Over a year ago I was blessed with the opportunity to work with someone very special, who submitted her story of fighting to live with GP and won the giveaway for a 3 month health coaching session. We connected well over the course of our chats and have continued to stay in touch. I want to introduce you to Lin, who was kind enough to share her progress recently with some new found insights, exploring myofascial release, and learning to let go. Her shift in attitude and approach to making the best out of the situation has really inspired me and I hope it does the same for you!
By the time I was diagnosed with gastroparesis I’d been sick for several years and was ultimately reduced to a limp dishrag; unable to do much more than lie on the couch and wish for the sweet release of death, which at that point I was pretty sure was right around the corner. I’d lost over fifteen percent of my body weight (starting from an ideal weight) and I knew that if I would have to spend my life feeling this way I just wanted it to be over.
I had been to too many doctors and had had too many tests. Much like public prosecutors, the doctors I saw would decide on the culprit ahead of time and try to make the evidence prove their theories. If the tests didn’t show what a doctor suspected he/she was done with me. When I finally found a GI who came up with the correct diagnosis I was told to take domperidone, eat whatever I wanted and basically have a nice life. As I’m sure you know, it doesn’t work that way and I did what everyone does, hit the internet looking for the magic bullet. Instead I found stories that scared and discouraged me.
I had always been very strong (physically and emotionally), super healthy and fit, ate a healthy diet, exercised and took good care of myself and yet here I was, a shadow of my former self; pardon the cliché. I won’t go into a lot of detail about how rotten I felt and for how long because that isn’t what I want to talk about. If you have GP you already know that part. I will say, though, that I spent the first year or so, after being diagnosed, feeling mostly crappy, exhausted, angry, depressed and in mourning for the me that was lost. I felt as if I had suddenly been issued a new body that didn’t work anywhere near the way the old one did, didn’t come with operating instructions, and that just when I thought I had it figured out the rules would change.
I finally came to the realization that doctors would not, maybe could not, be the source of my healing, that it had to come from me. It became my mission to heal (not necessarily but hopefully cure) myself. This is mainly because I care more about me than any doctor ever could and in part because, in my opinion, most doctors (that I’ve encountered) are useless. I became my own doctor and it’s a sad indictment of our health care system that to date, I’m the best doctor I’ve had. That being said, I’m not suggesting that anyone ditch their doc, this is just the way things have played out for me.
My brother, who lives in another state, has a friend who is a practitioner of myofascial release and said he could fix me. This would have involved traveling to and spending some time at the opposite end of the country and I didn’t feel I could do that. As it turned out I was able to have a local massage therapist consult with my brother’s friend and I have been receiving myofascial release treatments along with cranial release technique for several months. Ideally this is something I should be doing a couple times per week to optimize the effects but right now the best I can manage (financially) is once every other week. Something is always better than nothing.
I knew that taking care of myself had to be a priority but the fact that I was no longer able to be productive seemed to always be nagging at me and though I thought I had been able to let this go apparently I hadn’t. Then a few months ago I had an epiphany. It occurred to me that if I had the flu (or any of the minor illnesses that sideline us temporarily) I would stop almost everything and take care of myself until I was well and there would be no associated guilt. Why not treat GP the same way? So I decided to stop almost everything and take care of myself until I’m well. Yes, there are still things I have to do but I’ve cut it down to only what is necessary. You’d be surprised at how much crap we think we have to do. It was at this point where a huge shift occurred in my psyche and the nagging guilt was gone. Along with this emerging epiphany came a change in my perception of my illness. I stopped being afraid of it and worrying over what it would ultimately do to me. I let go of the anger I felt about getting sick. I actually learned to embrace it as an opportunity. I have found that (hard to believe) there are some positive things that have come from having this illness. I have learned to accept it, work with it, as a part of me rather than fight against it as if it were some alien being, and pay attention to what it can teach me. I know this sounds all new age-y but it’s really not; and trust me, I am the least new age person I know. I have met new people and learned so much as a result of my acquaintance with GP, and I’m grateful that it has given me this opportunity to kick back, relax, and enjoy myself Obviously, given a choice I would have said, “no thanks” but it’s the hand I’ve been dealt so I’m going to play it wisely.
I guess this was what some would call an Oprah ah ha moment. I could now simply relax and enjoy my way to wellness. Since I have been able to make this paradigm shift, the way I feel, both physically and emotionally, has changed immensely. I believe our minds are powerful healing tools and I have finally enlisted mine to get with the program and work with me. I believe the shift in my thinking, along with the alternative techniques I mentioned above, has made a huge difference in the quality of my life. As part of my healing I exercise, meditate, listen to music, listen to comedy, make art and do things that I enjoy to keep my life as free from stress as possible. And no, I’m not independently wealthy; I am living on disability and have to watch every penny. I have more energy now and am able to tolerate more foods. My diet is an ever evolving work in progress. There have been a few times, lately, when I’ve felt too nauseated to eat and instead of giving in to it I did some deep breathing, pictured a situation when I felt good, and I found the nausea eased up enough for me to eat, after which I felt even better. I am giving you the short version because I could go on for pages about the change that has occurred within me, by changing my perspective, over the last several months.
Everything I mentioned is important to healing but in my opinion exercise is a huge part of what it takes to help get the body back in balance. Before GP I worked out intensely, at the gym. When I found that I couldn’t exercise the way I did before I didn’t exercise at all because I was stuck in an all or nothing mentality. Then it hit me, as I mentioned before; something is always better than nothing. I started out just walking maybe five or ten minutes, then added a few light weights which all led to increased duration and intensity. I’m nowhere near where I was and I exercise at home now instead of at the gym, but soon after I started exercising I started to put the weight back on and feel a bit better. There are times when I haven’t been able to exercise but I do what I can when I can. Sometimes I really have to push myself to do it and I’m usually glad I did.
Ah ha, you might be thinking, just wait until you have that next big flare and you’ll feel like a babbling idiot. That could happen, but worrying about it is about as useful as worrying about whether I will get cancer or be hit by a bus. Anything can happen; nothing in life is promised. But this is now and I’ll take it, and be as much in the moment as I possibly can.
Does this mean I am completely well? Probably not yet and I don’t know how to quantify that. I still take my domperidone and stick to a diet that works for me. I still have some bad days but they don’t seem to be as severe or last as long as they had been. My goal is to wean off the medication and not have to be dependent on it but time will tell.
I guess my point is that how you think about your health will have an impact on how you feel. I have also come to believe that we are looking for complicated answers when it just might be that, as Occam’s razor teaches, a simple solution is the best one. And just like our diets, what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another and we all have to find what works best for us so that we can be the best we can be.
I want to close by saying that without the help and support of my awesome boyfriend, who has been by my side through my worst times, all of this would be a hell of a lot harder. And I leave you with one of my favorite quotes.
“The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.”