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When Removing My Colon Wasn’t An Option

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ILLNESS AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO AWAKEN CONSCIOUSNESS

I can recall the day like it was yesterday. Sitting on the edge of the examination table of my former GI doctor’s office feeling anxious and full of uncertainty. At this point, I had been on over nine medications for the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, in which none of them were successfully treating the disease, and the side effects were causing me more suffering. The last drug I had been prescribed required an intravenous infusion every 4 weeks and blood work every 2 weeks. The blood work was to monitor my liver enzymes to be sure my liver could process the drug. After being on the medication for approximately 12 months, I received a call from my doctor saying “you need to get off this drug immediately and go see a hepatologist.” I suddenly began to panic and think of the worst possible outcome, surgery. I was so afraid that the disease would take over my life again. Without knowing what else to do, I followed the doctor’s orders and saw the hepatologist.

Sitting in the waiting room felt like an eternity. As he walked into the examination room he began to acutely examine me and commented on the fact that my face was “rather flushed.” During this time, I had also developed a severe sensitivity to chemicals and pollutants known as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). Exposure to even the slightest trace of chemicals or fragrance would trigger a response within my body and cause major brain fog and my face to flush beat red. As he proceeded the examination he told me that I would need a liver biopsy. The biopsy was performed days later to discover the medication was causing me to develop autoimmune hepatitis. I was told if I did not address this hepatitis that I could possibly need a liver transplant within seven years. I was at a loss for words.

How did I go from being a young healthy male full of energy and life? To having a debilitating autoimmune disease and potentially needing a liver transplant? I was suffering so much, at times I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be live or die.

Riddled with fear, I took the suggestion of the hepatologist and began taking a high dose of prednisone to bring down my liver enzymes. In a matter of weeks, my enzymes returned to normal. The intravenous medication was causing autoimmune hepatitis. Not knowing where to go, I returned to the GI doctor’s office in hopes for him to have a backup plan for treating the ulcerative colitis. That backup plan came in the form of a business card for a surgeon. The nurse practitioner suggested I give him a call and set up a consultation. I knew the consultation would lead to the surgeon suggesting to remove my colon and live the rest of my life with a pouch. I threw the card in the trunk of my car and had no intention of calling him. My intuition knew if I was to heal, it would no longer be in the hands of conventional medicine, neither would my inflamed colon have a chance to heal if it was to be cut out of my body.

I began to meditate to calm my mind and body. The therapeutic benefits of meditation began to not only to set the environment for healing but also created space for me to hang out in the “unknown,” the very place where healing is possible. The continuous desire and struggle to alleviate my symptoms caused me further pain and to be stuck in the cycle of suffering. Learning to “be” with what was present in my mind/body allowed me to get clear and reflect on the steps I needed to take in order to initiate the healing process.

As I began to listen to the whispers within, the fear of illness and disease began to dissipate. As the fear began to fall away, it was clear to me that this illness was more than just a crippling disease, it was also my teacher. It manifested in “service for me.” It allowed me to get in touch with the deeper meaning of life and experience a sense of wholeness and love that I have never felt before. The experience of intense suffering allowed my heart to crack open and touch the suffering of all beings. Leading to a deeper understanding of consciousness and awakening me to the truth of how I came to be this way.

A shift in consciousness is essential to initiate the healing process within the body/mind. Many times our unconscious behaviors are perpetuating the very actions that lead us to illness and disease and not toward health and wholeness. For me, three main underlying factors contributing to my disease were: I was constantly stuck in a fight or flight response, caused by never fully addressing childhood trauma and relating to life in “survival mode”. Two, I was in the habit of over-exercising, literally running from myself and creating an inflammatory response within my body. And three, I was not eating a proper diet to support my overall physical health. 

Physical pain is often followed by mental suffering. If we have the willingness to go within and investigate our own heart and mind, healing and awakening of our consciousness is possible. Carl Jung said it perfectly. “One does not become enlightened by imagining images of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Shifting our consciousness allows us to see with new eyes, allowing our pain and illness to be the very catalyst to transformation and healing.

Going within, I began to listen to what my body was telling me. My intuition or “higher self” began to speak to me. This isn’t some mystical gift or magical power, we all have the ability to access this higher intelligence from within. It takes being open-minded, willing and able to get quiet enough to listen. As I began to listen and take action undeniable signs and synchronicities began to show up in my life. The universe began to align me with various healers, doctors, and practitioners whom would play an integral part in my healing process.

As Ajahn Chah (the great Thai Forrest Monk) would say; “There are two kinds of suffering. There is suffering you run away from, which follows you everywhere. And there is the suffering you face directly, and so become free.”

By turning toward my suffering I was able to transcend the pain and open to the infinite possibilities in the present moment. Allowing the fear of surgery to slip away and begin to walk a conscious path towards healing.

Shifting from “Doing” to “Being”

For years I lived my life in a constant state of doing, sometimes literally running from myself. 

From abusing drugs and alcohol when I was younger, to over training in the gym. I was reluctant to slow down, for it would mean I may have to face the chaos that was spinning around inside of me. It was easier for me to grab my road bike and ride 35 miles than to sit quiet with my mind’s chatter. Or even better, I could go to the gym twice a day to build up my body’s armor so no one could get close to my heart.

When I think back to those times, it is very clear to me that I was in deep pain. I didn’t have the self awareness to see my habitual patterns that were causing me to remain stuck. I would always justify my means of escape as if what I was doing was normal. As if chasing around attractive woman for the sole purpose of sex, or numbing out by over eating and then going to the gym to get “jacked” was normal. These were just a few of my habitual patterns that I would do so I wouldn’t have to feel the feelings.

How many people are out there in the world on the merry-go-round of “doing” without really being present for themselves? As human beings we have the tendency to push away what is unpleasant and grasp for what feels good. You might ask yourself. “What is the problem with that?” The problem is, it sets us up to condition ourselves in such a way that leads to suffering. Unpleasantness and pain are part of life, wishing things to be different is what causes us to suffer.

Shifting from “doing” to “being” requires us to lean into the painful parts of ourselves that are not so easy for us to face. I mean really, who can we befriend if we cannot learn to befriend ourselves first? We can start this relationship with ourselves by taking time to sit in stillness. Allowing ourselves to drop into the present moment with a sense openness and curiosity. As we sit mindfully we can allow our thoughts, feelings and sensations to just be as they are. Holding everything in awareness without judgment or needing to change anything.

Many of us are so wrapped up in seeking comfort and security from the external world that we forget the peace and stillness we are looking for is right inside our very own being. There is no where to run to. With the slightest shift of our attention we can go back home to ourselves. Making peace with the person we are in this very moment without having to create another means of escape.

Wherever you may be in life, can you open yourself up to the present moment and meet life exactly where you are? Allowing the space of being to seep deep into your consciousness and free you from having to “DO” and just “BE”?

Healing from the Inside Out

How much suffering does one person need to shift their mindset and lifestyle to begin the healing process on all levels; physically, mentally and spiritually?

I know for myself, I needed the whole framework of my existence to collapse to make way for a foundation to be laid and built upon.

For many years I was consumed with trying to “make it” in the world. Never stopping or slowing down enough to see the beauty that was always around me. Internalizing my tremendously dysfunctional traumatic childhood had led to an eruption of Irritable Bowel Disease and a host of other symptoms. I was suffering both physically and mentally and desperately trying to hold it all together.

I believe the pain and suffering we experience in life are as equally important as the love and the joy. Paradoxically, I have touched the deepest moments of joy, peace, and love while going through the darkest times in my life. Suffering on any level is an invitation for us to wake up. To stop, get curious and go within. A time to check in with ourselves and see what it is that we truly need. Without going inside ourselves for the answerers we are likely to perpetuate the conditioned response of seeking comfort from the external world. I know this first hand, I tried it for years with little success.

Choosing to go within oneself for the answers is an act of courage. Shining the light of awareness on every little deep dark crevice of your being is not the most pleasurable of experiences, nor is it at the top of most people’s priority list. When the pain inside was greater than the fear of looking, I took a glance. For months I meditated in solitude. Sometimes retreating to the woods to escape the stimulation of the inhabited outside world. There, I had a realization that would forever change how I see the world. The mental construct of “me” had vanished and I had become one with all. There was no duality, you or me, “I” was everything! “I” was the bird migrating, “I” was the acorn that cracked and burst into a ninety-foot oak tree, there was no separation, just pure conscious awareness.

The old framework that supported my various belief systems and the sense of “self” had disintegrated. It was like being reborn and seeing the world for the first time. The habitual thinking of the past was no longer present. The fear and anxiety of the future was gone and I was living deeply in the present moment. Knowing in the depths of my being that everything leading up to this moment was of divine perfection.

Can we look within and realize the answers we are searching for are already inside of us? When we sift through the soil of our being, to unearth the gems that are waiting to be discovered, we will find we are whole and complete just the way we are.

Welcome to Breath by Breath Wellness!

Thank you for taking the time to stop by my website to check out the blog! I’m super excited but also a bit nervous to launch my website and social media platforms to the public. I’m feeling the feelings and doing it anyway! My intention for Breath by Breath Wellness is to help assist people in transforming their lives through holistic principles and the mind-body connection. I feel very grateful for all of life’s experiences, especially the difficult ones which have made room for something greater to be birthed from within me. Please feel free to sign up for my blog and newsletter and also follow me on social media. If you have any questions or are interested in my services please email me. I look forward to connecting with you!