When I was young I felt physically invincible. As I’m sure most do throughout their childhood, unless they experience the early misfortune of a chronic illness or another unforeseen circumstance before they hit the ripe old age of eighteen. From what I can remember my primary school years were very sheltered and carefree, my high school years much the same until I reached Year 9. This year through to Year 11 I remember were dotted with urgent visits to the toilet. At home, school, friend’s houses, and anywhere in between. These visits lasted anywhere between a day and several weeks and would sometimes end with a toilet bowl full of blood. I was tested for Celiac Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Pollups and several other abnormalities – nothing. Fast forward to Year 12, I was in high-study high-stress mode. After a good 6 months of normal toilet activity, I once again began to urgently visit my close friend the loo. All year, at 7am, 12pm, 8pm, 2am – whatever the time I’d go until I couldn’t go anymore. I drank excessive cups of tea and coffee, ate excessive amounts of chocolate, and got a small amount of broken sleep per night. Parties, study, exams, formal and end of year goodbyes came and went, and I finally had a diagnosis. I was no longer invincible, quite the contrary – I was a sufferer of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Ulcerative Colitis.
Ulcerative Colitis can come with a myriad of health issues, including issues with mental health – often stemming from one’s realisation that their body will not get well just because they want it to, and in fact one must take care of their body in order for it to work as they require. The second realisation came for me after a good 18 months of back and forth, between bad health and average health.. a simple good night’s sleep not helping me any closer to being able to get out of bed. So I did the thing that you do these days, I changed me diet. I tried all number of dietary fads and ‘lifestyles’ and after another year, reached two conclusions –
Conclusion # 1: Everyone is different. The human body was not designed to conform to any one particular way of eating. Find what works for you and stick with it. Don’t let guilt control the culinary delights of your very long life.
Conclusion # 2: Taking care of your mental health is just as important as the care you take with your physical self. Meditate, swim, take long walks, take short walks, listen to music – do whatever you have to do to calm your mind and be present – it’ll do worlds for you in every aspect of your life.
Everyday I focus on improving my mental and physical health in ways that I have found help me. Sometimes I talk about things, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I eat the right things, sometimes I don’t. Everyday we’re given the chance to work towards a kinder, better self – take the chance as often as you can, give yourself a break when you make a mistake.