When we're first diagnosed with an autoimmune disease or chronic illness, we have to adopt a specific "operating system" to help us move through our new reality, right?
For example, we're asked, often over and over and over again, about the symptoms we're experiencing, when those symptoms first appeared, and what (if anything) provides relief. Because autoimmune disease and chronic illness is often invisible, it's usually up to us as patients to provide as much data as we possibly can.
However, even though we may eventually be diagnosed, start treatment, or find ourselves in management mode... that hyper-vigilance we've been trained to do doesn't always go away. It doesn't matter if we're no longer in immediate danger, the brain is still looking for any sign of a possible problem that needs to be solved.
Enter: My experience with healthy anxiety.
Ever have a day where you're mad at your body because it won’t do what you want it to?
Because it won't heal fast enough.
Because it won't run as far, lift as much, or work as hard.
Because it won't let you go to the gym or meet up with friends.
Ever feel frustrated, overwhelmed, or just plain bitter when you have to change your plans because of your autoimmune disease?
Because you can't eat whatever you want (without a reaction).
Because you can't work as much as you want (without flaring).
Because you can't go to the gym for a little stress release (without feeling worse).
I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at age 14. As I've tried a variety of treatments and management plans over the last 15 years, I've been upset with my body (and disease) on numerous occasions.
Mad because my back hurt.
Mad because I couldn't braid my hair without taking a break.
Mad because I was always falling apart.
... And mad because I couldn't do what I wanted to do at the gym.
It can be frustrating to feel like your body is attacking itself (and therefore attacking you). It's hard to feel like you don't have any control, that you can't do the activities you used to do (and love), or like your body is constantly changing (always without your consent).
On top of that, it can be really hard to feel like the one place you used to go for relief isn't actually a thing anymore. Because when you're struggling with autoimmune disease, your body might not let you go to the gym, head out for a run, or take your frustration out on a punching bag. Or, if you can make it to the gym, you might not be able to do everything you want to do once you're there.
Earlier this year, I decided to go a month without a particular protein, called A1 casein, that's often found in cow dairy.
That month turned into two which turned into three and now it's been many more months and I feel better than ever.
But here's the thing.
I don't just mean I feel better physically. (I do feel better physically but I attribute that to the time I spend with my journal shifting beliefs and on my mat doing restorative yoga much more than I attribute it to this dietary tweak.)
I also mean that I feel better mentally and emotionally and that I feel a sense of freedom around food that I've never felt before.
You see, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at age 14 and 7 months later with an eating disorder. I spent many months healing from the severity of the eating disorder and another 10+ years healing my relationship to food as a whole.
In fact, it felt so good to finally get to a place where I wasn't dieting and I wasn't controlled by the ingredients on my plate or the size of my waistline that I once made a vow, in a church no less, to never ever ever diet again.
So, how (and why) do I limit A1 casein and things like cheese, milk and ice cream? Even more, how do I do this without dieting and feeling an ounce of restriction along the way?