Healing Through Acceptance
By: Trina Alsip
Companion Fitness Contributor
When I first became ill 9 years ago while in college at Indiana University, I was in denial. I thought that the abdominal pain, frequent urge to go to the bathroom and feverish symptoms were normal. I convinced myself that they would pass. I continued to ignore what my body was telling me and eventually started to have more severe symptoms such as bleeding and mucus in the stool. A year later, I had a colonoscopy and was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, specifically proctitis which is inflammation of the lining of the rectum. I was treated with orals, suppositories, enemas, and steroids.
Orals did not work, enemas were uncomfortable, suppositories helped ease the symptoms and steroids put me in remission but only for a short period of time. I had always questioned whether food affected the symptoms but my doctor could not verify or deny. I was tired of going back and forth between hope and despair so I gave up and continued to drink and eat inflammatory food (mostly after drinking) even though I knew it made me feel worse.
Athletics has always been a part of my life. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago playing tennis, soccer, and volleyball and even though I went through a period in my life of drinking, I continued to exercise as a tool for mental clarity and stress relief during and after college. I started to take an interest in weightlifting after graduating and 3 years ago I took on a challenge that changed my life forever by competing in the figure division of a local bodybuilding show.
The show prep process took about 14-16 weeks of clean eating with a weekly cheat meal, I did not drink, I took proper supplementation, I continued to lift and cardio increased. My symptoms slowly dissipated and eventually went into remission. I continued onto the national level stage and proudly placed in the top third of a stacked class.
The excitement was over, I felt good, my body was pain-free and then as I gradually ate more, weight increased and my UC symptoms came back. Once you know what it feels like to live life without pain it’s hard to go back to the next year I competed again and my UC symptoms went away. Unfortunately, since then I gained the weight back and along with that my UC symptoms.
While I do not plan on competing again in the near future I have shifted my focus to overall health, wellness, family and work as an interior designer. I continue to lift weights but also seek new skills like boxing and yoga. I believe that my symptoms are not only irritated by the types of food but the amounts of it. My food choices include anything anti-inflammatory, therefore, no dairy, gluten, corn, soy, sugar, and alcohol. I know you’re thinking, well then what can you eat?
Instead of focusing on what I cannot eat I try to focus on what I can eat.
Coping with a chronic illness is a lot of pressure and will test your strength. There will be times where you try a new treatment or diet and symptoms do not improve. But do not get discouraged from pursuing other forms of healing. Find comfort in the despair, bathe in the fear, chase the anger and remember to be kind to yourself along with your journey.
We cannot truly heal until we fully accept what is.