Post Autoimmune Diagnosis: Adjusting to your “New Normal”
Your new normal post autoimmune diagnosis is the why behind this blog.
Helping others adjust to a new way of living brought about by necessity is my focus.
Making sense of your diagnosis can be a complicated, frustrating journey.
Everyone I have met with an autoimmune condition has struggled with their new normal post diagnosis and has grappled with the same questions:
- What should I eat?
- How should I exercise?
- What are the best ways to manage my symptoms?
It will take some time to figure out what personally works best for you, but you will, and It’s going to be okay.
Realizing your life will never be quite the same as before diagnosis is terrifying. I know. I’ve been there.
When I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2013 I was completely overwhelmed. My symptoms came on suddenly and aggressively. My daughter was five years old at the time and I was distraught thinking what this might mean for her, much less for me.
It will take time, patience, and persistence to learn what food sensitivities you may have, what causes your flares, and what your body needs most to start healing.
As a teacher, I am a researcher by nature, so after my autoimmune diagnosis, I scoured the internet for answers to my questions: What do these test results mean? What are healthy alternatives to pain medications? What are the side effects of (insert medication of the week here) and most importantly, what is the best diet for rheumatoid arthritis? I read many books and articles on this particular topic and wound up more confused than when I started. I found stories of people bringing their disease into remission with vegan diets, Paleo diets, and keto diets, diets full of nightshades and others nightshade free. I love reading success stories, but they can be frustrating when you just want a quick answer.
Unfortunately, there is no quick, one size fits all answer.
I have read countless books and articles with contradictory information and have come to this conclusion: autoimmunity is complex and what works for one person may not be the answer for another- even with the same diagnosis.
After my autoimmune diagnosis, I had to figure out what would work for me. You will, too, and you need to giv it time.
I floundered for a while, trying various natural approaches while simultaneously cycling through three different biologic drugs in an attempt to find one I could tolerate. There were a few highs, but many, many lows. My doctor didn’t believe in the diet/ disease connection, so I searched on my own for answers. I gave up gluten and dairy to start (a suggestion I would recommend to anyone as a starting point).
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There will be ups and downs on your journey and you will need to make many changes.
Thankfully, these changes will improve your quality of life.
If what you are doing isn’t working, you need to try a new approach.
I changed my diet completely based on what I had gleaned from past experience (you can read about my diet here) and started exercising differently as well. I modify almost every program I try. Gentle yoga is what I found works best for me. I have also worked hard to get rid of as many chemicals in my daily routines as possible since 60% of what we put on our bodies is absorbed within 26 seconds. I have enough problems without adding additional hormone disruptors and carcinogens into my bloodstream.
You might find your lifestyle in need of an overhaul, too.
This can take time as well. We all have food sensitivities of some kind and one exercise that is perfect for one person may be too challenging or not challenging enough for some. There are some athletes out there rocking it with RA- and they are truly inspiring.
You might need to change your mindset as well. Don’t let negative thoughts become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Instead of viewing autoimmunity as an end to life as you knew it- think of it as a new beginning.
Your mindset and a positive support system can make all the difference.
I tried online support groups, left those that focused on long-term disability and hopelessness and started a public Facebook page (click to like my page) as a place to share my journey and inspire others to make positive changes as well.
During this process, I realized that a positive community of like-minded individuals is incredibly powerful. I am so inspired and empowered by the men and women who have joined me.
Everyone needs a tribe.
Your new normal might surprise you (in a good way).
Once you slow down and really make your health a priority and follow a diet and exercise program that supports your needs, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised with some of the positive changes you see in yourself. Maybe you are on your way to becoming one of those athletes I mentioned earlier!
This is a journey.
Working on improving your post autoimmune diagnosis “new normal” will be a lifelong journey. We change, and our needs change. Aim for progress, not perfection. Your happiness and wellness will depend on your ability to adapt, grow, and forgive yourself.
I still struggle sometimes but I have lowered my medications significantly and improved my blood work. I still work full time and am able to engage in gentle exercise. I have improved my quality of life and I genuinely feel better. I am certainly not perfect (Hello, tortilla chip addiction! Margaritas, anyone?), but I do pretty well and can honestly say I am living well with autoimmunity. My new normal is one I am proud of and I would love to help you with yours.
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Thank you for helping me keep this blog going. I appreciate your support.