It’s funny how a single day can hold so much significance. Even one single moment can alter our life in ways we could have never imagined. It leaves a lasting impression, whether it’s a positive or negative experience. Like when we land our dream job, or when we loose a loved one. I had one of these days just before Christmas in 2017. It would mark my most difficult moments of struggle, and also transform me into a completely new (and much improved) person.
The following is a compilation of thoughts and reflections from my healing journey thus far, as I celebrate my Thyroid recovery anniversary. I strongly believe that sharing our pain, and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, is therapeutic. Both for ourselves, and for others in similar positions.
This goes to out to those of you in the midst of struggle, whether you just received some bad news, or are years into your recovery and have hit a wall. Join me as we dive into Rest + Root Cause: Reflecting On Recovery.
What Led Me Here
Just a few years ago I was mostly oblivious to the fact that stress still had a major stronghold on my life. Balance was my goal, but I didn’t truly understand what it meant.
My diet was really clean, but I didn’t realize I ate obsessively. I worked out often, but wasn’t doing the right movement for my body. I was in bed for 7-8 hours, but didn’t sleep well. The big kicker was that I ignored my emotional health altogether. I fooled myself into believing I had the healthy lifestyle thing mastered.
It wasn’t until late 2017 that things started to unravel, again. I dealt with an onslaught of mental and physical stressors. A demanding work schedule, putting pressures on myself to do it all for the holidays, and watching my uncle’s fatal illness take him from us. It was a perfect storm, and one that ultimately led my body to take a stand. Something had to break.
Learn more about the health crash that lead to my autoimmune diagnosis.
Even when the signs of a crisis showed themselves, I continued to ignore. I rationalized it was just the season, that I was being weak and could push through this, and that all I needed was a positive attitude.
It turns out I neglected mental and emotional wellness most of my life. It was never something I learned, considered essential, or thought was part of my story. But here’s the funny thing about ignoring parts of yourself; the body finds a way. A way to force you to wake up, whether you want to or not.
WHEN LIFE TAKES UNEXPECTED TURNS
I have always been a planner. I crave control and order. What I could control helped me feel safe, and I attempted to control every aspect of my life. Change scared me, and surprises threw me completely off course. I also struggled with unreasonable expectations, and honestly still do sometimes.
The more we dwell on thoughts, the more strength they gain. Our mind will cement repetitive thoughts, and tie them to emotions. This is common for many of us, where we dream of a major event in our lives and have every little detail mapped out. We also do this on a daily basis when we compare ourselves to others. Or when we base our worth on a perceived society standard.
The problem is, when we fixate on only one version of how our life should be, we cannot handle when things go wrong. And things will always go wrong.
For some, you will learn this skill early on and develop the enviable ability to just go with the flow. But for others of us, including yours truly, we struggle when our narrative doesn’t play out like we expected it to. This throws us into a rut and can prevent us from moving on.
Loosening control’s stronghold continues to be one of my biggest personal challenges. I have to work on altering this patterning every single day. And I very easily slip back into my old tendencies. Thankfully I am learning how to make lasting change.
Searching For a Root Cause
Being a detective of your own health is a very powerful tool. After all, only you truly know yourself. Doctors and experts help guide you, and are an integral part of healing. However, your intuition is the key. Hopefully learning about my triggers will inspire some self reflection of your own.
THE STRESS + DISEASE CONNECTION
All the latest research is showing that stress is at the root of nearly all modern disease. Chronic stress can alter the inflammatory response, which leads to a cascade of symptoms and disease. Stress also comes in many forms, and our body has a difficult time differentiating between them.
Learn more about How to Identify + Manage Stress to help you master this challenge.
I’ve spent years experimenting with root cause and one common theme surfaced every time: stress. This is my kryptonite. For me, it is stress in any form, and works in a cumulative effect. For instance, if I am stressed out at work, I cannot also be experimenting with my diet or working on emotional trauma. Instead, I have to take things day by day and make modifications.
It all comes back to that elusive balance again, constantly weighing options and readjusting priorities to support what I need at that moment. This requires me to be far more flexible than I was used to. And that has been a blessing in multiple ways.
TRAUMA IN DISGUISE
This one is a little deep my friends, so buckle up. It is incredibly important though, and has been the most transformative work I have done thus far.
Things were very difficult for me following my health crash. As my body fell apart, piece by piece, so did my resolve. Along with my sense of self, my worth, confidence, and what felt like my entire life. My dreams and hopes were shattered. I was suddenly separated from the life I was previously living. Many things didn’t make sense anymore.
Purpose eluded me, motivation waned, and I became depressed and anxious. I found it difficult to connect with others, even my family and closest friends. I retreated into myself, which it turns out is a learned behavior from my youth.
Things from my past came to the surface to haunt me, and there was a stretch where I couldn’t face them. Thankfully, after a lot of self reflection, and with the guidance of a professional, I began to face my internal struggles. I learned that my ego was doing its job and protecting me, but many of my learned behaviors were doing me more harm than good.
None of this I knew at the time, of course. All of these lessons came with choosing faith over fear.
FAITH OVER FEAR
Nearly every time I get a new diagnosis, or hit another roadblock, I am initially frozen with fear. Afraid to accept the next challenge, afraid to make big changes, afraid to let go of my version of the future.
Fear is a tricky devil, literally. It temps us, captures us, and takes advantage when we are weak. If you are a person of faith, you will recognize this as a spiritual attack. Or, you may recognize this as a disconnection from your true self.
As we discussed earlier, our mind loves repetitive patterns. If we continue to live in fear, it will overcome us. We have to learn to trust. It is all about taking that leap of faith, whatever that means to us individually.
For me, this means following God’s path, even when I don’t agree with it. Even when things don’t work out how I wanted, or happen at the “right” time.
My health crash was the biggest lesson in faith that I have faced yet. The experience forced me to wake up. To trust in the process and be open to whatever the outcome may be. It also brought me back to my faith, and I feel more capable then ever with God at my side.
Everyone’s path is very different. We reach our destinations in various ways, but often our stories have similarities. Following are a few of my key takeaways, and my hope is that they help you or someone you love in even a small way. Remember, small things add up to big change.
GETTING TO KNOW THE REAL ME
Long before I experienced any lasting growth, I had to dig deep and connect with myself. I spent decades suppressing the real me and had no idea how to trust my instinct. Thankfully, each stepping stone allows me to find my intuition once again. I falter, I grow through the pain, and I rebuild. Slowly and patiently I am rekindling that connection with my true self.
In the past I also learned to deny myself love, and put others above myself. Reversing these behaviors requires daily work of turning inward and focusing on my needs. Learning to love myself as God loves me, unconditionally and wholeheartedly. Because without self love, we have little chance of true healing.
TRUSTING THE PLAN
Every time I stumble and fall, I learn an important lesson. Maybe not at first, because of course my natural reaction is to resist anything uncomfortable. But eventually I see the message that God has laid out for me. I am learning to be thankful for the entire experience, the good and the bad. Because without the difficult pieces, I wouldn’t know the value of the lesson, or how to appreciate it.
Humans have a way of existing in the familiar, even if what’s familiar isn’t in our best interest. For reasons we may never understand, we often don’t change until we are forced to. We need that extra push before we can take a leap. And once we jump, we can either choose to lean in and enjoy the ride, or we can resist and find ourselves sick and miserable.
In one of my go-to emotional support books, Unglued, Lysa discusses the concept of imperfect progress. In a nutshell, it’s a way to find appreciation in every accomplishment we make, no matter how small. Plus, it teaches us the concept of self forgiveness and acceptance.
You see, I’m a big fan of the baby step process. I find this the most accessible, least overwhelming, and simplest way to adopt healthier habits. It also encourages us to give ourselves grace. To show ourselves compassion and praise simotaneously. This is something that I think you’ll agree, we could all use more of.
After allowing myself to feel, grieve, and repair, I am finally able to see my experiences for what they are. Part of my story, but not the ending.
Every day I make a choice. I could easily wallow in my own misery and refuse to move on. Instead, I choose healing. This isn’t always an easy choice, but it is mine to make. Chronic illness doesn’t define me, because I won’t let it.
I am beyond grateful for the lessons my illness has taught me, and continues to every day. I am thankful to have a well-rounded mind, body, and soul healing approach in my life. I am learning to embrace my inner empath and connect with others on a deeper level. I am kinder, gentler, and far more open than ever before. God is showing me my purpose and I am following that path with a clear direction.
I didn’t get here easily, but I wouldn’t change my experiences for anything. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
To learn more about how you can incorporate some of these strategies into your healing journey, here are a few of my go-to resources.
First and foremost, if you aren’t spiritual, this is a great place to start. Finding and maintaining faith in God is essential to our healthy journey. Seek out a spiritual friend or family member, join a church, or connect with fellow believers online.
I have, and continue to find, immense help from the teachings of The Holistic Psychologist. I adore her Future Self Journaling practice and daily Instagram posts. She is transforming the modern Psychology world for the better. You can pick and choose what resonates with you and get familiar with her concept of self healers.
To really dig into mental and emotional health, I highly recommend working with a professional. I personally see a counselor that specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This helps me reframe negative thoughts, patterns, and experiences into their more positive counterparts.
Books + Videos
The following are a few of my go-to readings and videos that focus on the mind-body-soul approach to healing.
- One of the first books I read when I embarked on my soul searching journey, was The Untethered Soul. This short, easy to read exploration of self discovery will set you free.
- A great way to explore your thoughts is to start understanding your own mind. The Work by Byron Katie offers incredible insight into retraining thoughts and questioning beliefs. This simple approach can change your life.
- The Stress Solution book offers a fantastic look inside Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The added benefit with this approach is the focus on empathy as a means to truly heal. This really resonates with me, and there are great suggestions to apply these techniques in your own life.
- Lastly, I highly recommend everyone watch the Heal documentary to view real life case studies and success stories of miraculous healing. This is a powerful way to open our eyes to new possibilities.