The Power of a Positive Perspective
Mindset is everything. What we focus on, put thought into, and believe is so critical in just about every area of our lives.
There is one thing that has stood out for me over the years that I learned in Drivers Ed class many years ago. I recall the instructor saying that when you are driving, and come across a hazard or bright light in the distance, you never want to look directly at the object. You want to instead look to the right or left of the object, as that is where you will automatically steer the vehicle towards, even if you are acutely aware that you are trying to avoid the object.
The same principles apply in our lives. What we choose to focus on, and the energy spent focusing on that particular thing, can make all the difference in the world.
“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
One of the biggest hurdles I encountered early on in my journey of healing, came from within myself. When I was first diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, I spent too much time focusing on my disease and all the symptoms that stemmed from it. I had forgotten what it was like to live “normally” again, and it was almost like I was accepting this horrible new way of life. I absolutely despised being where I was, however I had sunk so deep into a pit of despair, I did not have any energy left to pull myself out.
I wish I had some pictures to share of what I looked like during this time, however I shied away from the camera at all costs. To give you a visual, I resembled pictures you may have seen of a starving child; I was completely skin and bones, except for a distended stomach that was constantly bloated beyond belief from the disease that was slowly taking over my body. My cheeks and face were also puffy and swollen from the steroids I was taking. It was not a pretty sight.
As if that were not bad enough, all of a sudden, my hair began falling out in chunks. I soon found out that one of the medications I was taking was actually an anti-inflammatory drug used with cancer patients; most common side effect being hair loss. Those of you who have never experienced this will simply have to imagine how deeply this affected any sense of self-esteem I had remaining at that point.
A Glimmer of Hope
I believe that all things happen at the time they are supposed to and for a particular purpose. In October, around three months following my diagnosis, I was introduced to a doctor in the area who ran an integrative and holistic practice. I made an appointment, and by the time I arrived at her office, I had sunk so low, I was ready to try anything.
I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of time this doctor took with me. She went over my entire history, and carefully took notes about the onset of all my symptoms, the severity of those symptoms, medications I was on, etc. She finally asked what I was eating, and I explained the diet I had been following for the past three months as had been instructed by my primary doctor. Judging by the look on her face as I explained this, I knew I was about to be in for some major changes.
This was the first doctor I had been to, that mentioned anything to me about how diet does in fact directly affect our bodies, and can either heal or worsen a disease. I had been reading a lot of information online and in books that pointed to this fact, however there is something powerful about the spoken word. Hearing this message in person gave me true hope for the first time since being diagnosed.
The doctor went on to explain a particular diet called the “elimination diet,” that basically cuts out all major food allergen groups, two of which were gluten and sugar. At this point, I was ready to take the plunge and make a huge shift in my diet. I left the office and went straight to the store to pick up a whole new set of groceries, which was a big feat in and of itself as I had been basically bed-ridden for the past three months.
Mind over matter; it is amazing what a glimmer of hope can accomplish.
Looking back, I can see that this particular point in my journey of healing was a turning point. Not only did I make a drastic change to my diet and the foods I began to eat and avoid, but more importantly, I simultaneously shifted my thinking and outlook. I had found hope, and a solution that made sense.
Was it difficult to go home and trash the recommended diet of bread, boxes of cookies, candy and cartons of ice cream I had been living off of in the attempt to gain back all the weight I had lost? Absolutely! However, I had finally made up my mind that I would beat this disease, and would fight it with everything that was in my power to do.
It was at this time that I started shifting my focus and purpose for eating. Up to that point, food had become my enemy, and I had to shift my way of thinking to where everything I ate had a purpose, which was to provide healing to my body. I stopped focusing on the foods I couldn’t have, and instead took some time before every meal to visualize how I was instead nourishing my body with healing foods.
For those of you who have ever attempted giving up a particular food group(s), you may be able to empathize with how difficult it was to cut out sugar and gluten, foods that I came to realize I was in fact addicted to; it was no easy task. However, I almost immediately began to feel better upon implementing this diet.
Within days, I woke up with energy enough to start walking around more. I called my primary doctor to talk about starting to wean off some of the medication I was taking, starting with the one that was causing my hair to fall out. Within a few weeks, I had made marked progress and decided to move out of my parent’s home, and back into my apartment to resume a more “normal” life.
I do want to emphasize that healing did not happen overnight by any means. My body was so inflamed and damaged at that point, I knew I had a long road ahead of me. Nonetheless, with each day came a tiny bit of improvement, which encouraged and propelled me to continue on. I choose to only look forward, focusing on one day at a time, as that was all I was able to handle.
I truly believe that the new dietary habits I implemented were crucial for my body to begin healing, however I likewise believe it was my mindset, determination, and positive thoughts that made this process happen in a much more significant way. Without these factors, I don’t know that I would have been able to find the strength to fully embrace this change.
Have you ever faced a situation in your life where deep down you knew you had to make some changes, but that said changes would be extremely difficult to implement and achieve? How did you ultimately decide to embrace that change, or are you still wavering on the edge of taking the first step? What is the biggest roadblock in your way, and are you focusing more on that rather than the outcome you desire to achieve?