I Found a Way to Be Grateful for My Chronic Illness and Discovered My True Purpose

Christina Tidwell Chronic Illness

When I was 18 years old I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder called Adult-Onset Still’s Disease (AOSD). I was a healthy, active high school student playing tennis in a state tournament when I started to feel vague, flu-like symptoms accompanied by a low-grade fever. I attributed it to long hours playing tennis, being worn down, having a bad cold. I had never had any serious illness before and had no concept of what could be happening to me.

It’s been quite a wild ride to get to the healthy place that I am now, and I want to share my journey with you!

When I was discharged from the hospital I went from doctor to doctor to follow up on what medications I needed to control my fevers, which were the most debilitating symptom of my Still’s Disease. I was on low-dose chemotherapy drugs that were affecting my liver, and high-dose steroids that gave me anxiety and made my face puffy. I was miserable, and no one was able to find the best treatment for me.

All of the health care professionals I went to were highly skilled in their field and I owe my life to them. They did not, however, seem to take me into account as a person rather than a disease category. I looked to them to give me clues as to how to live my daily life. I wanted to know what I should eat to nourish myself, alternative therapies I could try to reduce the stiffness in my body or help with my anxiety. Unfortunately, I never got any of this information.

This simple question… brought me to tears and changed the course of my life.

One day I went to see the nurse practitioner at my rheumatologist’s office, and after listening to my whole story, the one I’d told a million times, she looked at me and said, “Wow, you’ve been though a lot, how are you doing with all of this?” It stopped me dead in my tracks. This was the first person, out of the dozens of health care workers, who had actually looked at me as a person, and not as a diagnosis. She asked this simple question that brought me to tears and changed the course of my life.

She suggested stress reduction techniques like meditation because stress is a major trigger in my disease. She opened my eyes to the idea that I was the one that had control, and by modifying my diet and lifestyle I could learn how to live a life that wasn’t ruled by my disease.

After years of confusion and suffering I was finally able to take control of my life, and become my own advocate. I discovered the power of food as medicine, learned my disease triggers, and found ways to reduce flare-ups. I focused on decreasing stress, incorporated mindful movement and exercise back into my life, and gathered a supportive healthcare “team” who truly understood me.

Since the diagnosis of my own autoimmune disease I have become a cardiac Registered Nurse, studied nutrition, and have devoted my life to the quest of attaining holistic health and helping others do the same. I’ve founded Live Well with Christinaa holistic health and nutrition coaching practice based in Seattle, WA.  I specialize in helping women suffering from chronic autoimmune conditions to increase energy levels, reduce pain and inflammation in the body, and decrease stress and anxiety in order to live a more vibrant life not held captive by their chronic illness.

I care about how all areas of your life influence one another.

I also work with people who have digestive issues, and those that simply want to explore the world of healthy eating but just need a bit of guidance. Working as an RN, I have seen first hand that our healthcare system in the U.S. does a great job at treating acute illnesses, but fails us in a lot of ways. Specifically, when it comes to treating people with longstanding chronic illnesses whose condition requires a more holistic approach to care.

I practice a holistic approach to health and wellness. Meaning, I care about how all areas of your life influence one another. I want to support people in their quest to get back to health by listening to their stories, understanding their needs, and finding the best way to incorporate healthy, whole foods and nourishment of both body and mind into their own unique lives.

I never thought I would be thankful for my illness and the experiences I’ve had, but the journey through chronic illness brought me to the place I am today. It gave me a deep gratitude for my health and energy, led me toward my life calling and career in health and wellness, and gave me the ability to be a better nurse and healer for others, and for that I am forever grateful.