Journey to healing

A personal reflection

Days after Christmas 2019, I started having some crappy symptoms. Literally.  I noticed traces of blood when I used the restroom. Four years ago I had the same issue, and miraculously it cleared up when I incorporated more fiber into my diet and began my vegetarian journey.  So here I was, with the same symptoms. I figured they would just clear up and subside, but after days and then weeks they got worse. Traces of blood turned into using the restroom multiple times per day coupled with urgency, and cramps that felt like daggers in my colon. 

Six weeks and one colonoscopy later, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an auto-immune disease and inflammatory bowel disease where the immune system identifies the colon as a foreign object, and proceeds to attack it.  At that particular time, I received a diagnosis of proctitis.  That means that the disease was only in the lowest part of my colon, the rectum. I read somewhere that only 30% of proctitis diagnoses turn into full-on colitis.  So I was relieved and believed that I was in the clear.  I started taking an oral pill along with an enema and within six weeks, roughly by mid-March of 2020 all of the symptoms had cleared up! 

All of the articles that I read said even though you feel better, DON’T STOP TAKING THE MEDS. So quite naturally, of course I stopped taking the meds. It seemed like the right thing to do. I also started researching the SCD diet and followed it, albeit not with strict adherence like “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” encouraged.

2020 was a whirlwind, not only because of COVID-19, but because I met and married my husband, traveled often between states, and was planning to physically uproot my life. Needless to say, stress, worry, and angst took a toll on my body. By the end of July, the symptoms had come back. Looking back, I can admit that I was in denial. I had trips planned to visit my mother, I was doing a bomb photo shoot for my wardrobe stylist, I had my normal bi-monthly trips back and forth to Florida, and I was planning to spend my birthday in Chicago. I was not about to let this damnable evil (or COVID-19) steal what I felt was my best year ever.

After my symptoms progressively got worse, I found myself in the worst flare ever. Along with going to the restroom excessively, I couldn’t keep food down, lost my appetite, and was growing weaker by the day. Those days seem like such a blur now, but I know that I was in this particular state for at least two weeks. I couldn’t sleep through the night. I just laid in bed completely wracked with pain. Oddly enough, your girl mustered enough strength to see my clients during this time, until I was too sick to stare at the computer screen.

I got in to see the doctor on a Tuesday in Mid-August, started a round of prednisone by the end of that week, had a colonoscopy the following Friday, and at the encouragement of my gastroenterologist, I begrudgingly check myself into the hospital the night of the colonoscopy. The colonoscopy showed severe inflammation throughout my entire colon. She couldn’t even finish the procedure there was so much inflammation. It looked like something out of a horror movie: swollen, bloody, and mucousy. The prednisone alone seemed to not be strong enough to do the trick. And I was so weak that I could barely even walk.

That night when I checked into the hospital I weighed in at a whopping 128 (I weighed 151 in February and 139 three weeks prior). I was also running a high fever and word on the street, among doctors and nurses, was that I had an infection. I spent seven solid days in the hospital and was only discharged because I begged my GI doctor, pleading that I had a mental health presentation to do on Friday — It was on self-care no less, go figure. Begrudgingly she let me go. But she was worried that I wasn’t ready.

While in the hospital I was on drip antibiotics, drip prednisone, and started my first round of Remicade infusions. I re-read Breaking the Vicious Cycle and joined an SCD facebook group.

Many things have transpired with my health and life since then, which you will read about if you so desire. But this sickness, again this damnable evil from the pits of hell, as I like to refer to it, is the reason that I have grown even more passionate about rest, health and healing. I believe in healing more than I believe in dis-ease. I still question why this had to happen to me, but I am determined to contend for full healing. I don’t believe in remission for me, I believe in healing. And I will get it.

Published by Counseling With Leslie

Leslie Stevens, M.Ed., LCMHC is a North Carolina and Virginia board-certified licensed professional counselor. She co-owns a successful practice in Carrboro, North Carolina. Leslie specializes in helping adults navigate stress, depression, anxiety, and perfectionism. Additionally, she is a life strategist, spiritual coach, and writer.

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