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Learning to live in peace with your disease

I was diagnosed with autoimmune thyroid disease and celiac disease many years ago. For a long long time I felt like I had to “fix” my health. My health did improve when I changed my diet, lifestyle and applied natural remedies but when I changed my perspective and accepted that my body has these two conditions is when my health really shifted.

The internet is flooded with stories about people who have gotten sick with a chronic disease and with the power of mindfulness, nutrition, movement and motivation they have “cured” themselves from this dis-ease.

I am the last to say that this cannot happen, but more often than not, I see in my clinic patients with chronic diseases like autoimmune thyroiditis, PCOS, sex hormone deregulation, histamine imbalance, chronic digestive disorders and many more who cannot and could not “cure” themselves despite eating very well, practicing mindfulness and keeping active.

These people are highly motivated people who are doing anything and everything in their power to get better. Their health might improve, they may have less symptoms and their body is probably functioning better but they cannot “cure” themselves from their dis-ease.

My job as a functional medicine nutritionist is of course to help people eat better, and ease their symptoms with lifestyle and natural remedies. Often, I also have to teach people to accept their condition or illness. When we accept, stop fighting and embrace hardship we also stop fearing the condition and this will bring healing.

A disease or condition comes along to teach us something or to help us shift our perspective. In my case my thyroid disease has taught me how to slow down, how to learn to relax my body and mind. My celiac disease has taught me to listen to my body, to understand which foods work for me and which do not (despite diet and nutrition trends).

So if you are suffering from a chronic condition and despite doing all the known techniques to help yourself here are some tips of how to learn to live in peace with your disease:

1. Be angry, cry, be upset- let it out. It’s not fair that you got this condition. It’s hard and it’s OK to let yourself feel this. Don’t bottle up your feelings. Share how you feel with your friends and family.
2. Write down what are the main things that help you manage your condition better (which foods to avoid, which foods feel good, what body mind practice helps you and which supplements are vital) and keep this list close by. This is your disease manual, it will be different from someone else who has the exact same disease because we are individuals even in our disease.
3. Observe what makes you feel worst about this condition? Is it the fear of death, is it a limitation, is it a physical feeling? List the top 5 things that limit you because of your condition. What do these limitations force you to do? Do you have to slow down? Plan ahead, take care of yourself like you would take care of a child?
4. Shift the way you think- it’s not about “fixing” or “curing” your condition it’s about feeling better and having a better day every day. When we stop fixing we take the load and pressure off ourselves. Pressure and load is extra stress which we do not need when we are trying to heal.

5. Stop fearing your disease. I have Hashimotos and it has nasty side effects which slow me down. I can always worry about what lies in my future but choose to just accept my disease and what it means – that sometimes I need to listen to my body and rest.

Fear is crippling, it’s a feeling that prevents proper healing. When we look at a disease and only think about fixing it, we are not really dealing with the fear of having the disease. Embrace the fear, allow yourself to feel fear and then you will be able to shift your feelings and that’s when real healing comes along.

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