9 Things Having Crohn’s Disease Has Taught Me
1 Health is a journey not a destination
While some people go into remission for years and say ‘I’m cured’, I personally don’t think you can ever say you are ‘cured’ of a chronic condition.
I like to see health as more of a continuous journey than a particular destination (i.e. cured). When reaching a destination there’s a sense of something being over and done with and I don’t think with health you ever get to a stage where you are over and done with it. It takes mindfulness and effort to stay on course. While I may go into remission (and hopefully a long lasting remission) I’m still always going to be susceptible to future flares especially if I don’t look after myself.
The same could be said if somebody is trying lose weight. You may reach a particular goal weight but you can’t just say ‘I’m done’ and go back to doing what you did before as you’ll just end up where you were before. It’s better to see reaching the goal weight as a milestone along a journey rather than a destination with an end point.
2. Everybody’s journey is different
I have yet to connect with or read about somebody else with the exact same Crohn’s symptoms and experience as me. Similar? Yes. But the same? No. Some people get the disease when they are children and some later in life. Some people go into remission really quickly and some never go into remission. Comparison is the thief of joy. It’s very easy to get disheartened or frustrated in your own situation when you may not be doing as well as others or recovering as quickly etc.. but everybody’s journey is different. There are so many facets that make up your life and health.
Whatever your health journey, it’s unique to you.
3. No one diet fits everybody
I’ve done a lot of research into different diets that have worked for people with Crohn’s. From raw vegan to ketogenic paleo, from Macrobiotic diet to juicing to alkaline diet to low residue to sugar-free, gluten-free etc. You get the picture. There’s a lot of conflicting information out there that is mind boggling but you know what I realised? While it’s fabulous that a particular diet has worked for somebody else, it doesn’t that mean it’ll work for me. The best diet to follow is the one that works for you.
At the moment I’m using the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol and Low FODMAP diet as a template and am being a detective about what does and doesn’t work for me. For example SCD allows some dairy I know it doesn’t agree with me at the moment so rather than be dogmatic about following the protocol to the letter, I leave dairy out. And while AIP allows for a lot of starchy veggies like sweet potatoes, I know that they don’t suit me at the moment so I eat butternut squash instead which is both SCD and Low FODMAP compliant.
And what works for me now might not work for me in the future which means I’ll have to tweak things a bit along the way.
4. Healing is more than just food
Yes, what we put in our mouths has a huge impact on our health but it’s not the full picture. I’ve learnt that stress, worry, lack of sleep, lack of movement, bad relationships etc have as much (if not more) of an impact as food. Adequate and quality sleep, daily meditation, yoga and exercise, laughter, doing more of what you love and good relationships go a long way to good health.
5. Let it go
I’ve had to learn to ‘let go’ of people, situations and expectations that don’t serve me and my health. This one is possibly the thing I’ve struggled with most.
I was always a worrier and especially worried about pleasing other people. Having assessed my relationships I was able to spot the ones that probably took more out of me than nourished me and had to let them go. Not in a dramatic way, but rather I just took a step back and didn’t put any huge amount of energy into those relationships anymore.
The same goes for situations and expectations. I’ve always been quite hard on myself. I’ve had to let go of what I thought my life ‘should’ look like and what I ‘should’ be able to do. I’ve had to let go of my Type A tendencies and embrace the fact that me and life aren’t perfect and don’t need to be (this is definitely something that need constant work).
6. Prioritise What Actually Matters
I’ve learnt the hard way that I can’t do everything as much as I’d like to. Having to prioritise my health has made me look at the other things in life and assess whether they are priorities. If I ever feel like I’m getting a little overwhelmed I always ask myself ‘what are my priorities?’ and ‘is this really a priority at this moment in time?’. If I concentrate on what really is important in that moment and let go of what’s not as important it definitely reduces stress levels. With an unusually busy January and February, I’ve not been able to blog as much as I’d have liked but I know I will get back to more regular posting when other things calm down.
Usually what I find is that I actually end up being able to do more as I’ve quietened the chatter in my mind of ‘so much to do’, ‘how are you going to do it all’, ‘you have to do x,y,z’ and have that energy to do other things.
7. Consistency is key
I realised that I do best with a consistent routine. Daily effort with mindfulness, movement, amount of sleep, bed-times, morning and evening routines, diet etc has a huge impact for me. There’s a lot of science backing the benefits of routine which I may blog about in the future.
8. Patience and compassion
While it’s great to have consistency, stuff happens and sometimes my routine goes out of whack. I may veer off my diet when there’s no choice available or I may have days when I don’t meditate or sleep as much as I should. Rather than beat myself up I remind myself that it’s a marathon not a sprint and I just have to have a little compassion for myself and my situation and get back on track again. I can’t be perfect all the time and have to do the best I can and be kind to myself. Obsessing over bad choices sometimes does more harm than the bad choice itself.
Sometimes it can be frustrating when other people can eat / do things I can’t or sometimes I may have a flare and feel dejected. These are the times I need a little patience with myself and the process. It took me a long time to develop Crohn’s so I can’t expect to have miraculous results overnight. Patience is key. And to be fair it is definitely paying off.
I actually am grateful for my Crohn’s as it’s part of who I am and where I am in life. I’ve become passionate about health and wellbeing and am a qualified health coach and am currently studying to be a Nutritional Therapist. I don’t think I’d have gone down this road if I hadn’t been diagnosed with Crohn’s.
I never take feeling well for granted and express gratitude every day for my health, for my lovely life and being able to do all I can do.