Rebuilding the Body & Mind Relationship
Written by Megan Glahn Castille
I am by no means a good skier. But, during my trip to Salt Lake City in January 2023, being a mediocre skier and tackling a black slope for the first time meant so much more than just that.
To give you some background, I have advocated for supporting scoliosis patients emotionally and socially for years now. While I do not have scoliosis myself, I have been able to empathize with these patients and witness firsthand what an impact the diagnosis and treatment of scoliosis has on adolescents.
Over the past year, I’ve gained a better understanding about what my patients must feel like. No, I have not developed scoliosis, but back in August of 2021, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. For those of you who don’t know, Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can cause pain and lots of unpleasant tummy troubles.
“How are scoliosis and Crohn’s disease similar?”
You might be wondering, “How are scoliosis and Crohn’s disease similar?” The way I see it is that both involve a break of trust with your body. Like many scoliosis kids and teens, I was fit and healthy before getting diagnosed. Then, out of nowhere, I wasn’t. This disease is out of my control, just like the diagnosis of scoliosis. As a kid or teen with scoliosis, you did nothing wrong to cause your spine to curve – it just did. As a control freak myself, this loss of control is a tough pill to swallow to say the least.
Yet, I was an adult at the age of 27 dealing with this new diagnosis. I cannot fathom what this loss of control must feel like as a child or teenager. The fragility of the body is flashed before us, and I often find myself wondering what’s next.
I must admit, endless wondering and thinking about the “what ifs” does me no good. While the presence of a diagnosis is out of our control, how we move forward and carry ourselves is not. Personally, I take my medicine as prescribed, follow-up with my GI doctor every few months (shoutout to Dr. Kwapisz in Houston), control my stress, eat well, and undergo tests every few months to make sure I’m staying on track. Dealing with scoliosis is not so different. My patients wear their brace, follow-up with their doctor every few months, and try to stay as active as possible. We take control where we can, but there are inherently things that are out of our control. And that’s ok.
I’ve found that a huge part of the healing process is learning how to trust my body again. I can consume myself with “what ifs” or I can admire the beauty of what my body is doing. When I sit back and think about it, the fact that we wake up each morning and move about our day is miraculous. There are so many things within our body that must go right in order for us to live our lives.
I realize that I will likely have more Crohn’s flare-ups over the course of my life. Likewise, my adolescent patients might not be completely done with their scoliosis journeys once they leave my care.
I could consume myself with worry or resent my body for getting sick, but neither option sounds very fun. Instead, I am choosing to be grateful for my body. Grateful that I feel healthy and strong. Grateful that I get to run and play fetch with my crazy dogs again. Grateful for my support system that has helped me get here. Grateful that I get to continue living this beautiful life.
So Much More than a Mountain
A year and a half after my Crohn’s diagnosis, I am beginning to find peace. In terms of my health, I have been feeling good since March 2022, but the peace is just starting to come nearly a full year later. And I must thank a pair of skis and a big mountain for helping me get there by forcing my mind to trust my body once again. Whether it takes you 6 months, a year, or 10 years, keep searching until you find that peace.
What would I do differently?
Like I mentioned before, it’s likely that I’ll have another flare up. If I do, I will definitely approach things differently. Of course hindsight is 20/20, but the first thing I will do is find a therapist to work with.
Facing a health issue unearths a plethora of emotions, and let’s face it – it’s hard to navigate these emotions without help. And who better to help than trained professionals? Taking care of yourself means taking care of your body AND your mind. Up until recently, I was focused far too much on caring for my body and wasn’t giving my emotional wellbeing the attention it deserved.
Seeing a therapist shows that you care about all of you – body and mind.