Autoimmune? What does that even mean? What are some positive things my autoimmune disease can do for me?
I was diagnosed after the birth of my second child. I literally envisioned myself living in a giant bubble, removed from the world. Autoimmune disease was not a prevalent topic discussed at the time or I was living in a hypothetical bubble of ignorance and the topic completely escaped my notice.
According to womenshealth.gov autoimmune diseases are common and affect more than 23.5 million Americans.
After some research and discussion with my doctor I realized how many people in my life live with this disease everyday. If you want to know more WebMD has a good explanation of the disease and a comprehensive list of the different types.
I digress, I am not here to give you a lesson on autoimmune disease. I am writing to discuss my experiences, the positive impact it can have on your life how it does not need to rule your life. My hope is this article will help you see the positive impact autoimmune disease can have on your life or a loved one living with it today.
Positive: I became more aware of my health
In our 20s and 30s we do not have as many worries about our health. I was personally in good health and pretty fit (even without routine exercise). I ate pretty well considering how “busy” my life was, raising my boys and working full-time out of the home. Now at 40+ and being diagnosed with autoimmune disease, I am more aware of my health needs. I have to get out and get exercise and be aware of what I am choosing to eat each day. Grabbing a donut on the way out of the house is not an option for me anymore. I meal plan to get the most nutrition out of every meal and avoid trigger foods. This helps reduce the chances of any inflammation or what I call “flair ups.”
Good little bit of news; with good eating and exercising comes great skin, hair, nails and lots of energy. It goes without saying, it helps keep my waist line in check too. Skipping that donut in the morning has its perks!
In midlife, have you become more aware of your health needs?
Positive: I am an active advocate for my health
I discussed how to advocate for your own health, in A Simple Truth About Fighting For Your Health In Your Midlife Years. I shared how I learned to best care for “me” and ask questions that empowered me to be an active participant in my auto immune disease and health care. How learning to read and understand your labs is important. How change is essential to healing and having the important conversation with your health provider on what to change.
You are the best and only true advocate for your health in this life and the best suited to fight battles when it comes to your health.
Are you being the best advocate when it comes to your health?
Positive: I gained perspective
After the news of my diagnosis I immediately went into a sort of depression. Would my life be dictated by the things I could not do anymore and stop living the way I wanted?
OMGoodness I cannot:
- keep a constant supply of chocolate, cookies, and donuts on hand for the fifty sugar fixes I need each day?
- keep my, all day, coffee consumption habit? Water? What is this clear liquid you speak of and you want me to drink how much!!!?
- continue to go without exercise… What, me exercise!? Can “me” and “exercise” even go in the same sentence without the world exploding?
- go medication free for life…?
- be involved in everything?
I deserve better and these things do not have any traction in my life if I do not let them. I want to be healthy, feel good everyday, be present in my life, and be around for my future grand babies. To have the quality and quantity of life I want, I need to learn how to live, not stop living. To focus on what I “can” do to improve my life and not focus on the “cannot.”
Are you truly living or has something stopped you from living the life you are meant to live?
Positive: I learned to love myself
Autoimmune disease has taught me to love myself. To know that I am worth fighting for and taking care of. I often have to put myself and my health first to better care for those around me. Self-love leads to a relaxed and positive life.
These are some of the things I do to show myself some love:
- take the time to stop and smell the roses
- welcome an afternoon nap
- spend the day doing something I love
- go out with a friend
- ask for help
- show myself grace
- eat well
- have a good cry
- simplify my life
It doesn’t take much to show yourself some love you simply need to be intentional about it sometimes.
What are some things you do to show yourself some love?
Positive: I opened up to my family about my health
I was good at keeping my health issues to myself. This lead to my family not understanding why I could not perform simple tasks. I had to start sharing some of the things I was experiencing with my autoimmune disease.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not using my autoimmune disease to make excuses for laziness. I am far from being a lazy person. My house is
immaculate clean (most of the time), I have dinner on the table every most nights, and essential needs are met. It is not fair to those around me or myself to exclude them from that part of my life. I have “down days” and need their grace and understanding. Sometimes I need help with the day to day stuff that I can typically manage myself.
Together, we are better able to work on solutions to get me through what I am struggling with on my health journey.
Have you allowed your loved ones to be a part of your health journey?
Positive: My prayer life is stronger
I came to realize that I need more purposeful time in daily prayer. I do not have the patience I used to have. Pain, discomfort, and a general lack of sleep can make a person pretty, how should I put this?… cranky (nice way of speaking my truth). Prayer has helped me find peace and relaxation in my times of need. Prayer has personally brought me healing from many things associated with my autoimmune disease.
As my prayer life got stronger I grew stronger as a person, inside and out.
Do you have something to turn to that makes you stronger?
These positive things have stuck out the most at this part of my journey with autoimmune disease. I have definitely gained a better understanding of myself, my needs, and this disease. My greatest hope is to share some of my knowledge and experience with others. Help someone be more aware of their health needs, learn to advocate for themselves, gain a better perspective, learn to show themselves some love, open up to their loved ones, and find that one thing they can tether to for strength and healing.