“…Turn inward love, and listen,
Your own voice faint you’ll hear.
The only one you’ve longed to love
Was always waiting near.”– Darlene Lancer, MFT
Over the past 12 years as a coach, I’ve interacted with hundreds of people in person and online.
I’ve also learned a lot about myself and my own emotional and behavioral patterns in that time.
There’s a consistent cluster of emotional and spiritual symptoms I’ve observed in people with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
The New Age idea that physical illnesses have emotional and spiritual components is true, in my experience.
People with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease tend to have a predictable cluster of emotional and behavioral symptoms, past histories and negative life-patterns that include:
- Unresolved childhood and past trauma
- Problems with interpersonal boundaries
- Toxic relationships – particularly with narcissistic abusers and addicts
- Codependency addiction and low self-esteem
- A history with hard and/or soft addictions
- Psychological symptoms like anxiety, depression and PTSD
- Sleep problems and insomnia
(If you have UC or Crohn’s and you’ve also experienced some or all of the above symptoms in your lifetime, please let me know in the comments. I’d love to know your personal experience with these advanced and nuanced topics. It will be a great addition for the other readers, also.)
A New Healing Frontier Opens
Over the past five years, I’ve done a tremendous amount of work on spiritual and energetic healing.
I’m completely sold on trauma healing, energy work and spiritual growth as a path to physical health and healing. You can’t separate the various areas of human health.
They all interrelate.
As I’ve healed psychologically and spiritually, I’ve also healed physically.
In particular, meditation, breath work and energy releases have worked miracles on my UC over the past few years.
As I’ve learned about and healed my own issues with codependency, interpersonal boundaries, childhood trauma and PTSD, I started seeing these issues very clearly in others with UC and Crohn’s.
The Health Picture in Three Dimensions
Our culture generally sees everything in one dimension. Mainstream medicine sees everything in a “one cause, one pill” way. The entire structure of reality in medical science is like this.
Complex causes, nuances, paradox and outside-the-box thinking don’t mesh well with our fast-food, take-a-pill culture.
Spiritual Reasons for Physical Illness
Louise Hay, of Hay House Publishing, was probably the first to lay out the emotional, spiritual and psychological factors that underly physical illness in her books on the topic. She did this work several decades ago.
She’s put these ideas out in a number of different books and forms. Two good ones I have are You Can Heal Your Life and Healing Your Body, A to Z.
Common Emotional Issues in People with Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease
Following are the most common emotional issues I see coming up again and again in the people I work with for inflammatory bowel disease.
Anxiety goes along with digestive problems of all kinds. When it comes to UC, it’s insidious.
The anxiety makes the UC worse and then the worsening UC makes us that much more anxious.
And that feeds back into the UC…
The answer is yoga and meditation – daily or as close to daily as you can manage – as a lifelong habit going forward.
A lifelong, daily habit.
Believe me. I’ve tried everything for anxiety over the last 40 years. The above is all you need to know.
It’s not Xanax, anti-depressants, essential oils or magical techniques.
The solution for anxiety is yoga and meditation.
Yoga and meditation also heal your body and digestive system over time.
It doesn’t happen quickly.
It takes years to build up noticeable results.
But the two above practices have changed my life and my health more than anything else.
If you want to learn all about yoga and meditation for UC and how I’ve incorporated these life-changing practices into my own healing practice, you can read my in-depth post Do Yoga and Meditation Heal Ulcerative Colitis?
Fatigue goes along with UC. A lot of it is probably the malnourishment. Beyond that, however, there’s a lot going on with our boundaries, our energy management and depression.
Poor Boundaries Can Manifest as Fatigue
Not saying “no” enough, saying “yes” too often, saying “yes” when we want to say “no.” These are personal and interpersonal boundary problems. And these issues result in fatigue sooner or later.
This is particularly true when the body is already exhausted and overburdened by ulcerative colitis.
The UC is debilitating and exhausting enough that we can struggle to set firm boundaries with people simply out of exhaustion at times.
This one comes from being sick in and of itself. It also comes from poor interpersonal boundaries and low self-esteem. These generally come from some kind of unresolved trauma.
In my own case, the UC significantly affected my self-esteem and caused a severe and lasting depression. This affected my relationships and boundary setting and it became a vicious cycle.
Sensitivity to Food and Medical Drugs
Finally, there are a lot of foods and medical drugs that trigger depression.
People with UC are going to be highly sensitive to foods and depression is often a symptom of food intolerance and usually accompanies gluten, sugar and alcohol.
The above version of depression is basically the “brain fog” people with basic food sensitivities and leaky gut syndrome are likely to describe.
For more on this stuff, you can read Grain Brain – The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent Killers by David Perlmutter, M.D. and The UltraMind Solution – The Simple Way to Defeat Depression, Overcome Anxiety and Sharpen Your Mind by Mark Hyman, M.D.
Romantic Relationships, Codependency and Narcissistic Abuse
Our romantic relationships and our relationship style and patterns reveal much about our early development and our deepest psychology.
Relationships are a mirror into the depths of our soul.
If you have UC or Crohn’s disease and have a history of high-drama or abusive relationships, it’s very likely that you have issues with codependency.
A common patten for codependents is to fall prey to narcissistic abuse, as described by Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT.
If you’re sick with IBD and being emotionally or narcissistically abused in your relationship, it will be impossible to get healthy again.
If any of the above resonates for you, I highly recommend that you check out Ross Rosenberg’s YouTube Channel as well as his book: The Human Magnet Syndrome – The Codependent Narcissist Trap, Surviving Narcissistic Abuse.
Codependency and Interpersonal Boundary Problems
A lifelong behavior pattern in myself that became evident to me beginning about five years ago is Codependency and boundary problems in relationships.
I’ve had lifelong patterns of one-sided, abusive and abandoning relationships.
The UC made things worse because, though I didn’t know at the time, my self-esteem was being significantly impacted by being sick.
Running to the bathroom 20 times a day will do that to you.
The ulcerative colitis was damaging my self-esteem and the low self-esteem was influencing me to make losing choices and invest in unreliable people and situations.
These people and situations then stressed me to the point the UC got worse and that made me even less assertive, confident and impactful in my work and relationships.
It’s a terrible, vicious cycle.
These are the deep issues that have to be addressed when we embark on the lifelong healing journey that UC requires of us.
Ulcerative Colitis is an Internal Boundary Dysfunction
When you really get into it, UC and Crohn’s disease are problems with our internal boundary.
The gut wall is the boundary inside of us that lets in nutrients and keeps out toxins, bacteria and the other things we don’t want in our bloodstream.
When we have IBD, our internal boundary isn’t functioning properly.
Very often, this translates into boundary problems in other areas of our lives as well.
More interpersonal stress, strife and struggle are not going to help anyone heal UC.
If You Have a History of Toxic Relationships…
If you have a history of toxic, dramatic or abusive relationships, the best thing you can do for yourself is check out the following three YouTube channels:
Enforcing Physical Boundaries to Support Your Healing
“Boundaries keep toxicity from getting in and boundaries keep you from expending energy on toxic people and situations…”– Meredith Miller
The above is a paraphrase from the Meredith Miller video Test for Identifying the Psychopath & Narcissist.
In that video, Meredith is talking about boundaries in relationships primarily, but the premise expands to all kinds of boundaries.
Ulcerative colitis is a boundary dysfunction of the internal gut wall. The internal boundary is inflamed, weak and wounded. The internal boundary of the body can’t fully protect itself from foreign invaders and toxicity.
Because UC is an internal boundary dysfunction, we sometimes need to enforce external boundaries in our work and relationships.
There’s sometimes a need to use the physical boundaries of distance and no-contact to protect our health.
This can include working less, leaving a job, ending a relationship.
Boundaries of all kinds generally relate to self-care and self-esteem – and they’re very important when you have inflammatory bowel disease.
Strong physical boundaries can help us to heal by reliving the spiritual and emotional energy requirements of navigating toxic situations and relationships.
The Chakras – The Bridge Between the Physical and the Spiritual
More advanced, in-depth and nuanced information on the relationship between physical, spiritual and everything in between is contained in Anodea Judith’s epic work on the Chakra System: Eastern Body, Western Mind – Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self.
The Lower Chakras – Chakras One, Two and Three
The lower three chakras are involved in UC, Crohn’s and many of the accompanying symptoms and comorbidities.
For example, an undercharged first chakra will manifest as being generally “ungrounded” in life.
According to page 53 of Judith, a deficient or undercharged first chakra will also manifest as:
- Disconnection from the body
- Notably underweight
- Fearful, anxious, restless, can’t settle
- Poor focus and discipline
- Financial difficulty
- Poor boundaries
- Chronic disorganization
She continues on to the physical malfunctions of the first chakra:
- Disorders of the bowel, anus or large intestine
- Disorders of the solid parts of the body: bones, teeth
- Issues with legs, feet, knees, base of spine, buttocks
- Eating disorders
- Frequent illness
The above first chakra issues are generally present to some degree in people with UC, Crohn’s and other digestive issues.
(Do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments!)
Healing ulcerative colitis is a lifelong endeavor.
It’s a whole-life endeavor.
Healing requires us to examine and change virtually every aspect of our lives. On every level.
It doesn’t stop with food. That’s just the beginning.
Healing chronic illness requires us to become different people as part of the process.
The person you were got sick with IBD.
The person you are is sick with IBD.
The person you can choose to become is a new, healthy person. One who doesn’t have IBD.
As I always say, your life has irreversibly changed when you receive the IBD diagnosis.
How it changes is still ultimately up to you.
If you’ve made it this far and this blog post has resonated with you, let me know in the comments. What has your experience been with these esoteric and enigmatic topics?
Want to get an overview of everything it takes to heal ulcerative colitis? Download my FREE 76-page guide The Illustrated Roadmap to Healing Ulcerative Colitis below!
Reading, Watching and Listening
Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma book by Peter A. Levine with Ann Frederick
Awakened Empath – The Ultimate Guide to Emotional, Psychological and Spiritual Healing book by Luna and Sol
Shadows Before Dawn – Finding the Light of Self-Love Through Your Darkest Times book by Teal Swan
The Human Magnet Syndrome – The Codependent Narcissist Trap, Surviving Narcissistic Abuse book by Ross Rosenberg
The Power of Now – A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment book by Eckhart Tolle
Codependency for Dummies book by Darlene Lancer, MFT
Conquering Shame and Codependency – 8 Steps to Freeing the True You book by Darlene Lancer, MFT
Ross Rosenberg Video – Boundaries Don’t Work with Narcissists! Protecting Yourself from Narcissistic Abuse