My short lived cheerleading career has prepared me for a lifelong parade of jumping shots.
I am sure there are a lot of working definitions for health, but for the purposes of this blog post, I am going to go with ‘alive, fully functional, able to enjoy life with minor physical interruption, and most likely will continue to be without the help of medicine and/or artificial means.’
As I see it, there are 4 types of healthy people:
1. Salt of the Earth, Will Survive the Apocalypse with the Cockroaches Healthy: There are people who will live longer than you or I, while drinking whiskey everyday day, smoking a pack of cigarettes on the hour every hour and eating fruit loops for breakfast. They don’t exercise or eat right, and they do all the things doctors tell you not to do, and yet, they make the nightly news blowing out the candles on their 110th birthday cake.
I have nothing to say about these people except God bless them, and God bless America.
2. Fountain of Youth Healthy: People who have made it to 30 with their 16 year old habits and aren’t having too many issues yet except that their hangovers are worse.
These people will either turn into ‘Salt of the Earth, Will Survive the Apocalypse with the Cockroaches’ healthy, or they will have to face the music as they morph into another type of either healthy or unhealthy.
3. Health Conscious Nut Healthy: These are the marathon runners, the 5 am early yoga risers, the natural product users, the paleo diet followers. They know everything about everything, and are always holding a bowl of something mysterious in their hand that they claim will bring you longevity, happiness, and eternal beauty.
They are also always smiling, which I appreciate.
These are my people.
….And then there are two kinds of Unhealthy People:
1. ‘Whoops! Turns out I’m Unhealthy’: These are often the former ‘fountain of youth healthy’ people, who are nearing the end of their 20’s and realizing that their body is starting to wrinkle and dimple and sag and are none too pleased about it. They are most likely to become to become the #4 brand of healthy.
I have, at times fallen into all 6 of these categories (except #1- you’ve got to be 90 years of age of more to qualify for that one).
If I could pick a category, I would be moderation healthy. I love sugar. I hate exercising. I very rarely eat processed foods. I think drinking a glass of wine while I’m cooking dinner is better for me than any vegetable I could consume even though I really do love vegetables. Honest. Also, I don’t want to wear natural makeup or give up my Taylor Swift perfume. I like air fresheners and really strong smelling hairspray.
Unfortunately, I am both kinds of unhealthy in a big way. A little over a year ago, my body started saying ‘thanks, but no thanks’ to feeling ok about typing and walking and sleeping. Overnight I developed some kind of strange neurological condition where my limps would tingle and ache, making it difficult to stand for long periods of time, hold things in my hand, and just generally do my everyday life. I underwent every every test under the sun- an MRI to rule out MS, a CT scan of my chest to rule out a blood clot, 5 rounds of blood work to check for autoimmune diseases and vitamin deficiencies, an EEG to look for abnormalities in my brain, and two EKG’s to test the strength of my heart. In the weeks before my wedding, I started to wonder if I would be able to walk down the aisle by myself.
In addition to all of the testing, I started getting sick constantly- within the span of three months, I developed bronchitis, an upper respiratory infection, strep throat, and then a sinus infection. I saw a neurologist, an immunologist, a psychiatrist, a heart doctor, and a therapist. No one could figure out what was wrong with me. I started taking medication, which was just essentially symptom management- the pills wore off after 8 hours, leaving me feeling just the same as before. So, I was put on more medicine. Most doctors were sympathetic and kind, but had very little feedback for me. I couldn’t even get a referral to see a different type of doctor. The question ‘what would you do in my situation?’ went unanswered.
I hit my breaking point at a doctor’s appointment this past November. This doctor informed me that I would probably have this condition forever, and suggested that I continue on with my medicine indefinitely, even though I told him that it made me extremely forgetful (at one point I had to ask my husband what song we danced to at our wedding for our first dance). He also informed me that I should not get pregnant while taking this medicine as it could cause birth defects. I said that was fine but what about when I wanted to start having children? He shrugged and told me it was only a 17% chance my baby would be effected.
I walked out of his office, furious, thinking, ‘yeah, it’s a NO for me.’
At 28, I will not sign up for take a pill three times a day for the rest of my life for an undiagnosed condition that could be fixable and treatable. I will not accept that “there is nothing I can do to help myself but take medicine” or that “lifestyle changes may or may not positively impact your health but most of these changes are pushed by companies trying to make money” (both direct quotes from this doctor).
So, I decided to pursue ‘wellness’ (a buzzword for being healthy both physically, mentally, and emotionally) on my own.
After about a thousand hours of internet research, and numerous long chats with friends of friends who have experienced similar issues to mine, I managed to cobble together a few practical lifestyle changes to implement:
I cut out all caffeine (no coffee, no tea, no chocolate) for 3 months- this was suggested by one of my doctor’s and seems to have had a positive effect.
I dry brush every morning before I take a shower, oil pull when I get home from work, and just switched to natural deodorant (which has been r-o-u-g-h).
I go to bed by 11 pm every night.
I am making a conscious effort to slow down, to say no when I need to, and to let things go.
I joined a gym for the first time in my life. It smelled like sweat and I hated it, but the elliptical machine was attached to a TV and Friends was on so it wasn’t all bad.
Are these lifestyle changes helping? I don’t know yet. Maybe? I hope so? I would do a lot of embarrassing things for a diet coke and a pack of swedish fish right now. But I think the answer is yes.
It takes a while to see real results- and it could take even longer for my body to detox. But, I feel confident in knowing that I am taking care of myself, no matter the outcome. Maybe I will need to be on my medicine forever. Maybe this will develop into something worse — but that doesn’t matter right now. What matters is that God gave me a body, and thought it worthy to put his holy spirit in. That’s a pretty high calling on my body! So, I’m going to do everything I can to honor this body of mine.
Will I eat paleo forever? No, probably not. But I will eat healthy, nourishing food forever. Will I ever have a cup of coffee again? I sure hope so. But not today. Today, I am in the middle of of the process. And I am doing ok here. It is a God given privilege to have this body of mine, as clunky and run down as it may be right now. I am making decisions that I pray will move my body away from disease and decay, not just in the short term, but for the rest of my life. I want to attend my ‘Salt of the Earth, Will Survive the Cockroaches Healthy’ friend’s birthday party, and enjoy a piece of cake with them while they blow their cigarette smoke in my face! If I make it to 110, I will have earned that much.