B E Y O U R O W N A D V O C A T E
I am a little late to the party, but in case you haven't heard IT IS NATIONAL WOMEN'S HEALTH WEEK! You’re probably like, “Yeah okay, sweet picture you took of a light house Jess... But what the heck does this have to do with health?”
Well my friends, it has everything to do with it.
Light.house (n) - A tower or structure containing a beacon of light to warn or guide ships at sea.
We have light houses all around us, but most of us are either too busy, stressed, or fearful to even see them. I’m not talking legit lighthouses… I’m talking signals. I’m talking beacons of light that communicate warning to our bodies. Because you and I are at sea, sister. We are in a society that correlates busy-ness with success. The busier the better. The more stress the more success. We are fast paced and disconnected, not only with those around us but with OURSELVES.
How can we expect to be our best if we don’t even really trust, listen to, or respect ourselves?
If you're thinking "I don't have any of those signals" Does any of this sound familiar? Maybe you...
- Push through a stomach ache and grab the fast food any way
- Only poop a few times a week (poop isn't weird and gross unless you make it weird and gross)
- Take a over the counter medications for the headaches on the regular
- Get the big gulp at QT to get through the day
- Feel absolutely exhausted without your energy drinks (..or coffee *raises hand*)
- Eat and eat and eat without ever feeling satisfied
- Take (yet another) round of antibiotics for continued UTIs/infections/etc.
- Take pain killers to get through your period each month
- Have pepto within reach at all times because you can't eat anything without it
- The list goes on..
First of all, I’ve been there. This is NOT judgement. This is PERMISSION: Permission to not push through, pop the pills, and move on. Permission to slow down and listen to your body. These aches and pains are seen as inconveniences, I know. They do slow us down. They do prevent us from doing what we WANT to do. They do prevent us from being ev-e-ry-thing to ev-e-ry one. BUT YOUR BODY IS TELLING YOU SOMETHING AND IF YOU DON’T START LISTENING WHILE ITS WHISPERING IT WILL EVENTUALLY START YELLING. Sometimes we get SO use to numbing or downplaying our "light houses" over time the abnormal becomes our "normal." I would have told you my "normal" menstrual cycle was me laying in bed for 3 days in a row with two heating pads and a bottle of narcotics on my night stand. I would have told you that I was "regular" but only went to the restroom about 3-4 times a week. I would have told you that I was healthy, but I suffered from low grade UTI's once or twice a month and came down with a "cold" at least once a month as well. NONE OF THIS IS NORMAL MY FRIENDS.
I am just a push through-er and grade-A people pleaser by nature.. whiiiiich virtually got me no where other than severely ill. Here's the funniest thing about my well known friend called severe illness. Severe illness has grade 10 sass and drill sergeant level bossiness. She steps in and makes shit happen... Instantly. You don't have time to decide. Severe illness doesn't give you a choice to push through and pretend like she doesn't exist. She is up in your face at all times morning, noon, and night. You don't get to chalk her up as "normal," slap on a smile, and carry on. You HAVE to face her. You have to start living according to priority. Suddenly all of those things that were SO IMPORTANT become completely and utterly irrelevant... Sleep, nutrition, movement, faith, relationships, and self care start riding shot gun in your life again. You somehow instantly learn to delegate responsibilities, let go of what doesn't matter, invest in what does, and demand respect of your healing.
MESSAGE #1: Don't wait for severe illness to start listening to your body.
Looking back, I now see light houses were all around me. My entire life I had been given signals. I was just too focused on trying to be everything and do everything that my actions basically said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah... I don't have time for you" to my body. I was a "YES" girl to everyone but myself. I didn't have time to be healthy with all the other ways I stretched myself.
What I never stopped to consider is:
- I was only making matters worse and hurting myself in the process
- I was not giving my "best" to anything. I was barely operating at 40% of my potential.
- I could only push it down for so long.
It's like when the gas light comes on in your car and you're thinking, "Okay cool. I've got 50 miles left to E. I'll go here and here and here." Then, before you know it you have about 20 miles left and you're like, "Yep, okay. I'll just run here and here and here quick." Before you know, it your beautiful self is not going ANYWHERE because you're stuck on the side of the road. You're about to pee your pants, you're half past hangry, and you're severely late for your meeting. Your child is screaming, your mom is calling, and you just spilt your entire cup of coffee... BUT you're finally FORCED TO STOP and put some freaking gas in your car because if you don't do that, you cannot make anything else happen.
MESSAGE #2: You cannot pour from an empty cup.
When I started piecing my health together I realized I had accumulated NUMEROUS issues in such a short amount of time and instead of getting better, they all kept getting worse. I could feel all of the quick fixes leading me to a much bigger problem. The bandaids weren't covering up my wounds any more and none of my issues seemed to be healing. I felt completely defeated. I was not heard at doctors appointments. My issues were continually brushed aside and chalked up as "normal" OR I was just given stronger medications to try. It got to the point that I felt I was letting people down. I remember one of my sisters saying, "Ugh. You're just always sick and you're always tired. It's hard to be around. You're young. Just have some fun." As a person who seeks validation from loved ones (to a crippling degree... I'm working on it), this comment hit me like a freight train and made me want to cover my sh*t up even more. Between doctor dismissal and stinging comments, I convinced myself there must be something wrong with me as I wasn't able to keep pushing through. I told myself I needed to just take the dang medications, be happy, and "let it go."
Here were just a few of my light houses at the time:
- Kidney stones
- Severe bloating
- Chronic UTIs
- Chronic Strep
- Ovarian Cysts
- Interstitial cystitis
- Periods so painful I had to rotate Hydrocodone & Oxy with each cycle
- I could keep going… You name it, I’ve probably had a run in with it at one point or another.
THERE NEEDS TO BE A SHIFT IN HOW WE VIEW OUR HEALTH.
What I wish someone would have told me when these symptoms started piling up is:
- You aren't crazy.
- You aren't a baby.
- You don't just have a low pain tolerance.
- You're still YOU. You're still LOVED. You're still a fun person.
- It isn't just all in your head.
- You aren't selfish for wanting to take a few things off your plate.
- You aren't inconvenient.
- You do NOT have to just push through, take a pill, and shut up about it.
You definitely aren’t considered the "cool" kid when you’re like “I’m going to stay in tonight” or “I don’t want to order 16 beers and eat a whole pizza like I use to because it flares up my IBS and makes me feel like shit for 5 days.” But this leads me to....
MESSAGE #3: Things aren't weird unless you make them weird.
I’m not sure why other people get so offended or annoyed when you try to make healthy changes, but I’m here to tell you DO IT ANY WAY.... PLEASE, DO IT ANYWAY!! What’s even un-cooler than not being cool is trying to make someone else comfortable at the cost of your suffering. Listen to your intuition and be unapologetic about your priorities. If people don’t understand then *SPOILER ALERT* they are NOT real friends. You can still be the life of the party and have your health too. You aren't all of a sudden less of a human just because dairy makes you feel like crap or because you choose to make some changes. You CAN have your health and your social life, too. In fact, you’ll be even more EMPOWERED + even more YOU if you just start listening to these error messages as a gift of survival.
Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor “stupid” questions.
Do your research.
Reconnect with your intuition.
Let go of the "disease to please" other people. (Lisa TerKeurst, "The Best Yes")
Care for your body when you’re sick instead of pushing through. Symptoms are a sign that something is not going right internally. Turn in and listen.
Don’t dwell in the pain, use it as a signal and CATALYST for change and RENEWED purpose.