The Beginning of my Journey

It was the evening of July 3, 2007, and I was lying in a hospital bed, drugged up on the morphine I had been given to ease the intense pain I was experiencing as an aftermath of all the tests and procedures that had been given to me over the past 72 hours.   I don’t recall much during that time, except for the overwhelming sense that something was terribly wrong; my previously strong, athletic body, had been reduced to a mere 90 pounds, and it was failing me.  But how could this be?  I was a young 24 year old, and had my whole life ahead of me; the sky was the limit.  I was an athlete who had competed at the collegiate level, leaving my name scattered across the record board upon my graduation.  I had gone straight on to completing a Masters Degree in Social Work two years later, followed by a month long trip to Costa Rica, and instead of returning to begin my journey in the professional world, I was lying in a hospital bed wondering if this was in fact the end of everything.

The next morning, the doctor came into my room bright and early, and with a confident look on his face, delivered the news that would change my life forever.  He told me that I tested positive for an autoimmune disease called Ulcerative Colitis, for which there is no cure; he told me I would need to be on medication for the rest of my life.  He continued that lifestyle and diet have absolutely nothing to do with the disease, that I may not be able to ever run again, and that my chances of having children in the future would also be greatly affected by this disease.  Talk about a bombshell!  Now I realize that there are much worse diagnoses given out to patients every day, but to a young and extremely active individual who has had specific dreams for the future since childhood, this news was a devastating blow to say the least.

I’m sure there were other things spoken about in the couple minutes the doctor took to explain my diagnosis, however the aforementioned statements are the only things that I recall.  Those statements are what stuck with me, and would later come back to haunt me in the months and years to come.

Once the doctor left, the tears and sobs began to flow.  The initial sense of relief that an answer had been found to explain the symptoms I had been surviving through for the past eight months, was quickly replaced with feelings of shock, devastation, anger, and frustration.  I had no idea what “autoimmune” even meant, and up to that point in my life, I had never known anyone with this particular disease.   As I watched the fireworks in the distance through my window the following day, I remember feeling more alone and scared than I ever had.

Upon discharge, I was given 3 prescriptions to fill and begin using immediately.  Ironically enough, even though I was told that diet had nothing to do with my illness, I was given a strict list of foods to avoid “until my symptoms improved.”  It was called a “Bland Diet,” and basically consisted of breads, crackers, and pasta made with refined white flour, with little to no fruits or vegetables, basically anything with fiber in it.  To top it off, I was told I needed to gain the weight back that I had lost ASAP, so try to eat as much high calorie foods as possible.  Candy, chocolate, cookies, ice cream, and lots of it, were all on the table.

When I arrived back to my parent’s home, I proceeded to get dressed in regular clothes for the first time in almost 2 weeks.  I grabbed a pair of jean shorts that had fit me just weeks prior, pulled them up and fastened them, and to my horror when I let go, they slipped down to my ankles.  Needless to say I began sobbing again, and didn’t stop for quite some time.

In the days and weeks that followed, I carried out my doctor’s instructions to the T.  I ate what he told me to eat, I started taking all the medications as prescribed, yet my condition worsened. I was basically bed-ridden, as I had no energy whatsoever, and I couldn’t travel very far from a bathroom.  About 2 weeks after my hospital discharge, I became even more sick, and this time started throwing up everything I attempted to eat.  More tests and doctors visits, and results finally showed that I had picked up another infection called C. difficile, most likely from my hospital stay.  Another medication added to my regime.

By this time, I was getting extremely depressed.  I spent my time scrap-booking, and watching reruns of show after show.  Due to the Prednisone I was taking, I had terrible insomnia and was unable to fall asleep before 3 AM every night.  It was in those late night hours, after everyone else in the household had gone to sleep, while munching on the candy, cookies, and chocolate that my doctor was encouraging me to eat, I began searching for answers online.  Before long, I found a few sites that offered information very contrary to what I was being told by my doctor.  As it turned out, many others were sharing stories about how they healed themselves by changing their diet and lifestyle; so I studied, and read, and read some more.

As I continued to research and learn, I quickly became overwhelmed by the drastic measures that others with my disease employed in their lifestyle; I could not for one second imagine a life without being able to eat bread, pasta, grains, and *gasp* SUGAR?!  However, as time went on and I didn’t improve, I knew that I would eventually need to embrace a change, and quickly.  I no longer enjoyed food and even got to the point where I didn’t want to eat anything, because the excruciating pain experienced within minutes after eating anything was almost too much to bear.

Slowly, my journey at this point took a turn, and I began to embrace the fact that anything, would be better than what I was going through at the time.  I had hit rock bottom.  It was at that point that I started changing my mindset.  For the first time, I started becoming more open minded and encouraged by the information I was gathering.  I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of embracing such a strict diet that much of my research pointed to, however I kept on researching and learning.

How many of you can relate to such an experience in your life?  Have you ever found yourself in a place similar to the one I was in ten years ago?  Were you able to find answers and advice that helped you begin your journey of healing?  Or are you still searching for answers?

As I continue along with my blog, I will share about the various stages of my journey to healing that I have been on.  My hope is that it will inspire and encourage you, regardless of what you may be dealing with in your life.  The biggest message I wish to pass along is that there is hope!  The answers may not necessarily be what you want to hear, but I am living proof that embracing the right kind of change can be effective and life changing.

Thank you so much for reading along and sharing in this joyous journey with me!  I would love to hear from you about issues you may be struggling with, questions you may have for me, or topics you would love to hear me address.  Leave me a comment below or shoot me an email!



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16 thoughts on “The Beginning of my Journey

  1. Lol I thought air was just leaving a comment on your blog post, but so guess I sent it as a message…? Haha, technology.

    Well I just wanted to say bravo! I read all of what you have on here along with this blog post and wow, amazed. I’m still just like, “God why couldn’t we have been friends years ago!? Why now?” Timing I guess right 🙂 I am so blessed by your courage and testimony. Cannot wait to read more of what you have to share. Thank you for stepping out in faith to do this, you’re gonna be great Brianna! 😉

    1. Thanks Ashley for your kind words and for checking out my site thus far! I too believe that everything happens for a reason, so I am glad that we connected at this time 🙂

    1. Thank you for you kind words! It has taken me a while to finally get my blog going, but I am excited for it to grow and hopefully help many others along the way!

  2. So sad. I can’t imagine hearing that kind of news. I’m sorry, Brianna. I’m glad that you are not giving up though. Thank you for having the courage to share your story. ❤️

    1. Thanks Jess for checking out my blog. Perseverance is definitely key, and I am glad I made the decisions I did to lead me to the path of healing I have been on!

  3. Good thoughts and vibes to you as you continue on your journey. While I haven’t been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, I have realized how much diet and exercise plays in even managing something as simple as anxiety. I’m also on a similar journey.

    1. Hi Jessi, thanks so much for checking out my blog and for the well wishes! I wish more people realized just how important diet and exercise is in every aspect of life, particularly with emotional health. I have recently begun to dig deeper into my research of the correlation with diet/gut health and emotional health, so I will be blogging about those topics as well. So often, a pill is prescribed as the first choice for anxiety, depression, etc. and there is a lot of evolving research currently that indicates that diet and lifestyle can be just as effective, if not more. Hope to have you continue reading along with me!

  4. Brianna – this is a great start! You have a very nice writing style so I’m looking forward to following your blog. I will especially be interested in hearing more about the diet/gut and emotional healing link. I’ve been doing some reading on that lately also.

    I know this may not be the best place but I have to send my anniversary greetings to you!! Hope you and Jonathan can find some time for yourselves today!!!!

    P.S. I love that picture of you ‘hugging’ the tree.

  5. So inspired with what you have shared Brianna, faith and determination drives you to go, for there is always HOPE. You have the right attitudes in dealing on what everything you have heard from your doctor, hurray!!!cause it drives you to be more positive and believe that you can have HEALING😊thank you Brianna. Hope to hear more from you. God is good all the time.

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