Calming My Monkey Mind

This past month has been a very growing time for me. I experienced a lupus stress attack six weeks ago that triggered a plethora of actions and emotions. I don’t want to get into details about my health complications, but rather focus on the lessons I took away from it.

When these flares happen, I know my body is telling me that once again, I have pushed myself past my limit. I was working full-time at my serving job, I had a part-time research internship, I was working on my honours thesis, and preparing to write the GRE (a grad school exam) this summer. My weeks were easily running upwards of 70 hours a week, not including the time I spent at the gym or doing yoga. I reached a point where I completely lost my passion for what I was doing. I questioned if I even wanted to go to grad school anymore. During my week of rest, I spent a lot of time reevaluating what my priorities are, remembering what is important to me, and what adds value to my life.

The first thing I did was quit my research internship. Even though it was only a part-time commitment, it was another obligation that took time away from self-care. I also decided to postpone writing the GRE exam until next summer after I graduate. It was many sleepless nights before I made this decision, as I was extremely conflicted. Not writing the GRE this summer meant that I was not eligible to apply to grad school until December 2018, which would add an additional year to my educational path. I felt a lot of disappointment in myself and spoke openly to my counselor about this. I felt like a failure and could not get myself out of this rut, which is what inspired me to write this blog piece. The lesson I took away from this experience is the importance of loosening my vice grip on life and letting things unfold naturally.

Since my teen years, I have always struggled with having uncertainty and ambiguity. I think it became much more pronounced after I was diagnosed with lupus. When I received my diagnosis, I felt a complete loss of control. That I had no influence on my life anymore, that things were being handed to me, and that I could not fight back. At which point, I tried to become more in control of all the other aspects of my life to compensate. I still very much can be a control freak, but I am starting to find comfort in the unknown.

I had my educational path mapped out for the next few years, in terms of when I would be applying to grad school, when I would start, etc., and have come to the conclusion that not having the next 5 years of my life mapped out is not detrimental to my success. As I continue working towards my future goals, I still need to enjoy life and do things in the present that enrich it.

I preach to my friends and family about the importance of self-care and yet at times, I neglect my body when it’s telling me to slow down. I have scaled back where I can and am trying to enjoy the rest of my summer and focus on taking care of myself. I recently started Moksha yoga, which I absolutely love. I practiced Bikram yoga for the past decade on and off and wanted to try something new. Moksha is similar to Bikram in the postures performed and that it is also done in a hot room. I find Moksha to be less militant than Bikram and have enjoyed the instructors and their more nurturing approach. Moksha is really about developing your own practice, listening to your body, and doing what feels right to you in that moment.

My takeaway lesson from this past month is that things will work themselves out. I have faith that events will unfold for me as they should. When I say faith, I don’t mean it in a religious context – I mean, I have faith in myself. Faith that the experiences I have, the people I meet, and the growing and learning I do every day, will lead me to my life’s purpose. Being able to take a step back and focus purely on the present (the next year – which is a major improvement for me!) has been extremely empowering. Undergoing self-realization and knowing that I will be okay in whatever path I choose to pursue has left me feeling content, peaceful, and grateful.

How I Came To Know Pure Happiness

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2016 was my year of personal development, growth, and understanding what self-love and self-compassion meant. Last year, I experienced some of my most trying and lowest points, but I also encountered some of the best life-changing experiences I’ve had thus far. It was a year of learning about who I am, what I want in life, and what I stand for.

This time last year, I was in a very toxic relationship. I didn’t view his behaviour as such during the time, but it was clear after the fact that I had been both mentally and emotionally abused. You would assume that with the high standards I hold myself and others to, and my honest approach in my relationships that I would not have stuck around for as long as I did. In hypothetical scenarios, I always knew exactly what I was going to do; after the first act of betrayal, I would have left and never thought twice. It is clearly easier said than done, as I am a prime example. In reality, you have so many factors that influence your decision to stay or go: your feelings towards this person, your history with them, how long you have been together, and what future plans you have made.

I realized I was trapped in this relationship because I kept seeing his potential. Hoping that someday, through a lot of self-growth and compassion, he would love me the way I wanted him to. Deep down, I knew that someday would never come, or at least not in my lifetime. It was a vicious cycle of him betraying me, me being heartbroken and ready to leave, and then him showing me his potential to change, that had me trapped for much longer than I should have allowed myself to be. When I finally reached my breaking point, I remember sitting down and telling myself “You need to see who he is, by his actions, not his words.” And it was at that moment I knew I had to leave. I did not hesitate nor have I looked back since.

As cheesy as it sounds, the day I finally closed the door on a 3.5-year relationship was the day everything started falling into place. I sat on a park bench and wrote for hours and just admired everything in my life. I had so much to be grateful for – my supportive family, my incredible friends, my motivation and determination to achieve all my educational and vocational goals, and best of all – my resiliency. I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders that day, like that I was free from carrying around someone else’s burden. Things were brighter and more beautiful, and my head was out from under.

My journey to self-love did not come over night. It has been years in the making and began when I wrote my first blog post here in 2014. This past year has just really deepened the journey for me, because of the experiences I had gone through. For you to understand how I developed my definition of pure happiness and bliss, you needed to know that it came from a place of pain and betrayal. I needed to experience both sides, to fully grasp and appreciate the whole.

I can genuinely say that I am the happiest I have ever been. I have many external factors that have contributed to my happiness over the last year, but most importantly I have myself to thank. I made the conscious decision to be happy, to challenge myself mentally and emotionally every day, and to live an honest and authentic life – where I am my number one priority. I said, “This year I am going to be selfish.”; I am only engaging in things that truly make me happy, excite my passion, and bring value to my life. I am not wasting time pretending to enjoy things for the sake of others or hanging on to relationships that no longer satisfy me.

I know it sounds blunt and pretentious when reading this, but think about it…at the end of the day, the person you spend the most time with is yourself. If you are not tending to your heart, mind, body, and soul, it will affect all the other areas in your life. You can’t love someone truly or to the best of your ability until you love yourself. That’s how I see it, plain and simple. After you’ve fallen in love with your toughest critic, nobody else can scare you off. No matter what obstacles come your way, you know that at the end of the day, you’ll have yourself to fall back on.

I took a lot of time for myself this year to foster and promote all my self-growth and self-compassion. It was challenging at times, but what kept me motivated and disciplined is my “why?”. Your “why?” is what gets you excited about life. It’s your purpose and the reason why you wake up every day and do what you do. The only “why?” that kept repeating in my head was my love for people. I am passionate about people – their walks of life and how to help them live a more meaningful and authentic one. I hope that through sharing my journey, I can inspire others to see more, want more, and do more for themselves and others.

As We Are Interview

My wonderful friend and Founder of As We Are, Zoya Jiwa, asked me to do an interview and photo shoot for her foundation. For those who don’t know, As We Are is a style website for people living with health conditions. It combines peer mentorship and storytelling to support individuals experiencing symptoms and side effects of diseases, disabilities, and chronic pain. This is a space where comfort meets style, where functional fashion thrives, and where courage shines. My meeting with her really inspired me to get back into my blog, so here are a few of the interview questions I wanted to share with everyone.

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1) Tell me a bit about yourself. What’s your story?

I am passionate about living life with a heart full of happiness and gratitude, appreciating the moments I have with my friends and family, and relentlessly chasing my dreams. I am a strong and kind-hearted person because of the experiences I had at a young age. I was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) when I was 13 years old – almost 12 years ago. It was a day I would never forget and an event that has changed me for the better. If you had asked me to take part in this interview and photo shoot six years back, I probably would have said no. But in the last few years, I have been focusing on growing as a person, finding new ways to inspire myself, and achieve internal peace and happiness. I am currently in my fourth year of my BA in Psychology at Kwantlen University. I am an aspiring Clinical Psychologist, and hope to be accepted into the clinical psychology graduate program at UVIC, UBC, or SFU. I work as a server at the beautiful restaurant, Nightingale, in Coal Harbour. I love my job because it brings both my passion for people and food together.

2) What advice would you give to others who are going through similar health challenges to yours? What has helped you or made you feel better emotionally along this journey?

As cheesy as it sounds, I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe that I would not be dealt these cards if I were not able to handle them and overcome these obstacles. During my darkest periods, I had to constantly remind myself that there was more to all of my suffering. You get so trapped in your own world and forget to step back and take another perspective. I continuously remind myself that there will always be someone in a better or worse position than I am in and that I have a lot to be thankful for.

One of the greatest things I have learned in the last few years is to show yourself the same level of compassion, understanding, and forgiveness you show to friends, family, or strangers. This task sounds much simpler than it really is, because we naturally are our toughest critics. I was unhappy with my situation for a very long time being that I was constantly fighting against myself. For the majority of the last twelve years, I saw my lupus as a weakness or a handicap and I felt as though I had to work twice as hard to prove that I could do anything that any “normal” person was capable of. I pushed myself to the point of a mental breakdown. I was overworked, exhausted, and ignoring all the signs my body was telling me, just to get an ego-boost. I learned that allowing yourself to be vulnerable and appreciate those moments of weakness are the greatest signs of strength, humility, and wisdom.

3) Where do people stumble with their language or understanding about your health condition? What changes would you like to see?

I think there is a stigma when it comes to lupus, or any illness for that matter, that does not have a visible physical disability. People fail to understand that lupus is a real chronic disease that affects millions of lives and can lead to premature death. I have had coworkers or acquaintances tell me that lupus is not a real disease and there is a cure – unbeknownst to them, I had lupus. Just because I don’t wear the lupus label on my face or body does not undermine the severity of the disease. It does not discount the amount of time I have spent in hospitals, in doctors’ offices, getting blood drawn, doing x-rays and ultrasounds, receiving bad news, and the days I just wallow in bed. Not having a physical disability does not disregard all the challenges I have endured and sacrifices I have made with my lupus. I would like people to be more open-minded and to not take things just at face value. Just because I go to school and work everyday with a smile on my face, does not mean I am perfectly happy and that life comes easy for me.

4) In consideration of the challenges you have faced, what are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the progress and growth I have made in the last few years. I have developed my own understanding of strength and that is, that it’s okay, to not be okay. I don’t need to have it together all the time. I don’t need to prove to myself or anyone else that lupus is not my kryptonite. It is not an excuse nor is it something anyone should feel sorry about. Before when I was on the verge of a flare, I would just push myself harder and tell myself that it was a test of my character and perseverance. When in reality, it only ended up hurting me and setting my health back further. I have had to learn that the hard way, but now I can appreciate those instances when I can see past my ego and self-pride and just know and do what is right for me in that very moment.

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5)  Who or what are you inspired by?

I am most inspired by my friends and family and the love and support they show me. I remember the day I shared my first blog post about living with lupus. I was literally shaking as I uploaded my post. I felt sick to my stomach and was so nervous to see the response I would get from everyone, or even worst, if I got no response. I remember sitting there afterwards just crying and feeling this huge weight off my shoulders. I had finally let my walls down and was letting people in. I had hid everything to do with my lupus from everyone for ten years, and I got to a breaking point. I just couldn’t pretend that I had it all together anymore, when I was literally falling apart at the seams. The days following my initial post consisted of some of the highest and greatest moments of my life. The outpour of love, compassion, support, and encouragement I received from everyone was something I did not anticipate for. I cried even more tears than I thought possible, but for the first time, in a long time, they were tears of joy.

6) What are you grateful for in this moment?

I am grateful for the moments I have during the day when I’m just with my thoughts. Those moments are when I feel most at peace and can appreciate everything around me. Relishing in my own calm was not something I ever enjoyed before. I am the happiest I have been in a very long time and for that I am eternally grateful.

When you feel defeated, remember where you started

I remember this day as if it were yesterday, even though it happened almost ten years ago. The fact that I can remember this day so vividly is what constantly reminds me to appreciate life; every moment of every day, because you never know what is to unfold.

It was spring during my grade eight year of high school. I remember experiencing incredible stomach pains, it felt as though a knife was being stabbed into my abdomen and dragged around in circles. It came and went in waves and after being in a fetal position for hours, I knew it was time to go to emergency. Both my parents were out of town, my mom was in Vietnam and my dad was in Toronto. My parents separated when I was ten, so both my parents traveling became a normal occurrence during my teenage years. Once I arrived at the hospital with my aunt my pain only got worse. After being admitted into the ER, the doctors immediately suspected that I had appendicitis; they kept me off food and liquids in preparation for surgery. They were just waiting on my blood work to come back before confirming the diagnosis and starting surgery.

After a day in the ER and no markers in my lab results that showed signs of appendicitis, the doctors were quite taken back. They told me they did not know what was wrong with me and they were moving me to a longer-term unit at Children’s Hospital, and that I should expect to be here for a few days. At this point, I was pretty scared. I was only fourteen and staying in a hospital with my aunt who barely spoke english and who made it very clear she did not want to be here anymore than I did.

I got my blood drawn 3-4 times a day, the nurses would even wake me during my sleep to draw blood. On average, they were drawing anywhere from 15-20 tubes a day. During this time my stomach pain still persisted, I was on a lot of morphine to mask the pain. After five days of ongoing blood tests, different doctors coming in every hour to poke and prod at my stomach, and immense abdominal pain, it finally came.

My hospital room went from being cold and dismal to full of doctors and graduate students, in what seemed like a heartbeat. I remember seeing at least eight different faces in my room. They said my blood work was consistently showing abnormal results; I had a dangerously low platelet and red blood cell count, and a very high amount of white blood cells. My platelets and red blood cells were so low that the doctors would not let me leave my bed in case I bumped into something and bruised myself, they said I would bleed to death. Finally the diagnosis came. It was the first time I had ever heard of the word ‘lupus’. The doctor said they had very strong evidence to believe that I had lupus. It is crazy to think a decade ago I knew nothing about lupus or its existence, and now it is all I know. He continued by telling me lupus was an autoimmune disorder and it was something I was going to live with for the rest of my life.

My heart completely stopped. I did not react. It was all just too much for me to process. How could I come into the hospital with severe stomach pains and leave with a chronic disease? I just did not understand. To be honest, I don’t remember much after that. I must have blocked everything out because I did not want to believe it.

What I thought was going to be a quick trip to the ER turned into a two week stay at the hospital. I was put on very high doses of steroids to get my blood count up before they said it was safe to release me. I had missed two weeks of school, none of my friends or family really knew what was going on, I lost 15-20 pounds and returned to school looking sickly thin.

The first year of my diagnosis was the toughest year of my life. My whole life changed overnight and I was thrown into a world  of medical terminology I had never heard, I was doing blood work every other work, and seeing doctors and specialists weekly. The high doses of steroids I was on continued throughout the summer in hopes to get my lupus into remission. I went from being 105 pounds to 130 pounds over the course of the summer due to my medications. The steroids increased my appetite ridiculously, I was eating all day and my portion sizes had tripled. I was depressed and had absolutely no motivation to do anything about my weight gain and diet. I started my grade nine year of high school looking like a completely different person. I was the biggest I had ever been, my face was puffy and round, and I had terrible acne. I barely recognized myself. I had lost me and who I am. I came back to school only as a mere shadow of myself.

The next year I spent trying to learn everything there was to know about lupus. I wanted to be knowledgeable enough to go through this alone. I went to all my specialist appointments alone, I did not want anyone else involved. Like I have said in previous posts, when I started this blog a year ago that was when I finally let my family and friends in. This was the most they had known about my disease in ten years. I made myself believe that if I couldn’t do this alone, I was a failure, that my lupus controlled me and that I wasn’t strong enough. I can’t remember how many nights I cried myself to sleep to the point I could barely breathe or open my eyes the next day because they were so swollen. At such a young and naive age all I could obsess over was why me? What did I do to deserve this? I had this mentality for at least a year after my diagnosis. Anytime anyone would ask me about my lupus I would either breakdown or shut them out. Emotionally I just couldn’t handle explaining it to people. I felt as though every time I talked about it, it made it more real.

I never imagined I would be where I am today, both mentally and emotionally. I never thought I would have the courage or strength to share my story with my family, friends, and strangers. I honestly thought I would be doing this alone for the rest of my life. I never wanted people to think I wasn’t strong enough, or that my lupus was an excuse for anything. Through all my experiences in the last ten years, I have learned the true meaning of strength; it is the ability to face adversity with perspective, appreciation, and mindfulness. To know true strength is to be able to let yourself be vulnerable at times and to lean on others when you can’t find the strength within yourself. It takes more strength to get past your ego and self-pride then to face adversity alone.

Starting my blog has been the most freeing, rewarding, and eye opening experience I have ever had. I never could have imagined how much I would take away from this journey. I t has connected me with my loved ones and supporters in a way I never thought possible. I appreciate every aspect of my life and every obstacle I have overcome. It has made me the woman I am today and for that I am forever grateful. I always remind myself that there will always be someone out there who is in a better and worse position than I am. I have so much to be thankful for.

I wanted to write this blog piece today because people always ask me how I can be so positive about my health, as if it never affected me. Trust me, I went through a very dark, wallowing stage where I shunned everyone out. I have gotten past that now and am empowered to share my story and see it with a positive and optimistic outlook. Thank you to everyone who has given me the strength and courage to be open and share my life for the benefit of others, and most importantly myself.

A Battle Against Me, Myself, and I

My nephrologist has not been happy with the progress, or lack of, in my protein levels found in my urine, so she has recommended increasing one of my strongest steroids, Prednisone to help kick start my new kidney medication. Prednisone is my least favourite of all my medications; it is the one that I experience the most side effects when on a high dose. We increased my dosage from 5mg/per day to 30 mg/per day, which I knew I would be experiencing a long list of side effects. These side effects include an increase in appetite, mood swings, fatigue, puffy face, acne, abdominal pain, and the list goes on.

I have been having a really difficult time coping with these side effects. I have put on some weight, especially in my face. I’ve got acne and feel like I’m sixteen again going through puberty. I feel moody and emotional all the time. I just don’t feel like myself. It makes me sad when I look in the mirror and am not happy with what and who I see. I don’t feel 100% there. It’s a constant battle with my meds, I take them to help my body, but then I don’t feel good mentally. I feel off. I lose my motivation, my energy, my drive to do things. I’m just ready to be back on my lower dose, and not experiencing such a mental struggle every day.

My nephrologist reassured me that in a few weeks we would start tapering my prednisone dose. That day could not come any sooner. As my prednisone dose gets lowered, the prevalence of the side effects will begin to fade as well, which is promising.

I just found out earlier this week that I have high cholesterol. This is something I honestly never thought I would ever have to worry about. High cholesterol does not run in my family and I eat pretty healthy day to day, especially considering I was vegan for almost 9 months- I was honestly stunned when my doctor told me. My nephrologist thought it would be good to do a cholesterol and blood sugar test now that my prednisone dose was very high, I had never done one before. She was expecting normal results because I am young and healthy. When she called with the results, she explained that it most likely was due to my kidney disease as that can affect cholesterol levels. She said that if I were a patient with no previous medical conditions, she wouldn’t be as hasty to start me on medications. But because I have lupus, the inflammation from lupus can perpetuate high cholesterol levels and can put patients at a much higher risk for atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Also, the fact that I have never done a cholesterol test before was very concerning as we could not know for certain how long I have had high cholesterol for. I see my GP next week to discuss the plan of attack, I am hoping I can convince him to let me try some natural cholesterol lowering medications for a few months while following my progress, before prescribing me medication.

I am trying to stay positive and patient during this time. I know it’s just another bump along the way, another test. I just need to find that inner strength to persevere through. I know I am my toughest critique, people say they don’t notice the weight gain or my acne, but I do. It’s just hard staying motivated when I know I am not my best version of me right now.

If It Doesn’t Challenge You, It Doesn’t Change You

The first thing I need to do after this long hiatus from blogging, is thank all my loyal friends, supporters, and blog followers. I haven’t posted any updates in over 2 months, and there is a reason why, which I will delve into in this blog post. I just checked my stats on my blog, which tells you how many people are reading your blog daily, and I am astonished to find out that every day since my last blog post people have still been visiting my blog. It  means the world to me to know that I still have my loyal supporters, even when I have been absent on my blog.

Now the reason why I have not blogged as of late, is because I went off my vegan diet about 6 weeks ago. It was a very long and emotionally tiring week for me leading up to my decision to end my vegan diet. My best friends can attest to how conflicted I was about making that decision. Many things contributed to my decision to stop my vegan diet. What initially triggered it was my Rheumatologist telling me I was on the verge of becoming anemic, and deficient in a list of other things. I mean, I definitely started to notice it a few weeks prior, but I just thought it would pass. My fatigue was worse than normal, and I was extremely light headed and weak all the time. I also noticed I was losing a lot more of my hair. Since I’ve been diagnosed with Lupus, I would say the amount of hair I had has decreased by about half. So seeing even more hair loss than usual was an immediate red flag. I tried to take iron supplements and increase my spinach and kale intake, but it just didn’t make a significant difference (being that my own body attacks the little amount of red blood cells I had, was also not helping); plus iron supplements are extremely hard to digest and left me feeling constipated. With my Lupus, blood count has always been a struggle for me, I just felt like I did not need anything else contributing to any sort of deficiencies.

I was tired of being restricted from all the foods I used to love so much. I was tired of going to restaurants or social places worried about whether or not I would be able to eat anything there. I was tired of getting weird looks and being judged by people when I told them I was vegan. Throughout my journey as a vegan, I have received a lot of negative responses from people when they heard I was vegan. They would automatically criticize me and assume that I was doing it for superficial reasons, or so that I could be “hip” and say I was vegan. It astonished me how quickly people were to judge me and what they thought my intentions were. I never gave those people the time of day and just chose to ignore their ignorance. It just amazes me how people get so riled up about such topics, when it has nothing to do with them. How does someone feel that they should have an opinion on the food that I choose or choose not to consume?

It came to the point where I realized that I just wasn’t happy being vegan anymore. I felt deprived. I wasn’t my usual happy and positive self, I was tired, worn down and just going through life. I realized veganism was not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and so I decided to stop. I wanted and needed to find a happy medium. I think I naturally eat quite healthy already, I mean I have at least one veggie packed smoothie and a salad everyday. Vegetables still are and have always been my favourite food group, but now it is just a matter of adding certain proteins to help me get back to feeling good and energized.

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Since going off my vegan diet, I have been eating a lot of eggs, fish, and chicken occasionally. I had pork and beef once or twice and I felt ill almost immediately; those meats I definitely plan on refraining from. I have gained back the 5-7 pounds that I lost when going on my vegan diet, but I feel much stronger now. I lost a lot of muscle mass while on my vegan diet, almost all my muscle. I also never had the energy to do any physical activity, I use to love practicing Bikram yoga, going to the gym, and running, but the idea of working out made me feel weak. My muscles, or lack of, in my legs were tired from just walking up a flight of stairs. I felt depleted of my energy after any moderate activity. Since going back to a regular diet, I have been back at yoga, practicing 3-4 times a week. I feel fantastic. I feel strong, limber, energized, and like I actually have core muscles again. Do I miss being 5-7 pounds lighter?? Honestly….no. I missed my curves and being able to fit my clothes perfectly. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with a little extra cushion! 🙂

The reason why it has taken me so long to write this blog post, is because I was worried about how my supporters would react. I was viewing my decision to stop veganism as me being a failure. I did not want it to seem like I was giving up. I eventually came to terms with my decision and can now see what this whole journey was really about for me.

It was the first time I had ever taken my disease into my own hands. I never questioned my doctors and the drugs they would prescribe me. I never thought about alternative medicine or changing my lifestyle, I would just say “yes” to everything. Now I have a very open communication with all my doctors; they understand that I do not want to be on these medications and if there are alternatives to things, that I would rather go that route. They provide me with more detail and information on things I use to never think twice about, like how certain drugs may affect me in the future etc.

This journey has pushed me to open up about my health. My family and friends know more about my health then I have ever shared in the last 9 years. I feel empowered that I was finally able to let my wall down and know that I am not weak for showing my vulnerable side.

I started a meditation practice 5 months ago and it is one of the best things I have ever done for myself. Looking at new things I can do for myself to de-stress internally was something I always said I was “too busy” to do. My daily meditation practice has really provided me with internal peace, calmness, and tranquility. Waking up every morning knowing the first thing I am going to do is meditate, focus my energy, and cultivate peace and happiness is something I cherish now and look forward to.

This whole journey has led me to my new calling and what I am pursuing in school now, naturopathy. I want to help people find that balance between Western and Eastern medicine, and that it doesn’t have to be black or white. That people with chronic diseases can have the best of both worlds, they just have to educate themselves and want to take control of their health. I want to help people realize that they can have a strong influence on their well being, and that when you feel that something is wrong, often times there are ways that you can contribute to your recovery. The easy thing to do is go see a doctor and get a prescription. The hard part is making lifestyle and diet changes and staying committed to them; the upside is that these changes will last a lifetime.

I am happy with the decision I have made to end my vegan diet, and I feel like such a winner after this whole experience. I live with no regrets, and this last year has been an incredibly remarkable and challenging journey. I have learned more about myself in this last year, than I have in the last 5 years combined. It is an experience I will always look back on and say, “Wow, I can’t believe I did that.” I have taken so much more from this experience than I had ever anticipated, and I am grateful for everything I endured, because it has brought me to where I am now, feeling refocused, peaceful, and enlightened.

I will continue to write about my life with Lupus, although I am unsure as to when I will be experimenting with natural medicine again. All I can promise you is that I promise to continuing sharing real, raw stories and experiences that I think someone out there, going through something similar may benefit from hearing.

Much love,

Chauf

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A Brief Pause

The last few weeks have been a complete whirlwind of emotions, events, and discoveries. I have been tested and pushed to my wits end entirely: physically, mentally, and emotionally.I have had such conflict with myself, in what I want now and what will come to be.  I started along this path of natural medicine and veganism, assuming this would be one long straight path. I mean- I did a lot of research and educated myself as best I could with the resources I had available to me. I wasn’t going into this completely blind. I  never could have anticipated the path I was on would turn into a bendy and windy road that had no clear direction. I am at the point in my journey where I am experiencing the worst symptoms of my Lupus that I ever have in the last eight years. My arthritis has gotten out of control and is completely debilitating. I cannot brush my teeth, wash my face, or even lift a cup on my own. I struggle to sleep at night, because the pain keeps me up. I can’t roll over in bed, or even pull the blanket up if I feel chilly. I have hit complete bottom in my journey. I am at the stage where I am physically unable to do my basic routine, and get through a normal day.

It is at this point I have to throw the towel in.

I have endured so much pain in the last month, it is honestly unbelievable to me that I didn’t crack earlier. It is now time that I listen to my body, and not choose to be naive or selfish in my treatment plan with my Lupus, because I want to experiment. At the end of the day, as much as I want to find a natural cure for Lupus; I do have a real and serious chronic disease. That is a fact that I cannot overlook or make light of.

Please know that this is an extremely difficult decision and realization to come to; it is definitely the most humbling experience I have had. I have cried countless tears, had major breakdowns, and was pushed to the edge more than I could tell you. It was not an easy decision and not something that sits well in my mind and heart. I am extremely stubborn, prideful, and an overachiever in every aspect of my life. My friends know too well that when I set my mind to something, I am committed beyond the means of normality. This experience has really shaken me and made me realize what you take away from an experience is not strictly black and white – not just a success or failure. Once I set my mind to something I have to come out in the end succeeding in whatever it is. I do not accept failure or excuses, and I am my toughest critic. I am the individual who will put all her eggs in one basket, give it 150%, and come out accomplished. I do not want this to come across in a condescending or arrogant tone, but that is what my young adulthood life has consisted of. I commit myself fully to something, whether that be a new job/career, education, or hobby, I work extremely hard, persevere, and come out conquering what I set out to do. The natural journey I started three months was absolutely no exception to that. I went all in; I went completely vegan overnight and began natural medicine almost immediately. The reason why I do everything whole-heartedly is because I never want to live with an ounce of regret. I will only accept a failure in life knowing I did my absolute best. This experience has really changed the way I had initially viewed this journey and life. My goal was to reverse or cure my Lupus naturally, if that was achieved then I succeeded- I was a winner. With everything that has happened in the last few weeks I have done more self-questioning and self-reflection than I ever had.

I had to sit down and really think, “What was my end goal?”. Was it to be off my steroids? And at what cost? At the cost of experiencing pain every second of every day?

I had an appointment with my Nephrologist earlier this morning. It was an extremely eye opening meeting. She showed me my lab results for my kidney function over the last year. She explained when I was first diagnosed with nephritis, my protein levels in my urine were ten times the amount of a normal person. It took about a year and new medications for my protein levels to go down by a third, but I still was not in the healthy or safe range yet. Then we looked at my lab results from last month. My protein levels were at the worst they had ever been, and were twenty times higher than a normal person’s. This news was startling. I mean- I knew I was experiencing the worst pains I ever had, but I didn’t know internally that my body was experiencing the same thing. She explained that if I were to continue on this path and leave my nephritis untreated, it could do permanent damage to my kidneys. This could lead to treatments such as dialysis or transplants a few years from now. She was extremely honest and reassuring when she explained that her goal and my Rheumatologist’s (Lupus doctor) goal was to not have me on steroids forever. They are well aware that there are negative side effects to the long term use of these drugs. They do their absolute best to treat me, without overexposing me to drugs. She wanted me to understand that when my Lupus is flaring I need those drugs to get it under control. An untreated flare could manifest itself and I could be ten times worse than when I started. She explained that once my Lupus was in remission and stable for at least two years, then obviously they would want to taper the steroids and eventually get me off. This was very reassuring to hear that my doctors were looking forward and planning for the future. She explained that at the end of the day, if my Lupus is flaring and I do not treat it with the proper medications, it will only backfire and cause more damage to me and my health in the future. What resonated the most with me is what she said about the likelihood of me having children. If I am not healthy, I will not be able to carry a baby, or even become pregnant. I need to consider my future and what the consequences of not treating my Lupus might look like.

Do I want to take the all natural path and experiment for now, with the risk of damaging my kidneys and possibly other vital organs? Or do I take my steroids until my Lupus is at a better place, and pray that one day I will be in a good place to healthfully get off my medications?

I left my appointment today being able to make a better educated decision about my treatment plan. It was hard to hear the real facts and results of my tests, and to be told my Lupus was not doing well with the natural medicine. But it was exactly what I needed to hear; I needed affirmation that I had hit rock bottom and I had to do something about it. I have made my decision and plan on staying on my steroids until I get my Lupus under control. It was not what I had intended I would be doing at this point in my journey, but it is the right thing to do. I have to respect my body and look past my pride, and just understand that this is what I need to do for the time being so I can live contently. I am not viewing this as a failure, or even that I am giving up. I have chosen to be responsible and look at the bigger picture. I need to do this for my future, and as impatient as I am, I need to be patient with my treatment and my Lupus. I have come out of this experience having learned so much about my Lupus and myself – that is something I will never forget. I am happy to say at least I tried to take the initiative to do something for my Lupus; it was a completely empowering feat. I don’t think this will be the end in terms of natural medicine for me, but for now it is a brief pause in a lifelong journey of treating my Lupus.