Of course it did. Who has a chronic illness that hasn't affected every facet of their being?? For those of you that know me, you know that I have a crazy health story. I’ve talked about it, blogged about it, and I’ve been pretty open about it. As a quick recap – I have PCOS, lost over a 100lbs, ran a couple of marathons, did a few mud runs, got bite by a stupid tick, contracted lymes disease, Epstein Barr, and a whole host of gross stuff that goes with all that.
For a long time, I struggled in silence, secretly scolding myself for my body’s chemistry, biology, or whatever you want to call it. You see, I’m a “mind” person, and while I don’t have a degree in psych, every job I have ever had pretty much says I do. I don’t mean that do downplay the importance of a degree, please, I have enough of them to go around (“You get a degree, and you get a degree, and you get… oh wait, this one is a certification” ;)), but as a teacher, college advisor, personal trainer, health coach, I’ve heard a lot of stuff and worked with a lot of people. I should just add bartender or hair stylist to my name, and I’d be all set!
In working with people, my role has traditionally been to help folks achieve a goal; or at the bare minimum, get them somewhere they currently are not. I’ve long since come to accept my role as a behavior change specialist (oh, yeah, I have a certificate in that too… somewhere…in a pile). What does that even mean?? Well, it means that I’m fascinated with people’s behavior, their choices, and the decisions they make – and WHY they make them. In most instances, once you identify triggering behaviors, and are willing to change them in some way, you’ll illicit a different result. You have to really dig in to find out what makes people tick, what motivates them, what drives their impulsive (or not so impulsive) decisions. Deep down, what’s important to them? In other words, I like to meddle in your head. Just kidding. Maybe…
So, how did chronic illness change my life? Well, I’m a results driven person, and, as I stated above, I’m really connected to the idea that if you change behavior, you change results. Therefore, I’m not afraid of changing things up a bit. I realized long ago, I could always change back if I wanted to. Few decisions are really un-doable. The “undo” button really exists in your brain just as much as the “send” button.
Well, chronic illness really scrambled the message when I hit “send”. What used to work, suddenly didn’t. What should have worked (behavior change), doesn’t. What all those courses in science taught me as far as how everyone’s body works… well, they just don’t add up! Super frustrating! This rocked my entire world of understanding the certainty of behavior modification.
I spent a long time really beating myself up. I felt terrible physically (and mentally). I was gaining weight. I was changing everything upside down and inside out trying to make it stop. I wasn’t letting this happen! I could control it all with my voodoo mind powers! Mind over matter!! No pain, no gain!! I can do it!!! I’m a walk the walk, talk the talk type of person!
Augh. I felt like a hypocrite. What was going on?? No matter my behavior, I couldn’t “will” myself better. That doesn’t mean I should just go off the rails, be reckless with my health, and do whatever I wanted, either. I still have to work and try and move in the “right” direction (and we all know what direction that is… I’m not buying the ignorance of “oh I didn’t know cake wasn’t good for me…” No, no, no.).
The truth is, I’m still figuring it out – figuring out how to live in my own chronically ill body. I still haven’t developed a formula that sure fire works for this shell I live in. I secretly think my body wants a permanent vacation on the beach in Hawaii, but who’s doesn’t??
So chronic illness changed it all for me. What I thought I could “control” with food, hitting it hard at the gym, and my ability to change my choices and behaviors, I really can’t. All those things I knew oh-so-well were all back firing on me, and in some cases, making me worse! While I can control my behavior, I cannot quite control what crazy stuff is happening on the inside. You see, the illnesses and pathogens themselves have their own mission, and we while we live in the same body, we are not on the same page.
I’m learning that maybe it’s okay that I can’t control “it”. I don’t have to enable it, but I don’t have to feel like a loser because I can’t get my body to do things that other healthy bodies can do. I’m opening up to all different avenues of healing. I’ve grown leaps and bounds in understanding the metaphysical world that’s actually not tied to physical bodies at all. I’ve opened up my mind to new ideas, new perspectives, and new realms that are more than just focusing on what I eat when and what weight I lift. Don’t get me wrong, I still “like” that stuff, but I see myself as more than that now.
So, while chronic illness is a total bummer, it’s actually been pretty enlightening. No way would I have ever gone on this particular journey of health and wellness if my body functioned like “normal”. Why would I have even bothered? I was perfectly content in my pre-lymes (non) spiritual life, lifting weights and eating salad.
While most days, I just wish my body felt great, I have to remember that I’m grateful for all other things this experience has brought into my life. It’s shaped me in all new ways, personally, professional, and spiritually.
It’s easy to get down on yourself. Trust me, I do. But, life isn’t really about being down. The vibration is really low down there. It’s about elevating yourself. Learn, grow, expand, live, breathe. Great things happen at the top! And while I’m not ready to settle in and say I’m okay with how I look or feel, I am okay with the journey I’m on to feeling, and being, outstanding!