I believe that pain, in its many forms, is showing up to let us know there is something unhealed within. Mine came in the form of stage IV endometriosis – a chronic illness in which tissue that normally grows inside the uterus grows outside of it, with no known cause or cure. The main symptoms are painful periods (understatement of the year), infertility, and pelvic pain. I’ve heard some women describe it as worse than natural child birth. Nothing I know even compares.
Every month I would find myself doubled over in excruciating, nauseating, blackout pain. At the height of my flares, I spent weeks in bed hardly able to walk on my own. Multiple doctors and ER visits later and still all of the tests they ran came back inconclusive. Unfortunately, this is common with endo because it’s often misdiagnosed and misunderstood in the medical field.
It was terrifying to have no idea what was going on in my body so I became my own health advocate relentlessly searching for answers. After many years, lifestyle changes, and extensive laparoscopic excision surgery I finally had an official diagnosis. By then, the endometriosis had significantly progressed and was coupled with interstitial cystitis and pelvic floor dysfunction.
They say the universe never gives you anything you can’t handle, so apparently the universe thinks I’m a gangster. Navigating the battle that comes with these diseases has by far been the most challenging experience I’ve ever had to deal with. The constant pain and stress ultimately led to depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. I just couldn’t imagine living that way for the rest of my life. I resented my body and felt like it had betrayed me. I’ve deeply struggled with loving myself through it all.
I’m telling you this because if I can overcome that darkness, anyone can. Looking back, I realize it was necessary to break down so that I could break open and fully heal my mind, body, and soul. The extreme physical pain forced me to look at my inner pain – highlighting all of my insecurities and fears. I needed to let go of some deep rooted beliefs that were no longer serving my highest good.
It would be easy to view the hand I’ve been dealt negatively. However, I’m choosing to view it positively and believe that there’s a greater purpose behind it all. At first I felt hopeless, but I decided I wasn’t going to be a victim and learned to work towards holistic healing. I’ve grown in countless ways and one of the most empowering lessons is how to cultivate self-love. I want to share a few of the tools I’ve gained throughout my journey in hopes that it will inspire you to love yourself no matter what your circumstances are.
“In order to love who you are you cannot hate the experiences that shaped you.”
- Forgive yourself – When a self-sabotaging thought creeps in, notice it without judgement and then replace it with a loving one. A powerful mantra I like to use is, ‘I love and accept myself exactly as I am.’ Even if it feels uncomfortable at first, write whatever resonates with you on the mirror as a daily reminder, and repeat it over and over until you believe it.
- Forgive others – Holding onto anger and resentment towards someone doesn’t hurt them, it’s only hurting you. I’ve found that working with a therapist really helps to move through these issues. And if they happen to cross your mind you can envision saying to them, ‘I forgive you, and I release you.’ It may take some time, but having the willingness and intention to forgive is a good place to start.
“Trust that life will always take you where you need to be.”
Let go of the past, let go of trying to control the future, let go of expectations, let go of judgement, let go of self-doubt, and let go of fear. Attachment to these things is the root of suffering. They’re only weighing you down and keeping you from living to your fullest potential. Allow life to move freely through you and believe that no matter what, you will be okay.
“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. This will miraculously change your whole life.”
Presence is the foundation for major personal growth. Practice going with the flow without resistance to the present moment. The most inspiring book I can recommend is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. My favorite way to ground into the now is to breathe deeply in through the nose, hold it, and then slowly out through the mouth – that’s it, nothing fancy. Just breathe. Remember that life is beautiful and there is so much to live for.
“Happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”
Let ‘thank you’ be the first thought you have in the morning. If you can learn to appreciate all the magical little things, they really will add up – especially during the more difficult times. Keep a gratitude journal and make a list of what you’re grateful for every day. Writing things down helps to rewire and shift your mindset to think positively, which in turn attracts more of those good feelings.
“Fall in love with taking care of yourself.”
Your mind, body, and soul are all connected. So when one is out of balance, everything is. Do at least one thing a day to care for each part of yourself. It will be different for everyone so choose what makes you feel happy and aligned, for me it looks something like this:
- Mind – Affirmations, reading, and learning something new. Fuel your mind with knowledge and always keep it open.
- Body – Yoga, walks in nature, and eating a plant-based vegan diet. Your body is your only vessel, nourish it.
- Soul – Creating, meditation, and connection to the universe. Un-tether your soul and return to the essence of who you are.
Loving yourself through the pain is where your courage lives. The Buddha once said, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” You don’t have to let your struggles defeat you or define you. You can choose to turn them into something meaningful instead. When you find that inner strength and underlying peace, everything changes. By truly loving yourself, you are naturally able to give unconditional love to others. This is how to make a real difference in your life and in the world around you. It starts within.
Michelle is an interior designer and artist thriving with chronic illness. She is passionate about inspiring others to live a conscious life by balancing the mind, body, and soul. You can follow her on Instagram @consciouslifedesign.