I’m still shocked when I see people denying the connection between mind and body. Not only is there a mountain of scientific evidence supporting this connection, but we all experience it on a daily basis.
So many people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) claim that stress and anxiety are their biggest triggers. Yet many will turn around and say things like, “Thinking positively won’t cure my Crohn’s and I’m going to slap the next person that tells me it will help.” No, positive thinking won’t cure your Crohn’s but constantly thinking shitty thoughts will keep you feeling shitty, guaranteed.
I’ve had Crohn’s since I was 7 years old. It was a miserable existence to say the least. When I was in high school, on top of everything else, I started throwing up bile every day. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. They tested me for things like Mono but never came up with any answers. Out of desperation, I went to a new doctor. He was young and very friendly. He seemed genuinely concerned about what I was going through and had been going through my whole life.
We talked about the tests the other doctor had done and about having had Crohn’s since I was little. Then he started asking me questions. But not medical questions. He started asking me questions about me and my life. About how I felt and the things I thought. No one had ever done that before. No one had ever asked me about the emotional pain I was in.
During the incredibly emotional conversation, we started talking about the guy I was dating. He was an abusive manipulative piece of shit. I already knew deep down that I hated him. My skin crawled every time he touched me. Then the doctor said, “It sounds like you’re very unhappy.” I broke down. Unhappy didn’t even begin to describe how I felt. I hated every aspect of my life. While I couldn’t stop having Crohn’s, I could stop wasting my time and energy on someone not worth keeping in my life. The doctor prescribed me Xanax (which I ended up being allergic to, what an adventure that was) and then I went home and ended my relationship. I never threw up like that again. That’s the power of the mind-body connection.
People with IBD are victims of the mind-body connection on a regular basis. We have all made plans we were excited about and then had to cancel due to the anxiety of being more than five steps from our own bathroom. As the outing approaches, thoughts start to run on repeat. “What if there’s traffic and I need to have diarrhea? What if I can’t find parking and I need to have diarrhea? What if I can’t find the bathroom and I need to have diarrhea? What if there is a line at the bathroom and I need to have diarrhea? If I eat, will I have diarrhea? What will I say when people ask me why I’m not eating or why I keep running to the bathroom?” Then before you know it, you’re running to the bathroom in real life and cancelling your plans. That’s the power of the mind-body connection.
What we think, we feel. We should feel the full range of emotions. Some situations call for fear or anger or sadness. But when we get trapped in negative thought patterns, it takes a real physical toll. There’s a reason they say, “Depression hurts.” It really does, emotionally and physically. Our minds are incredibly powerful. We have to take care of them and clean them up. But before we can do that, we have to pay attention to our thoughts. See what we are really thinking about all day. Many people don’t even realize how negative their thinking is. Mindfulness is an amazing tool to help us see into the state of our minds.
If you’re trapped in negative thought patterns and would like help breaking the cycle, check out my Life Coaching and Mindfulness page.
If you struggle with IBD and would like support, head over to my Take Action page and see what programs and networking events I have coming up. You don’t have to walk the path alone.
If you have IBD and are looking for a supportive community, join my Facebook group LIVING WITH IBD!