How Self-care Saved Me

Inflamed, Ashamed, and Self-blamed

I used to hide my chronic illnesses for fear of judgment and because I felt ashamed as if I had brought these physical problems on to myself through lifestyle choices.  Such as poor nutrition growing up, drinking too much alcohol in college, taking too many medications as a child, etc.

People would assume that because I looked healthy on the outside (in other words, wasn’t overweight), exercised regularly, and ate pretty good (compared to the typical standard American diet) that I must be healthy. But inside things were a mess, both physically, emotionally, and mentally. I used to often pretend I felt great because it was the lesser of two evils compared to trying to explain that I felt unwell majority of the time. 

My Body’s Signals

My body had been signaling me that things were WAY out of balance. I had chronic GI distress, an inflamed/painful bladder, achy/stiff joints, dry eyes and mouth, mood fluctuations, unpredictable blood pressure, eczema, frequent tension headaches, irritability, and anxiety. A few years ago, I finally got some answers. My diagnoses included irritable bowel syndrome, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, interstitial cystitis, and Sjogrens syndrome, among other acute conditions. 

WHY am I so sick??

I wanted to understand why I was so sick. I didn’t just want to try taking a ton of medicine just to mask the symptoms. I wanted to heal. I decided I wanted to get to the root cause of these imbalances and was determined to put all of these conditions into remission. 

Through years of education in nutrition, integrative health and functional medicine, I learned so much about lifestyle medicine and how nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress, relationships, etc. all play a vital role in not only leading to certain conditions, but also helping to reverse them. I tried everything I could. All the diets and evidence-based protocols to heal the gut, expensive testing, giving up all my favorite foods and drinks that I could possibly be sensitive to.  I made sure I was getting plenty of sleep, changing my exercise habits, switching to nontoxic toiletries and household items, sooo many different supplements, etc. 

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I’d feel better for a bit, but my symptoms would creep back in over time. I’d wonder, was it something I ate? Did I workout too hard? Should I try a new supplement? Maybe one of my new supplements doesn’t agree with me? Did I sleep in the wrong position? Is it my lotion? The season change? My period? My water? Maybe I should get tested again… the tests aren’t 100% accurate, maybe the results were wrong? Maybe my diagnoses were wrong? Could it be something even more serious this time around? It was truly exhausting at times. 

Okay, okay, if I’m being totally honest here, maybe I wasn’t just wondering… I began obsessing about what exactly was causing my symptoms. I realized I needed to change more than just my habits. I needed to change my mindset. In order to do that, I needed to calm my mind, soothe my worries, and reset my routine. 

Self-care is Healthcare

I decided to put ME first.

I simplified my day and created more space for calm. I created and prioritized time for me to unwind, relax, and decompress. I began to build my whole day around the routines that made me feel in control.

I started getting up earlier to enjoy my morning coffee or tea quietly before my son woke up. I would take this time to journal and to read and start my day slowly and with a focus on what made me feel good. I stopped eating while working and started allowing myself a break to nourish my body. I stopped relying on coffee for energy in the morning and instead made sure I got to bed before 10pm so I could wake up refreshed and energized. I stopped using alcohol to try to manage stress as I knew it didn’t agree with my body, and decided I was only going to have a drink or two socially on occasion.

I listened more carefully and started showing my body compassion. I exercised with a goal to feel good, not to look a certain way or to burn off something I ate. If I was tired, I would take more breaks to rest, rather than push through. I stopped using food (and drinks) as a reward or as a response to stress.

If my joints were achy, I wouldn’t hop on the peloton bike, but rather just take the dog for a walk around the neighborhood. If my belly was bloated, gassy and uncomfortable, I let it rest and was extra mindful of what I ate, how much, and how often. If my headaches were becoming more frequent, I would slow down my day, take some slow deep breaths, do some stretching or take a nap. If my bladder was screaming at me, I would drink extra water, cut irritating foods/drinks, wear comfortable pants, and be extra mindful of my exercise routine. I decided that from the moment I put my son to bed (and he goes to bed early, typically by 7:30pm), the rest of the night was for me. No work, no housework, only activities that made me happy, relaxed, or calm. I started to prioritize a nightly routine of taking a hot shower, followed by my skincare routine, a short meditation, deep breathing or mindfulness practice, calming chamomile tea, and writing in my gratitude journal before bed.  

Holistic Healing

All of these little changes really added up and with time helped empower me to take control of my emotional, physical, and mental health.

I learned that where our thoughts go, our energy goes. We can control our thoughts through practice. And we can also control how we feel (to an extent) by doing more of what feels good. When we focus most on what’s in our control, we worry less about what we can not change, and accept ourselves holistically. 

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Juliet Tabbara
Juliet was born in and raised in St. Louis, MO. She moved to Southern CA in 2008 after surviving a long distance relationship with her now husband, who she met in college. They now live in TO and have an incredibly strong-minded, smart and silly 5 year old son named Venice (we honeymooned in Italy!) and a fur-pup named Pepper. She is a certified health, wellness & nutrition coach and currently has a private practice (Nourish Within Wellness) offering 1:1 coaching. Her love language is quality time, and she enjoys being with people she loves by sharing yummy food, cocktail, or coffee and a good chat. You can find her at the farmers market in Westlake every Sunday, practicing her yogi skills at Westlake Yoga Co, at her fav. family friendly happy hour spots (101 North & The Landing), or at home baking gluten-free, plant-based, refined-sugar free goodies.


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