What-I've-Learned-From-a-Decade-of-Chronic-Illness

Ten lovely years ago, I moved to Manhattan. It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade here in this fabulous city. I’m not sure if I’ll ever leave because it’s what gives me my energy and inspiration. It’s what’s made me feel alive after weeks in bed. It’s what gave me hope after weeks at Mayo Clinic and other hospitals. It’s what keeps me smiling whether it’s raining or snowing or windy or humid….Manhattan is hard to beat. I know that for sure. And although I’ve suffered these last ten years from way too many aches n’ pains and diagnoses, I’ve learned a lot, changed the way I look at life and live every moment more grateful than the last.

When I was working at VOGUE and Ralph Lauren, my life revolved around clothes, stress, fashion, stress, stress, stress and stress. Get the picture? When I look back at those days, I’m not even sure if I was anything but numb to what I ‘thought’ life was. I thought it was waking up at 5 am, going to the gym because that’s what I thought was the good thing to do, walking to work, working long hours, stressing out like a crazy person because that’s what I thought everyone else did too, didn’t eat the right foods- surely wasn’t eating organic and didn’t know the difference between the unhealthy fats in a piece of Laughing Cow Cheese and the healthy anti-inflammatory fat in an avocado.

Yes, I hit a wall at the ripe age of 25. Sure, I looked healthy and vibrant, but I wasn’t and know when I think about it…I wasn’t really ‘right’ for a long, long time…but I just thought everyone got bloated after they ate food, I thought everyone was tired on Friday nights, I thought everyone ate canned tuna every day for lunch because we couldn’t afford anything else living in this city….I thought wrong. And if I had actually opened up my eyes and stopped for one split second, I would have realized that things weren’t right and I wouldn’t have ignored the signs like dark circles under my eyes or a bloated belly or redness around my fingernail cuticles, all of which I never noticed until I started doing research about chronic illness.

It’s sad to think about how much we push ourselves and I was brought up with the mentality to push until you succeed, but at the age of 31- I couldn’t push anymore. I learned self love and self care. I learned to STOP. I learned how to not care what others think or thought or did. I learned how to focus on me, Amie. I learned that life is about getting on your high flying disc of happiness, finding what makes you beam like the sun and doing it. I quit my corporate job, started this lovely site for all of you and found my calling. Were the last 10 years pure hell? Well, sort of. I lost friends, I lost a lot. But I also learned a lot and gained a whole lot. I’m grateful for what these past 10 years have taught me and if I could go back to my 20 year old self, I’d tell her to eat an avocado and put the Laughing Cow Cheese down. I’d tell her it’s okay to stop. I’d tell her it’s okay to take care of yourself and put everything else on hold. I’d tell her that her happiness is what life is all about- not the external wealthy boyfriend, the penthouse on 5th avenue, the fancy shoes or dinners at Nobu. That’s all fabulous but if you’re not happy with what you’ve got goin’ on inside of you, those things will never bring you happiness. Ya know what I mean?

Now, onto the major things I’ve learned.

1. Our Health Care System is Screwed UP.

It took me years of Mayo Clinic and every other hospital to put me on steroids, pain killers, water pills, morphine and so much more until I finally WOKE UP and realized how screwed up our health care system was. I taught myself Integrative Medicine and studied it for countless hours, fell in love with the idea of being able to heal through food and lifestyle changes and made it my mission in life to inspire and help others going through chronic illness with no hope. I spend the majority of my days researching, reading and learning more and more about everything I can because I find it fascinating and I’m living proof that changing your lifestyle and food and healing your gut, leads to a beautiful and healthy life with a powerful immune system.

2. Real Love.

When your mother helped you take a bath when you were too sick to move, when you were vomiting all over the place and couldn’t function, when your migraines were so bad you were screaming, when you were on steroids and fell to your kitchen floor because your body couldn’t deal with everything that was going on, when your mother spent hours every day on the phone with the insurance companies, when your father spent days photocopying your 30 pounds of medical records to bring to new doctors…that’s real love. And I’ve learned how incredible and strong my family has been throughout these past few years.

3. Gratitude.

You start to learn what the real meaning of being grateful is all about. Before illness, I had no idea about anything. My day was a whirlwind; I got up, went to work, came home, went to bed and did it 5x a week. There was no room for growth or thinking or anything. You’re grateful for the sunshine, for your breath, your family, the doctors who help you and give you their extra time to figure out your problem, for your friends who ‘get it’ and understand what’s going on despite your very frequent inability to show up and keep plans when you’re not feeling well.

4. Beauty is Everywhere.

You recognize beauty everywhere. In the food at the farmers market, in the song on the radio, in the giggles of little kids playing outside, in the smile from a stranger walking down the street, in a cup of hot tea, in a big hug from the people you love….

5. Compassion.

I now understand why the woman on the bus is sitting in the handicap seat but she’s not in a wheelchair. I now understand the man who walks to his car in the handicap parking spot. I didn’t before all this happened; but now I do. Why? Because millions of people are suffering from chronic illness and just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean they’re not hurting. Chronic fatigue, lupus, Lyme Disease…these are all things that people are dealing with but that you might not be able to see right now because they look ‘normal’. Well, I’ve looked normal the past 10 years too and guess what? I was dying with chronic pain inside…I just picked myself up and did what I had to do. I’ll never judge anyone else again in my life because we have no idea what battle they’re going through. This has been one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned.

If you’ve gone through health issues, I’d love to hear from you about what you’ve learned…

xoox

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Hi, I'm Amie!

I’m here to share my story of healing with you. I know what it’s like to suffer and not know what’s going on with your body. I’ve been there. I was lost, searching for answers and alone for 10 years until I learned how to get my body working for me, not against me—to address the underlying symptoms instead of using a Band-aid approach to reclaim my vitality. I want to show you that eating and living clean feels incredible. Once you see life this way, you’ll never go back. Ever. Come play along with me on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter. I’m here for you. xo

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29 comments

  1. It is very frustrating for me right now. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2011. I’m still not anywhere near where I want to be! I’m currently on the hunt for new doctors. I’ve learned to be my own advocate. It’s still difficult because we are taught to trust our doctors. The trick is to find the ones worthy of that trust!

  2. Hi Amie! You made some Wonderful points! I was born and raised in New York city but moved to Oklahoma in 2013 ( I know…of all places) for my husband. Moving down here made me STOP and focus on me and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I have a passion for living a natural lifestyle because I am living proof that functional medicine is better than conventional. I would love to meet you when I go back to NY to visit my family in March. What do you think?

  3. I stumbled upon your blog tonight. I currently stuffer from chronic pain and bladder disorder. I will keep reading and hopefully will find some wisdom. Thanks for sharing, Amie.

  4. I adore your articles and recipes and dream of hanging out with you someday.
    You are savvy and straight forward and I love sharing your posts on my page when my cognition sucks.
    we all need to be more educated and I only hope I can be as well written as you.
    Christina

  5. Written from the heart…you are a true inspiration. I, too, have chronic health issues and have learned so much of the same. I am fortunate to have a wonderful support system with family and friends to make my journey easier.

  6. Thank you for sharing your story. I really enjoy stories where someone was chasing after the status quo and stopped doing so to develop a more rich and fulfilling inner and personal life. Success is individual and has a different implication for each person.

  7. I love your posts, Amie. You inspire me whenever I am down. The best lesson I ever learned was when a 7th grade teacher told me that everyone has problems, I just might not know about them. I wish more people realized that. I have problems, more than I might care to admit, but people think my life just must be perfect which is frustrating. My parents are the best too. I hope you continue to find ways to enjoy life … I hope we all do 🙂 xo

  8. Great post Amie. I am glad our health issues brought us together in NYC. Please keep in touch and look me up if you are on the West Coast. I’ll miss you and your smiling face!

  9. I know we all say it but your posts really reach out and virtually hug the people reading them. A lot of people don’t understand all this so its so nice to have someone say just what you need to hear. I worry about loosing friends but reading your blog helps me accept that it’s ok if that happens I shouldn’t strive to get well so I can do the things they want me to do, I need to get well for me. oh and ps I can’t wait for your book! Loads of love from the uk xxxxxxxx

  10. Amie,
    I really LOVE this post! I feel exactly the same! I am so grateful for the compassion I have gained, and the judgements I have lost. Would I want to go through it again? Hell no! But I am truly grateful for all of the gifts along the way!

    Thank you for sharing so openly and lovingly!
    Hugs,
    Sharon

  11. HI Amie,

    I loved reading your post!! You have inspired me so much!! I was diagnosed with MS back in 2010. I have learned been and learned through so much over the past 5 years. I still struggle with chronic fatigue but will continue to be grateful and be easy on myself as I still continue to grow. I have recently graduated form the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and want to make it my mission to reach out to others to let them know they can heal their themselves through diet and medicine.

    Thank you for sharing and being so honest!!
    XOXO
    Sandra

  12. As someone who is currently healing from chronic fatigue, my heart goes out to you. It really is an empowering journey, and a blessing in disguise, to turn our chronic illness into a reason to truly care for and nurture yourself, truly respect yourself. I love Integrative Health and am currently utilising Ayurvedic principles, energy healing, herbals, nutrition and good old stress management and getting great results. Best wishes and thank you for sharing!

  13. Hello Amie! I love your recipes and it’s amazing to see someone so courageous as to share their personal struggles. I myself suffer from IBS, but between stress, school, and a household of people with no dietary restrictions, I find it difficult to avoid the foods that my body struggles to digest. I was hoping you could impart some words of wisdom and/or encouragement for me because I want to feel my best and stop being a prisoner to my condition. Best wishes to you as you continue your own journey 🙂

    1. Thanks Kiersten; lovely to hear from you! You’ll love my new cookbook- check it out. It will help you SO much!!!! There is so much wisdom in my book- honestly. It will help you! Big hugs, beauty! Stay positive.

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