Hope is the fuel for overcoming chronic illness.
And without that hope, we feel paralyzed. We don’t have the energy to fight the day. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel.
When we lose hope, our hearts become sick and the will to carry on becomes a struggle. Without it… life shuts down.
Those that give up don’t just quit, they’ve lost all hope that things will get better… and if you’ve ever lost hope in your life, you know how this feels.
In those moments when there’s nowhere to turn, you must look inside. You must reach down into the deepest parts of you and realize hope isn’t lost… it’s simply been surrendered. Hope has been given away to life’s circumstances.
More importantly that means you have the choice to take it back. Hope is a choice in your life.
And that’s why I’m so grateful Jen is willing to share her story today. She talks about losing hope… and who can blame her? At her lowest point, even her friends and family had lost hope.
But she chose to take hope back… and to take control of her health.
She’s just plain incredible and I hope sharing her story in her own words supports you in choosing hope in your healing journey.
Six Months Ago I was running to the bathroom literally every 20 minutes…
… lost 35 pounds in 45 days, was having trouble breathing, bleeding to the point of anemia, on the verge of heart failure, and was on a high dose of prednisone, mesalamine, and Canasa. As my desperation, isolation, depression, and fear increased, the quality of my life quickly dissipated.
I soon realized what was happening to me. My instinct for fight or flight had been compromised. I felt frozen in my own body: defeated by the thought of attempting to regain my health, hopeless for finding an answer or a cure. I felt lifeless and vacant, unable to hold conversation because of how foggy my mind had become. My friends recommended reading to try to let my mind escape my reality, if only for a moment, but even holding a book was too exhausting and reading too laborious. I watched countless shows and movies to stay occupied, trying to escape the pain while medicating myself with prescribed hydrocodone-acetaminophen. TV and pills barely took the edge off. My mom would prepare me meals that I could only take a few bites of; anything more would make me sicker. My prior inclination of eating to enjoy was replaced by eating morsels of food and praying I could keep them down.
There were times when I didn’t want to give up, but I was just too tired to hope anymore. My friends grew weary of asking me how I was doing. It felt as though nothing was improving, so usually I felt inclined to lie about feeling better. After declining invitations to go out for fear of getting sick, not having enough energy, or being embarrassed by how I looked, I stopped getting invited. I relied heavily on others’ love to get me through because I no longer loved myself. I was angry with my situation, upset that my body would hinder me from living, and mad that I couldn’t escape it. I was jealous of those whose lives were worth living, and resentful of those who didn’t realize just how nice they had it.
I Would Look in the Mirror and Be Terrified By My Reflection
My skin looked translucent- a drastic contrast to my dark features. Even though the prescribed steroids made my face puffy, my cheekbones were still abnormally jutting out. There was a bruise where the IV was placed in my arm at the emergency room four weeks prior- a blatant indication that my body couldn’t heal itself. After I would run my fingers through my hair, I would stare in horror at the locks draped over my palm. My joints would ache; moving felt mechanical and foreign. My heart would thump instead of beat, making my chest hurt whenever I’d inadvertently raise my pulse by just trying to stand up. My normal 10-minute showers turned to 45 because I would have to sit down and rest after each movement. After my shower, I would lie down for 30 minutes to get my heart to slow down all to bring it back up trying to clothe myself again.
There came a point where, after five weeks of taking care of me, my mom had to go back home, even though I had no confidence in literally trying to survive without her. She witnessed my most vulnerable point when I broke down crying after a shower and asked her to just hold me; I no longer had tears, just dry sobs as I soaked my mom’s shirt with my wet hair. I was broken- crying and shaking uncontrollably. It seemed like there was no solution in sight.
Family and Friends Said They Were Praying for Me
I needed strength, and it slowly started to return. It was then that I realized I needed to decide what to do: either fight for my life or let this illness take me over. I had to make a choice, and I no longer wanted to see my life pass before me. At 23, I’m supposed to be young and vibrant, not attempting to cling to life. I couldn’t accept being attached to an IV to suppress my immune system every other week for the rest of my life, having to use extended release anti-inflammatory pills and suppositories every day, or the fact that I would have to take steroids every time I relapsed. I found a new gastroenterologist when my prior one told me diet wouldn’t influence my ulcerative colitis. I refused to believe that I could be a Division 1 student-athlete throughout college and put my body through stress and fatigue only to have my body not bounce back now.
Six Months Later… Fully immersed in this newfound lifestyle, I am medication free
I’m merely taking a probiotic daily, enjoying every meal I put together, digesting it like a champ, and have never felt so healthy and full of life as I do now.
I had stayed dormant because I was afraid of getting sicker. I wasn’t looking for an answer, and my fear and stagnation were preventing me from healing. When I realized that my illness was my hindrance, and my body was fighting for me, not giving up on me, I began to take back control. It was in that moment that I realized I needed to fight for something instead of letting go of it all. I remember the instant switch in my mentality where I decided to help my body fight and make the decision that I was going to live- not die, not just survive; that I was stronger than all of this.
I now fully recognize the power of social support and prayer. Power is in those we surround ourselves by, rely on, and believe in. I wholeheartedly believe that my strength was given to me by others when I had nothing left to give myself. I would contact other people who had found the Specific Carbohydrate Diet beneficial and listened to their success stories. I would spend all of my spare time researching how to abide by the diet while still feeling fulfilled. I found reinforcement to stay positive and patient through contact with others that had similar stories to share. I had to remind myself that if it took years to bombard my system and get this unhealthy, I had to remain patient to fix the damage.
I No Longer Consider SCD a Diet, But a Lifestyle
I am consumed by what I am consuming. I prefer healthy alternatives to what I used to eat because it gives me more energy, makes my mind sharper, and makes me feel better all around. I found that food, if used properly, can be a healing agent and beneficial instead of destructive. I realized that through determination and discipline, it is possible to heal your body naturally from the inside out.
The person I was six months ago is a stranger to me now. I learned that I never want to be that person again, and I am making the choice to never be her again. Our thoughts facilitate who we are.
Choice is a simple concept…
One that is rarely utilized- we usually end up letting others decide for us due to our own ambivalence. I don’t want to be seen as morose and powerless. I want to be strong and effervescent, and every day that I make that choice, I am a better person because of it.
Once I realized that everything- choices, actions, diet, etc. – I do to my body is intertwined, I decided to embrace the opportunity given to me and explore how to thrive. Our bodies want us to live: they fight for us to succeed, but we keep our bodies and ourselves from success with unhealthy meals and the malnourishment of negative thoughts. Our tangible and intangible daily consumption form us. We are who we are surrounded by and what we immerse ourselves in, and it’s time to take back control of our surroundings. It’s time to heal our bodies and strive for gratification. You are the keeper of your own self-fulfillment. You get to decide just how beautiful life can be.
Jen, you’re an inspiration and a gift to this world. I’m grateful you’re willing to share your story and help others. Thank you so much 🙂
If you’re reading this and would like more help using food to heal like Jen did, our step-by-step book can help you get started on SCD: http://scdlifestylebook.com/
In good health,