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Healing Is a Journey, Not a Destination (and You’re Not Broken)

Man on a Journey

“Healing requires from us to stop struggling, but to enjoy life more and endure it less.” ~Darina Stoyanova

At the age of twenty-seven I was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis, chronic inflammation of the bladder that causes UTI like symptoms. I am now twenty-nine and still experiencing symptoms, but I have improved greatly.

I have spent that time searching for the answers to this medical enigma, for which doctors claim there is no cure. At first my research led me on a path of frustration and hopelessness, until I realized that my mindset was what was holding me back from healing.

I then decided to change my expectation of healing from “I must be cured to be happy” to “I am enjoying my healing journey and look for happiness in any moment I can.”

As a fellow chronic condition sufferer, I understand how overwhelming that statement can be. It is difficult to accept that we are in pain. However, just making that mindset a part of your routine will help open your mind to finding healing modalities that will work for you and help take the pressure off.

Feeling like you need to find a cure is a lot of pressure to put on one person dealing with a chronic illness, and most people who develop these illnesses usually are characterized as perfectionists. I know I am.

But what we don’t realize is that pressure is an obstacle to our healing. Acceptance is what will help us move forward in our healing journey.

I will share with you what I have learned about healing through my countless hours exploring the Internet and personal experience. Here are five things I have taken away from my search:

Be mindful of what you put in your body.

I believe chronic illnesses are created when a perfect storm occurs in our bodies. When you pair emotional upset with a breach in your body’s immunity, you are vulnerable to that final straw that causes your body to go into attack mode.

For me, I believe it was when I started a new birth control pill. With a history of chronic back pain, overuse of antibiotics, bad diet, unbelievable stress levels, and hormonal imbalances, the new birth control pill was the final straw that caused my body to attack my bladder and cause a vicious cycle that would lead me on my healing journey.

There was a time when my life was consumed with searching the Internet for the magical answers to healing. It gave me a sense of control during a time when I felt like a helpless victim to my IC.

But I realized this led to feeling completely overwhelmed by the large amount of contradictory information I found. For every article that said being paleo was the way to combat chronic illnesses, I found two more saying vegan was the only way.

Everyone is different, and it is important to find the foods that work best for you, not to try to eat foods that fit into a box of a specific diet.

I also find that when you start off being extremely restrictive with your diet it sets you up for failure. Starting slowly when introducing new ways of eating is the key to success. Don’t listen to every hot new diet trend, cleanse, or superfood out on the market no matter what kind of amazing results they boast.

For me, plant-based diets free of processed foods and sugar make the most sense. Any other restrictions with food you decide to make should be based on your body. Use your common sense, and question doctors and healers about the pills and herbs they recommend. Not everyone has our best interests at heart or is well informed.

You are not broken.

When we deal with chronic illness we tend to blame ourselves, and it leaves us feeling broken and searching for a way to fix ourselves. We think if we could just handle the stress better or deal with our unresolved feelings, we would not have the illness to begin with.

I have spent years reading self-help books hoping to find the secret to happiness. While self-help books often provide useful coping techniques and good advice, it infers that we need to be fixed in order to be happy. That is a belief that I feel to be limiting and self-sabotaging.

Practicing self-acceptance of all parts of our self, including our health ailments, is more productive for our healing journey.

That is not to say that we cannot try things to improve our self or change negative habits or thought patterns. But the more we try to hide or banish parts of yourself that you do not like, the more they will rear their ugly heads. You do not need to be healed of your chronic illness in order to deserve love and acceptance.

Be your own advocate.

Unfortunately, we can no longer take the word of every doctor when it comes to our health, medications, and foods we put into our bodies. It is important to educate yourself the best you can before deciding to take a new medication or try a new treatment.

Weigh the pros and cons and make the best choice you can. Take the time to find a doctor who is best fit for your healing journey.

Don’t let others make you feel like your illness is your fault.

Chronic illnesses for which it’s difficult to identify the cause can be difficult for people to accept because the thought of having an illness that we cannot predict or fix is scary, even if you do not have the illness yourself.

This causes people to just blame the sufferer because they are frustrated themselves that their loved ones are not getting better.

No one understands your battle better than you. Do not take it personally when someone makes an ignorant comment.

Those comments come from a place of fear inside themselves. It is still important to take accountability for your health and make the best choices possible, but sometimes we develop illness even when we are doing our best.

Some of the answers to healing are already inside you.

Everyone has some sort of healing power inside them. Do not underestimate your body’s ability to heal given the right circumstances. It may be only one piece of your puzzle, but it’s there.

Society teaches us that all we have to do is take a pill and we’ll feel better. This way of thinking takes the power away from us and keeps us in the victim role.

Medications and herbs can be helpful and an important key to your healing, but they are not the be-all and end-all. The mental component to healing is just as important as whatever we choose to put inside our bodies to promote healing.

Let go of what doesn’t serve you. Meditating, yoga, and practicing gratitude will help you connect to your inner self and prepare your mind and body for healing.

Your healing journey may be different from mine, and some of this information you may not agree with. You may also not be in a place where you are willing to change. That is fine. I am still learning new things about what is best for my health every day.

Honor where you are now and know that every day is a new opportunity to take care of you one small step at a time. Happy healing!

Man on a journey image via Shutterstock

Profile photo of Erica Kremens

About Erica Kremens

Erica Kremens is a New York State certified Art Teacher. She’s also an aspiring health coach who has developed an interest in health and healing through her own personal experiences with chronic illnesses included interstitial cystitis and fibromyalgia. She understands the pain of those dealing with chronic pain and wanted to share her story and what she’s learned through her own healing journey.

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  • raychil

    Such a beautiful post thanks 🙂

  • Erica Kremens

    You are welcome! I am glad you enjoyed it!

  • BJ

    I was diagnosed with this as well and felt overwhelmed by trying to “fix” it. I went to a holistic doctor for help. She suggested JP-X from natures sunshine and elimination of sugar completely. Also, the bladder means you were “pissed off”. I found some healing when I became aware of what made me angry and tried to work through that. Thanks for your story!

  • Erica Kremens

    Thank you for your post! This information is very helpful. I definitely agree with the anger aspect.

  • bertie

    Apple cider vinegar in a glass of water everyday, EFT (and a heat bag for bad attacks) has helped me through this condition, have been 8 months free so far. Thank you for sharing, it’s definitely a wake up call from our bodies to address and accept issues rather than deny them.

  • Ajinkya Surnis

    Extremely helpful post.. Thanks!

  • Jane Pressgrove-Donald

    Thank you for sharing. I have really gotten down about the health problems I have because I am only 28 and I feel like I should be able to get better and be like others my age. I know I am too hard on myself and expect too much in too short of a time, though. I also do feel like no one understands a lot of the time so it is encouraging to see others who know what it’s like to live with chronic pain. Good luck to everyone looking for better health.


    You are absolutely right about chosing the right diet for your won body. Last year my blood sugar went up because I decided I was going to be a vegetarian. I found out that I my body requires a lot of protein and is very sensitive to sugar. So it’s important to know these things about yourself before deciding on a new diet.

  • Erica Kremens

    It is definitely frustrating to have chronic pain at a young age like us. That is why I wrote this article. I wanted to let others who are struggling know that they are not alone and share what I found to make sense after countless hours of researching. It is very frustrating, but support does help! Thank you for reading!

  • Amy Hutton

    wow you totally nailed this experience! Thanks for the great insights 🙂

  • Karen A

    I too experienced this for many years, along with fibromyalgia, chronic migraines, tachycardia, and colitis. My symptoms all resolved after I was diagnosed with intestinal Candida overgrowth and food sensitivities. As long as I avoid gluten, dairy, corn, eggs and sugar my symptoms do not recurr. I have only experienced a flare up three times in the past two years, and I can attribute each time to inadvertently eating one of the foods I am so sensitive to. The difference between how I feel now, compared to how chronicly ill I felt 3 years ago is night and day. In my experience the foods I became sensitive to were the direct cause of my autoimmune inflammatory symptoms. The root cause of all of it was my intestinal dysbiosis and Candida overgrowth. Thankfully, I found the right doctors to diagnose me correctly, after years of frustrating medical care.