I’m sitting here thinking about how happy I am and how blessed I feel to have found my true calling in life. It’s taken a long time for me to arrive here, in fact it’s been 5 years since I first became ‘ill’. Since then, I’ve learned a hell of a lot about life, health, the human body, emotional and spiritual wellbeing and fooooood. So I wanted to share with you some of the things I’ve learned along the way, I’m sure there are hundreds of things, but here are the top 10.

1. Life is full of surprises and you never know what’s around the corner. 

It can happen to anyone! Chronic diseases are on the rise, in America 1 in 2 people are suffering with a chronic disease and England is not far behind. This can be anything from asthma, diabetes, allergies, autoimmune diseases, Lyme’s disease, gastrointestinal problems, the list goes on… When I was 32 I thought I was invincible, never ever considered the possibility that I might become ill or be in pain. That all changed very suddenly…

2.  Your health is the number one most important thing in your life.

Most people take their good health for granted until its not there anymore… As did I. I ate rubbish food, drank too much alcohol, smoked and generally pushed my body to the limit and beyond. The favourite saying I hear over and over again (which by the way was my favourite saying a few years ago too) – “I’ve only got one life so I’m going to enjoy it to the max!” And.. by all means do enjoy your life, but often times what is implied is that “I will eat what I want, smoke if i want and drink as much as I want”. The sad thing is that by eating rubbish, drinking and smoking you will probably end up with a very unenjoyable painful life a later on. Be wise, take control now!

3.  Prevention is a million times better than medication, medical intervention or disease management.

Taking care of this beautiful vehicle that is your body, loving it, appreciating and honouring it so that it can serve you best it can on your adventures is what we should all be thinking and doing. But sadly emotions and negative feelings towards ourselves often times impede this and we end up telling ourselves that we’re not good enough, not beautiful enough and not loveable enough to the point of actually hurting ourselves. And why? What’s the point? Wouldn’t it be better if everyone went around feeling love for themselves, the planet and everyone around? Instead people end up addicted to medications, having invasive medical procedures or spending hundreds of pounds on therapists and supplements. If you love your body you will feed it the best possible foods for fuel and exercise it just enough for health not so much that you’re hurting it or punishing it.

4.  Health education is key but the internet alone is not enough.

When I first became ill in late 2012, I, like many, first turned to the internet for advice. And while I found a ton of useful information it also became very confusing. Should I eat raw vegan food, should I be paleo or vegetarian… everyone has a different opinion. I learned that, even after I went to college for 3 years to study nutritional therapy, when it comes to looking after yourself it can be hard to see the wood for the trees sometimes and it can also be hard to be accountable to yourself. I’ve found that seeking out an expert or practitioner who resonates with you is really important. Whether it’s a acupuncturist, nutritional therapist, massage therapist, councillor, reiki practitioner or any other kind of practitioner you feel comfortable with and trust, being accountable to someone and feeling that they’ve got your back and are supporting you is extremely beneficial.

5.  No-one is coming to save you!

Chronic diseases often go much deeper than the doctor’s diagnosis. They are often an interrelated myriad of seemingly unassociated symptoms which have all lead to the imbalance you may be experiencing now. I know this was the case for me. Everything from dealing with my past, both mental and physical stresses and a not so good diet… I’ve had to learn what it means to care for myself and really tune into my body and its needs. I’ve had to develop practices that sustain my healing, because no one knows my body better than me. It’s about taking responsibility and trusting that you’re doing the best thing for yourself.

6.  Your disease does not have to define who you are.

Now this is a hard one, because once the doctors have put a label on you it’s hard to shake it off. I have made many changes to my lifestyle which has meant that certain aspects of my social life have changed. But, at the same time, just because I now mediate, do yoga and eat salad doesn’t mean that I don’t still love the same music, dancing and hanging out. I also don’t want my disease to define my family life. I don’t want my kids to grow up around a ‘sick’ person, and therefore I am not my disease!

7.  Love and appreciate every minute of your life.

There’s no point in wallowing in self pity! It won’t get you anywhere. You only get one life, this is it, it’s happening right now, and you can choose – feel sorry for yourself or accept and move on. Look at how this experience will change you for the better, embrace it and love every minute of this life you have been given here on Earth.  

 8.  You are not alone on this journey.

While at first you may feel like you’re the only person in this shitty position, as I mentioned earlier, chronic diseases are an epidemic in the the Western world so you really are not alone. There’s an online support group for absolutely any condition, just search Facebook and you’ll immediately find one. For me, studying offered me a wonderful support group and I will be forever thankful to everyone on my course as well as the lecturers for their encouragement, knowledge and support.

9.  Healing comes from within.

Take control, be in charge of your health. Healing doesn’t happen in the doctor’s office or in the pharmacy. Healing happens in your kitchen, surrounded by loved ones and also, most importantly in yourself. Resolving past issues, overcoming fears, reading tons of self help books, journaling, saying mantras and of course being very aware of what you put into your body – these are the big time healers!

10.   There is always a silver lining…

Without having had my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis I may have never retrained as a Nutritional Therapist and may have never had the chance to help other people regain their health. I would not have broadened my knowledge and deepened my understanding of the human body, the mind and spirituality. Furthermore, I would not have met so many wonderful people who I now consider to be dear friends.