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.
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….
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…