From Hopeless to Healing: Thoughts on Therapy & Guiding My Own Healing Journey
As you might know, I have been navigating chronic illness for the last few years. At the beginning I was hoping things would just heal on their own, and they didn't. So then I began seeking the help of medical professionals.
First I started with a traditional medicine GI doctor -- make that 2 GI doctors. They were able to order some tests, give me antibiotics, and send me on my way with the all-to vague "IBS diagnosis" after my symptoms wouldn't go away. I wasn't willing to accept that and just live this way forever, so I sought out another form of medicine that I thought aligned more with my philosophies, and above all, would actually listen to me and help me rather than slap a B.S. diagnosis on me with no real root-cause solution for my symptoms.
Enter: functional medicine. I started seeing a practitioner at a functional medicine practice, in addition to an acupuncturist and functional dietician, all of whom speak to one another and collaborate on a holistic approach to healing.
I was happy to have found this practice with compassionate professionals, and I was starting some new paths of treatment and healing. But it wasn't long until I started losing hope here too. After all, I was taking a ton of supplements that they prescribed me, I was taking all of the tests they ordered, I was changing some things up with my lifestyle, yet I wasn't feeling like I was getting better.
Over time I was feeling hopeless without any direction from my doctors. I would go in to an appointment and they would tweak some supplements, change up my diet, or order more tests, but at no point did I ever hear: this is what you have going on, and this is what you need to do get better. Nor did I ever hear the words "you will get better," and that was difficult for me. On top of feeling sick, I was feeling stressed about feeling sick, and that in itself can be a huge roadblock to healing.
Feeling sick everyday with no change or forward progress brought me into a dark place -- slowly forgetting what it felt like to feel "good" I was loosing my sense of normalcy, my sense of optimism, my sense of self, and my quality of life. Between being sick and and trying to cope with the feelings surrounding that, in addition to the physical changes my body has undergone as a result of my illness, I was really struggling emotionally to deal with it all. I am not one to feel down on myself, so as I was having these feelings, I knew they were red flags, and I knew it was a place I did not want to be, and a road I did not want to be heading down. I knew that I needed additional support.
I have the most amazing support system in the form of my incredibly caring, thoughtful, loving, and sweet husband (I could write a million blog posts about everything I love about this man and how amazing he has been through my health struggles, but I'll spare you and maybe resort to writing one or two or three another day), my parents, and a couple of close friends. But I was getting to a point where I needed extra support in a way that a family member or friend couldn't necessarily provide me.
I have been to therapy before, back in high school and college, but those times it was out of a requirement by my parents (in high school and college I struggled with an eating disorder and in order to stay in school, I had to see a therapist). Because of this, I never really felt a connection to my therapy experience or felt like it helped tremendously. In fact, in a lot of ways it feels a bit foggy for me, probably because of my condition and everything I was going through at that time. In any case, in my current stage of life as an adult on my own, I saw a need to see a therapist again, and I am so glad that I did.
There were a lot of things I needed to work through, and while I won't necessarily go into everything here, what I really want to emphasize is how important it is to recognize and acknowledge when you are feeling down, frustrated, and even hopeless, but to then take positive action on those feelings.
Being able to work through years of pent-up emotions surrounding this illness has been such a release for me, which has allowed my body to get to a more relaxed and restful state where it can begin to heal. Just like an environmental toxin, emotions can also be toxic and have the same effect on your physical well-being. Being able to break through those barriers, release, and detox from any pent-up emotions or feelings really has allowed me to heal more wholly and effectively. I am so grateful for my experience with therapy, and I highly encourage anyone in need of support when dealing with a chronic illness, undiagnosed illness, or even body image issues, to seek out a therapist, specifically one who specializes in the mind-body connection. That connection is so real.
No one told me to go to therapy or to seek out extra help. And there have been certain lab tests that I have asked to my doctor to order for me. While I've received great care, I feel like throughout this process I have, in some ways, guided my own health and healing journey, and that has been an empowering thing for me.
I will be perfectly honest and say that because I was somewhat undiagnosed and was seeing little to no progress for a really long time, I felt a bit abandoned by some of my doctors -- I was told several times that according to some tests I was fine, or I was slapped with a "diagnosis" which actually was just a term for the symptoms I had without addressing any root cause, and I had to fight my way to find care and a direction with my healing that has allowed me to start progressing.
The fact that I was able to recognize that I needed more or different help at various points throughout my journey, makes me realize that I have been able to guide my healing in a way that someone else who does not know me as well would have been able to.
And while it took some time to get to this point, a point where I feel like I'm moving in the right direction and seeing slow improvements with my health, I am so grateful that I am where I am today -- on an upward trajectory, and I can take comfort and appreciation in knowing that I was strong enough and self aware enough to help myself get here.
If you feel like you're struggling in your healing journey, take charge of your own path forward! It's important to remember that you're never stuck in your situation, even if it might feel that way sometimes. I encourage you to seek extra help -- find a medical practice that aligns with your philosophies and, most importantly, listens to you.
I also encourage therapy for anyone who can afford to do so (hopefully your insurance will help with some of it). I truly believe that my positive turnaround lately can be attributed to being in therapy and working with a therapist who understands the mind-body connection. I have made such incredible strides since I started just a few months ago, not only in how I'm emotionally coping with my illness, but I believe that the physical healing that my body is undergoing is a result of the progress I've made in therapy.
If you're feeling down, confused, scared, hopeless, or need extra support, I really recommend seeking out a therapist who is a good fit for you. You have that happiness and vitality inside you, and a therapist can help peel back those layers so that you can find that again.
In health and healing,