Battling Autoimmune Disease Taught Me to Protect My Energy at All Costs

Photography by Justin Milhouse

Lately I've been on this wave where it almost feels like I'm untouchable or something. Not like I'm better than anyone or anything like that, but that I'm above all of the BS I used to let consume me. Like unwarranted opinions. Or Facebook trolls. Or turbulent/unnecessary matters that no one but Jesus can fix. It's like I've reached a whole new level of peace that can't be broken or contaminated. Like my soul has finally gotten into a rhythm that no one else can shake. And it's liberating -- so, incredibly liberating -- because I know exactly what I went through to get here.

For those of you who are new to my story, seven years ago at the age of 22, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness called dermatomyositis (DM) -- a rare autoimmune disease with symptoms including severe muscle weakness and inflammation, chronic fatigue, swollen lymph nodes and skin rashes. It hit me at one of the most crucial points of my life, my senior year of college at Howard University. At the time, I had a lot of pressure on me from being a resident assistant, becoming a member of a sorority, co-chairing a large conference on campus and trying to balance a long-distance relationship -- while also trying to graduate on time -- so looking back, I know stress played a significant role in triggering my condition. Shortly after graduating and returning home to Michigan, my condition rapidly progressed to where I was unable to perform day-to-day functions such as getting out of bed, getting showered and dressed, rising from a seated position, styling my hair, walking up and down the stairs and more. It had gotten so bad that for a while I couldn't even lift my head on my own or speak properly because literally every muscle in my body -- including my vocal cords -- had become severely weakened from the condition. After getting a slew of tests and lab work done and being told by multiple doctors that they couldn't find anything wrong, my mom wound up admitting me to emergency. I was hospitalized for three days and after more tests and lab work, I was finally diagnosed and able to start treatment.

My journey to recovery from DM was a layered process of physical, mental and spiritual healing. I had to learn and unlearn a lot of things about myself to become stronger. Despite everything I was going through during this season, I made it my mission to focus on the positive and pushed myself daily to achieve new goals -- from reciting scriptures and affirmations, to empowering myself each day to exceed physical limitations, to changing my diet and starting my own inspirational clothing line. Through the grace of God and the support of my family, I went into full remission within six months of my diagnosis, and have been medication- and symptom-free ever since.

This period of my life showed me how channeling my energy in a positive way can ultimately bring healing. However, over time after my recovery, I reverted back to old habits of allowing negative people and situations to get under my skin, causing me the same level of stress and anxiety I had at the onset of my condition seven years ago. But after realizing this, I had to hit the reset button and remind myself of how crucial maintaining my peace is to maintaining my health. I had to refocus my energy on building myself back up mentally and spiritually because I've learned how "dis-ease" of the mind can ultimately trigger disease in the body. That's why I'm so protective of my energy now.

My healing from DM taught me the peace that comes with trusting God to handle situations that are outside of my control (Luke 12:25-31). It taught me the value of protecting my energy and not allowing negative circumstances to take me out of my element or steal my joy. I've legit walked away from jobs, relationships and friendships because I know what I am risking by remaining in those toxic environments: my peace of mind, my dignity and most importantly, my health.

And after everything I've been through, it ain't worth none of that.

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© 2019 by According to Kori