Thriving With An Autoimmune Disorder
Live Well. Be Well.
What tired means when your daily functioning state is exhaustion.
What dieting means when you’re food sensitive
What anxiety means when your racing heart beat is unreasonably slow
What cold means when it’s always sweater weather
What lifestyle modification means when doctors say it won’t help and when the medical literature is both scarce and abundant and always confusing and when you would do anything to feel better. If you only knew what that thing was.
When you have an autoimmune condition and you refuse to back down or live less or give up.
You become the researcher and the reporter and the test subject.
People ask what it’s like to live with an autoimmune disorder. They should ask what it’s like to thrive with an autoimmune disorder.
When you have a chronic condition you do it anyway. You get up anyway. You go to work anyway. You smile to your friends anyway. And sometimes you can’t get up and you can’t go to work and smiling feels impossible and you just can’t make people understand. It’s never because you’re weak and it’s not ever because you’re giving up. It’s just a bad day; a day you couldn’t make yourself feel better.
Tomorrow. Tomorrow you will find a way to feel better. You will try everything.
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what will work for you, just what sometimes works for me.
Step 1: Treat yourself like someone you love.
I cannot miss out on sleep. After a few days of missed hours, I am huddled in a fit of fatigue, light headed, dizzy and anxious.
For extra fun, I often suffer from insomnia, which can be a symptom of my Hashimotos Thyroiditis . I keep lavender oil in my night stand, a cabinet stocked with chamomile and lavender teas and stretch gently before bed.
If I absolutely cannot fall asleep, rather than lay in my anxiety, I get up and work. I assume that I will be less productive the next day, and try to make up for it ahead of time.
Most important, just as you forgive the people you love, forgive yourself when you don’t get enough sleep or don’t eat the perfect diet. It’s about you feeling well, not you being perfect
Step 2: Think like a plant. You need water, light and nutrients from the earth to survive. Are you living in a way that would kill a plant? How can you possibly feel well without the very basic necessities of life?
I’m often guilty of not drinking enough water, so part of my morning routine is making a gallon of lemon water. I am more likely to drink it because there is flavor. Bonus: lemon water is one of the universe’s greatest gifts of health.
Step 3: The elimination diet. There are many approaches, but they all have similar ideas and applications. Cut out all common allergens such as gluten, dairy, legumes, sugars, additives, and caffeine. Add one in at a time and note how your body reacts. If you feel worse after eating a certain food, I would recommend avoiding it.
Going without your favorite foods may feel miserable at first but trust me, after a few days and weeks and months, you will rarely miss doughnuts. Although, I won’t lie; doughnuts are delicious.
I’m never going to not have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I’m also never going to be taller than 5 feet on my tip-toes, but I’m a great climber and I’ve never not found a way to reach a cup on the top shelf.
Whatever might be your condition, please don’t be ashamed or afraid of it. Maybe think of it as an opportunity to treat your body really well, better than your friends who can eat pizza without consequences. See this as an opportunity to get beauty rest and understand your body in a way most people never will. Look, no one is saying this isn’t difficult and frustrating. Know this: your life is yours and while it is a long and ongoing journey to health, trust yourself and your body and follow the health advice that works for you. You’ve got this.