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How having Two Chronic, Incurable Diseases Has Made Me Healthier


That's probably one of the craziest things I've ever written!! And I have to point out right from the start that this is NO way a pity post. I wrote this with the single view to inspire and motivate anyone who might be in the same boat as me (or even if you are not).


Before we moved as a family to Norway permanently we were living between the UK and Norway. And after a particularly hectic weekend back in 2014 I was suddenly struck with debilitating vertigo which prevented me entirely from even standing up. A flurry of medical investigations ensued and a nauseating 10 days waiting to see if I had a brain tumour, but it turned out I had a rare progressive disease of the inner ear, called Meniere's disease. I was quickly put on antivertigo drugs and it seemed to be manageable at least for the time being. With no cure and very little in the way of intervention that wasn't completely gruesome (spinning chairs to check on the which ear was effected before steroid injections into the inner ear, neither of which I accepted) this option seemed like the best.


A few years later I started to get a reaction to the medication and had to come off it completely. The only other option was to manage the disease with lifestyle and diet. I embraced it wholeheartedly because the alternative was a life of dizziness, deafness and motion sickness (and a host of other symptoms like brain fog). Luckily this strict approach worked wonders and stood me in good stead when we finally moved full time to Norway. I was almost completely in control of the disease and had no need to ask for medical help. It gave me a wonderful senses of control of my own body and destiny, and a unique view on wellbeing that I have kept tight hold to.


So when I was diagnosed with ANOTHER chronic disease in 2022 I was somewhat prepared for the possibility of having to manage it myself. The disease was autoimmune thyroiditis. It's one of those diseases that's invisible. No-one would really know you have it and it's usually only detected by blood tests. The body decides that the thyroid gland (that butterfly shaped gland at the base of you neck that regulates metabolism, amongst other things) is a foreign body and starts to try to kill it off. The symptoms can be pretty unpleasant. There is a lot of pain, brain fog, weight gain, gut issues and vitamin deficiencies, and it's a disease that likes the company of other autoimmune diseases. When my doctor told me that he would not be prescribing any medication for it because my blood tests showed that my thyroid levels were still within the acceptable range that the medical community has decided upon I knew I had to act myself. I tried without success to convince him that medication would be a good idea, but was told that I will only get it once the thyroid is pretty much dead. This might seem harsh, but its the general medical opinion throughout most of the world and certainly here in Europe. But acceptable range is not the same as optimal and I was not going to take that.

I'm never one to sit back and allow circumstances to carry me along. I like to do as much as I can within my power to be the master of my own destiny. That includes my health! Or actually, in particular my health! For years I had been embracing a Nordic lifestyle and Nordic habits that included a very healthy diet and lifestyle so it was easy to look to that to get me through this and the changes I needed to make were not so complicated as one would imagine.


But all those things that I was doing without thinking much about have now become really important in my life and I know they are things we can all bring into your lives to live more healthily and mindfully the Nordic way.


Do you want to know what they are? Great!


Eat healthily for as much of the week as you can

This is fairly obvious I am sure, but it's tempting sometimes to forget it and then a week passes and two and before we know it our healthy eating habits have slipped. I find the best way to achieve a healthy diet is to fill the fridge and cupboards with all those things that I know I can eat and don't even buy the things that I can't. Crisps (chips) are my big temptation, but potatoes cause inflammation and a lot of pain so I have to avoid the crisp aisle in the supermarket! I don't like to penalise my kids though so they are allowed the occasional packet.


Don't be afraid to treat yourself occasionally

This really depends on what your diet will allow. I have a fairly restricted diet now with no gluten, dairy, sugar and a few other things. But there are still some treats I can enjoy and it feels justified to have them every now and again. If you are not so restricted you can treat yourself whenever you feel like it. Here in the Nordics we like to do that towards the weekend or in the middle of the week, but what we don't do is feel guilty about it. This is the crucial part - forget about feeling guilty and know that you deserve it!


Get outside and move your body

I am always talking about this, but it's one thing that I fall back on constantly. For me nature is a great reviver. When I feeling down or getting some symptoms I know that getting outside will cure it or at least make me feel somewhat better. And it reminds me that there is something bigger than myself out there.


Do what you can

This is something my partner André taught me from early on. I am not sure where or when he decided on this but I do remember having one particularly bad episode of vertigo and feeling so incredibly fed up. I felt like I couldn't do anything at all, that life was going to be nothing but "wall walking" and falling over and motion sickness, and I wasn't getting anywhere. And he said "focus on what you CAN do and not on what you CAN'T". This simple statement has carried me through every bad moment I have had. What CAN we do? We might not even be able to get out of bed, but we could still say a kind word to someone. We might not be able to cook dinner that day, but we can still listen to a friend talking about something important. Focus on what you CAN do and not what you CAN'T. Some days the CAN will be big stuff and some days it might not be, but it's still there.


Reduce stress where possible

We are always told this aren't we? It's hugely important. Stress has an effect on all kinds of things in our bodies and it's worth keeping a close eye on how much you are getting. I've done some pretty stressful jobs myself from chef to international event manager with crippling deadlines, so I know a thing or two about stressful jobs, but I also know what effect they can have on our mental and physical health. We start to lean towards some fairly unhealthy lifestyle choices just to get through and it might not be the stress itself that causes problems but those lifestyle choices we make.


Live more simply and intentionally

A great medication for me is my garden. In particular I like growing things we can eat. It's simple and rewarding and slow. The slow intentional part is the most important thing in my opinion. We are forced to stop and follow nature and the speed at which it moves. Sometimes I am surprised by this and my tomatoes suddenly grow extra shoots overnight and other times I feel like watching my lettuces grow is like watching paint dry! But it's all at natures pace and reminds me to slow down and be intentional with what I choose to do. Slow, intentional living can be whatever you choose it to be, but be sure to make choices and not be bowled along by life.


You have that choice.

 

Nordic living has been my saving grace throughout this and I will always fall back on that whenever things are difficult. It's a healthy, balanced and intentional way of living that I will always have in my life wherever ai ma in the world.


I am so enthusiastic about it that I started my signature membership, The Nordic Way. Each month we explore a different aspect of Nordic living to bring balance, health and happiness to your life wherever you are in the world.



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