Written by Lauren Miller, Edited by Felicia Crivello

I never thought I would be writing about my experiences with health issues, but I believe it is a relatable story worth sharing.  Up until a couple months ago, I never foresaw the possibility of recovery in my future. I thought I was going to just keep living my daily routine of waking up in the morning, getting sick, going to work, remaining sick at work, and returning home to pass out from exhaustion. 

I am twenty-four years old, and for pretty much my entire life, I have suffered from a stomach disease. Throughout my life, I have received different diagnoses ranging from: Gastroenteritis, Esophagitis, Crohn’s, IBS, Acid reflux, etc. I never really felt comfortable and/or have really trusted doctors growing up. I always felt that his/her main priority was not my health but rather keeping me coming back for more appointments, more medications, and more uncertainty.

When I was younger, I somehow convinced myself that going to the bathroom was wrong. I remember hiding in corners and crossing my legs when I felt the urge to go because I felt ashamed. I did not know how to deal with these issues that made me such an anal-retentive child. Even as I grew older and going to the bathroom became less of a problem, I started experiencing severe nausea that followed me into adulthood. When I say severe nausea, I mean to the point where I became so unstable I could not hold a job or relationship, and experienced severe depression. On a few occasions, I vividly remember waking up praying for a day where I would feel normal or even just to experience an hour where I was not sick. At that point, that day never came. I have missed out on wonderful events including vacations, events, concerts, all because I had one of the weakest stomachs known to mankind. Being a person whom is always sick puts a strain on your happiness. The illness becomes all that you know.

In August of 2018, my life changed erratically. I became extremely sick with a cold for an entire week. I remember anything I tried to eat or drink would not stay down and I lost so much weight. Finally, I turned to my boyfriend having had enough of the pain and said I was going to change my diet. Around that time, I had been reading a lot about how usually when individuals have a stomach disease, the first two things you should cut out from your diet is gluten and dairy. Therefore, I kept a log on what I ate for a month straight after that and stuck with this gluten/dairy free diet and…well, it worked. It took awhile for my body to adjust, and obviously I did not merely wake up one morning completely cured. Yet, I noticed little by little, day by day, I was getting better. 

I think the reason why I decided to write about such a personal story is to help others. Prior to August, I did not think I had much time left to live in all honesty. I felt myself getting weaker. I was getting skinnier because I could not hold down food. I was malnourished and did not have a sense of what it was like to not have extreme nausea and/or to get sick for a day. I noticed since changing my diet and eating a more balanced one, that I have become more loving, happier, and open to different world views. I had never been a spiritual person before this diet. If anything, I was more aggressive thinking I had to believe in a religion. Buddhism really struck a chord in my soul. The practice resonated with me because it did not demand anything for me to believe in, except for just believing in myself. Thich Nhat Hanh’s books became a beacon of light for me. I even went for my birthday to the Blue Cliff Monastery that was founded by him in Upstate, NY. I am able to partake in activities I enjoy such as mediation, yoga, acting, traveling, working, reading, and enjoying more of what life has to offer. 

I hope to be a representation of what being at the very bottom is and how taking control of your own life is the key to happiness. It was one of the most difficult challenges I have overcome because I am such a stubborn person, but I knew that if I did not do something, I would never get better. I hope my story of battling with illness can enlighten and/or help others who feel helpless because there is something out there to help everyone. What worked for me, might not work for you, but the point is to keep trying and to not give up. The only person that stops you from doing anything in life is yourself. Take hold of the reigns of your life because happiness, light, and good-will is out there. You deserve to see it as much as anyone else does.