No, You Don't Just Have To Live With It

{and other myths about living with IBS, IBD, and Chronic Illness}

I used to be shocked at  the stories my new clients told me.

But it didn’t take long to recognize that most of the people I serve have had horrifyingly similar experiences trying to heal. Most of my initial visits with new clients include something like this:

*I have been to 5-10 doctors already without answers.

*I have tried 3-10 {or more} medications without relief.

*I have been told to ‘just live with it’ from highly trained medical professionals in reference to debilitating and life-disrupting symptoms. {ie: blood in your stools, relentless anxiety, constant pain, worsening symptoms, and/or increasing fatigue}.

*I’ve tried so many products and specialized diets, but I’m completely overwhelmed and nothing seems to work.

*I keep getting worse no matter what I try.

*I feel like no one understands me or believes how bad it is.

*It’s hard for me to work, or engage with clients socially because I am always running to the restroom.

 

My first year in practice, these confessions slayed me.

I was horrified that anyone had to go through this, much less the majority of those suffering with difficult illnesses. I hesitate to say I’ve gotten used to hearing it, because I never want to be desensitized to dysfunctional behavior in the helping industry. But as I continued hearing the same things, on repeat, I had to acknowledge that this is the average health experience for those living with IBS, autoimmune syndromes, and chronic illness–and I want you to know that this is unacceptable, and you absolutely do not have to live with it.

Today I’m going to save you some time, and a great deal of frustration, by speaking about some of the most popular myths promoted and perpetuated in response to living with IBS, IBD, and Chronic Illness. If you are having a tough time, or your energy is low, it’s easy to believe these statements, and feel even worse about yourself and your health outlook. But the truth is, anyone who says these things to you does not understand what you are contending with, and I encourage you to excuse yourself as fast as you can, and find someone who does. This goes for healthcare support, friends, family and more.

Myth #1. You’ll just have to live with it.

This one has to be first, because if nothing else, I want you to know that while you may not reverse your diagnosis, it is likely you can reverse your illness, feel better, and not be controlled by debilitating symptoms. For example, I have had a large population of women over the years who say their doctor has told them to just live with blood in their BM’s. OMG. I know.

This, and many other relentless symptoms just need the right approach. At Flourish, we see positive results within a week or 2 by using an individual and highly humanized approach: acupuncture, custom botanicals, and a few diet tweaks. I will never stop speaking about this because I’ve helped thousands of people improve. I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt: that is not true.

Myth #2. Don’t you think this is all in your head?

Well that would be convenient. But no. No it isn’t. There is a myth that when you’re having issues with your health, other people should be able to see that you are sick. But, IBS, IBD, and other chronic health issues fall into the category of invisible illness, meaning you don’t have as many external signs that reflect what you are actually going through. This is confusing for both your family and friends, and even some medical professionals to conceptualize, but since it’s common in our culture to keep our bathroom habits private, it’s likely that you have gotten used to dealing with all of the issues as they have built up, and those around you have no idea what you are living with. And once we add fatigue, anxiety, and emotions {as a result of your illness} to the picture, there is so much happening at once, hearing this phrase can feel so defeating.

Relentless and long term illness absolutely affects your emotions. There is no way it couldn’t. But emotions and thought processes are not the cause of your illness, they are symptoms. In Chinese medicine we actually use emotions as a diagnostic tool. The type of emotions that come up for you tell us a lot about how your illness is manifesting, and that’s why this form of treatment is so useful. As we address the physical aspects of your illness, your emotions and mental clarity improve as well. They all work together.

Myth #3. You should just eat what you want.

As if eating hasn’t created enough of an emotional response in your life, having to explain to someone how much food actually does affect you can be super draining. Yet, we persist.

The reality: Food is probably the #1 change you can make that will produce the best results in your energy, mental clarity, and recovery. Different food affects everyone differently, so it’s important to get the right help with food strategy so you don’t get overly rigid, limited, or overwhelmed around eating what’s best for you. Once you get clear on how certain foods improve or trigger your symptoms, it’s pretty easy to maintain your life, and the lifestyle you love, without much food drama.

Myth #4. All you need is more exercise.

If you’re living with a high level of fatigue, this one is particularly hard to hear. On some of your toughest days, walking around the block can be too much! One of the issues with this is that our culture {if you’re in the US} values aggressive exercise, pushing too hard, and excess sweating as the gold standard of being healthy, and those things have their own issues that we don’t have to get into today.

The reality: struggling with digestion, food intolerances, immune issues and low energy means that exercising has actually become a luxury. What I mean by that is you often have to choose whether you want to exercise or you want to socialize, work, be coherent, go get groceries, spend time with people you love, prepare wholesome meals, or just not be in bed the rest of the day. This is severe, but there is some level of truth to it for everyone living with these types of health issues, and you have to define the right balance for you. While I don’t recommend zero exercise, I also don’t suggest aggressive/bootcamp/hot yoga types of exercise for this community, either. It’s best to stay away from extremes.

Because your energy is precious, you’ll need to determine what serves you well, without draining you. I encourage you to experiment with low intensity, low repetition exercises that get you moving, but don’t drain your energy. 30 minutes of yoga, stretching, walking, rebounding, or weights every day is a good start, and as your energy builds, you can add other things to your exercise plan. But by no means should you ever feel like aggressive exercise will solve your problems. If it’s draining your energy and you feel worse, it’s not the right thing for you.

Myth #5. You’re too sensitive.

If you are struggling with relentless illness, there is no doubt that you are sensitive. But that isn’t a bad thing. Rather than assuming it’s a shortcoming, could you consider that it’s actually a gift?

Another way to define sensitivity is having more awareness, and I’ll argue that being sensitive is actually what happens when you start to wake up. Those who are sensitive tend to be creative, detail oriented, passionate, insightful, great leaders, amazing caretakers, highly conscious, conscientious, intuitive people. And while some parts of life require us to have thicker skin, living that way is a disservice to your consciousness and your nervous system. Instead, I invite you to use your sensitivity to your advantage by trusting in your creativity and insight more in your career, relationships, and life goals. Your sensitivities will actually teach you more about what you need to be healthy when you allow yourself to just be where you are, how you are, without apology.

Myth #6. There has to be a medication for this.

There are many medications that may or may not help your symptoms–and there is no shame in needing them. But don’t get overly invested in needing more and more in hopes that they will solve everything. The reality is, when you learn how to take care of your body’s needs, the need for medication decreases. I encourage you to sort out your diet, get some holistic support, like acupuncture, and find the right exercise for your energy levels, then reassess meds with a doctor that you trust.

 

Hi. I’m AJ

I started Flourish because I’ve always known that it can be better. Healthcare can be better. Solutions can be better. YOU can be better. And you deserve to ask for more and to receive great care. I work with clients both online and in my studio in downtown Boston. Either way, I can help you have better health and get back to living the life you love.

 

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