coming to affirmations was fairly nontraditional as I wasn’t necessarily seeking a more spiritual connection to the Universe, God, the Divine, whatever you choose to call it. My introduction to their power was during a time of deep desire for physical healing of my body.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. As I continue to dive deeper into my relationship with myself, with my personal yoga practice and healthy living this has been coming up a lot for me recently. And even more so with the clients I see. So often, people ask me what is the best type of exercise to get the body they want, the results they desire, or the energy they’re craving. I am discouraged by this questions a lot. Why? I don’t actually have the answer. Or at least, I thought I didn’t. But now, I’ve decided the answer is reclaiming exercise for every body.
The source of my frustration comes from the societal expectation that we have to move our body only because we want it to look a certain way, instead of actually enjoying the way it moves. Believe me, I have been guilty of this plenty. Which is why I feel comfortable calling some bullshit on it.
I remember sitting across from him, he’d been holding my gaze for a while now, neither of us saying anything as I’d been crying. Finally, I said, “I feel like I have done everything in my power to move on from this.” My therapist then looked at me intently and said “It’s usually when we are resisting something that it continues to appear for us.” Shocked and infuriated I just sat there. I couldn’t believe he’d dare say I was resisting anything. I’d been working through this for nearly a year and had made so many changes. Since the day I walked in his room we’d been talking about this relationship and I’d been working diligently on focusing my attention, embracing my feelings, and allowing myself to deal with whatever emotion may arise. “I’ve done anything but resist this whole process,” I told him, “If I was I would have never come to see you in the first place.”
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.
I get asked all the time, “What brought you to Seattle?”
It’s a funny a question to me with a million different answers about what could possibly lure me across the country. Most people, are expecting the common answer, a job, or a relationship. Neither was the case for me.
When I begin to tell them what truly brought me, I take a moment, to soak it in, to read the person in front of me a bit and get an idea of how this will land for them. I explain that the only way for me to have made a move clear across the country, knowing not a soul, was trusting my hearts inner knowing. I knew intuitively that this was a place I needed to be and I needed to do whatever in my power to make that happen.