The Courage to Nurture Our Health
By Sarah Pryor
Nineteen years old. That’s how old I was when I got diagnosed with diverticulitis. This is a health issue that usually occurs in older populations. According to this Cleveland Clinic article, “Diverticulosis is very common in Western populations and occurs in 10 percent of people over age 40 and in 50 percent of people over age 60. The rate of diverticulosis increases with age, and it affects almost everyone over age 80.”
That being said, it’s unusual for a 19 year old to be receiving this diagnosis. By the way, diverticulosis means pockets or bulges (diverticula) have formed in the colon. When undigested food gets caught in these, it can cause inflammation and/or infection, which is termed diverticulitis.
What led me down this path? In my opinion it was stress.
No, my unhealthy diet did not help, but there are PLENTY of people with unhealthy diets out there, including lots of teenagers, and most do not end up with diverticulosis. Science has shown that there are more neurons, specialized nerve cells, in the intestinal wall than there are in the spinal cord. It’s like our gut is our second brain and responds equally to neurotransmitters, including those that modulate stress reactions. The more uptight the mind, potentially the more uptight the gut. And here is where my diverticulosis came in.
So, this is what happened.
One day I was walking along and felt some lower back pain. Thinking I had pulled a muscle, I took some anti-inflammatories. This did nothing, so I went to my doctor. After several tests over a period of days, including being poked and prodded by male doctors in places I had never been poked and prodded before, the diagnosis was finally made. Diverticulitis.
The day I received my diagnosis, I left being told to eat a high fiber diet, and that if it got worse I might have to eliminate some foods I was eating, mostly seeds. Not a word about the fried, fatty, processed foods I was often consuming as a college teenager.
So many things are wrong with this picture, if you ask me.
Did anyone talk to me about improving my diet? No.
Did anyone ask me about my stress level? Definitely not!
I was so tightly wound at 19 that it is no wonder I developed diverticulosis. I have a Type A personality to this day, but my stress levels are way down and my diet is way better, thanks to beginning my healing journey around age 21. That’s when I started attending talk therapy. It was not until I went to massage school at age 24 that I began learning about healthy, organic, non-processed foods, and started to change my diet. Food, and what is good for ME to eat and not to eat, is still a discovery process and a blog for another day.
Twenty odd years later, I find it peculiar I was not afraid for my health.
Instead, I felt emotionally and physically vulnerable, being in a strange environment with people I did not know, who were running tests on me, while not even considering how I might be feeling – especially at such a tender age – and who were treating me like a piece of equipment.
It was hardest of all not having anyone to tell my feelings to, such as “I’m feeling afraid right now. I am really embarrassed that these strange men are seeing me naked.” Unbeknownst to me at the time, it clearly took Courage for me to go through the various diagnostic procedures – a gynecological exam, blood tests, CAT scan, and colonoscopy.
I suspect I would be much braver going through the same set of tests today, given the wisdom and maturity I have gained through life experiences in the last two decades.
Therapy has saved my life.
I truly believe that. If it were not for talking about my feelings and perceived problems with a professional, exercising my Courage to be Vulnerable, I am certain my health would be in shambles. I have learned how to deal with present-day issues and let go of past grievances a lot quicker through Small Daily Acts of Courage that have helped shaped me into the woman I am.
I also believe in the power of exercise, yoga, and meditation to decrease stress, and a healthy diet that includes nutritional supplements. I could have simply changed my diet, but that would not have addressed the underlying issue – stress – that I believe was the main culprit of my dis-ease.
This is merely a snippet of my health and healing journey.
My journey has made me passionate about helping others with their healing, whether through massage, energy work, or coaching; and through referrals to other practitioners when needed. We each have to find our individual path to healing.
Some like the hard way, waiting until their body complains so loudly they can no longer ignore it. Some never choose to address their health issues. We do have a choice, though, and in that choice lies empowerment! Now, because of the diverticulosis diagnosis, I am healthier and happier, and have the Courage to Dream of better, healthier days ahead.
Sarah Pryor’s passion is to help others on their healing journey. Her mission is to empower her clients to heal themselves and to improve their lives in every way. To learn more about Sarah’s skills as an intuitive life coach, energy worker, and licensed massage therapist, check out her website, sarahpryor.com.