In the months since I last posted a blog, my primary focus has been on health. My year-plus-long battle with an Ulcerative Colitis (UC) flareup has been a time of much reflection, struggle, and realization.
I’ve admittedly gone through phases of wondering if this period of my life is signaling the end of my playing career. I’ve struggled to get myself out of bed most mornings, had to implore myself to get into a vehicle through rigorous self-talk (anyone who’s ever had anything similar to UC will understand this), and have had to shake off occurrences that in past times of my life may have caused humiliation beyond repair.
I’m finally emerging from the battlefields, somehow with my sense of hope and humor intact! Through it all, I’ve managed to have a very enjoyable offseason full of training, spent a lot of time with loved ones (for whom I’m immensely grateful), and am looking forward to the upcoming NWSL season with the Seattle Reign.
My current state of life has caused me to think deeply about the concept of health and what it actually means.
- What’s healthy for one person may not be healthy for another. Health is very relative. I started to consider this because a family member is on a medication that doesn’t react well with leafy green vegetables. “But those are healthy,” I immediately thought. Not for him. Similarly, right now things that are considered universally healthy are not healthy for me. I avoid fibrous foods like raw fruits and vegetables and whole grains like the plague! Everyone’s body needs something different, and this may change during various times in our lives. I’ve had people tell me that what I eat doesn’t matter at all, some swear by excluding meat from the diet, others claim a certain herb is the key to getting my condition into remission. What I’ve realized is that it’s a constant learning process and a lot of trial and error and there are often no “right” answers.
- Heath includes the mind, body, and spirit and they’re all very connected. Perhaps my biggest epiphany throughout this process has been the fact that health is only partially physical. Often our physical health is a manifestation of other, non-physical factors. My condition is heavily related to stress and anxiety and I’m not ashamed to admit that. As much as I’ve been attending to my body, I’ve been trying to be conscious of my mental and spiritual health. Healing and maintaining a healthy state require as little tension as possible. I’m very good at doing and pushing — especially in physical ways. But what my current state requires is for me to find time to not do and just be. Much harder than it sounds!
- There’s nothing too gross, shameful, or sensitive that it cannot be talked about. For anyone who knows me, you know that I have no problem sharing very personal information. This quality (or detriment, depending on your personal preference!) has been hugely emotionally beneficial during this time. I truly believe that there is no shame in admitting any personal weakness, struggle, or vulnerability, and that through sharing these things, we can lessen their power. I’ve laughed through tears, shared details that make people cringe, and have no problem talking or writing about what I go through on a daily basis. It’s extraordinarily freeing to live without secrets or shame and I’m grateful beyond belief to have a number of people with whom I can be completely authentic.
For some people health means losing weight, for others it means gaining it. Some of us have healthy bodies and struggle with diseases of the mind. Others of us are mentally healthy and have physical issues. Some attend to their health rigorously and then run into issues completely out of their control while others don’t care to consider it and never seem to have an issue. The bottom line is, like anything, there’s so much in life we can’t control, and some that we can. Nothing is promised and no one is exempt from struggle, in one way or another. The best we can do is try to solve our own health puzzles and support those around us in theirs.
Health problems often pull our attention from all else. At the same time, they calls on us to learn, to endure, and to practice compassion -- for ourselves and for others.