Learning to Take Time for Self-Care After My Interstitial Cystitis Diagnosis
By Lisa King
The word rest was always a four-letter word to me. Ever since I was a teen, I was always studying, working, organizing or doing. And looking back, I realized that in all those busy years, I had always had bladder issues. I was always asking to go to the bathroom while on family road trips or when I was running errands with my mom.
As I headed off to college for pharmacy school, my bladder issues definitely seemed to worsen. I was told that I had urinary tract infections, but there were never any bacteria in my urine. I started experiencing more and more pain and I was going from doctor to doctor searching for answers.
It wasn't until about 8 years later that I finally received an interstitial cystitis diagnosis. For those who are not familiar with interstitial cystitis (IC), it is now known as painful bladder syndrome. The symptoms can range from mild to severe pain, constant pressure, and also urinary frequency that can be up to 40-60 times per day in severe cases. Often times emptying the bladder does not lead to relief.
At the time of my diagnosis, my children were one and four years old. I was experiencing knife-like pain every time I urinated. I was experiencing extreme frequency as well. Urinating every 15 minutes while taking care of my home and two young boys was no easy task. Still, I continued to push myself despite my symptoms. I was working, cleaning my home, and trying to provide a somewhat normal daily routine for my two boys. I would wake up all night long to use the bathroom and I was simply exhausted.
I was able to achieve some control of my symptoms over time through dietary changes. Sticking to the IC diet was now a part of my daily routine. Taking medication and doctor visits were the norm. I would often visit the doctor on my lunch hour at the pharmacy.
This new norm went on for about five years before I knew that something had to change. I was feeling exhausted from frequent bathroom trips. I was feeling guilty for not being there emotionally for my family. I was basically sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.
At this time, I met a woman who introduced me to meditation and taught me to picture my bladder healing. I began to take time every day for at least a half an hour or more before I picked my children up from school to meditate and rest.
Many women with interstitial cystitis experience flares that are caused by stress. Many women with IC carry stress and tension in their bladders just as someone would carry stress in their back.
I can attest that I definitely experienced more symptoms when I was under stress. As I began to learn to relax and reduce that stress, my bladder symptoms began to subside. Eventually, I was able to go off of all of my medication. I was even able to have another baby without increasing my bladder symptoms.
During this time, I began to learn to take care of me. If I was tired, I rested. If I needed a nap, I took a nap. I know it can be so hard for women to let themselves make time for self-care. However, some days, resting on the couch verses cleaning the kitchen is just what the doctor ordered—so to speak. This is especially crucial when on a healing journey.
Taking time for self-care can look like many things to different people. It is an important part of allowing your body to heal by giving your body the energy to heal, releasing healing hormones, and allowing your immune system to work properly.
Here are some small ideas for self-care:
- Take a bath
- Practice yoga or gentle stretches
- Call a friend
- Read a book
- Have a cup of tea
- Write in a gratitude journal
- Just do nothing
Even now that my bladder symptoms have subsided, I still remind myself that self-care is an important part of a healthy living journey. I am in tune with what my body is telling me to do and I know that when it says to rest, then I will do just that. Rest is no longer just a four-letter word to me!
Lisa King has been a practicing pharmacist for 30 plus years. She has always been passionate about health, but not until she started her own healthy living journey did she realize how actually important health and wellness was for disease prevention and ageless living. You can connect and find her at her blog, The Fulfilled Pharmacist and on Instagram @thefulfililedpharmacist.