Write For Health

writingtohealth

“One study found that blogging might trigger dopamine release, similar to the effect from running or listening to music.”

It’s been 15 months since my official Ulcerative Colitis diagnosis, almost 18 months since the symptoms began, and almost 15 months to the day that I wrote my first post on this blog. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my sudden urge to blog – rather than simply journal, or continue writing creatively in hopes to get published – may have had deeper roots connected to my overall health. In two separate articles: Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love to Write and Writing Your Way to Happiness, researchers have discovered a strong link between writing and improved mental and physical health.

No longer an outlet for the overly imaginative or heartsick, writing – especially about personal experiences/traumas – has surprising benefits, including spending “less time in the hospital, enjoy[ing] lower blood pressure and ha[ving] better liver functionality than [non-writing] counterparts” (Science Shows).  Additionally, writing has the power to “make physical wounds heal faster,” a serious plus for those of us inflamed, ulcerated and bleeding (Science Shows).

Why? Well each article has a slightly different take, but basically writing about yourself is cathartic, thereby stress-relieving, and ultimately, becomes a mirror: “by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health” (Writing Your Way). And let’s face it, people dealing with injuries and illnesses have a great deal to process, and subsequently a whole lot to vent about, sometimes on an hourly basis. If we’re journaling or blogging, at the very least we’re not abusing the sympathetic ears of friends and family. Either no one reads it – or a select few – or you can cast your message-in-a-bottle into the Cloud for everyone, or none, to consume. The point isn’t so much to be heard as it is to relieve your anxieties, reflect upon them, and move on. I took a several month break from blogging because it got to the point where so much of my Ulcerative Colitis pain, embarrassment, and hassle was behind me (a.k.a. remission) that I didn’t want to dwell. Blogging began feeling like taking a step back into a period of time that I’d rather put behind me. Now, having that distance, I can look back objectively, sans negative emotional memories and ties.

The key component in all of this? Don’t feel like you need IBD or heart disease as an excuse to blog about your health or life. Just because others are experiencing technically more “significant” ordeals (i.e., cancer treatment) doesn’t lessen the significance of what you’re personally going through. This isn’t a competition, everyone has their burden to bear and it’s not up to us to judge whose is “worse,” or more “worthy.” Struggling with weight loss? Blog about it. Hair loss? Back pain? Infertility? Get on it. Sit down at your computer, or grab a notebook and pen, and GO: “Studies have shown that people with asthma who write have fewer attacks than those who don’t; AIDS patients who write have higher T-cell counts. Cancer patients who write have more optimistic perspectives and improved quality of life” (Science Shows). So, what are you waiting for?

 

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Remission, Diet & Stress – My Personal Take

zen stonesThe article “Taming the Inflammation of Ulcerative Colitis” provides a good overall definition of clinical remission: it “is defined as formed bowel movements, no urgency and no blood in the stool.” I’m not quite there myself, but I believe I’m finally starting to enter it. I don’t know if it’s thanks to the Remicade, the Imuran, or both, but I can honestly say it’s not due to diet. (At least, not fully). Continue reading

Where Did I Go? – Regaining Substance

depressed

What made you “you” before ulcerative colitis? The disease strips away the bulk of who you are—what you like to do and when you do it, what you eat and drink, who you socialize with and how often, what dominates your conversations, right down to how you feel (and I’m not talking just about feeling sick) and how you regard yourself. I thought I’d managed to retain a chunk of the “old” me, or at least, had invented a “new” me, until I realized that lately, all I am is this stupid disease despite doing everything not to be. Continue reading

Humble Pie: The Indignity of Ulcerative Colitis

Admittedly, I blushed like the GI virgin I was when forced to describe, in great detail, my bowel movements (BMs). And here I grew up as the daughter of a firefighter and a nurse, and had even interned in a medical examiner’s office and spent most of my undergrad degree pursuing forensic anthropology (and some of my graduate degree as well). Bad smells, grisly sights, dead and decaying things…none of this prepared me for having to admit that I was a bloody mess. That was always someone else’s deal, and in my mind I was a polished, ladylike young woman who just didn’t have bathroom experiences like something out of “Dumb and Dumber” (with noticeably more carnage).

Well, whatever or whoever you believe in – the Universe has a sense of humor! Pie in the face – open wide and swallow big! There’s nothing graceful about relating your story to doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants, interns and residents, and whoever else comes to interrogate you about every miniscule detail of your poop. How often? Blood? A lot, like a tablespoon? Does it turn the bowl red? Mucus? If yes, color? What’s the consistency of the stool? Watery? Formed? Loose? Its color? Cramping or pain? Accompanied by gas? If so, how much? Are you more flatulent than usual? Constipated at all? Do you strain? Is there urgency?

Come to find out you’re a complicated mess of shitty adjectives. Continue reading

Talking the Truth…

No One is Exempt!

In fair warning, this is a frank blog. Not graphic, not obscene, but frank. Let’s face it, nobody wants to hear about bowel movements (outside, perhaps, new parents and dog owners). We don’t usually dwell on ours (at least I didn’t before UC) and discussing it openly and candidly is a social faux-pas. Except here. Here, there are no fairies or angels to take away our feces overnight, and a scene from one of our trips to the bathroom resembles something out of World War Z rather than that cute children’s book pictured above, Everyone Poops! So faint of heart, stop reading now, because this gal is going to tell it like it is. And guess what? Everyone does poop, so let’s dispense with the awkward embarrassment. As refined, evolved and cultivated as we’d like to think we are, we’re animals. What goes in must come out, and some of us find ourselves in Hell before we find relief. It’s nature, it’s natural, and it’s getting discussed.