We cannot truly heal until we fully accept what is
By: Trina Alsip
Companion Magazine Contributor
I first became ill 9 years ago while in college and was in denial. I thought the abdominal pain and bloating were normal. I convinced myself that they would pass. I continued to ignore my body and eventually started having more severe symptoms: bleeding in the stool, fatigue, fevers and an urgent need to use the bathroom. Along with the physical symptoms came psychological ones like social anxiety from worrying about where bathrooms were. A year later a colonoscopy found half of my rectum inflamed and I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.
I have been treated with orals, suppositories, enemas, and topical 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 eat unhealthy food even though I knew it made me feel worse.
Athletics has always been a part of my life. I grew up playing tennis, soccer, and volleyball. I use exercise as a tool for mental clarity and stress relief. After graduating I started to take an interest in weightlifting. Three 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 took proper supplementation, continued to lift and increased cardio. As I continued to show prep my symptoms slowly dissipated and I went into remission. I had qualified for the national level stage and proudly placed in the top third of a stacked class.
The excitement of the stage was over and I felt great being in remission. Unfortunately, as I gradually ate more and introduced foods such as dairy, gluten, sugar and alcohol back into my diet my UC symptoms returned. I felt discouraged and defeated. Once you know what it feels like to live life without pain it’s mentally difficult to go back.
While I do not plan on competing again in the near future I have shifted my attention to other fitness and wellness goals. With the help of specialists I aim to improve my ulcerative colitis symptoms through medicine, nutrition and exercise. I focus on food choices that are anti-inflammatory and am always rotating sources to figure out what does not cause flares. I continue to lift weights as a hobby but also seek new skills like boxing and yoga to test my athletic ability.
Coping with a chronic illness is a lot of pressure and will test your mental and physical strength. There will be times when you try a new treatment or diet and the symptoms will not improve. Do not get discouraged. Pursue other forms of healing. Find comfort in the despair. Bathe in the fear. Chase the anger and remember to be kind to yourself along your journey.
“We cannot truly heal until we fully accept what is”.