Long months away – big changes at play

deepest pain

Long story short – my last post on here marked my last peaceful days before my horrifying struggle with anxiety, depression and moderate OCD set in May, 2014.  Truth be told, during that black hole of my life, I never thought I’d be sitting here writing to you about those months.  Though not fully recovered mentally, I can recall immediately how those months literally seemed unending, like a literal weight on my psyche that would never lift.  Wanting things to get better, to feel better, and yet I had no energy to make that happen.  The only way I can attest to that I came to be here today is from sheer willpower.  I willed myself to believe in the wonderful, beautiful person I am, despite my mistakes, my faults, my inconsistencies, my weaknesses.  At some point, my weaknesses turned into my strengths – or perhaps the strength came from recognizing that I was weak and that it was okay, completely ok, to be weak in certain areas and strong in others.  I decided that writing and sharing my struggles became an even bigger part of my healing process.  Now, I’m attempting to heal from not only my ulcerative colitis, but also a recent diagnosis of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), General Anxiety Disorder and Depression.  I know without a shadow of a doubt that all these conditions are related & I am going to devote as much energy and time as I can to work to connect the dots to reach the holistic equilibrium of my life.  And I will share as much of this journey with you as I can.  I’m still very much so learning to help myself and to live true to myself, and if I can show you you’re not alone in that, my healing will quadruple. 🙂 Like that quote says at the beginning of my post, the deeper you go, the more you can grow.  I will add that I was and am still currently taking SSRIs (Prozac) to manage my Depression, but hope to be off of them soon.  I am NOT a fan of medication at all, which hopefully puts into perspective how scared I was of how I was feeling to willingly take some of the toughest meds out there.

With that (and there IS so much more to say…), I’d like to list for my own sake and yours 5 holistic changes or new habits I have been working on implementing in my life for my health, happiness and success.  If nothing else, puling myself out of this tar pit of depression, confusion and mental imprisonment, has proved to me that to live life holistically is the best way to live it.

1.  Practicing self-love:  I’ll talk a lot about this in future, but practices of self love for me personally included eating better (cutting out sugar), journaling for self-discovery and being open to why I had the fears I have (mostly about my relationship) and how to  comfort myself, and resting or sleeping when I either wanted to or had to.  There are so many ways to be loving to yourself – just Google “self love” and you’ve hit the ground running!  I also read and am still reading a handful of amazing really enlightening books, that I’ll share down the road.

2.  Yoga has changed my life in the 3+ years since I started practicing on and off.  It’s meditation, cardio, toning and self love all in one.  Start practicing a couple times a week if you implement one thing on this list.  The website linked above has free videos of all levels.

3.  Meditation.  It’s a bit of a buzz word right now, but it’s as good for you as “they” say it is. Perspective, clarity, connection.

4.  Talking about the pain I felt, even if I didn’t know why I felt it.  I talked to my parents, my amazingly strong boyfriend, my therapist, my psychiatrist, close friends, co-workers, people on trusted forums going through what I was, more or less.  I got it out.  I didn’t keep it in.  Turns out, I was the ONLY one condemning myself for the things I thought I was doing.

5.  Signing up for a program called “Trust Yourself” by an amazing international anxiety counselor named Sheryl Paul.  If you struggle with anxiety, especially relationship anxiety, check out her blog.  Her wisdom and peace will change your life.

I’ll go into depth the changes I’ve been making.  I’m still walking a long road, so I thank you for walking with me 🙂

Has anyone else suffered from anxiety, depression, or OCD?  What has helped you manage your symptoms and find peace?

In health and happiness,

Erika

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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.

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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