Positivity > Negativity

As the holiday season is approaching, I start to think about what I am most thankful for. At times, this can be difficult, simply because I have not felt like myself in a long time. I have been open about my experience with Crohn’s disease, but this year has been the most challenging (both mentally and physically). I’m currently on three immunosuppressants (oral chemotherapy, prednisone, and Stelara), and all of the medications have led to an emotional whirlwind (to say the least)! However, I continue to maintain a positive outlook even during the darkest of times, and I tell myself that things could be much worse. I’ve learned quickly that if you surround yourself in negative thoughts, then the toxicity will become consuming.

I never wanted to be victimized by this disease, so I chose to never play the “why me, poor me” card. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and without sounding like a Hallmark card, I know that there are plenty of things to be thankful for. For instance, I am thankful to still be able to make it to work, and have the strength to make it through the entire workday. I am thankful to wake up every morning, even if my symptoms are at their worst every morning. I am thankful to have a loving support system of family and friends, who are patient and understanding. I know it may sound cliche, but sustaining a positive outlook can absolutely transform toxicity into something truly remarkable.

If you’re suffering from a chronic illness, getting involved is the best option to spread awareness, meet people who are going through the same battles, and coming to the realization that you are not alone. I can attest to this first-hand, because I know this option is easier said than done. When I was diagnosed, I was extremely closed-minded, and I did not feel as though I could open up to people about my struggles with Crohn’s disease. Unexpectedly, my perception changed when I started volunteering for The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. The foundation connected me with the most wonderful people who all have the same goal in mind: to find cures for IBD. If you or anyone you know is struggling with IBD, I would be more than happy to connect and share insight. No one should fight this battle alone.

This holiday season, be appreciative and thankful for your health, create lasting memories with your family and friends, and last but not least, be kind to one another. You never know what someone is going through. I heard a powerful quote that struck me, “It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you handle it.” Strength is not solely defined by what we’re going through, it’s defined by how we handle it. Rising above from the near impossible will lead to adversity and resilience, and that is more powerful than we could ever imagine. I hope you all have a happy and healthy holiday season!

You Are Enough, Always.

I wanted to take time to write about an important topic that correlates with my experience dealing with Crohn’s Disease: Mental Health. May is Mental Health Awareness month. Most people may not realize that chronic illnesses and autoimmune diseases can potentially lead to mental health issues. People who suffer with a chronic illness, autoimmune disease, or both, are at higher risk of developing anxiety and depression, due to the uncertainties and stress of their illness. This finding isn’t an accredited statistic; however, I have come to find that people I’ve met over the years within the IBD community have also encountered anxiety and/or depression. In my personal opinion, I believe that uncertainty surrounding IBD is what leads to mental health issues.

Uncertainty is threatening to our overall well being. The fear of the unknown leads to stress, worry, anxiety, depression, etc. These negative and toxic emotions can lead to an implosion of harm on our bodies, mind and spirit. There is no straightforward method of alleviating uncertainty; however, we can learn to accept it. I know, easier said than done, right? Nevertheless, accepting uncertainty and saying to ourselves, “you know what? It’s OK that I don’t know what’s happening at the present time, or future. I will figure it out as it comes along, and I’ll move forward.” Sometimes we need a little positive push from internal dialog to pull through. This technique of incorporating internal dialog can be conducive for your well being; but there is also a negative approach to internal dialog that can weigh us down. We tend to be the hardest on ourselves at times; and I am sure that most people can relate, whether you are dealing with a diagnosed illness or not.

I tend to internalize a lot, but it’s not because I am ashamed to talk about mental health. I choose to internalize because I don’t want to make my problems someone else’s problem. Internalizing for me consists of overthinking and over analyzing situations that have occurred or have yet to occur. It is a hard-breaking habit that I have endured since I was a child. A lot of our upbringing and childhood experiences shape the way we act, think, and grow as we reach adulthood. I’ve carried the act of internalizing my whole life, and the result has lead me to battling with anxiety. I believe the diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease has heightened my anxiety, and my habit of internalizing situations of uncertainty is not beneficial for overall mental health. That is when I realized that I can’t allow myself to shut down due to uncertainties, overthinking, and worrying. 

One thing that keeps us from relief of mental health issues is the idea of being vocal, and speaking out about our thoughts, worries, concerns, etc. While positive internal dialog is great, it’s not something that can be attainable each day. We all have our good and bad days, and when times are at their worst, it is nearly impossible to switch the internal dialog from negative to positive. There are other methods to try if talking to someone is not ideal for you: writing, whether it be journaling, blogging, or making mindfulness lists. Meditation works for many people, and I wish it worked for me; but I can be so impatient at times, and I find it challenging to sit still, especially if my mind is racing. Finding the light and humor in situations is another great method to pull through. Whether it’s decompressing and watching a comedy TV show/movie, or watching video clips on YouTube. A little escape from reality is necessary, especially when you’re experiencing a bad day. 

If you’re experiencing a bad day where your mind completely takes over, and you can’t find the strength to process anything – or even the strength to move, try to brace through and overcome the anxiousness or depression by reminding yourself that you are enough. Those three words have more power than we know, because we are holding back from allowing ourselves to believe in our worthiness. We are all human. No one is perfect, not anyone of the earth’s 7.4 billion population. Even if someone may look or seem like they have the perfect life, that person may be battling or struggling with something worse than our own. One thing that brings all of the human population together is that we all have our own problems, issues, battles and/or struggles that indeed make us all human.

For the days when you can’t focus, I hope that you find clarity. For the days when you can’t get out of bed, and your body is unable to pull yourself through, I hope that you find the strength to get up and defeat the toxicity that is holding you down. For the days when you can’t think or speak clearly, and your mind shuts down, I hope that you regain resilience within your conscience to calm and ease your mind. Just remember, you are not alone. There is love and support out there that is longing to be embraced. Bravery and perseverance will lead you to understanding your self-worth. This month and everyday: you are enough, always.

Facing your fears: What happens when we surpass fear, doubt and what-ifs

How many times has fear, doubt, and what-if stopped you from doing something life changing? Personally, too many times for me to count. If I had a dollar for every time I didn’t take a chance because I was afraid, anxious, or worried of the possible outcome, I’d be on the Forbes List. Facing my fears has been a constant battle for me, especially after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. There have been times where I allowed this disease to control my life. Not only has it impacted my life, but the lives of others around me as well. Grasping the concept that everyday is different is extremely difficult, and develops many uncertainties. I remember a couple of years ago, I questioned putting graduate school on hold, because I was fearful that this disease would stop me from achieving my academic and professional goals. Living in fear, being extremely anxious, and worrying about uncertainties will worsen any chronic illness condition. When I realized this, I knew I had to break the cycle of allowing fears to control my life and well-being.

So how do we break the cycle of allowing our fears to take control of our lives? I can assure you that it will not happen overnight. This is a very individualized process that requires internal dialog and a lot of patience. To assess facing our fears, we must realize that everyone has their own personal struggles. We’re human, and we all deal with personal struggles as we try to find balance and clarity in life. We all go about our daily routine, managing our struggles and trying to find our purpose in life. I can’t speak on behalf of all millennials, but I still struggle with finding my own path in life. It is challenging to asses our skills, goals, and dreams because of inhibitors such as fear, doubt, and what-ifs.

The first step in breaking the fear cycle was a mental process where I had to dig deep and focus on ideas that serve purpose for my well-being. One idea that sparked was my sincere interest in helping people. Some may perceive this trait as a weakness or downfall; but I can attest that the outcome makes me genuinely happy. I truly believe that we are faced with personal challenges in life to help others who are facing similar adversities. For instance, there are two ways that I could handle my chronic illness- I could play the victim, fall into depression, and make life miserable for myself and those around me – OR I could help people who are dealing with chronic illness, so that they could relate and identify with my experience to find empathy and support.

The main focus of my blog is to help encourage, inspire, and motivate people- and if that means that I have to embrace vulnerability, and talk about my personal struggles, then I don’t mind. If I can help someone who feels alone to find solace, then I know I am doing something right. Ultimately, helping others around you creates a sense of community – a strong bond that emanates support, love, and compassion. Prior to volunteering with CCFA, I felt alone, scared and insecure. After meeting with people and sharing our stories, I came to the realization that being a part of this community brings meaning into my life. Being a volunteer and having a role in a support system not only helps others, but it helps me as well. I find that I can handle uncertainty better than before, as well as alleviating feelings of fear, doubt, and what-ifs that had held me back from taking chances and living life.

The meaning of this post is to exemplify the possibilities of banishing fear, doubt, and what-ifs to transform our lives for the better. If you’re feeling down, or unsure about assessing your life goals, then start by asking yourself this question: “What makes me happy?” Evaluating the elements that serve meaning will cultivate positive change in your life. So the next time you question taking a chance, be sure to surpass the feeling of fear, doubt, and the what-ifs. The outcome may lead you toward a path you had never imagined possible. 🙂

 

A friendly reminder to do what makes you happy

It seems that summer flies by more quickly with each year that passes. I don’t know if that is because I am getting older, but I would appreciate for the summer months to last longer– rather than experience the dragging months of winter.

I hope you all have taken time to enjoy summer by doing what truly makes you happy. We are constantly exposed to articles from Buzzfeed and Cosmo advising how to “enjoy” the summer – i.e. “10 things you NEED to do this summer,” and fight back feelings as result of Instagram and Facebook posts consisting of lavish and exotic places (mainly swimming pools with obnoxiously ginormous, inflatable swans). With the constant reminders inundating your phone and computer, you can’t help but feel like summer is wasting away.

I think a part of growing up is struggling with the concept of consistently being a part of something, delivering a sense of belonging and comfort. Before you start to feel like you’ve wasted summer away because you watched more Netflix than you thought humanly possible, (how could you simply resist Wet Hot American Summer?!) remember that watching Netflix, or taking time for yourself to unwind, are activities that made you happy. No, it may not have consisted of day drinking at an exclusive beach bar, but you were able to clear your mind and relax. For me, that sounds like more of a win.

I have to remind myself that I can find inner peace and happiness in ways other than constant partying, causing excessive physical and mental exhaustion. I think I’ll choose relaxing over experiencing the aftermath from a long night out: hung-over with my hair looking like Cosmo Kramer’s, and my face looking like a melting clown. Don’t get me wrong, I will hardly refuse a night out to socialize and dance with my girlfriends– but I do not make it a daily priority in desperate attempt to find fulfillment living as a twenty-something year-old. Key words: Do what makes YOU happy.

If you’re feeling end-of-summer blues, don’t worry–there is still time to indulge in spontaneous summer activities that will turn into cherished memories. Just because others are channeling their inner Eliza Thornberry in a safari riding elephants off into the sunset does not mean that your summer is less satisfying. Surround yourself with good company, and create moments that will bring endless laughter and contentment.

Positive Vibes = Happier Life

First, I would like to apologize for the lack of posts. Life has been extremely busy balancing work, grad school, and battling Crohn’s disease. This time last year, after enduring many grueling tests, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. I have learned so much over the past year, and while the disease has been a major setback, I have not allowed this condition to control my life.

I recently came across an article that deeply resonated with me. It was written by a young woman who is also battling  a chronic illness. She explained the repeat offenders of misconceptions and insensitivity of societal belief surrounding chronic illnesses. Just because we do not look sick, does not mean we are feeling well. The concept of looking sick is very deceptive. Appearance is what first meets the eye, however, appearance cannot detect internal complications. We’ve all heard of the saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” and that statement correlates with chronic illnesses. There are people we see everyday, whether it be acquaintances or family, and we do not truly know what internal complications they are battling. Family members and friends have made daily observations regarding my appearance, and while I know they are trying to be complimentary in their approach, it does not help mend the reality of my condition. “Well, you don’t look sick,” does not mask the condition, nor will it alleviate struggling insecurities.

There are days where I feel weak, fatigued, and self-conscious. There are also days where I feel great, and I’ll think to myself, “could this be?!” No matter how I am feeling, I try to encourage myself to make the best of each day. Positivity is one of the most powerful emotions to overcome any challenging obstacle. You may think positivity is hard to obtain, especially after a traumatic encounter; but remaining positive during adversity has motivated me to live my life despite having a chronic illness. Reminding myself to remain positive and humble has brought peace into life, and a sense of hope – that maybe having this disease will allow me to help encourage and inspire others coping with chronic illnesses.

One thought I had to diminish from my mind is the inevitable comparison of those living a normal or healthy lifestyle. I would often compare myself to others thinking, “I wish I could have the ability to eat whatever I want, like so-and-so,” or “I wish I could do this-or-that,” but comparing myself to others would not lead me to a happier life. Let’s be real, not one single person in this entire world is living a normal life. Everyone has their issues, insecurities, and challenges. The real challenge here is to abolish the illusions in our minds that allow us to believe there is a normal lifestyle, because a normal lifestyle is simply unattainable. What is attainable, however,  is a happy lifestyle. Incorporating a happy lifestyle is not a walk in the park, it’s a work in progress. But I can guarantee that incorporating positivity in your thoughts and actions will lead you to a happier life.

So, the moral of this post is to try incorporating positive vibes into your life – whether it be simple acts of kindness, lending an ear to a friend in need, or making the pledge to live your life to the fullest. We are all battling something, so let’s conquer our battles and live happily.

New Treatment, No Problem!

Starting new treatment this week, I needed to turn to something to lift my spirits and stay positive – so of course I turn to baking! (And wine!) I found a recipe for grain-free blueberry crisp on detoxinista.com and wanted to put my spin on it. Blueberries have always been a favorite fruit of mine, and always remind me of Summer. With a batch of ripe blueberries for this recipe, you can’t go wrong! I even spiced it up and topped the warm crisp with all-natural vanilla ice-cream.

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Go to the recipe tab for ingredients, instructions and more pictures!

With having so much fruit in the house, the possibilities are endless for creating summer-time treats! After the day that I’ve had, I needed a glass of wine. (We all have our days, right?) I thought, hmm fruit and wine..SANGRIA! Not just any sangria, but Sangria popsicles! What better way to enjoy Sangria in the heat than enjoying a popsicle at the same time?

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How cute are these mini Sangria popsicles?! Whether you prefer red or white wine, either will taste great with delectable ripe fruit! Go to the recipe tab for ingredients, instructions and more pictures! I even had some leftover to savor! (I should have considered using bigger popsicle trays..but you could never go wrong with extra Sangria!)

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Today I was surprised by the best co-workers. They always know how to cheer me up and put a smile on my face! I am so thankful to work with such wonderful people and to be a part of an amazing team!

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I’m also thankful for my mom, who loves me unconditionally no matter how my moods are with medicine and stress. I cannot begin to express my gratitude for her endless support. She is the best mom anyone could ever ask for!

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This beautiful Gardenia flower is from our garden. It’s a kind gesture like this that makes me appreciate the little things in life.

Well I hope I’ve inspired you to try baking something new, or to enjoy a glass of Sangria. Either or, I’ve accomplished something!

My Experience with Crohn’s Disease

I have always considered myself to be a Foodie: A person who has a love and appreciation for great food. To me, there is nothing quite satisfying than indulging in my family’s tradition of homemade Italian dishes. I forgot to mention that I am currently in a relationship with Pizza.

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Also, the bread group is my favorite group of the food pyramid, just in case you were wondering. I never imagined that I would have to sacrifice the food that I love all because of an autoimmune disease. My family members have joked, “What Italian do you know can’t eat Pasta? That’s unheard of in an Italian family!” Although my family has made adjustments for me on occasions such as Sunday dinner, it is still challenging to find the right foods to incorporate in my diet. The funny thing is despite my love of Pizza, I’ve always maintained a healthy diet. I don’t eat fast-food or highly processed foods. Majority of the meals I eat are homemade and prepared with healthy ingredients. I used to “juice” daily, and I’ve always had more than the daily serving of fresh fruits and veggies. Little did I know the fruits, vegetables, and other foods I would eat daily (such as foods made with corn, oats, flax and flax-seed for example) were intolerable to my digestive system. It wasn’t until after spending a week in the hospital, trial and error testing with strong medications, and then undergoing numerous intense tests that I found a diagnosis: Crohn’s disease. Despite facing mental and physical pain, I could not be more thankful that I am finally on a healthy path toward remission through diet and treatment.

I want to share with you a test I’ve chosen through a holistic doctor that has changed my life. The best decision I have made was to take the IgG Food Antibody Assessment test. This blood test covers over 170 different types of foods, and how your body responds and reacts while digesting these foods. While I thought I was being healthy by juicing with raw fruits and veggies and eating foods with oats and flax, I was actually wrecking my intestines and colon. Our bodies have many different tolerances, and I would have never known what foods to avoid and what foods to incorporate in my rotational diet if it weren’t for this test. If you have issues with IBS, Colitis or Crohn’s and have not taken this test, I highly recommend it. This test has changed my life for the better, and I already feel healthier. I wanted to share my experience with you all because I have learned so much through other people’s experiences dealing with Crohn’s and Colitis. By sharing our stories we can learn and help one another to live a healthy and normal life. I would love to continue giving insight and sharing my recipes, rotational diet tips, and to provide more helpful information. Please feel free to contact me for any questions and advice. I would be happy to help in any way that I can! I will post more recipes soon, please check them out under the Recipes tab! 🙂

July is Just Beginning!

I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July weekend! I am still in weekend mode as most of us are on Monday’s. I wish I could relive the events that occurred this weekend! 4th of July is always a special holiday to create lasting summer memories. There’s nothing quite like good food and great company shared with family and friends. But my weekend will be forever memorable due to Saturday, and the fact that I can’t get over how incredibly amazing the “On The Run Tour” was! I’ve always wanted to see Beyonce live in concert, and let me tell you, she was FLAWLESS. If she comes back to Philadelphia I will definitely be attending to see her live again! I consider myself to be an avid concert-goer. I have such love and appreciation for talented performers who put on a great show. Of all the concerts I’ve ever been to, this one had topped them all and exceeded all expectations!

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To cap off the weekend, my mother and I enjoyed a 23 mile bike ride down the shore and sat by the rocks. Check out the peaceful and beautiful view! It’s nice to sit back and appreciate the little things in life. I hope everyone has a chance to take a beach-trip, even if it’s just for the day! We have to enjoy Summer while it lasts 🙂 I’ve been brainstorming more recipes and fun Summer-theme DIY ideas. I can’t wait to share my ideas with you all! Until then, enjoy the sunshine!

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New recipes posted!

New recipes posted!

I’ve started to be creative with my diet after discovering that I have food intolerance issues due to an autoimmune disease. Being on a rotational diet is challenging and sometimes it is hard to resist temptations; but it doesn’t mean that I have to permanently exclude my favorite types of food! My preference is to make meals with fresh ingredients so I know exactly what I am eating! Hopefully my recipes will inspire you to try cooking!

To view all recipes: Go to Pages then click Recipes, or search Recipes in the search bar on the left. Enjoy 🙂

Remembering Rocky

What I am about to share with you was the worst week of my life. This is not the way I would like to start blogging in the year of 2014.. However, I’ve always stuck to the theory of writing to be the best form of expression; and I need to write to vent, find closure, and come to terms that my dog is no longer with me.

This is something that no dog owner can simply prepare for. We envision that our pets will be with us forever, and spiritually, I’m sure that is the case. But physically on earth, I have never thought of the day when I would be without Rocky.

It’s inevitable that we all grow older. We thought that Rocky was coming to age with himself, and suspected arthritis to be his main physical issue. It slowly became harder for Rocky to get around – between slowing down his pace during our daily walks, and squatting his back legs while he was trying to stand straight. These actions have led us to speculate that Rocky was not himself anymore. We proceeded to go through numerous blood scan tests for Rocky. Maybe it could be Lyme’s disease? Maybe we can find medication to restore his joints and prevent further muscle deterioration? So many questions and concerns went through our minds, and we were willing to do anything we could to keep Rocky alive and well.

It got to the point where Rocky could not walk up stairs, sit in an up-right position, and no longer had his healthy appetite. We had Rocky endure another blood scan test, this test specifically for senior-aged dogs. The test results were shocking, and left my family feeling numb. All of Rocky’s levels were abnormally low. His body was not  absorbing protein properly, and his white blood cell count was extremely high. All of these factors exemplify that Rocky was fighting off a strong disease – a disease that could not be detected through blood testing. My family being extremely optimistic for our beloved pup lead us to returning him to the veterinary hospital that he had been seeing since we have adopted him. We anticipated for thorough answers and knew we would find them there.

On Thursday, January 30th, my world changed forever. Coming home from work, I was excited to rush home and be reunited with my dog; but this time it wasn’t the same. I went upstairs to find my mom on the phone, and her expression indicated that something was wrong. She tried to hold back and spare me of the news, but I kept pushing her relentlessly. I asked what we can do with Rocky and what our next steps are. She told me that Rocky had a large mass-tumor in his abdomen that was pushing against his liver, and our only option at this point was to put him down. I immediately fell to the ground and tried to regulate my breath, but each gasp for air became harder. I could not stop my body from shaking, the tears streaming down my face as my mind and body went into a complete panic. I kept asking why..why and how did this all happen so fast? Although it was hard for Rocky to get around, he always seemed happy. He would never cry, whimper or give any indication that he was in excruciating pain and suffering. He seemed comfortable and at peace while he would lay and rest in all of his favorite spots in our home.

My mind could not grasp the idea of putting Rocky down. I just thought, “I can’t do this. I can’t put my dog down. I can’t live my life without my dog.” These thoughts circled around my head and clouded over my mind. Our vet had suggested that we put him down sooner than later, but my family respected my wishes to keep him alive with us over the weekend. From Friday to Sunday, I spent every moment with Rocky by his side. No matter how painful it was, I just knew I couldn’t leave him.

Friends have told me that your dog will let you know when he is ready to go. I believe that to be true, and I feel as though Rocky could have gone sooner..but he knew we were too upset. Dogs are very aware of their senses, and they can detect emotion in a way that I’ve never thought possible. I can’t tell you how many times I hugged him while he would lay. His body weak and fragile, as my arms would wrap around him and feel every bone in his body. All I could do was cry, say “I’m sorry,” and that I wish I could take all of his pain away. Rocky and I were awake through the night that Sunday. I saw in his eyes that he could no longer go on like this, and I knew that he was approaching the end of his life.

Snow was falling down heavy Monday morning, as my family and I surrounded Rocky’s favorite couch. Rocky was resting as we all took turns to lay and hold him, our last goodbyes given as we wept. I knew I had to be strong, not only for myself, but for Rocky. Putting him down was the hardest and most painful moment I’ve ever had to endure. However, seeing him extremely weak and watching him suffer was just as painful. Rocky was put to rest in the most peaceful way we could provide. We knew that he deserved that much, and for it to be at his forever home.

I miss Rocky more everyday. I still feel confused, numb, and heartbroken. I know that in time I will heal, but this feeling is too unfamiliar. Our house feels empty..I feel empty. It’s hard to describe these emotions to those who have not experienced the unconditional love and loyalty that a pet can give. There will always be that one pet who will remain irreplaceable, and that will always be Rocky.

I wanted to take a moment to talk about adoption. In my opinion, adopting a pet is the most rewarding thing you can do – not only for that animal, but for yourself. To know that you are giving that animal an escape from a shelter and into a forever home is a genuinely life changing experience. Adopting Rocky was the best decision that my family and me have made. Everyone who knew Rocky told us that we had given him a great life. My response is that Rocky has given us a better life. I can honestly say that since adopting him in 2005, he has made our family grow stronger. We have never before experienced so much love, joy and togetherness. And I know those emotions will linger as his spirit lives on.

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Rocky “The White Boxer” 01/01/2004 – 02/03/2014