My story and the first “3 Ways to Happy” Post

Hello, world!  Ah, it’s great to be here, to be writing again – and writing about a holistic lifestyle, health and happiness.  I’ll skip the blabbing for now and get right to the story – my story – and the digestive illness and health concerns that have inspired me to start “Holistically Happy”…(caution #1: parts of my tale are not for the “easily-made-queasy – caution #2: I use a lot of “potty humor” to stay positive about my journey, sorry if that’s not your thing!)

SO, here we go…..

During my senior year of high school, I started seeing blood in the toilet when I went #2, accompanied by diarrhea, an increased urgency to use the bathroom, cramping, awful gas and bloating, severe fatigue and swollen joints.  Even as an 18-year-old, I knew that seeing blood when going to the potty was never a good thing.  I was a really good student, played 3 sports, and was going through my first real “break-up” – I boiled my “issues” down to stress and figured it would stop.  Plus, it was an extremely embarrassing problem to have, especially as afemale teenger – I mean, I was just happy to have days now and then when they weren’t huge pimples on my face… So, I chose to play down my debilitating digestive symptoms and pushed through my senior year.

Fast-forward to 6 months later, and after a couple of misdiagnosed hemorrhoids (that took me 5 minutes to spell just now!), the impending doom of a probable blood transfusion (my hemoglobin was dangerously low from passing so much blood when going #2), and my first colonoscopy/endoscopy, I was finally diagnosed by my GI doc with Ulcerative Colitis.  My colonoscopy showed that 2/3 of my colon and rectum were inflamed with open, bleeding ulcers.  No wonder I’d felt so awful – I’d been like a zombie for half a year with awful mental fog and daily exhaustion, running to the bathroom every 15 minutes (sometimes not making it in time – you can do the math there), bloating like a whale, bleeding all the time, and sporting a greenish, sickly, translucent complexion.  It all made sense now – I was sick.  Apparaently, really sick…

senior year

That’s me in the front row with a bunch of my friends senior year right after I was diagnosed.  I look happy, and I probably was, but was still working hard every day to NOT show my peers how awful I felt inside.

So what DID a diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis (UC) mean for as an 18-year-old?  Well, to start, a lifetime full of a medication called “Asacol” (9 pills a day to be exact), no knowledge of ANY cure, cause or treatment for UC other than daily medication.  UC, a form of “Irritable Bowel Disease” is an “incurable” Autoimmune Disorder where my body attacks my own colon as a foreign object.  My doctors told me food played no role in my symptoms or the onset of my disease and that my only option was to pop lots of pills to control my “flare ups”, or periods of bleeding/inflammation/diarrhea/lots of time in the bathroom.

Fast-forward again to today – coming up on my 6-year anniversary of my UC diagnosis and a lot has changed, but not everything.  I still suffer from UC, along with some hormonal issues I’ve been battling since I was a pre-teen (I’ll go into all that later, but it’s mostly excess testosterone).  BUT, in the last year, I’ve made numerous decisions to fight for my health that have changed my life, including:

—-> Following a couple diets called the “Autoimmune Paleo Protocol”, and the general “Paleo” or “Caveman” diet – I’ll get into specifics later, but you can learn more about AIP here at one of my favorite blogs.  While following AIP, I do my absolute best to eat no gluten, grains (including corn), dairy, refined sugar, eggs, nuts, seeds and nightshades, and try to keep my natural sugar intake as low as possible.  Many of my posts will pertain to this subject, as every day is a new adventure and/or struggle with keeping this restrictive diet in check.  In fact, my hope is that this blog (and hopefully a handful of followers in the future) will force me to take even more accountability and responsibility for my health when it comes to my diet.  I’ve definitely been loosely follwoing AIP for the past coupls of month, and I’m ready to get more serious about ultimately healing my UC through this seemingly promising regimen.

—-> Practicing Yoga when I can (I should do it daily).  The wonderful, deep breathing I’ve discovered through Yoga is the only thing I’ve found that truly calms me down and clears my head.  I love following free videos on YouTube or http://www.doyogawithme.com/.  Stress very negatively affects my UC symptoms and flare-ups, so keeping my stress levels as low as possible will continue to be an important part of my healing.

—–> Visiting a couple Holistic Health Practitioners who introduced me to various digestive and hormonal support supplements that I have used to literally “supplement” my AIP diet.  My learning curve with supplements has made it even clearer to me that the secrets to my healing success lie somewhere within Mother Nature’s caring embrace.  I’ve tried a handful of different supplements and will comment on their effectiveness, price, etc. throughout my posts.

—->  Experimenting with DIY personal hygiene and home care products like toothpaste, makeup, remover and all-purpose cleaning spray, to eliminate as many toxins from my daily routine as possible (and to save a little money!) to protect my already compromised immune system.  This is time consuming, but so worth it for the peace of mind and money saving – and it’s kinda fun!

But, seriously – WOW do I feel better!  I’ve lost weight (about 20 pounds in the last year, without really trying), I have more energy and more mental clarity, reduced bleeding and “flare-up” severity, less bloating, less acid reflux, reduced joint swelling, clearer skin.  This is all great, and call me crazy for wanting my UC to be GONE – but I believe that with time, effort and perseverance I can ultimately reverse my condition, too.  I’d love to hear about your journey – email me at ezaborny@gmail.com so we can connect!

At this point,  I want to introduce my 1st “3 Ways to Happy” post, a weekly (hopefully daily in the future) feature where I will include 3 “projects” I’m currently working on to improve my health and happiness holistically.  A lot of my inspiration comes from Pinterest – people, if you aren’t “pinning” already, what have you been doing with your lives????  Please follow me on Pinterest HERE!

1)   Our garden plans are in the works!  My boyfriend, Seth, and I moved in together about 6 months ago and we are so excited about starting our first garden!  We picked out a handful of organic seeds from Seed Savers Exchange, a non-profit company with a GREAT selection of hundreds of seeds.  I’ll definitely be keeping track of our garden’s progress on “Holistically Happy”!

Seeds ordered from Seed Savers Exchange!

2) My first experience with gut-healing chicken bone broth – this recipe could not have been simpler.  I simply put chicken bones, skin and cartillage left over from a whole organic chicken we used for soup in our crock pot with a couple cups of water (less if you want a stronger broth), a couple glugs from my Apple Cider Vinegar bottle and some himalayan salt, garlic powder and parsley.  Man, is a warm mug of this stuff comforting!  My goal for right now is to try to have one cup a day, and eventually increase to 2-3 cups daily.

IMG_1862

3) Bracelet Making – for a little extra income and as a hobby!  I’ve been making leather beaded wrap bracelets for the past 2 years that I sell at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, which is about 20 minutes from my house.  Not only do I make a little extra money from selling these bracelets, it’s also a great stress reliever for me – most days!  I create custom size/color/length/design bracelets, so if you’re ever interested in purchasing one of my handmade creations, email me at ezaborny@gmail.com!

Iphone 010

Whew – that was a novel of a first blog post – but, boy, that felt GOOD to just get it out.

What are 3 things you’ve done lately to take care of yourself in the name of being holistically happy and healthy?

Yours truly,

Erika

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. flareuphope
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 01:46:12

    Erika, thank you so, so much for sharing this. I’m still going through my first flare up, went into remission for about a month and then came right back out of it with a roar. I’m trying the natural healing as well, and love love love yoga and all the benefits it produces.
    Okay, My three things:
    I started taking shots of apple cider vinegar every morning. Right now I have it mixed with a little orange juice and honey and it’s awful, but I know the benefits are huge in the long run. I’m still trying to make it taste better!
    I drove to Lake michigan on Sunday to just see the beach. Summer has to be here soon. Just watching the sunset brightened my outlook.
    Finally, I started my own blog/place to share my story too! It feels so GOOD to let it all out there.
    I can’t wait to see what else you have to share. Looking forward to seeing your holistic approach!

    Reply

    • Erika
      Mar 27, 2014 @ 16:59:41

      flareuphope:
      Thank you for your awesome comment! In my opinion, my first flare up was the worst – I went 6 months before I was diagnosed – and I haven’t had one of the same magnitude since, ESPECIALLY since my holistic lifestyle changes. I’ve had symptoms of bleeding, cramping, etc., but nothing nearly as debilitating as my first flare 6 years ago. So, if anything I hope that gives you a little HOPE that with a healthy outlook things will get better!

      When it comes to Apple Cider Vinegar, I can’t get enough of the stuff. Do you ever experience acid reflux? I often experience it when I’m flaring or have eaten something that doesn’t digest well – it’s awful, feels like a fireball is rolling up my throat! ONE swig of ACV immediately gets rid of it – burns just a little going down, but fixes the problem right away. I’ve also read that taking a sip before every meal helps with aiding digestion, haven’t been doing it regulary enough to tell if it helps, but if you try it, let me know how it works for you!

      My goal for now is to post a couple of times a week, so please stay tuned for more!

      Reply

  2. This Sydney Life
    Mar 28, 2014 @ 00:10:17

    All signed up! We AIP-follwers need to stick together. Look forward to following your blogging journey!

    Reply

    • Erika
      Mar 28, 2014 @ 00:47:17

      Thanks for the follow, This Sydney Life! You’re right the AIP journey is not one for the faint of heart, and there’s strength in numbers 🙂

      Reply

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