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What I have learned through my Healing Journey

What I have Learned through my Healing Journey

I was diagnosed with Dermatomyositis (DM) just over 20 years ago when I was 32 years old. DM is a rare inflammatory disease that affects the muscles and skin. It is marked by muscle weakness, pain and a distinctive skin rash. It affects more women than men, and the age ranges have made a significant shift over the last decade where more people are being affected by DM.

For me, it began to show up with shortness of breath and then gradually increased muscle weakness, skin rash (on my face and joints) and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) I had to drink protein shakes for my meals, and even getting those down was hard.

By the time I was able to get a diagnosis, I was already confined to a wheelchair. I couldn’t lift my arms, turn my neck or lift my head. I was devastated and so very scared. I was taken through so many different tests, scans, you name it. Meanwhile, with each new day, I was falling more and more into a deep depression. I didn’t know what was happening to me, or if I was going to live through it.

After four, very long, months I was finally diagnosed with DM determined by a muscle biopsy of my left thigh. Even though I didn’t know what the heck dermatomyositis was (or even how to spell it!) I was grateful to know that there was a name for it. Once I was able to wrap my head around my new diagnosis, I began to work with my doctors on a treatment plan and hopefully manage my symptoms. Slowly, I began to grasp onto the little glimmers of hope that I would be able to walk again someday.

It took a couple of years, but I did in fact respond well to the treatments and I was able to get out of my wheelchair, learn to walk again and regain my strength. I couldn’t believe it! I honestly felt like I was blessed with another chance at life as I knew it before. Many patients with DM, or any other form of myositis, don’t get out of their chairs and continue to struggle with the pain and symptoms for many years.

Without saying, this whole experience brought me to a new light. A light that I had been needing and wanting for SO long! As I began to reflect on what I had gone through, and what it took to get back on my feet and to the life I previously had, I chose to immerse myself in a holistic approach and maintain my health and wellness through functional medicine and mindfulness practice. I have learned so much about myself, since then, and have shifted my life tremendously through an intentional lifestyle. And these are only just some of the things that I have learned.

1. Self-awareness – Paying more attention to my thoughts and when I start to think negatively like with blame, judgment or otherwise. By doing this, I’ve been able to really take a step back and observe the ‘real’ reason for these thoughts and where I might need to focus on my own insecurities and/or fears. This is the most powerful tool in mindfulness because when you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings, and allow yourself to process them in a healthy and compassionate way, then you will begin to use more and more of your inner power to cultivate the peace of mind you desire and deserve.

2. Acceptance – I learned that by accepting what is and knowing that I can’t control the outer world, has been extremely liberating on so many levels! I know, it’s seems easier said than done, but that’s why they call it a practice. Just as it took you so many years to feel and believe that you have control, it will take just as long to learn to let go of it. I still struggle with this one, heck, I struggle with them all! LOL But we’re only human and we have to continue setting the intentions that we can move through it and keep trying to accept what’s right in front us.

3. Patience – It hasn’t been easy to cultivate patience through my journey, especially in the beginning. I just wanted answers and expected so much from not only my doctors but from my friends and family as well. I really had to slow and calm my mind down from the worry and release the expectations around others. We are all human, and we don’t know everything (even doctors!) and once I gathered the empathy around this I was able to be more patient with myself and those around me. I definitely cultivated more patience, empathy and compassion for myself.

4. Support – Now this is a big one! Finding the right support and community that inspires and empowers us to learn, share and grow together is an essential part of our healing journeys. As you might know, living with chronic disease (invisible chronic disease!) can shift our relationships whether it be with friends or even family. It’s a very difficult and frustrating circumstance especially when we’re in constant pain. This is where the other lessons I stated above come into play, being aware of your thoughts, accepting what and WHO you can’t control, and being patient with yourself and others. Surrounding yourself with the people who ‘do’ get you and even might share the same experiences can help lift you up and empower you to thrive.

I encourage you to do a little self-reflection and see what areas in your life need more of your attention. What do you need to focus on right now and what is your intuition telling you? Maybe you tend to think negatively often? Perhaps you are blaming someone or something else for your unhappiness? Or maybe you doubt yourself too much? The goal here is to face your fears and worries head on and be honest with yourself. There’s no point in doing this if you aren’t willing to truly process your wounds. It’s OK that you’re not perfect, no one is. Own your wounds! I know you have courage and strength, but YOU have to know it as well. Believe it, wholeheartedly, and you will begin to surface your power and it will feel SO damn good!

Wishing you so much love on your healing journey,

Stay mindful, Angelic x

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