How I live with my Autoimmune Condition
Motherhood in itself is hard work. It is that 24/7 full-time job with minimal reward and no holiday vacations, and it is still the most fulfilling and life-changing “job” I have ever taken on board.
But to go back to my first sentence, it isn’t easy.
It does, in fact, comes with long hours of crying, neverending breastfeeding sessions, traumatising nappy changes (the smell after the introduction of solids is something unprepared parents should be warned about), bouts of vomit and long sleepless nights. On the plus side, there are smiles, breathtaking moments when your child reaches one of those major milestones (such as crawling, walking, talking), and slow nights in, spent rolling on the floor and throwing squeaky toys, unable to explain the amount of overwhelming happiness you are experiencing.
This is motherhood in general.
And then there is motherhood for women with chronic illnesses and autoimmune conditions.
An autoimmune disease is a condition arising from an abnormal immune response to a normal body part. There are at least 80 types of autoimmune diseases (ex: Hashimoto, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus). Nearly any body part can be involved. Common symptoms include low-grade fever, pain and feeling tired (on top of all the other specific symptoms linked to every specific condition).
Autoimmune disease is recognised as a health crisis worldwide and it does affect 50 million people (80% women) just in America.
For those mothers, like myself, life can be tricky at stages, as we can’t do things that other women take so much for granted. To give you an example, without diving too deep in what is going on in my life, I can’t wear tight pants and I can’t sit for a long (and sometimes even short) period of time, without feeling that my pelvic area is burning to the point of tears.
For all those mums out there, that are suffering and struggling as I do, but that have to show up every day as they have children to take care of, I invite you to:
Never give up
You have received a diagnosis. Fantastic! Consider yourself lucky as millions of women deal with daily signs and symptoms, and they are sent from one specialist to another as no one knows what the heck is going on with their bodies.
Now that you know what you are dealing with, don’t let it be the end of it; take your tablets if they change your life for the better, but keep searching, keep reading, visit as many nutritionists, doctors, naturopaths, acupuncturists you can, as science and knowledge keep on moving, and what is unknown today, could be common sense in the future.
Don’t let it define who you are
You have a condition! But you are not your condition. I refuse to allow my constant pain to rule my life; I obviously have to accept to deal with the ebbs and flows of my situation, and I know how much diet and lifestyle stressors play a major role in how I feel. Still, I won’t be remembered for what I’m experiencing now, as I will never, ever give up on the hope of feeling better in the future. You will never hear me say “I can’t have a second child because I have…”. I don’t even allow my brain to go there. If a second child was my priority, I would do everything I can to get to a place where I can safely hold a healthy pregnancy, and be strong for the postpartum phase.
What is your limiting belief caused by your condition? Find it out and tackle it now, one step at a time!
Treat your body as a temple
Although I’m a qualified Clinical Nutritionist, I’m not saying that everything can be cured through foods and supplementation. What I’m saying is that diet can play a major role in the severity and quality of your disease. If for example you suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis, and you spend a weekend drinking, eating junk, and partying until the wee hours without getting a decent night sleep, I can assure you will notice a flare a few days after the weekend (or, if you are unlucky, even during the weekend). This doesn’t mean that you are not allowed to have fun for the rest of your life, but you can put changes in place so that your symptoms won’t drive you nuts when you decide to steer away from your bone broth and kale smoothie routine.
Do you have an Autoimmune Condition and Do You Want to Decrease the Pain? Add this to your Diet
So you can become a better Parent and live a joyful life
If you have a chronic condition, you perfectly know how it feels to have a flare; it comes “out of the blue”, and you have no idea when and if it will go away, and it sends you down a rabbit hole of very negative thoughts.
Let’s start by clarifying that it is not your fault; you didn’t want the disease in the first place, you didn’t attract it, you didn’t create it, but you have to deal with it.
Some days are better than others, and during those good days, it is important to not overdo it. I know you feel the need to counterbalance all the time spent vegetating in bed, but the sooner your system gets overwhelmed, the sooner you will be obliged to stop again.
Make gentleness the mantra of your life; walk, move, exercise gently. Eat food that won’t compromise, but support your immune system, stress and work less, sleep more or nap when you can. Incorporate mindfulness and meditation into your daily routine. Focus on abundance and keep a gratitude diary for those times when you don’t know if you can do it.
And it goes without saying…ask for help when you can’t do it.
Find an outlet
It is really easy to embrace mindfulness and meditation when you are feeling good and inspired. But for when you need to deal with the dark times, make sure you have an outlet, a purpose, something it is worth living for. It could be a blog, a side hustle, a book club, anything that sparks your fantasy and that makes you happy. Anything that will help you strive for wellness when you are in the thick of a flare.
Writing is my outlet for sure; creating a business to support postpartum women is my dream. And I will keep showing up on days where my back is to sore, my pelvic area is burning, and my head is foggy and ready to go on holiday. My promise is to show up every day, for 5 minutes or 8 hours…it doesn’t matter. But this is my outlet, and I won’t let it go.
Canary in the coal mine
Being a mother with an autoimmune condition is like being a canary in the coal mine; your need to eat organic whole foods, your need to live in a house without mould and cleaned with environmental friendly products, your need to be exposed to the sun and spend time in nature, your need to soak in peacefulness and quiet, your need to slow down and breathe are precious gifts you are giving and teaching to your family. Your partner and kids will be exposed to this different kind of lifestyle, and they will benefit tremendously from it. It isn’t nice to be a canary, but at least you are tweeting for your family’s wellbeing.