So, you want to feel well and you don’t know where to start. You are tired and run down. You can’t remember the last time you felt really well. You might have spent months going from doctor to doctor with no real answers. Or you might have just been diagnosed with a chronic illness or disease – obesity, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, IBS, etc. Maybe, you are afraid that a diagnosis isn’t far away if you don’t get a handle on your health now. SO, your biggest question is – what do I do first?
I understand because I have been there. I know what it feels like to be chronically ill. You are overwhelmed with conflicting health information and advice. You want to make healthy lifestyle changes, but don’t know where to start. You want energy. You want a life full of vitality. You want that evasive overall feeling of being healthy, happy and on track. You want to answer, “I’m well, thank you!” – and mean it. Thankfully, I also know what it feels like to feel, be and do well in life each day. But it wasn’t always that way. And I had to start somewhere too.
Four and half years ago I was in the same position as you. I had just been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I was dealing with extreme vision problems that inhibited me from driving and homeschooling my kids, I had Bell’s palsy (or paralysis of the face on one side), I had excruciating headaches, I was weak and fatigued and shook when I tried to walk. All seemingly overnight! I was hospitalized for five days to endure IV steroids and MRI’s and a miserable diagnosis. And then sent home with no answers except– “Find a neurologist and start administering a shot to yourself every day that will modulate your immune system so that it stops attacking itself and your brain.” They failed to mention that this same medication cost more than $25,000 a year, causes flu like symptoms daily and lowers an immune system enough to invite many other viruses and bacteria. Thank God I never took it. They also failed to mention that the Neurologists all had about a six month wait and once you did get to see them, they all offered the same solution – “Give yourself the shot daily. Deal with the side effects.” A few months later I was also diagnosed with chronic Lyme Disease that had gone untreated for about 4 years, which most likely induced the MS symptoms and neurological damage. I had no idea what to do to change the course of my health. I desperately wanted to feel well and to be able to take care of my children. After a few weeks at home, this is the FIRST thing that I did to change the course of my life for the better.
I decided that I was in charge of my health and wellness. Not a doctor or specialist or Neurologist, but ME. I decided that I was my own best health advocate. I decided that I wasn’t going to identify with these illnesses. I decided that I was going to identify with a healthy me. I stopped imagining the “what if’s” and a life riddled with symptoms. Believe me, this wasn’t always easy. MS can be a devastating disease and it can be highly unpredictable – leaving patients to often worry constantly about what symptom they might wake up with next. But I worked hard every day to choose wellness. I researched, learned, decided and was in charge of my own health. And you can too. Here is how:
- Make the decision to adopt what I call a “Do Well Mentality.” Simply decide that you are your own best health advocate.
- Imagine wellness. Imagine the life you are striving for. Identify with a healthy you.
- Believe deep down that there are ways for you to be healthy and whole, full of vitality and energy through steps that you can take yourself.
- Research, read, learn – fully understand to the best of your ability all that you can about your symptoms or illness.
- Understand the limitations of traditional medicine and physicians. They are not trained in wellness. They are trained to recognize illness and to treat symptoms. They are not trained to uncover root causes and return the body to balance and health. They are bound by science and often controlled by pharmaceutical companies. Please, don’t get me wrong. I have a primary care physician! And if I needed surgery or had a broken bone or needed an MRI, I would see him. But, I also understand his limitations in restoring health versus treating symptoms when it comes to chronic illness. This also doesn’t mean that I would never take medication suggested by my physician or specialist or agree with a Client who wants to do the same. It means that I would research all of the options and make an educated decision about my health for my own well-being. In fact, I took a complicated course of many medications for over a year to treat Lyme Disease. But, gone are the days when a patient blindly follows all doctor’s orders without asking questions. Remember, these are the same doctors who have about four hours of nutrition education and recommend diet soda as a healthy habit.
- Find resources that help explain your diagnosis or symptoms from a Functional Medicine, holistic or alternative standpoint.
- Know and believe the important truth that you can feel better by supporting your body with nutrient dense food choices, avoiding toxic environmental factors, supplementing with quality vitamins/minerals, and addressing health habits such as stress control, sleep, exercise and addictions. In fact, it is estimated that 80% of chronic illnesses can be prevented by healthy living – go ahead, search that! It is absolutely true! So even if you do take medications for chronic disease or illness, supporting your body with all of the basics can only make you feel better!
I know this all sounds a bit overwhelming. Remember, I have been there. But once you are your own best health advocate and you focus daily on healing and wellness, those feelings of overwhelm will diminish as your sense of ownership takes over. Adopting a “Do Well Mentality” means that you have educated yourself about what is going on with your body, that you understand all of the options from traditional to alternative medicine, and that you believe that you can make choices that will lead to wellness. You identify with a healthy you. And you embrace all that it takes to get you there!
January is often a time of hope and renewed goals. I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions – it seems that those are just made to be broken by January 15th! But, I do believe in assessing the year in review and planning for the next year. I believe that with this important first step – a “Do Well Mentality,” you can begin to do well in the New Year!
Sometimes just telling someone about your plans helps you to stick to them and follow through with your good intentions. If you plan to adopt a “Do Well Mentality” and start feeling better, leave me a comment!