Lately, I have been thinking a great deal about what health is to us all, and the times when it is challenged. It made me reflect on a time when I witnessed an uphill struggle for someone I truly care about, and how this in turn, changed my outlook with stress. I'm no stranger to it, having a disease that can present even when I haven't consumed any gluten. But seeing something so significant happening to someone who has no health conditions made me think again.
In 2017, I was summoned to help someone dear pack for their soul-searching trip to the other side of the world. Amongst the debris of all-weather retro clothing and the array of 'good luck' and 'congratulations' cards, it got me thinking about how far they had come since June of the previous year.
As we all have experienced from time to time, their previous year had been a particularly challenging one, and their body and mind had to weather a perfect storm of physical and mental hardships.
As a protective peer standing on the side line, desperately trying to convince them that "one day it won't be like this" it was a particularly trying time. It did, however, allow them to develop in a way I had never witnessed. Not just in terms of their maturity, attitude and determination to experience a potentially life-changing trip, but their overall well-being. Their Achilles Heel was their head, and when stress prevailed, headaches, insomnia, and in turn, a considerable seizure shook their world. This was the turning point for them, having never had a previous hospital admission or any major health issue. I was reminded that too often, we are trying to be someone we are not, we want to please everyone we can; and we ignore our own bodies and what it means to be truly happy. Inside and out.
The next few months brought more challenges due to the potential impact the seizure had for this person's future career, independence, and their opportunities to see the world. Luckily, a holistic Consultant Neurologist was involved, who pushed past the red tape approach of the GPs and recruiters acknowledging the person; not the incident. Some difficult conversations then took place with regard to "slowing down", "just being", and "not worrying so much".
With an auto-immune disease, your body tells you exactly how it is, and sometimes, that can knock you completely off your feet. Whether it is what you are eating, or whether you are battling through one of the worst times of your life, you have to listen to what your body is telling you, look out for the warning signs of fatigue and strain, and top yourself up wherever possible; with whatever you think you need. As a therapist, I understand that this doesn't just extend to food and nutrition, it is about sleep, rest, routine balance, social time; essentially doing what makes YOU feel good.
I cannot stress how much this situation eventually impacted in a positive way, and we both now have a very different perspective on things. The eventual trip gave them everything they needed for their new chapter of well-being. They still have their wobbles, as do I. And as I am sure, many of us do.
What is particularly humbling is the positive effect of their career truly helping others, their devotion to fitness and clean eating, and new levels of physical strength and mental well-being. They now know the warning signs with their body's capacity, and it is vital that we know ours.
Coeliac disease like many auto immune conditions is so much more than not eating bread. I have to remind myself of the symptoms regularly in order to be kind to myself when I just don't feel right. Many people with more chronic conditions are struggling with peaks and troughs of symptoms and recovery and we need to be patient with them. Chronic Fatigue Sydrome, Diabetes and Chrons are linked to other autoimmune issues such as coeliac disease. We also need to be patient with ourselves, life just isn't that simple most of the time.
Even if you don't have an auto immune issue, look after your body, you only get one.