What it means to be healthy - Dr. Connie Jeon

Today I want to help you get clear about what it means to be healthy.  To put things in perspective, let me share my story.

It was just another typical day on campus, just before spring break, my classmates and I were sitting out on the lawn on a beautiful sunny afternoon studying for our midterms.  As someone who tends to border on obsessive-compulsive, I was stressed.  Stressed because I wanted to do well and it was midterm week.

Because of spring “air” full of pollens, I was experiencing hay fever like never before.  I began to scratch myself and sneeze every other minute and ultimately had to head home because I felt so bad.  By the time I got home, I had full blown hives on my back.  I immediately went to the student health center and got some Benadryl to calm my reaction down. I never recovered from that episode of what seemed like a harmless allergic reaction to the pollen.

Immediately after the midterm, I went snowboarding for the first time and fell on my der·ri·ère multiple times, it wasn’t a graceful experience.  I remember feeling extremely fatigued after our trip and began to notice rashes around all my joints and face, and began to lose hair rapidly as time passed.

Confession time.  For me, as I was losing hair rapidly….it was causing bald spots on my head. (alopecia)  I learned how vain I was. It wasn’t so much about being sick. When it affected the way I looked, I found that I cared much more about how I looked and being sick became secondary.

Often I meet patients who are focused on “losing weight” despite how sick they are.  If only we can “look” better, we’d “feel” better. No judgement from me as I so understand that.

Fast forward multiple visits to various doctors, from internal medicine, infectious disease, dermatology, to cardiology……multiple tests, multiple medications……multiple hospital admissions later, I was left with NO answer.

I will share details of my story later, but for today, I wanted to share this experience with you to let you know I was out of my mind frustrated, scared, and confused. That brings me to the point to today’s story.

Just before I got sick, I was a self proclaimed health expert.  I was disciplined and restricted most foods that you weren’t supposed to have. Forget eating in “moderation”, I “restricted” what I believed were bad foods, anything fried, meats, or sweet. I believed this was the only way to be healthy and have my physical appearance be up to the standards I had set for myself. That is, until, I of all people got diagnosed with Lupus.

My entire mindset regarding health was reframed after I was diagnosed. So today, let me share my perspective on what “health” really means to me.

To me, health is the ability to ride bikes around town (which I did over the weekend) for 3 hours and enjoy time with those you love. On a beautiful day, it’s being able to go for a long hike and enjoy nature without feeling like you hurt too much. It’s being able to enjoy a cold glass of beer after the hike without fearing an upset stomach so bad that you refrain. It’s having wine with your dinner without fearing a headache.
It’s devouring apple pie a la mode without stressing over the consequences….

To me, these are the sweet joys of “life” that you are entitled to. I have to be honest….80% of the time, I drink green juice, eat organic, don’t really crave the dessert or wine…(maybe not wine, I always love wine with meals)….

However, 20% of the time, I enjoy and savor the flavor of life and enjoy vices in moderation. I’ve worked really hard to get to this place with my Dis-Ease….while I am not free from my Dis Ease, I manage it rather than being managed by it. How did I do it?

I let my body heal, allowed myself to “feel”, and created smart balance in my life (continue to work on this one).  I learned to look at the overall picture and not only focus on the tiny details.

So today I challenge you to answer the following questions:

1.  What does Healthy look like for you?  Be specific, what things would you be able to do or eat?

2.  How can you start doing more of what you enjoy without feeling “restricted”?

3.  What do you have to “monitor” in your life to ensure that you have a good balance?

Please share with those who need this message. Thanks for tuning in and go out there and LIVE HEALTHY…however you define it.

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