Ulcerative colitis “This is not my forever.”

Published 5 Apr 2023 • By Polina Kochetkova

Ulcerative colitis is a condition, which causes the inflammatory processes in the colon and rectum, causing different types of pain of the patient. Today Nat is willing to share her story of living with ulcerative colitis on daily basis. She describes the acceptance process after diagnosis, mental health aspects of living with a chronic illness, personal growth and gives advice to people in the similar situation.

Discover her story here!

Ulcerative colitis “This is not my forever.”

Hi Nat,

Thank you for agreeing to tell your story to the Carenity audience.

First of all, could you tell us more about yourself?

Hi! My name is Nat and I’m a 27-year-old Sacramento-based mindset coach and content creator. I live with my girlfriend and our crazy orange cat, Gobi (if you have an orange cat, you get it!!). When I’m not working on my business or coaching clients, I love doing yoga and pilates, walking in nature, reading, journaling, meditating, watching Love Island, catching up with long distance friends, cooking cozy meals with my partner and learning about astrology, Human Design and personal development. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest in Washington, then headed to Oregon for college at Linfield University where I got my degree in mass communication. After college I worked as a personal trainer for a few months before fully committing to building my business, which brought me to where I am today!

You have ulcerative colitis. Could you tell us when you first noticed symptoms? How did you and/or your parents react?

I was always the “kid with a sensitive stomach,” but my symptoms didn’t elevate fully until my sophomore year of college. I started going to doctor’s appointments every time I was home on a break, but no one seemed to be taking me seriously. Finally, in the summer of 2017, while studying abroad with my family, I started noticing a substantial amount of blood in my stool. My parents remained calm, but they later told me they were very nervous, but didn’t want to make me more scared than I was. My mom has Crohn’s Disease and right as she heard of my worsening symptoms she knew. I scheduled a colonoscopy for when I got home from our trip which is what led to my diagnosis.

How long did it take to be diagnosed? How many doctors did you see? What tests did you have to take?

It took over two years from the onset of my symptoms to get diagnosed. I was told a myriad of answers when I expressed concern - “it’s just IBS” and “it’s your anxiety” to name the most common. I had also dealt with an eating disorder in college and was still working through it when seeking a diagnosis, so many doctors dismissed me based on that, telling me I was simply messing up my digestion due to not eating enough and working out too much. As much as I knew my eating disorder wasn’t helping, I knew something else was going on. I don’t even remember how many doctors I went to before finally getting answers, but it was a lot. I had a lot of blood and stool tests done which all came back “normal,” but finally got my diagnosis after getting a colonoscopy.

How did you feel when you were diagnosed? Were you expecting it? Did you understand what was happening to you? Were you able to receive all the information you needed to understand the disease?

My diagnosis didn’t quite hit me right away. When I was told post-colonoscopy “you have ulcerative colitisI truly blacked out for a moment. I was still so weak from the colonoscopy prep and couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My mom was handed a pamphlet and we were on our way. I went right into “fix-it” mode - researching and changing my diet drastically - and I truly thought that would fix everything. I felt like my diagnosis was going to hold me back and that it was my job to prove that it wouldn’t. Because of this mindset I continued to push my body far too hard my senior year of college - running a marathon, working multiple on campus jobs, seeking a 4.0 gpa, etc. And because all I was told by the doctor was to take medication, I didn’t think anything else had to change. But boy was I SO wrong. It took a massive flare-up and hospitalization in 2018 to wake me up to the fact that I needed to do so much more to fully gain control over my UC. I started going to therapy, working on my mindset, resting more, slowing down and going to a naturopath.

What is your current health management regime? What do you think about it? What are your treatments? Are you satisfied with them?

 I do quite a few things currently to help with my UC, which I call my “medical cocktail.” We all have different medical cocktails full of different “ingredients” (aka healing modalities) that work for us as individuals. For me, this looks like taking low dose naltrexone which is an off-label medication shown to help UC, taking a Chinese medicine called Qing Dai, focusing on supplementation to keep my body balanced in general, working on lowering my anxiety through medication and supplements such as CBD and ashwagandha.

What is or has been the impact of ulcerative colitis on your schooling, professional or social life? What do you think is the most bothersome part of your daily life with ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis has had a huge impact on all areas of my life.

Before being diagnosed with UC, I planned on going into corporate public relations, which can be a very stressful and fast-paced environment. I knew after my biggest flare up that that was no longer a suitable choice for me, which led me to believe personal training was a good option. I still loved moving my body despite UC and thought the flexible hours of personal training would be helpful, but after only two months being a full-time trainer, I realized how demanding the job was on my body. I was working with so many clients a day as well as walking 10+ miles throughout the gym during my shifts. My body quickly told me that was not going to work long term.

 All of this led me to fully commit to growing my own business, which I am so grateful for. Although it was scary to switch my dreams, I’m so glad that I did and that I’m now able to work for myself with a flexible schedule that allows me to rest whenever I need. It also greatly impacted my social life. I found it a lot harder to make friends post-diagnosis, because I no longer do “normal” 20-something-year-old activities. I didn’t want to and couldn’t drink, stay out late or go along with spontaneous plans.

 Thankfully I found many amazing connections through social media and online communities that I still have today, and these online and long-distance friends have been a saving grace! Friendships may look different with chronic illness, but they’re some of the best, most authentic friendships. Although it was tough loosing friends due to my diagnosis, I realized it was such a gift in the end because it forced me to be picker with my friendships.

You are now talking about ulcerative colitis on social networks. What prompted you to do so? What messages do you want to convey to your followers? And what is their feedback? You make content and coach people who have chronic illnesses. Could you tell us when and why you started this? Does it seem to resonate with your audience?

I had started a wellness blog my freshman year of college to document healthy dorm recipes and my running journey. This quickly morphed into me talking about my overall health and bringing my followers along on my journey of trying to find a diagnosis because I realized it’s impossible for me to not be fully transparent and authentic on social media. Once I was diagnosed, I shared bits and pieces of my UC journey, but not as outwardly as I do now. I was still in a layer of denial and had a hard time being fully open, because I wanted to show that I was “beating my UC.”

 After my hospitalization in 2018 I realized I no longer wanted to hide and began sharing everything about my journey and thoughts on chronic illness, partially because it was therapeutic for myself, but also because I wished more people were sharing about their chronic illness journeys in a way that still felt encouraging. As I began my own mindset journey in the hopes of helping me accept my diagnosis, I started sharing my learnings and saw how deeply the work I do was needed. This motivated me to get my life coaching and mindset coaching certifications and start the work I do now.

I want to show other chronically ill folks that they can accept their diagnoses in an empowered way, create loving relationships with themselves and find joy on their journeys while still validating their struggles and emotions (no toxic positivity here!). To this day, in my group program (Path to Empowered Acceptance) alone, I’ve helped over 180 people worldwide with their mindsets regarding their illnesses and it’s such a beautiful gift to be on their journeys with them. Hearing them say that their lives are changed and that they’ve found acceptance, self-love and confidence is incredible. I also recently published a guided journal for folks with chronic illnesses called “Rooted in Flow.”  Hearing the feedback that it has helped others slow down and connect with themselves is amazing.

What are your plans for the future?  

My plans for the future include continuing running Path to Empowered Acceptance as well as the alumni program, sharing my journal with the world and posting on social media to help others, as well as hopefully turning Path to Empowered Acceptance into a published book and workbook one day. I would also love to write a book one day all about my journeys with chronic illness, self-love, queerness, and confidence that can help reach even further and inspire others to live authentically and embrace all that they are. I also want to continue living in alignment with my truest self and sharing it on my many social platforms to encourage others. Overall, I want to keep being me and showing others it’s safe to be themselves as well!

What advice would you give to Carenity members also affected ulcerative colitis?

I would tell them to prioritize their mindset, because it truly does impact our physical health and makes the hardest days that much easier. I would tell them to start by slowing down, getting to know themselves as they are right now, and working to release comparison (comparison with others, past them and the fictional future version of who they thought they would be). From there I would encourage them to explore acceptance and tools that help them with mental resilience, stopping mental spirals and confidence. All of this together will create a beautiful foundation for resilience throughout their journey.

Any last thoughts to share?

My favorite mantra for chronic illness is: “this is not my forever.” Yes, chronic illness is forever, but every moment of horrible pain, every flare, every fatigued day, every tough doctor’s appointment, every colonoscopy prep, never lasts forever. This phrase gets me through the hardest moments. <3

A big thank you to Nat for her interview! 

Did you find this story helpful?  

Click Like and share your thoughts and questions with the community in the comments below!  

Take care of yourself!  

avatar Polina Kochetkova

Author: Polina Kochetkova, Health Writer

Polina is a content creator at Carenity, specialised in health writing. Polina is pursuing her bachelors in fashion marketing from IFA Paris University and in her spare time loves to play tennis and listen to music.

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