Tips for IBD patients

Someone newly diagnosed with IBD asked me for tips on dealing with it today. Here was my response. These are things I did that helped me to cope and to heal from Crohn’s colitis. I have been in remission for over 5 years. These suggestions may not help everyone with IBD.

1-Practice mindfulness. It can help you to relax your nervous system and to develop more self-awareness. It can also help you to cope with difficult emotions. You could try at least 20 minutes of deep relaxation and meditation every day; it made a difference for me. Our nervous systems can easily become imbalanced through stress, which may worsen IBD. Stress doesn’t cause IBD, but it can exacerbate it. See: Psychological Stress in IBD: New Insights into Pathogenic and Therapeutic Implications, The Impact of Autonomic Nervous System Dysfunction on IBD and Effects of Mind-Body Therapy on Quality of Life and Neuroendocrine and Cellular Immune Functions in Patients with Ulcerative Colitis. Know your stress triggers. Managing my stress meant making lifestyle changes to reduce stresses in my life. Stressful jobs always exacerbated my symptoms. In the past five years or so, I have effectively managed my stress and doing so has also helped me feel overall improved well-being. Another blogger, Bob, healed from Crohn’s colitis and credits meditation as being key in his healing process. Bob’s blog: I healed my Crohn’s colitis. Mindfulness meditation and relaxation are not quick fixes and they may not help everyone with IBD to reduce the suffering that goes with living with IBD. More

Watershed

I wrote this piece about 1 1/2 years ago, on the 7th anniversary of my colectomy surgery. I have been free from Crohn’s colitis flares for over 5 years, though almost 10 years ago, the disease threatened my life.

Seven years ago I was preparing for major abdominal surgery. Friends of mine gathered on two occasions in the few days before the surgery to wish me well with my surgery through song, music, and cheers (literally). They helped me to prepare for the challenges ahead.

It is strange to me that it was seven years ago. Seven years is one-fifth of my life! Indeed, so much has changed since that era of my life. At that time, my health hung on a tenuous brink and every day was difficult…and pain, exhaustion, and debilitation were my constant companions. I was physically spent.

Parts of the day of my surgery I can remember as if they happened yesterday. Parts of that day are a complete blur. And a good chunk of that day is completely absent from my memory and my consciousness; I was under general anesthesia.

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Being in nature, being at peace

Below are a few examples of research findings that suggest that being in nature often has a healing effect on humans. Having encountered a black bear in a park in Colorado, I can say firsthand that it is not always so tranquil to be in nature! That experience was exhilarating, to say the least. But in general, I think that nature does have a healing effect on my psyche. When I am in nature by myself, I breathe deeper and notice more of my surroundings. I explore my curiosity and follow the sounds of trees rustling, the trails of animal tracks and the scents of flowers and earth. Even just being in my garden for an hour is often incredibly therapeutic. I feel the texture of the earth underneath my feet, examine the leaves and fruits of my plants and smile to my brightly colored nasturtiums and gladiolas. I enjoy a sublime serenity when it is quiet (when the rugby team is playing in the nearby field, it is not so quiet!). More

The healing power of being together

We are all isolated at times, especially when it is hard to talk about our inner worlds. Sometimes we may feel like no one understands and no one experiences the same thing. It can feel like the chronic condition creates an enormous social barrier. But actually, there are a lot of us out there, dealing with the same kinds of difficulties related to trying to function “normally” in a society that often stigmatizes people like us. When we are together, we share a great power in taking back the power to define our experiences and define what is “normal.” There is a great power in being together. More

Healing trauma

Dr. James Gordon is a “healing idol” of mine. He founded the non-profit Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC and he leads healing programs in places of the world where there are high rates of trauma, including Gaza, Israel, Haiti, and Kosovo. You can read more about the work of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine throughout the world at: Global Trauma Relief. More

Reflections on pain

I wrote this piece almost exactly four years ago, when I was experiencing severe back pain.

We were born from pain. Every mother who has ever given birth to a child has undergone some kind of severe pain, even if she had an epidural or a Caesarian section. Her body knew the pain.

Our heartbeats, our breaths, our eyes first lit up in the earthly realm as our mothers’ bodies opened to physical labor and the tearing of tissues. Somewhere in the depths of physical pain there is an umbilical cord that links us to all of humanity. In every sensation of pain this cord tethers us, whether we recognize it or not.

All sentient beings experience physical and mental pain at one time or another. The forms of this pain vary widely. Sometimes we forget that we all share the experience of pain. Sometimes we get lost in thoughts that propel us into behaviors to escape the pain. Of course we want relief! Of course we want ease!

In the relatively short time I have been alive, I have experienced severe pains, both physical and mental, from heart procedures, Crohn’s disease, major abdominal surgery, car accidents, migraines, pelvic pain, various biopsy procedures, and now sciatica. More

Unbreakable

It can’t break you apart
You are too whole
Pain sears your insides and
you collapse into aloneness
Wondering why it keeps hitting you
Wondering why it is so hard
Just to get up
Just to get up
The pain steals your will
And yet you keep rising
To the challenge
The pain steals your choices
And yet you keep choosing
To live wholly
The pain consumes you
In moments of despair
And you break free
Again and again
Reaching up
Reaching out
To those who love you
You are the unbreakable ones
The heroines who catch yourselves
Even when the pain pulls you
Tears you
Strikes the core of who you are
You are unbreakable
You find love
You find compassion
You find your voice,
your strong, determined voice.
The pain will never break you
You are too whole

–I wrote this poem for the women in my dissertation study. They all suffered from chronic pelvic pain. I felt so inspired by their grace and perseverance.

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