"If you love something let it go; if it comes back to you, it's yours forever; if it doesn't, then it was never meant to be.” - Unknown
It was last January (2017) when my current flare-up of Ulcerative Colitis (UC) began. I had been in remission for some time, and honestly probably didn’t even remember that I had the disease. After the season, I moved to Los Angeles, where my boyfriend was working for Fox Soccer. So I was creating yet another “home”, training hard, spending every extra minute of the day working on my business, Techne Futbol, and just being my usual overly-ambitious self.
When I started experiencing digestive issues, I made an appointment with a gastroenterologist and went on a steroid for a bit to get it under control. During my taper off the steroid, it was time to move once again…back to preseason at FC Kansas City.
So I arrived back in Kansas City, created another “home” once again, started preseason, and was still spending every extra waking moment working on my business. During preseason I sprained my MCL, so I was doing rehab in addition to being at all team sessions. I was desperately fighting the clock to get healthy in time for our first game, which I successfully did.
I remember thinking and knowing that my lifestyle was inherently stressful, but being proud of myself for “managing” that stress. I was rooming with Lo LaBonta and Brianne Reed at the time, two younger players, and while talking to them I just threw out, “I mean, I don’t seem stressed to you, do I?” Brianne, who is one of the nicest and least confrontational people ever, had a pretty strong reaction: “You’re kidding, right?!”
The Price of Stress
That was the beginning of my wake-up call. While my body had clearly been trying to get in touch with me for some years (I’ve suffered from eczema, migraines, and UC…all definitely linked to stress), for some reason, Bri’s response to my question really hit home.
Over the upcoming weeks and months, my health declined drastically. My boyfriend’s entire team at Fox Soccer was laid off, and as he contemplated what to do next, and a potential move back to the East Coast (I can’t even count how many times I’ve moved in the past 5 years), my UC became HORRIBLE within a day of hearing that news. It was another clear sign to me that stress was playing a very significant role in my condition.
Throughout the season, during which time I continued to train, travel, and play with the team although I was certainly in no state to be doing those things, I started to address the mind-body connection to the best of my abilities. I tried acupuncture, started meditating, and saw a therapist to discuss the manifestation of my emotional and spiritual being in the “gut,” which is very real for many gut-related diseases.
Throughout this personal exploration, I found that I was, in fact, an extremely stressed and anxious person. Surprise, Yael! I always used to consider myself laid back, but I guess I was very out of touch with myself.
The Quest For Control
For years, I had desperately been trying to control 3 major areas of my life:
- My playing career: I can honestly say that I feel I’ve done my very best to cover all the bases here, and have even exceeded what I thought was my potential. I have no regrets, and have, and still plan, to do everything I’m able to leave no stone unturned in terms of creating the player I dream of being. While this is something I’m very proud of, the line can get blurred between what is in my control and what is out of it. Allowing the tools I’ve built to come out on the field, having others see and appreciate those tools, and being selected for the National Team are all things very closely related to my mission, but that are out of my hands. For years, I desperately tried to control them.
- My business: I’m not a mother, but I can imagine that starting a business is somewhat akin to having a child. It becomes your baby. You are responsible for its livelihood in every way possible. Similar to my career, I’ve tried to approach my business in the best, and most ambitious way possible. But through the first year plus of that business, I felt that if I personally didn’t do X, Y, and Z all perfectly, everything would spiral out of control.
- My relationship: I don’t often (or ever really) talk about this publicly, but I’ve been in a relationship now for almost 9 years. Most of the time, it’s been a long-distance relationship, which is stressful to maintain, even at its best. Like any couple, we’ve had our share of ups and downs, and struggles that threatened to tear us apart. It became my instinct to micromanage my boyfriend, and to feel that if I wasn’t constantly working to keep us together and progressing properly, that things would fall apart; our future would be in jeopardy.
Thanks to my colon, I was given no choice but to let go of a lot of what had me wound so tightly. What I was not able to do for myself (let go of the quest to control everything), my body did for me. I got to the point, especially after the 2017 season and in the months that followed, where I was so sick that I literally couldn’t contemplate anything besides making it through each day. I didn’t exercise, leave home, or care at all what my boyfriend was doing. I literally couldn’t.
Although it’s been a long journey, as I work my way back to health I’m allowing that laissez-faire attitude to stick. I’m still in a place where I care about very little besides getting healthy, so right now it’s “easy” to let go of other things. But as I do get back to 100%, that is the lesson I must, and will, take away from this experience.
The Lessons Of Illness
In a weird way, I’m thankful I’ve been sick. I’m grateful that my body put a stop to a way of life that I wasn’t able to recognize needed to end. And when it comes to letting go, I’m certainly a work in progress. There’s a religious/spiritual element to it, a logical element to it, and a physical element. And when I’m not able to let go, I realize that, and accept myself for where I am on this journey.
I had gotten so caught up in trying so hard at everything, and trying to force things in my life to be a certain way, that perhaps I wasn’t even really living. I was just executing a plan. Day after day.
I’ve always loved the quote that I started this post with, but have never been able to truly embody it. I will continue to love the life I have, and seek to let go of the part that isn’t good for me.
I’m learning to live on the path of least resistance. It’s new to me, and it’s liberating.