'Mind over Matter'
Updated: Apr 7
Ulcerative colitis diagnosis.
In January 2017 I was diagnosed with ‘Severe Ulcerative colitis’. I had been bleeding all of December 2016 and spent christmas alone and in pain. I had never heard of colitis but knew something of Crohn's disease. I was in horrific pain, continuously on the toilet,huge blood loss, unable to eat much and only sleeping 20min at a time. My weight had plummeted. I was actually concerned I had damaged my colon as recently I had colonic irrigation on a retreat in Thailand. It’s a powerful process and a cleansing process of juicing, yoga and health had been something I had really got involved in, the last 4 years. I had changed jobs, found yoga and was now teaching it in the surrey areas. I was the healthiest and happiest I had been in years but now suddenly colitis struck. That in itself made no sense to me.
Over a period of three years I was hospitalised four times for two weeks at a time. I was put on steroids the highest dose and my gastroenterologist had spoken to me about possibly removing the whole colon and giving me a stoma bag. I had been briefed for this, along with meeting the surgeon. My gastroenterologist never pushed me into any option, but told me of them. He always listened and let me decide what I wanted to do. After all, I had gone to him in desperate pain and he was offering all and everything he knew of, to help me. I had tried all the oral drugs available and foam sprays. I went to meetups on the disease. Got another opinion and researched like crazy. I was also offered two types of infusions to try if I wanted. Infliximab and vedolizumab. I did try both these, one after the other but felt much worse on them, with horrific side effects. Nausia, hair loss, weight gain and itchy skin were just some. My bleeding just didn't stop and the pain was unbearable. I had myself tried various holistic medicines that were recommended online but found it was getting rather expensive and disheartening. I tried 'symprove' a probiotic that was hugely expensive. My bleed stopped for one week, then started again. Nothing was working for me and my concerns were my colon should actually be removed. A life changing situation and one that upset me. Yet when that pain hits, all you want is your colon out.
Something in me kept saying, I don't have a disease as such. I don’t have a mouldy colon ridden with something that needs cutting out. What I have is a colon that for some reason is reacting to something going on within me, it’s misfiring. I knew the mind had a huge aspect to do with the body functioning. I was now trained in yoga and understood so much more about the homo sapien. Was it this sudden change in my lifestyle? Was it my diet? that was causing this bleeding?I had tried different foods and diets, along with allergy testing during my illness and the 'fodmap' diet. I had noticed that some foods would make me feel worse if I was already triggered. Eating chilli on an inflamed colon isn't wise for instance.
I had learned a lot about Yoga and it had already had a powerful effect on me in my life ten years earlier. Bringing me more peace and stillness and calm after a difficult few years. I had really immersed myself in yoga and developed my consciousness, yet looking back and in hindsight I think I suppressed all the issues that arose in my practise. Instead of being released they just went back into my second brain, the colon. Instead of dealing with those issues fully and releasing them through therapy. We know that our minds are hugely powerful and the deepness of this is known in Eastern philosophy and now here in the West we are realising the deepness and importance of stilling the mind to help with health.
Yoga is a hugely powerful process that needs to not only be taught properly, understood and practised in the correct way but the practitioner needs to give themselves time to deal with and release the issues that arise and do arise in the mind. That is the whole point of yoga. If you are looking for peace of mind, health and happiness, changes need to happen. It’s a process of development and mindset change, release. The different Asanas [postures] and various techniques not only detox and align the body back to correct balance and structure but the Asana squeeze the internal organs and flush through the toxins, getting fresh blood and oxygen around the system. The path of yoga and various lineages open the consciousness to find health and peace but you have to go through a process to actually heal and develop by dealing with whatever arises and all practitioners will have a different experience, it can be a hard journey. When those issues arise in the mind, they then need to be dealt with and not suppressed again or ignored. Or that energy just goes back into the body, affecting the muscle tension and organs and causes illness. So you may need therapy, counselling, meet the person or people you have hurt with or find your own way to release and move on. It’s the hurt and pain, fear and moulding of our life experiences that actually cause illness and disease in the body. This is a known fact in Vedic literature. Yogic philosophy. It is said that 90% of what goes on in the mind, can cause illness in the body. My mind was causing my illness. Once I realised this i thought, but what is it that i am thinking of that is causing my bleed? If I could work that out, then I could no longer be ill. Like with most issues in life, it is easier said than done and my journey to recovery might take a very long time.
Look at it like this. Think of eating a lemon, does your mouth water with the thought? Was it seconds before the reaction of saliva? If so, imagine the power of the mind, what thought you have conscious or subconscious affects your body, your body reacts and in whatever way it reacts can either heal it, function in the necessary way or damage it. Look at how smells like lavender affect the mind. Hence why you should be careful of what you surround yourself with, media, TV, music, where you live, the people etc Our world externally and internally governs us.
Yoga has been booming in the western world and many are realising it’s huge power. I came across cancer patients in India, while training to teach yoga,who had healed and others with various other illnesses who had healed or managed their conditions. There were many Europeans and Americans there. Yet, its power and healing lies in the fact we are dealing with releasing and changing our thoughts, being aware of feelings, karma, hurt, pain, suffering, fear in our life. Early childhood issues, abuse, loneliness, you name it. knowledge is passed down in DNA, so if there is pain there from passed ancestors, it’s another place where healing needs to happen. The mind,body, soul and DNA all hold knowledge that could be affecting the homo sapien with illness.
I asked my gastroenterologist to give me some time before I decided to have the colon removal operation. He had been so understanding and given me all my options without pressurising me. I was so lucky to have a great team looking after me. I knew that I had to try one more thing. I had literally tried all else to find a cure. I wanted to take my yoga deeper, understand the mindset. Delve deep into my soul and consciousness. Really deal with my life issues, feelings, emotions. I was noticing triggers when stressed, thinking of certain situations in my life and not knowing how to handle them constructively.
I flew to Sri Lanka and immersed myself in Ayurvedic medicine for a month. I did go through a huge mental process there and I did cry a lot, journal and release a lot of pain. I decided to make changes in my life. I changed my mobile no. and erased people from my life, I needed to cut off from the world for a bit, to focus on me. I would in time contact people again when I could deal with the situation, without it causing stress for myself but now, I only had minimum energy to heal. I noticed I had suppressed a lot of my true feelings in life for years. Never really being honest with myself or others at times. I had never shared my real feelings in conversations, I guess I was suppressing those emotions in my mind that led it to cause irritation to my gut. I had often felt my stomach churn in various situations. It felt like a mouse inside me crawling in my gut. I could feel a sense of stress in certain aspects of my life. I needed to make big changes. It was a hard process of much arising, but I got through.
I have been well for two years now. I am pleased to say I still have my colon and am not on any medication. I eat a pescatarian diet,small and often. The main factor is I now live a life stress free. I realised that stress was the reason/main factor for flare ups.I would feel a sudden panic in certain situations and my stomach would literally churn. I would panic so much about being good at my job, being on time, maintaining the house, being reliable, paying bills,happy, you name it. The amount of pressure I put on myself to be a certain type of person in society was ridiculous. I was always beating myself up mentally in situations, being so hard on myself. Not feeling good enough, that self worth we all tend to not have. This pressure that many feel in society is causing illness and for me it is what triggered my colitis. I think for years I suppressed so much as well as feeling just too much anxiety and stress in my life; eventually it had to explode and it did in the form of colitis.
The body can only take so much and eventually it will turn into some form of illness or disease sadly.
I really needed to just stop, take time out and reevaluate my whole being. I realised i had been on a hamster wheel, i guess manic in some ways with always being busy, never relaxing.I manage my life in a way i say ‘no’ if i don’t want to do something or feel it would be too much for me. I have learnt how to say ‘no thank you’ in a way that doesn’t upset the person in question, as that in itself would stress me! I found all the changes I have made, hard to do, it hasn’t been easy. It has taken time. I noticed that I needed confidence to make those changes. Once I found that strength in me, I was able to cope better in various situations. It’s important to know I had five deaths in my family before my diagnosis and at the beginning of it. The situation was obviously mentally exhausting, deeply upsetting and stressful for me. I am sure two of these deaths were as it were the icing on the cake to my first trigger. My mind and body just completely collapsed with the situation.
I relax more. I know the breath is hugely important to calm the mind, so there are various techniques you can use to relax.I get massages when financially able. I am gentle in my approach with situations and if I ever feel slight anxiety, I take a step back, do a breathing exercise or meditate for a few minutes. I stop, allow my heart to slow, as usually I can feel it start to beat faster. Then I carry on or sometimes decide not to and leave the situation for another day.There are some situations that naturally bring stress for me. Probably not to others. I have now learnt of a process to manage those as they arise. How I cope, is I look at the bigger picture of life. I break down the issue into bite size pieces and don’t feel a rush to deal with the situation straight away. I will talk to a family member or friend to help ease the worry. I accept life has its ups and downs and it’s ok to feel anxious in some cases. I just don’t let situations control me, I see it from a different perspective.
I think one of the hardest things was being so alone in the situation. I was lucky to have my dad near and visiting me in hospital and I had a great team of doctors, who looked after me with great respect and care. Remember I had cut off from everyone to heal.I do find being on my own hard and I know that my stress levels would ease if i had a partner to share my life with and there life with me but I have now found a deep strength in my being to be able to cope on my own and not feel weak being single. That in itself is hard but is possible, although not ideal. After all, love heals. That energy from another is so powerful and we live in a world where we are so disconnected from each other, it is causing suffering. True love is a healing form. Opening the heart is crucial. I truly believe the masculine needs the feminine and vice versa. Those energies work together and heal the homo sapien. You become wiser too, gaining knowledge and inspiration from your counter part.
I guess I have found strength in myself. Someone I didn't know but now do. I feel able to take my life into a new phase of health, calm and ‘my’ peace and maybe meet someone who will value my journey.
My advice to others is, be aware of your mind, your thoughts and the feelings that attach to those thoughts. Yoga is the best ‘Tool’ I found for myself to heal. People feel anxious and stressed for different reasons. I know what has made me feel that way in the past and now feel only a small amount of that worry and manage it so much better. The process will be tricky for some and they may need surgery instead, if the issues are too deep to solve by the individual, but there are many options available. Or they may need medication to help them through the pain of the illness at the start, as they heal through yoga. If you can feel calm and happy within yourself after dealing with any issues, strong as an individual, I think you can cure or manage your colitis or crohn's.
I think it very important you know, that this blog was asked for by the charity-
'Crohn's & Colitis uk' I wrote it for them as a member,because they had shown interest in my recovery, they decided not to publish it on their site. Their reason being, they couldn't promote certain aspects of it. They say they support medication and surgery to their readers. Not a cure. I will leave it up to you to decide on the right or wrong of that. Pharmaceutical companies and surgery seeming priority over cure and prevention? I think it should be the other way around. We need all options and the charity should offer and talk of all.