working out

A New Season

Settling into our new home

Settling into our new home

(I wrote this last week as I was packing to move--hence the blog silence lately!)

On Friday my husband and I are moving into a downtown Denver apartment building to start our job of being a Cares Team. (You can learn more about the Cares Program here.) As with most big life changes, I'm excited, a teensy bit apprehensive, slightly nervous, and a bit stunned at what is happening. At the end of this month I will also be starting my new counseling internship at Authentic and True Counseling Center, where I will be starting my private counseling practice. In a whirlwind of events, I ended up needing to leave my original internship placement early. What could have been an incredibly frustrating circumstance led me to ann amazing opportunity. Essentially, at Authentic and True I will get to start my counseling practice a year early! (Which also means I will start being paid now, rather than upon graduation! Counseling folks know this is a remarkable blessing that is pretty much unheard of for master's level counseling students.) The plan is that I will be a part of Authentic and True's practice the entire time I am getting my counseling licensure hours. So, rather than 1) working an internship that's unpaid and will in no way lead to a job and 2) graduating and not having a direct way to start accruing clinical hours for licensure, I have a job, an amazing supervisor, and a stable place to start my clinical work! 

It honestly feels like the summer of blessings. In addition to the new apartment/job and internship, all my GI testing showed nearly nothing wrong! I don't have Ulcerative Colitis! At first this felt pretty discouraging--an odd reaction only those who have carried the burden of being undiagnosed or misdiagnosed understand. But in the end, I'm relieved. Having AS is enough for one lifetime. All the tests showed was some stomach inflammation and a small ulcer, probably caused by all of the anti-inflammatory meds I have to take.

So as I sit here in Starbucks, escaping the war-zone of my half-packed apartment, I'm reflecting on this new life season and the newfound sense of resolution it has brought. I, Katie Jo, with and despite my chronic disease, can live a good, fulfilling, productive, and exciting life. Foraying into the blogging world has made me aware of some amazing women who are living this chronic-illness life with so much intention and fierceness. Women like Aimee who has Rheumatoid Arthritis and regularly posts videos of her workouts. (Aimee, your "Stronger than RA" t-shirts strike a chord!) Or take Kenzie , a college student and nanny who has juvenile idiopathic arthritis, is studying to be a social worker and regularly blogs with honesty and wisdom beyond her years about her life and disease. My new circumstances mixed with inspiration of their determination and diligence are giving me a new, stronger, more certain desire and will to live my life as fully as possible. I want so deeply to not let AS win in my fight to live with joy and the intention to bless others. And, lately, I'm just not ok with AS keeping me on the couch instead of on my bike, walking my dogs, or working out. 

It's a new season, which means I have new opportunities to exercise agency in my life to live as I want--as a fierce, loving daughter of God who won't let disease keep her from loving others (or herself!).  And there, friends, we have the constant tension of chronic illness--of practicing acceptance while also pushing for fullness in life. Both are necessary, but without the tension, life becomes unbalanced. May we live the tension well!

"But I'm in pain!"

Workout Motivation & My Confession of Being Fairly Lousy at Taking Care of My Body

In the past six years that I've had an autoimmune disease I've struggled to maintain a regular work-out regimen. Those of you who have chronic pain probably instantly understand why--it's hard to feel like moving a body that's often screaming in pain. But an inflammatory disease like mine that causes joint pain actually improves with activity instead of rest. It's a constant balance to maintain the rest my fatigued body needs with the exercise it needs to stay mobile and strong.  

Confession: rest usually wins.  

But the longer I am the sick, the more desperately I want to take care of my body. Over the years I've had several great 3-6 month spans where I do yoga 1-2x a day, go on walks weekly, and bike regularly. But with each new extended flare (when my disease attacks a bit more "loudly") I have to find renewed motivation to fight through pain to practice wellness.

I'm in one of those seasons now--where my body's been wrecking havoc for several months, making me spend more time on the couch than in the gym. Chronic illnesses like mine are seasonal in a sense--requiring constant flexibility with the ebbs and flows of pain. I can go from being pretty in-shape to rapidly losing muscle mass in a few pain-filled weeks of a bad flare-up. The vascillating nature of my physical health requires conscious and frequent adjustment and acceptance. 

But I don't want to "accept" my pain so thoroughly that I forget to fight back.

I need to arm my body with the strength to stay mobile and active. So I'm back on the yoga mat and taking biking adventures around town as frequently as possible.

For those of us with chronic illness and pain, we have to carefully discern the state of our bodies. You and I have to become experts of our bodies--knowing when to push through mild or moderate pain and when to ride out a wave of fatigue. Even after 6 years of fighting AS I'm still learning this body-discernment.

But I'm determined to keep fightinglearning, and pushing the boundaries of my disease to have a full, active life. 

Will you fight with me? Comment below on how you've had success or difficulty in taking care of your body with a chronic illness. And share with the button at the bottom of this post on Twitter or Facebook to keep raising awareness and connecting people in pain. We need each other to fight well! #chroniclife #chronicfighter