Trying to get up off the floor alone by crawling to a chair and then slowly grasping and pulling upward was the greatest athletic feat I could accomplish then. Arthritic pain inflamed every joint. Now here I am, taking a walk in the park with the dog. Differently: straight, strong, and enjoying the exertion.
The following is a guest post from Lisa Jorgensen, a counselor who has lived with Lupus for more than 15 years. This is a glimpse of her return to health through diet and lifestyle.
Hitting Rock Bottom
At age 30, trying to get up off the floor alone by crawling to a chair and then slowly grasping and pulling upward was the greatest athletic feat as I could accomplish. Inflammation in every single joint in my body made any movement miserable. Not moving was, of course, out of the question. I was the mother of a 5-year-old and one-year-old twins. It was an excruciating time for all of us as we struggled to adjust. I kept asking why this was happening to me.
I didn’t know at the time that Lupus was rearing its ugly head. The next 15 years of my life would be extremely challenging.
Getting Ready to Walk
My healing journey began a few years ago when I started treating the actual disease and not just the symptoms. With the help of my doctor and a new medication, I tapered off of Prednisone. As the pain in my joints lessened, I realized I had at least a modest amount of control over my symptoms.
I was so overjoyed to be able to move without pain! For months during this period, I would make a discovery and shout, “Look! I can ______________!” (raise my arm overhead, or bend down onto one knee, or some other ordinary movement). Riding the wave of better health, I sought out nutritional, stress management, and exercise therapies that worked for me. Today I depend on them to help me feel my best. I have so much more control over my physical symptoms as well as my outlook and mental state. Although I still have Lupus, I am miles ahead in terms of coping with this difficult disease.
A Walk in the Park
It is July 30, 1016. Here I am, walking the dog. Differently: straight, strong, and enjoying the exertion. Yes, the exertion it takes to keep my body upright and lifted. I’m aware of these challenges in my body. But now I experience them in a new way. My spine is relaxed but striving to lengthen. Oh WOW! That feels good! The crown of my head reaches up to the sky. I am reaching heavenward in body and spirit.
A year ago, and more than 100 pounds ago, I led with my head, my back rounded downward. I bent forward at the waist with my bottom sticking out—I hated it but couldn’t move forward any other way. I felt doomed to that state for the rest of my life, so I actually quit making plans to travel or to see and experience new things. Yet, I persisted.
“I will not give up on myself. Whatever sorry state I may be in, I will find some small thing to improve each day. One small success leads to another. I will find I can set my sights higher as I start to feel better.”
So today I am walking in the park. “This walking is hard, I’m not used to it, I feel so weak,” says my other self.
“You’re okay. Just be in the moment,” I answer.
Being in the Moment
Honestly I have to give some credit to the dog here. He teaches me mindfulness. He is so attuned to his environment that there is hardly an ant on the sidewalk that he misses. His ears perk up at the slightest sound and his eyes intently scan the surroundings as he trots along. Do I even need to mention the keenness of that nose of his? All his senses are working. He is loving his existence on this walk; he’s not thinking about the past or about the future.
“The prize is in the process,” I tell myself. “There is freedom in the NOW.” I no longer watch my feet as they plod along. I stop thinking, “I’m almost home and then I can check this off the list and hurry to the next task.”
Instead, I take in. I absorb. I acknowledge. From here I can even look forward. Not just seeing what is up ahead of me, but actually hoping, dreaming, imagining. In yoga practice, I learned, “Your body will follow your gaze.” I dare to look up.
I know that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors influence each other. Change one, and it changes the others. So, I invite change by simply behaving differently. I keep walking, even though it’s hard.
“I am going to skip,” I say to myself as I bring my enlightening walk to a close.
“What!?,” says my rational mind. “You don’t know how anymore. And besides, what if someone is watching??”
“Aw, shut up. My body wants to skip, and I am shaking off the shackles!”
So I skip the last 20 or 30 yards to home. Entering the house with a rush of endorphins, I let loose with a happy cry. Not a yell, or a cheer, but an actual cry, with tears. It’s kind of a prayer…“THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!” Feelings of freedom, of renewed hope and confidence fill me. My sobs clear out storage units of despair, anger and fear.
I have turned a corner, and with acceptance and empowerment, I find the capacity to heal.