I was getting Harvey, my rambunctious toddler, to sleep the other night when I wondered how young you can successfully start those guided relaxation techniques with kids. I was thinking about the one where you relax your scalp muscles, then your forehead (I started to do it for myself), ears and cheeks, then the jaw and lips and keep going until you’re at your toes.
But when I got to my stomach I realized that for one of the first times in months, I didn’t just have less discomfort — I had no pain, no nausea and no cramping. No noticeable dis-ease.
I took the deepest, longest breath of 2019.
I’m almost embarrassed to admit how dark my world had seemed at times during the past couple of weeks (months?). Grief is always hard, but grieving the loss of good health is compounded by, you know, being sick and tired. Lethargy mimics depression and just when I’d feel like I’d gain a little ground, I’d walk swiftly into deep crevasses of sickness and sadness.
Whoosh. The unpredictability was giving me the what for.
But, with some inspired timing (kismet?), my sister (who was diagnosed with a different autoimmune disease at the same time I was!) offered to start an elimination diet with me.
Elimination diets are when you eat very few, safe foods for a while, and slowly reintroduce new things (gluten, soy, dairy, sugar, etc.) back into your routine, tracking what wreaks havoc so you can avoid it later.
Dietary restraint has been a tough muscle to flex when I’ve been depleted of energy, but Joey’s gentle persuasion included researching options, making a six-week plan and sister bonding — not to mention the hope of feeling better.
Resistance was futile.
We decided to start after the Pride Festival (because hi pizza and cocktails), which corresponded with my last dose of the world’s best and worst drug: prednisone, AKA the steroid which had made me a rounder version of my former self.
Even just a week or so in, as I laid there by sweet Harvey, I remembered that I had gotten a glimpse of my mug in the mirror earlier in the day and had deemed myself de-puffed in the face enough to start smiling again in public without looking like a happy basketball.
Daaaang. I remembered that more has been eaten away during this debacle than just my guts (and apparently my ability to digest red meat, I’ve recently learned).
I crawled into bed and perused the news of the day to serendipitously find a story about Beth Launiere, the University of Utah volleyball coach who lives courageously with Crohn’s. She was being recognized by the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation as an “Honored Hero” for her drive to never be a victim of the disease. It was a timely message for a practicing (but not always succeeding) optimist.
And that night (and for many nights since) I finally felt relief in both my body and my mind. I don’t know how long the sailing will be smooth, but I’m hoping that ridding myself of a sense of powerlessness might make me a better sailor for future choppy seas.
So, cheers to some better days, and to the people who help us achieve them.
Marina Gomberg is a communications professional and lives in Salt Lake City with her wife, Elenor Gomberg, and their son, Harvey. You can reach Marina at firstname.lastname@example.org.