“A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings…”
Being healthy in body and mind is the foundation of life. I worked in the wellness industry for many years and as a student and teacher of mindfulness and meditation I have experienced the power of practices to enhance well-being, leading a healthy life in body and mind. Likewise, I have been unwell in body and mind with serious health challenges which have brought me to where I am today.
I’ve considered myself a relatively healthy person, conscious of my well-being in some areas of my life, but not in others. Let’s rewind to my early thirties. I had a vegetarian diet with regular yoga, meditation and exercise. My career as a photographer was thriving and I was surrounded by a supportive circle of family, friends and community.
As conscious as I was I wasn’t always good at moderation. I regularly drank alcohol in excess, indulged often in sweets of all kinds, didn’t do much self-care and regularly felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster. I had experienced a lot of love and loss, but overall I felt pretty healthy and happy.
Fast forward five years where I was living the same lifestyle, but fell madly in love with an Aussie I met while traveling in Africa. After doing the long distance relationship for two years we decided I would relocate to Australia to start a life together. It was a leap of faith, but my heart was leading the way and my gut said to follow. Speaking of my gut, this is when I encountered my first health crisis.
The massive shift of leaving my family, friends, career and home put me under intense stress. Not to mention my yoga, meditation and exercise routine became a ghost. I felt like my foundation crumbled away and I was questioning if I made the right choice. Not to mention visa issues had me back in the US with no job, waiting for approval to work in Oz.
It was as if all of my stress was internalised into my body. -Warning, this may be TMI for some of you- My symptoms included extreme abdominal cramping, bleeding, excessive fatigue and fear. The fear is what kept me from sharing my symptoms with anyone for three months until the multitude of issues became too much to bare. I had lost twenty pounds and life as I knew it came to a screeching halt. I thought I had cancer and was going to die.
As my dear mother was caring for me I awaited medical treatment wondering what happened to me? I was so healthy. I know I wasn’t the pillar of good health, but what went wrong? After a colonoscopy I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, ulcerative colitis. Basically my colon was filled with bleeding ulcers. And let me tell you, it’s as painful as it may sound. Medication put the disease into remission and the symptoms dissolved as I slowly gained back strength. Within 6 weeks I was eating and had most of my energy back. I chalked it up as a one-time-deal.
My visa came through and I headed back to Oz. A year and half later the strain of integrating into a new life in a new country brought on a relapse. This time it was worse, as I spent months with ineffective treatment along with physical and emotional turmoil. At my worst, I was so weak I could barely walk from the car to the hospital, as the pain was surging through my abdomen. I hadn’t eaten in days, because my body could no longer process food. My mind would have made me crazy, but I was in so much physical pain I just focused on one breath at a time. My gastroenterologist said it was the worst case she had ever seen, referring to my colon as ground hamburger. Which was an accurate description, because that is how it felt. I was hospitalized and although I had lost a lot of blood I didn’t have to have a blood transfusion. A hospitalization with an iron transfusion and being pumped with steroids, nutrients and medication brought me back to life. It took me months to fully regain my health. As I write this I’m brought to tears at how my well-being felt destroyed at that time in my life.
Thankfully, today, with medication and mindful living the disease is now under control. And by the way, I’m a naturalist, a hippie spirit who would never want to be taking medication. However, it has been essential to my healing and the remission. This debilitating health scare is what empowered me to recommit to my well-being. Mindfulness has been crucial to my well-being formula as I need to be attuned to keeping tension at bay while keeping my energy levels up.
Taking care of one’s self is a journey, not a destination, so know I am perfectly imperfect. It is tough work and each and every day I have to make conscious choices to reduce stress in body and mind. You’ll see me fall off the wagon, get back on and try my best to find the balance of what it is for me to be a well being. That’s why it’s called a practice.