*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, and this blog post is meant to share my personal experiences. Always consult with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your treatment plan.*
My life has been a mix of various experiences, shaped significantly by dealing with autoimmune diseases, which have brought their share of challenges and taught me resilience. Dealing with conditions like Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Hashimoto's, and Fibromyalgia has taught me more than any textbook ever could—they've been harsh but honest teachers, pushing me to discover a strength within that I never knew existed. I've gotten to a point where my symptoms are much less noticeable, a stage often referred to as remission. Even so, there's still a pain that remains with me each day.
Living with autoimmune diseases has really driven home the importance of balancing emotional care with physical health. The pain is more than just a physical sensation; it often carries the weight of frustration and anxiety that chronic conditions bring. This connection between mind and body has shown me that healing is not just a physical journey, but also involves nurturing your mental and emotional health.
The pain I experience is often hidden from view, but it's a constant in my life, reminding me that my journey with remission is ongoing. It's a clear sign that being symptom-free doesn't always mean you're completely healthy. I really feel the connection between physical discomfort and my emotions; every time the pain flares up or I feel unusually tired, it affects how I'm feeling inside, too.
I've learned that part of healing is knowing when to take a step back and listen to what my body is trying to tell me. This means not always saying 'yes' to others or trying to live up to what I think others expect from me. Setting boundaries is a big part of getting better. It's about making my own choices, resting when I need to, and not feeling bad about it.
Paying attention to my body's signals is key for me. I use my pain as a kind of guide to see how well my approach to health is working and to figure out if I need to stick with it or try something different. Everyone's path to managing their health is personal, and I think it's important to find what works best for you.
Understanding Autoimmune Diseases:
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA): JRA is an autoimmune disorder that aggressively attacks the joints, even in young people. Essentially, the immune system, which normally protects the body, mistakenly begins to attack the tissues in the joints. This causes inflammation, resulting in swelling, pain, and stiffness that can severely limit movement.
Lupus: Lupus, also known as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), is a complex autoimmune disease that is unpredictable in its effects. The immune system, for reasons not fully understood, becomes hyperactive and attacks healthy tissue. This can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, brain, and other organs, leading to a wide range of symptoms that can come and go. The 'shapeshifting' nature of lupus refers to its ability to cause different symptoms in different people, and its flares can vary in intensity and duration.
Hashimoto's Thyroiditis: In Hashimoto's, the immune system turns against the body's own thyroid gland. The thyroid is a small gland at the front of the neck that produces hormones vital for energy regulation. When it's under attack, it can't produce enough thyroid hormone, leading to hypothyroidism. The result is a general slowing down of the body's metabolism, which can cause fatigue, weight gain, and mood disorders such as depression.
Fibromyalgia: This condition is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way the brain processes pain signals. The widespread pain is often described as a constant dull ache that has lasted for at least three months, and the condition is also known for specific tender points on the body that hurt when pressure is applied.
While I'm currently in remission from Lupus and often greet the day with a smile, that's not the full story. The truth is, pain is a constant companion for me – it's there when I wake up, get dressed, and go about my daily work. It's like a persistent background noise in my life. Just because my condition isn't always visible doesn't mean it's not present, and it doesn't mean I'm not dealing with pain on a daily basis.
On my healing journey, I've found a few things that seem to make a real difference for me. Remember, what's worked in my experience might not be the perfect fit for everyone—it's all about finding what clicks for you through some good old trial and error. I'm convinced that our decisions, the way we live, what we eat, and the company we keep can influence every part of our healing process. So, here's a glimpse into how I try to harmonize my mind, body, and spirit:
Monthly IV Infusions:
Incorporating monthly IV infusions into my health regimen has been transformative. These sessions, which deliver high doses of Vitamin C, magnesium, and the mighty antioxidant glutathione, have become a cornerstone of my wellness strategy. They've significantly calmed my autoimmune symptoms by fighting inflammation and enhancing my general health. This adjustment to my care plan has truly been a game-changer.
Nutrition and Diet:
When it comes to nutrition, I've made a conscious decision to choose organic foods. Avoiding hormones is crucial, especially for someone managing autoimmune conditions like myself. I'm meticulous about reading labels to ensure the ingredients are pure and free from unwanted additives. I generally aim to follow a gluten-free diet because it helps me avoid feeling bloated. However, I must admit, sticking to it consistently can be quite a challenge at times. A vegan diet wasn't the perfect fit for me, so I've settled into a routine with lots of veggies and the occasional lean meat. I steer clear of cheese (that one is hard) and milk, opting instead for protein-rich smoothies made with clean ingredients. And yes, I've got a sweet tooth, but I've found some healthier swaps for my cake and cookie cravings! I also believe in balance and indulging in moderation. Occasionally, I’ll give myself permission to enjoy a treat that might not be the healthiest option. Almost every morning I try start my day with ginger shot to keep inflammation down, sometimes bone broth for gut health and wild blueberry smoothies are my go-to for a tasty antioxidant fill.
Supplements and Natural Wellness:
My fascination with herbs and supplements took root when I was 17, working at The Vitamin Shoppe. There, my journey into the world of natural health began. Through meticulous research, I've curated a selection of supplements and herbs that work for me. This includes Boswellia, turmeric, omega-3s, magnesium, vitamin D with K2, selenium, probiotics, lemon balm, zinc, L-Lysine, and chlorophyll. I've also found great value in castor oil packs with Frankincense oil, and the wisdom of Dr. Barbara O'Neil, who you can find on YouTube. To complement these, I enjoy regular massages and am excited to reintegrate acupuncture into my wellness routine.
Lymphatic Stimulation and Detoxification:
To help my lymphatic system and support detoxification, I regularly use a shake plate in the mornings and have a portable infrared sauna to help sweat out toxins. I'm also intrigued by the idea of a cold plunge, although I'll admit the thought of it is a bit daunting since I'm not a fan of feeling cold.
This is a big one! Making the switch to non-toxic household cleaners, laundry detergents, and personal care items has been a key move for my health. I've ditched the harsh chemicals that can mess with my hormones and could even be cancer-causing, choosing to go with organic and pure options instead. And it turns out, even those fancy scented candles aren't great; they're often full of stuff that could trigger asthma or worse. So, I've tossed them out and now stick to clean-burning candles. Keep an eye out—I'll be sharing a list of my go-to products that are certified non-toxic by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
The Toxicity of Alcohol on the Body:
For anyone managing autoimmune issues, alcohol can unfortunately ramp up inflammation and discomfort quickly, setting back our healing efforts. I realized that just one glass of wine would set my joints on fire in no time. Since cutting out alcohol, I've felt a significant difference. I don't miss it, and the freedom from those sudden, painful reactions has been a welcome change in my life.
Good friends make all the difference. My circle is small, but it’s solid—filled with soul sisters who get it. We do more than just fun stuff together; we share the real things, the ups and downs, and support each other's growth. It's about having people around who lift you up and keep you grounded. Our hangouts are healthy, our chats deep, and our support for each other unwavering. It’s this kind of bond that adds to your life, and it’s important to make sure the people in your life are giving back as much as they take. That balance is key, especially when you're on the road to healing.
Prayer and Mindful Living:
Prayer grounds me every day, offering a steady stream of peace and a connection to God. I've leaned into things that feel good for my spirit, like a quiet moment in meditation, going to Sunday service, stretching out in yoga, sitting in the grass with my dogs or just taking a walk outside. My music playlist is all about positive vibes—skipping past the flashy stuff and songs that just don't feel right, and tuning into sounds that lift me up. Since I work with sound, I'm picky about what I listen to; give me some relaxing mantra music, the healing power of worship music, or even some throwback feel good 80's music, and I'm set. I really believe that the right melodies can be good for the soul, and I'm all about keeping my vibe and health in tune. By curating the sounds that surround me, I protect my mental state and promote wellbeing, recognizing that what we listen to can subtly shape our emotions and health.
Gratitude is key:
Spending time with my husband and our dogs, Twinkle and Oreo, is the best part of my day. They remind me how much I have to be thankful for, even when I'm in pain. Just being alive and with them is a true blessing. It's awesome to have a family that gets what I'm going through and stands by me. That support means the world, especially on the hard days. Life's really something special when you've got great people—and pups—around you. Being thankful isn't just nice; it helps me heal. Gratitude isn't just a feeling; it's medicine.
Learn from someone else’s healing journey – Be open to advice and be inspired!
My inspiration, my big sister Kimberley!
In January 2023, we faced a real test of strength when my big sister was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. She immediately began a tough journey of treatment, tackling five months of chemotherapy, surgery, and numerous radiation sessions, all of which she completed, November 8th, 2023.
Despite the odds, she approached every challenge with incredible bravery and a kind of optimism that was truly inspiring. Her journey wasn't just about the treatments; it was about how she handled them—with a spirit that refused to be dimmed. Her laughter became a signal of her resolve, teaching us to find hope and strength in the most unexpected places.
A photo of my sister, shared by my brother-in-law after her surgery, is forever imprinted in my mind. There she was, smiling, as she woke up from anesthesia. That smile was more than a reflex; it was her declaration of being greater than her diagnosis. Her resilient spirit in that moment imparted a profound truth to me: healing is deeply influenced by the mindset we carry into our battles just as much as the medical treatments we receive.
Witnessing her journey, I’ve been profoundly moved by her unshakeable strength. It's shown me that healing isn’t only found in medical interventions but also in the joy and love we embrace in our lives. Our sisterly bond has grown even stronger through this challenge, becoming the unexpected gift in a time of adversity. My sister and I share a belief that's pretty special to us: when it comes to tackling something tough, we don't just hope we can do it—we know we can. To us, hope feels like leaving room for doubt, but 'knowing' means being sure. This mindset has helped us to have faith and believe that we can do what seems to be impossible, not just wishing for the best. "I do not hope, I know" – that's our motto. It's what keeps us moving forward, confident and full of optimism for whatever lies ahead.
In closing, navigating the waters of autoimmune diseases, or any health condition, is a deeply individual experience. It's crucial to engage with healthcare professionals, conduct personal research, and try different methods to discover what uniquely suits your needs. My own journey underscores the value of diligent research, the willingness to experiment, the insights gained from others' experiences, and the commitment to a holistic lifestyle. I hope my narrative inspires you to find your own path to healing and pain management. Learn to understand and appreciate your pain; it often serves as a catalyst for positive change if you're willing to listen.
God bless <3
Keep an eye out – I'll be sharing a list of non-toxic products that I use, with the hope that it might be helpful to others.