I've Had Microscopic Colitis Since Childhood & Visualization Is the Only Treatment That Helped

I first felt something was off when I was in my mid-twenties. As I was getting married at the time, I chalked it up to moments of extreme stress. However, even after the wedding I continued dealing with emotional turmoil, stomachaches, and plenty of trips to the bathroom. 

When the discomfort became unbearable, I made an appointment to see a gastroenterologist. He shared his suspicions of a gut issue which was later confirmed when looking at some of my colon tissue under a microscope (a colonoscopy wouldn’t suffice for diagnosing my condition). My pain had a name and it was microscopic colitis. I became one of the 700,000 people living with the chronic health problem.

Microscopic colitis is a type of IBD where there’s too much inflammation on the inner lining of the colon. The condition is three to nine times more common in women. The most common complaint is chronic non-bloody watery diarrhea with the symptom affecting 40 percent of people with microscopic colitis. People may also experience abdominal pain, a pressing need to use the bathroom, and a loss of control over bowel movements. I experienced a whole range of these symptoms. Some days were better than others and at times it felt I was living in the bathroom. Microscopic colitis also made me lose a significant amount of weight on top of dealing with dry skin and chronic exhaustion.

During my early fifties, my microscopic colitis began to worsen. I started to think I would never live a normal life again. Even my relationship at the time was not immune to my condition. Everytime my boyfriend and I became intimate, I constantly worried whether I would be able to control relieving myself. Though the worst did come to pass one time and I was left mortified. 

One of the major triggers to my condition was an inability to cope with stress. My gastroenterologist went so far as to say, “there really isn’t anything wrong with you except what is in your head. Get a hold of that and the rest will follow.” Easier said than done. All my stress relief efforts led to a cycle of failure and depression. Medication was no help either, only offering temporary reprieve from my pain. I began to live on Imodium and still I remained painstakingly thin. 

I came to a point when I finally was ready to give up the fight. I was 100 pounds on a 5’6″ frame. I looked sickly and felt constant exhaustion. Modern medicine was failing me. Therapy wasn’t doing anything but draining my bank account. I was at a loss for a solution. That’s when I began seeking out alternate routes of healing offered by popular health practitioners who believed that “you could heal yourself by simply changing your inner dialogue.” The most prominent alternative medicine proponents were Dr. Joe Dispenza and Dr. Wayne Dyer. 

I was inspired by both of their stories. Dispenza endured a severe car accident leaving him paralyzed. Dyer’s young life left him emotionally and physically stunted as he spent a majority of the time in and out of foster homes. For them, traditional medicine could only do so much. Instead, they found themselves completely healed when they reoriented their lives to the following statement: When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Their philosophical statement struck a chord with me, especially because it was in line with what my own gastroenterologist had said regarding “my thoughts were my solution.” I started to shift my focus on the body to be more on the mind, establishing it as the ultimate healer. I began to listen to YouTube videos from both doctors where I soon learned of a healing technique called “visualization therapy.”

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Also known as “imagery therapy,” this century-old practice involves visualizing a solution to a particular problem. Working towards that solution will help you manifest it in real life. Additionally, research suggests that creating mental images of the problem and letting a person imagine how to control the scenario can help with pain and other uncomfortable symptoms related to the condition. The technique has also proven helpful with managing a range of health issues from arthritis to high stress and anxiety.

Visualization not only showed me the steps to reducing my perception of pain, but it also changed the way I defined myself in relation to my condition. I wasn’t a sickly body suffering a permanent condition. I was a healthy body who clung to microscopic colitis by choice, something I felt I could downsize from my life.

In one of my morning runs, I visualized my microscopic colitis being a cape fastened around my neck. I then imagined myself untying that cape, allowing it to fall to the ground for good, knowing that I would never pick it up again. When I returned from this brief visualization moment, I did not experience any signs of microscopic colitis. And since that day, it has not come back.

I am now 56 years old and living better than I did decades ago. I am back to a healthy weight, feel energetic as can be, and my days are full and happy. I am grateful and elated for my life’s return to normalcy. Visualization therapy helped me achieve this once unattainable dream. Like Dispenza and Dyer, I too have a philosophy on life: stay open to everything. We are unique individuals. None of us are the same in our overall composition or makeup. So wouldn’t our health and wellness solutions need to be too?

Laura J. Wellington is a TED Speaker as well as the founder of THREAD MB and the ZNEEX friendship & walking app.

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