You can do hard things.

I posted that phrase on Instagram earlier and ended up writing way too much for that platform so what a great chance to share more about myself, my life, and my process here.

A friend shared yesterday that she told herself “you can do hard things” as she was running for 18 miles in training for a marathon (!) because her parents had said this to her as a child when she complained about math homework or a difficult violin concerto. I can so picture the moments of that advice being given and perhaps not appreciated or fully understood at the time, but this woman is amazing and clearly that affirmation stuck with her bc she does many hard things all of the time!

I had never been told this phrase before though, and it had never become something that I told myself.

Unsurprisingly, doing hard things is not my thing. Part of the story I tell myself about myself is “You’re fun and chill. You’ve been sick and still struggle so you’d better take it easy and not push yourself doing too much work. You love smoking weed and it helps your stomach and body feel better so that’s okay if getting high and chilling is a top priority for you. You don’t not do hard things exactly, you just prefer to do easy things bc they’re more fun so why not.”

Is that thought true? Some parts, not all.

Is that thought helpful? It may have been one time, but I haven’t been finding it to be in the past few years.

Actually though, my being sick started at 17, smoking weed at 19, and let’s be real, I had major problems before that. So there must be earlier thought patterns I also need to address.

Not to get into my whole backstory bc it’s too damn long and sad, but its helpful to know that I grew up an only child with really pre-occupied parents.

I remember everything in childhood (before 10ish) coming easy to me, I had lots of early successes, and I always yearned to be challenged more. School was a breeze so I would study for Kids Jeopardy! on my own even though no one ever helped me try to get on the show like I asked (that was harder before internet but come on). I would do whatever gymnastics I could on my own all of the time bc my grandma could only spend so many hours to drive from her house to mine to the gym and back again 2x week and my parents didn’t at all. Violin was a good one for me to be able to practice myself, and I did and that went great, but as I got older and the violin playing got tougher - I just quit bc I wasn’t the best anymore and my parents were fine with that.

So I think I told my childhood self something like “You’re talented, you’re amazing! And you have to be bc you are on your own and have no help. So what that no one cares about you, that means no one cares about you and you can do whatever you want (and I don’t care about anyone anyway)! If the things you want to do get hard though, remember that you don’t have help, so figure out any way to stop doing it.”  

And throughout my life I know that I’ve been quitting & running away when anything would get hard.

But when my chronic illness got to the point that I was in pain all of the time and could not stand to be out of bed for more than a few hours at a time - I didn’t have a choice. My only option to “quit” would be killing myself like my biological mother or becoming a heroin addict like my biological father.

Because I had seen how those options worked out - not fucking well - I knew the only path was moving forward with small healing steps everyday.

I took over a decade of those days but I got myself to a place of fairly good health. And then my old thought and behavior patterns crept in.

I told my adult self “It’s too hard and I have no one to help me.” Day by day I’ve been moving backwards with the healing, allowing myself to plateau for awhile and then regress.

But not even close to completely.

I see it now - I see the thoughts and I’m doing the work again - big time.

Yes I’m talented and yes I’m amazing but I am not on my own. People do care about me and do care what I do. I want to be my best self for those people because I do care about them too. I can ask for help and will receive it. I know that I must now be the incredible parent that I always wanted to myself if I want to build new thoughts, feelings, ideas, and actions.

So as my loving parent I say, “Yeah you’re fun and chill, and look at all of the hard work you’ve put into your healing your life. Look how much you’ve been learning and sharing and working to put out into the world. If you take the consistent healing steps that you need Lauren, you know you can have the health and energy to accomplish all of your goals and dreams instead of just enjoying being high with your chihuahua. You can also still enjoy that, just not as often because you are so fulfilled doing more challenging things.

I know no one’s ever told you this, but I’m telling you now for sure - you can do hard things, and you will grow in the best ways from them.

Harmful & Helpful Thoughts From My Illness

Rewriting this first sentence after having written the rest, I thought I was going one way with this, but ended up in a more awesome place.

Living half of my entire current life with an active chronic illness has caused me to form a set of thoughts and beliefs that served me well while I was sick, but are not serving my highest good now that I have been in good health for over a year.

Many of these thoughts concern needing to rest and cutting myself way too much slack for not doing the things I need to for my personal happiness.

Honestly though, I never really had a good work ethic before my illness set in at age 17. I was always able to get great grades in school without much effort, and my budding narcissism made me believe that I was great at everything else without trying too. Although in hindsight, I was good at things, but idk about great.

The 80's & 90's were interesting times to grow up as well with the self-esteem movement and a great economy, and then the tech boom - felt like everything would just happen for us because we were special. At least it was that way for me.

One of the reasons I'm so grateful for my chronic illness is it really fucking humbled me.

Showed me that shit would not be coming so easy at all.

Interesting how we can quickly forget some thoughts and seemingly never forget others.

I often forget how really fucking hard I worked to get better.

I tell myself that I don't know what hard work is and I don't know how to do it now, but that's not true. I've worked very hard in many non-traditional ways throughout my life to survive and be quite content, even in v challenging situations.

But I want more. I want a lot more.

Calling on one of my favorite quotes here - "I didn't come this far to only come this far!"

I want to share all that I've been through and all that I've learned along the way in the hopes of helping others.

I want to create a dope yoga community focused on continual healing and growth, even though I am so afraid of connection and accountability.

Circling back to the thinking that I can't forget from my days of being debilitated 75% of the time, I did not want to attempt to be close to anyone. I didn't want anyone to see how I really had to live. I didn't want to cancel on them over and over and over again. Even worse, I didn't want to try to force myself to go out and be wanting to cry the whole time because I'm so tired and in so much pain. Having plans was my actual nightmare.

But my chronic illness has been somewhat under control for a few years now and almost completely under control for the past year, so it would serve me best to let go of the old chronic illness state of mind that, rightfully so, told me I couldn't do so many things. The one that wouldn't let me make any plans for the near or far future. That just trying to survive mindset.

Acknowledging its existence is the first step to a solution to any problem. I've known this for a little while now, but perhaps getting it out there is my next step here. And then remembering the state of mind from my chronic illness that got me back to a place of health for myself so that I can even possibly be able to be of service to others.

The next I have negative, fearful, or plain unproductive thoughts regarding my abilities now, I will recall what I told myself so many times as I was saving my own life:

Just keep taking those steps forward because

wtf else are you going to do babygirl, curl up and die?

You have something to share with the world.

My Very Own Personal Chronic Illness

You can't really know me without knowing that I've been dealing with debilitating health issues mostly beginning as I turned 17.

Yes it has been super hard so many times and I've had to make my own way to survive. My biological parents struggled with similar genetic health problems but were not able to find the tools I have, and both died as a result of harmful self-medication practices.

Their lives and deaths kept me determined to figure out what was wrong with me and find some way to make a difference in the world.

And I did.

I have so much to share about my path and how others can find relief from suffering as well, but I am still figuring out how to blog, so please stick with me here.

For now, I will address the most common question I get, "what is your specific chronic illness?"

People ask that often so they can categorize it in some way or try to relate, and that is such a natural reaction. I so wish it were easy enough to explain in a category or way to relate, but it's just fucking complicated.

I've been diagnosed with almost more conditions than I can count over the years with numbers of symptoms to match, but the basic sum of it is excruciating fatigue. Being beyond tired so that functioning is not a possibility and everything hurts, and eating hurts, and any food went right through my system in 20 minutes. At this time, my biggest dream in life was to be able to lie in a hospital bed forever with a feeding tube and morphine.

And of course, for so long doctors said I was totally fine. General blood tests look good, I look good (on my good days that I could make it into the office), and oh yeah, I'm a woman.

I'm trailing off here, let's save that. Back to my actual condition.

I got a lot of relief with a self-diagnosis of Celiac disease (story to come) at the age of 27, after a decade of feeling like I was dying sprinkled with actually wanting to die. My chihuahua Katinka and the philosophy of yoga got me through many dark times, and now there was a real light of possible good health I could see ahead of me with totally changing my diet.

That was a huge overhaul at the time that I take for granted now, but I had never even used an oven or cooked my own chicken at age 27. Amazing the things you can do though when your life depends on it!

So with that I say that my health went, on a scale of 1 poorest to 100 highest, from about a 3 to a 50, and that was a huge improvement I was feeling incredibly grateful for. And I stayed at 50 for a few years, before realizing that there was probably more because I was still pretty sick a few days out of most weeks.

It was through more work and doctors and personal research and trail & error that I've now gotten myself up to about a 90-95 point health level on my made-up scale. I still don't have an exact name for my condition, but the most important thing is I do know how to treat it. There is a genetic component as far as diminished enzyme production making many necessary chemical reactions throughout the body happen at a much slower rate than normal and a deficit in my urea cycle leading to increased ammonia levels in the blood.

I have to supplement my methylfolate enzyme production by taking 5mgs of 5-MTHF in the morning and again at 3pm & also 3g of the amino acid L-Citrulline mornings and 3pm every day, and I will feel it if I miss a dose. I still have to be very careful with what I eat as I am healing a lot of gut damage that led to many food sensitivities beyond gluten and dairy.

Hope this bit about my health was informative and possibly helpful in some way.

I am always down for questions. I will certainly be writing more about this in the future, so I'm happy to address anything specific in more detail, just reach out and let me know.