Over the weekend, I met a woman who was most likely suffering from IC, along with a host of other symptoms that began after she was exposed to mercury during the removal of a root canal, resulting in mercury poisoning.
My heart went out to her and as I listened to her story I was reminded of how healing from a chronic disease like IC is like taking on a full-time job. If you are already working full-time or running a household, make that a second full-time job!
Over the past 8 years, she has seen more practitioners than you can count on two hands and spent a multitude of hours online researching what could possibly be going on with her and how to get her old healthy and vibrant self back again.
Over the past 10 years, I have been involved in a similar process as this woman. On top of being a full-time student and then a working gal, I had another full-time job – healing from IC. For those of you out there who have been suffering from IC for several months or years, you know exactly what I am talking about! It got me thinking about the importance of finding balance amongst all of this hard work and chaos.
After all, the stress involved in searching for answers, not to mention the thousands of dollars spent in the process, is definitely counterproductive to healing from a chronic disease. For me, finding balance is an ongoing process and depending on what is going on in my life, it can certainly be a challenge and something I need to remind myself of continuously.
Here are 5 ways to find balance while healing from interstitial cystitis:
1. Go on nature walks
Now that the finer weather is here and the dreaded winter has finally passed, I have started going on nature walks most mornings. I’m not doing it for the exercise, although that’s definitely a side benefit, I’m doing it to practice being in the present moment, slowing down and following my curiosity. As “hippie” as it might sound, I walk barefoot where possible to really feel that sense of connection to the Earth and to ground myself.
When healing from IC the mind can become overactive trying to problem solve and troubleshoot 24/7.
The conversation might go something like this, “Well when I was 25 I started to feel really tired all of the time. Yeah, that’s when this all started. It must be when the adrenal fatigue set in. I bet it also affected my thyroid because I feel cold all of the time. And that bloating I feel most of the time – I must have low stomach acid and possibly a fungal infection. Oh, I read somewhere yesterday that parasites could be to blame. I have to remember to research that further this afternoon.” And on and on we go.
I am not saying there is not a time and place for some serious investigation. It’s a necessary part of the process – we have to know where we came from to figure out what’s going on and where we need to dig deeper to get through all those layers of healing. But we need to take time and space away from all of the chatter and figuring out.
Nature walks are a perfect opportunity to disconnect from the mind and just be with your body and with nature, no matter what state you are in.
I recommend walking slowly. At first you might not like this. There’s so much to get done in a day. Trust me, you will come to enjoy the slowing down and you will notice your breathing will get deeper and you will feel more space and openness in your body.
Stop along the way and follow your curiosity. Watch the loons swimming in the pond, listen to the leaves move gently with the wind and pause to admire the way the sun is glistening through the branches of the willow tree.
If you are not near walking paths or forest-like areas where you cannot hear nearby traffic or people, walk down quieter streets in your neighbourhood, or go to the nearest park.
2. Develop a spiritual practice
This can take the form of meditation, prayer or gratitude and does not have to be in the context of organized religion if that is not something that suits you.
These types of practices help us not only to connect with our true selves, but to something greater than us, whether you want to call it God, the universe, your higher self, etc.
In these quiet moments when you are involved in our spiritual practice, you can get a sense that essentially you are NOT our body. You are much more than your physical body. Even when your physical body seems to be letting you down, your soul is there underneath it all, waiting for you to turn towards it. You have the opportunity to gain an understanding that no matter what happens, you will be okay.
Meditation also helps to put your body into parasympathetic mode, promoting more of a balance in your nervous system that is conducive to repairing and regenerating your body.
Developing gratitude connects us to what we are thankful for in our lives right now. When healing from IC, we can get very narrowly focused on what is going wrong with us and forget to recognize all of the blessings in our lives.
Whether it is your supportive husband, a kind-hearted sister or your cuddly cat, there is something in your life that feels good and you are thankful for. Try writing down one thing you are grateful for each night before you go to sleep and see how your perspective slowly begins to shift.
There is a saying that what you focus on grows, so why not give it a try? An attitude of gratitude may attract more experiences and people into your life that you can be grateful for.
3. Laugh – A LOT!
Laughing is good for the soul, straight up! It also helps us to gain a bit of distance from our suffering and lighten up the mood at times when things can seem pretty darn hopeless.
Laughter has also been proven to reduce stress and produce feel-good hormones. We can’t get enough of this type of “medicine” with IC.
If I were a doctor I would prescribe every patient with IC at least 10 minutes of laughter a day. So put on your favourite funny movie or TV show, go to a comedy show, do a silly dance around the house with your kids, or hang out with that friend who really knows how to make you laugh.
I know it’s hard to laugh when you are in pain, but it really can help bring some balance and perspective into your life if you let it.
4. Carve out some time for friendships and socializing
Having IC can be pretty isolating. Your social life tends to take a real hit. This is partly because you don’t feel well enough to go out and also due to the fact that your diet and activities often become quite limited.
Even if it’s just once a week, or a couple times a month, go out with a friend or have them come to you if you find it too hard to leave the house.
Choose social activities that you are comfortable with and do not increase stress.
Perhaps you can find one restaurant in your area that can accommodate your eating restrictions so you have a place to suggest when going out with friends. When going to a coffee shop, you can have an herbal tea, such as peppermint or chamomile (generally IC friendly, but everyone’s different), or just bring your own beverage of choice.
Spending time with good friends can be a much needed distraction and having meaningful social interaction is crucial for leading a healthy, balanced life.
5. Plant a garden
This may seem like a strange suggestion, but let me explain. There is a certain state of being that you enter when you are planting your seedlings, tending to your plants or harvesting fresh vegetables and fruit from your own backyard. For myself, I feel immediately more calm and centred and my mind slows way down. You can call it presence, or mindfulness, but no matter what lingo you use, gardening brings a sense of peace and balance.
Gardening also teaches us patience. Everything happens in its own time and it can’t be rushed. All we can do is nurture the soil and the plants and make sure they are centred their best shot at maturing. Patience is a quality we need to nurture within ourselves when healing from a chronic condition. We want to feel better right now, but it is not always possible. Some of us jump too quickly from one treatment to the next, not giving any of them a fair shot. Patience, my dear IC warrior, patience.
When I garden I also feel a sense of wonder and hope within me. It’s a feeling that anything can happen, including the healing of IC, which you may not be sure is possible since it is classified as a “chronic,” meaning lifelong, condition.
So there you have it, the first 5 of 10 ways that you can achieve balance while healing from IC. I was going to put them all in one post, but it just became too long! Next week, I will share the remaining 5 tips with you, so stay tuned…
If you have found a way to achieve balance in your life while healing from IC, please share it with us in the comments section below!