Researching Who You Are
One of things I stumbled onto when I was searching out a cure for my Crohn’s Colitis was realizing I had to understand myself. To do that, I had to study my family to understand how I thought and which tools they gave me to survive in the world.
Let me back track a little. I used to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day and it was affecting my appetite. When I realized I needed to put on weight after withering down to 140lbs (I am 6’4”) I decided I wanted to stop smoking to promote better eating and maybe feel hungry. In the early days I didn’t think I could do it cold turkey so I went to a hypnotist. I called him and told him what I wanted to do and he said, “well let’s first cure you of your Crohn’s and then we will go from there”.
So, I went for a few appointments. Just showing up for the appointments taught me something about myself because I never let him hypnotize me. It was my trust issues and I really do not blame him at all that hypnosis did not do the trick. But the thing he did was point me to a few books which I went to the book store and bought, which was a big step for me. I did not read much back then. You could count on one hand how many times I went to the library during my whole school career. Now I cannot stop reading. It’s funny how life works.
Ok, back to my story. One of the books he told me to buy was about adult children of alcoholics. I did not understand why he suggested it because I told him my parents were dead set against alcohol. They did not drink, they did not have alcohol in their house, and we were told not to drink. If they had to be part of any kind of toast, like at a wedding, they would not even let the drink touch their lips when they made believe they sipped it.
As I started reading this book about adult children of alcoholics, it amazed me, the similarities I saw between this book and how I acted and lived. The book talked about how alcoholics control and manipulate the household and how the other people in the household learn to change and mold their personalities to fit what was needed to keep the alcoholic member appeased and not bring undo attention on themselves.
The reason I am working this into my blog and what I realized was my father acted like an alcoholic but instead of alcohol he used his sickness. We (kids) did not want him to be sick so we tried our best to stay out of his way. I still remember one day my father was not feeling well. It was dinner time and there were seven of us sitting, waiting for my father so we could eat. We were talking and laughing or joking around and our mother said, “be quiet your father’s coming, don’t get him mad”.
When I think of the examples I had read about, I imagined a mean drunk walking down the side walk and a scared wife and fearful mother trying to keep her kids safe and keeping the peace until the drunk passed out on the floor. My father was in no way like that, he was a kind and gentle man who was sick and trying to take care of a family. But I could still see how some of the patterns were similar to what I was reading.
One day I decided to ask my father if we had any alcoholics in our family tree. I wanted to find out if the patterns I was starting to see were linked to what the book was talking about, but I did not want to tip him off about what I was reading because I did not want to seem like one of those kids that blames their parents for everything wrong in their life. When I asked about our history I told him I knew our family did not drink and never saw my grandfather drink either.
He told me about our great grandfather who was a mean drunk and who beat my grandfather until my grandfather threw a chest of draws down the stairs at him at the age of twelve and ran away to never come back. Knowing that helped me see some patterns that were rooted in my family and which tools had been passed down through my grandfather and father.
I was trying to understand where I learned some of this and why I held all my feelings in. I started to see how some people, including me, do that when you don’t want to upset a loved one. If you start stuffing down your feelings at an early age, your gut gets full fast. The light started to come on about why my gut then started to lose everything (with Crohn’s) when I was a young adult.
I got real serious about looking at how I behaved and what tools I was using and how I was feeling. I was reading stress management books at the time, too. I wanted to understand why I acted the way I did. For example, I noticed one of the things I would do, especially with my wife, was I would hold in my feelings for about six months and then some little thing would come up and I would blow up at her for the most stupid things that happened six month ago. My rant would go on for about 15 minutes and then I would feel better.
Looking at my behavior and my thoughts truly helped me heal myself. I learned to express myself in the moment with my wife instead of holding it in for a long time. It was not easy, but I began to understand two things: First, I can change the thought process I choose to run my life with. And second, when I stopped swallowing my stress, I started feeling better.
Most of all I understood that I could change.
I share this story with you because I hear a lot of “well, that’s the way I am”. Well, I like to say, “no, that who you think you are”.
If you want to get well, look at how you deal with stress. Look at the tools you use. It is not about blame, it is about taking responsibility to have the best tools available and to understand what you are working with. I believe Crohn’s, Colitis, IBS, all of them are created in the head and then manifest into the body.
I know for a lot of people who have this sickness these are fighting words, but I am telling you this from a guy who has had it, who has been on his own death bed with this illness and am now more alive than ever. Maybe it is time to open your mind and see that it might just be possible.