I’m 26 years old, and know many people my age, including friends and family, take their health for granted. The purpose of writing this is to remind women (and men) of all ages, to remember the value of their health. I also figured there was no better time than during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and on Mental Health Awareness Day. Continue reading for my experience in learning to be proactive about my health. My goal is to make someone in a similar position feel less alone and empowered to take control.
Let’s start with the most obvious aspect, our physical health. There is a lot more to it than BMI, diet, and how often you go to the gym. Most adults over the age of 40 would agree they wish they would have been more proactive about their health when they were younger and made better choices.
To give some background on my personal physical health challenges, here’s a short laundry list:
- Ulcerative Colitis diagnosis at age 5
- Chronic pain and migraines diagnosis age 20
- Acid Reflux flare-ups
- Chronic fatigue
I’m no health-guru and I love pizza and laying on the couch more than most. But, so far, addressing concerns about my physical health has been reactive. As a child, I didn’t know much about any of this, the symptoms or how to prevent any of it from happening. I still don’t, but since I’ve experienced a number of hiccups, I understand the importance of educating myself.
Now, I regularly read about symptoms, preventative measures, and alternative treatments. Before, I didn’t have a reason to do this, but it turns out, you don’t need one. I encourage anyone that feels something isn’t right, has a family history, or is simply curious to do the same!
Mental & Emotional Health
Before we kick off this section, I understand talking about your mental and emotional health can seem “taboo” to some. But, I’m here to tell you, it’s not. In my experience, it is even more important than physical health at times.
Just like I did above, below I list my personal mental health challenges:
- Depression and Anxiety diagnosis age 20
- Disordered eating age 19 – 21
I’ll start by saying, I had no idea what depression, anxiety, and disordered eating really meant until I was in the crux of it all. My depression and anxiety emerged as severe physical pain that was only relieved by antidepressants. I then learned quickly how your physical and mental well being are closely intertwined.
The disordered eating aspect is a little more complicated. I was in the midst of college and noticeably gained weight. I went to the gym all the time, but that’s not what showed me the results I ended up finding…
Unfortunately, I had an IBS flare-up, wasn’t absorbing any nutrients, and lost my appetite. As a result, I lost 30 pounds in less than three months. Without realizing how or why this was happening, my brain was triggered to believe this was the best way to achieve the bodyweight I always wanted. I didn’t care if it was the healthy option, it worked. Even after my IBS flareup subsided, I refused to go out to eat or eat more than 800 calories per day, which I tracked via the My Fitness Pal app.
All this said I’m in a much better place, but all are challenges that will resurface and I will have to repeatedly overcome throughout life. I hope my sharing this and the ideas and suggestions (all of which have helped) will help someone else!
Ideas & Suggestions
Like I said, now I spend time focusing on learning. Below, I share some of the best nuggets of information I’ve stumbled upon and how I use them. These aren’t groundbreaking, new tricks, but hopefully they serve as a reminder there are options and steps you can take.
- Testing for Food Sensitivities. I used allergytest.co last year and now have a few foods I consciously avoid. Since doing this, I’ve noticed how much better I feel when I choose not to eat something my body doesn’t like
- Testing for Deficiencies. The test I mentioned above touches on deficiencies, but it’s not a replacement for a doctor. So, whenever I feel my body is trying to tell me something, I discuss this possibility with a doctor. I’ve learned a lot about this in the past year and what an impact deficiencies can have on your body.
- Supplements. Since I was young, I’ve been on a number of prescriptions and as a result, have had to be on a number of supplements. After learning my deficiencies, I added two more to my routine. I’ve done a lot of my own research and take any recommendations from my doctor seriously.
- Journaling. If you haven’t noticed, writing is my thing. I do it for a living and for fun, I always have! For my mental and emotional health, keeping a journal is like free therapy.
- Therapy. Speaking of…I understand what a big step this can be to take. I tried and failed at therapy a few times until recently. All I can say is don’t give up and invest in yourself.
- Ask for Second and Third Opinions. Before I knew I had depression and anxiety, I accepted my chronic pain as a side-effect of having an autoimmune disease. And, I’m so glad I had a mom that didn’t let me give up and that I trusted my own body. I didn’t just get a second and third opinion, but a resolution was found on try number seven.
Having both physical and mental challenges can turn into a vicious cycle of trying to get back to normal. And it’s a perfect combination for the cliche, “some days are good and some are bad”. But, if you’ve made it this far, you understand I believe your health is your biggest asset. Whether it’s your physical, mental, or emotional health, it’s all equally important. And, it’s up to us to be proactive and preventative while keeping a healthy perspective on it all.
Sharing all this with strangers, friends, and family isn’t easy. But, I know the importance of my transparency outweighs how uncomfortable it makes me. Most people I know have no idea I carry these things. I’m one of many people that live with “high-functioning” fill in the blank….
If you have anything you’d like to share after reading this, please leave a comment below or feel free to send me a private email. I’d love to hear from you.