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Helping your body through your mind – the experience of an ulcerative colitis patient

Ilse Breitwieser —

Just after Christmas 2017 my bowels started to produce mucus, and a week later I saw the first drops of blood. The symptoms got worse, and two months later, a couple of weeks after my 60th birthday, I got diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis.

Just after Christmas 2017 my bowels started to produce mucus, and a week later I saw the first drops of blood. The symptoms got worse, and two months later, a couple of weeks after my 60th birthday, I got diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. My specialist hoped to get it easily into remission, but it turned out quite differently. I started with Colifoam, then added Pentasa, then Prednisone, but the bleeding just got worse and worse. I saw an excellent dietician, tried lactose free and gluten free diets, I also tried acupuncture, but nothing helped. In October I developed my first severe Iritis. By that time, I went on long term sick leave. I was home bound because I spent most of the day in the small room. I started Azathioprine, but had a negative reaction to it, then Methotrexate injections, but didn’t cope with them either. I developed Iritis on the other eye. In early December I had my first Infliximab infusion, but after the third infusion my symptoms still had not improved. An iron infusion gave me more energy. By that time, I had lost ten kilograms, although I didn’t have much weight to lose in the first place. I looked like skin and bones. I felt more like a zombie than a human being. My specialist mentioned the dreaded word “surgery”, but fortunately exactly at that time the bleeding suddenly got a lot less. Now we decided to “throw everything at it”, added Methotrexate tablets, Colifoam, and doubled the Infliximab dose and shortened the intervals for the infusion. The bleeding stopped and the frequency of my runs to the small room decreased from 20 plus (on most days uncountable) to just one per day! Since May I am in remission. Meanwhile I have reduced medication to a standard dose of Infliximab, small dose of Methotrexate once per week, and Pentasa 4g per day. I started going back to work part-time in May and I am working full-time since mid-July. I am so happy that I am back at work, have gained weight, and I am looking so healthy and also feel like it.

I am very grateful for the excellent medical treatment and support I have received. At my first specialist appointment, I was given the Crohn’s and Colitis New Zealand handbook for people with inflammatory bowel disease. The book states that although the primary cause of IBD is not emotionally based, body and mind are inseparable and that “it has been observed that flare-ups of IBD symptoms can occur at the time of stressful situations”. Therefore, I investigated how to support by body with my mind.

After my first iritis I used the little energy I had left to learn and practice mindfulness techniques which helped me coping with my situation and my body to relax. At that time, I came across an advertisement for an introductory seminar by Empower Therapies’ Mel Abbott who is using mind-body techniques to resolve chronic illness. Her motto is “Your mind is your most powerful tool. You just need to know how to use it”. Mel claims on her website http://www.empowertherapies.co.nz/ that about 90% of her patients with chronic diseases, and that includes inflammatory bowel disease, gained significant improvement after attending her course “The Switch”. Her website and Facebook has plenty of testimonials from her clients; many of them were completely healed after attending The Switch although they had suffered from chronic disease for many years.

So, I gave the introduction seminar a go. It covered

  • Her own and others’ recovery stories to get us inspired and hopeful
  • Activities to focus us forwards onto our own recovery
  • The role of the stress response in chronic illness
  • Techniques to calm our stress response and anxiety, so that our bodies can recover
  • How to rewire our neural patterns away from chronic illness patterns
  • The neurology of chronic pain and how to start changing it
  • Simple interventions to resolve depression
  • How to generate more energy
  • How to curb emotional eating patterns
  • How emotions get trapped in the body and cause illness
  • An action plan for moving forwards into our own recovery

Although I am such a sceptical person and consider all “alternative psychological stuff” as highly suspicious, I perceived the seminar as interesting enough to do the follow up training and read more about Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP). After a few more months of reading, I decided to apply for the four-day course of The Switch. I still had a lot of doubts whether the course would suit me, but the good things was that there was no risk because Mel talks with all applicants before the course and accepts only those who have a very high chance of success. I was accepted to the course in mid-July.

The Switch really impressed me. I perceived Mel as an excellent trainer with plenty of expertise in NLP. She built The Switch on her NLP experience, but her experience includes also a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Lighting Process Practitioner, Bruce Lipton’s Biology of Belief seminar, Psych-K certification, The Wholeness Process certification, mBIT certification, Network Spinal Analysis, BodyTalk and much more.

Course content (from Mel Abbot’s Empower Therapies website http://www.empowertherapies.co.nz/ ):

I thoroughly enjoyed the course and soaked up each minute of wisdom. I am practicing The Switch several times a day, and I am very impressed by Mel’s follow up. In my opinion, one of the strengths of The Switch is that it is very simple. It doesn’t require reading piles of books (Mel has done that for her clients and summarises things in an easy to understand, engaging and fun way!), and the techniques are very simple. I am practicing The Switch many times each day. However, this practice doesn’t take much time, and I can integrate it easily into my daily life. The Switch is also very down to earth, and that’s what suits me. It’s early days to know what effect The Switch has on my Ulcerative Colitis, particularly since my Ulcerative Colitis was already in remission when I attended The Switch. I do believe though that by attending The Switch I have now the tools to support my body with my mind, and this should assist keeping my Ulcerative Colitis in long-term remission or hopefully permanent remission. This is because I have learned so much about myself, and my life feels now so much better. I am approaching life differently now. I feel a lot calmer, my energy levels are so much better, but I am also much better in accepting my limits and looking after myself. The Switch is for me not only a tool for dealing with my Ulcerative Colitis, it is a life tool.