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Helena Önneby

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A More Holistic Approach to Health

I started a blog back in 2012 with the name “Health is not the absence of disease”. I was really unwell and had just received my sixth autoimmune diagnosis. That was rough. I remember one of my doctors saying something in the lines of “Well, let’s just stop counting diagnosis and just state that you’re ‘autoimmune’ instead.”   

It wasn’t necessarily all the physical symptoms that were the most difficult for me during this time, it was my thoughts and feelings about my situation and my future. What was my life going to be like? Did I have a future at all? The doctors had told me that it would most likely only get worse. 

It was around this time that I started the blog. It was a reaction to all the depressing prognosis’s around my diagnosis’s, but also as a tap for all my worry and fear. I was sick and tired of updating everyone around me about all the doctors’ appointments and tests and theories that I simply wrote it all down and the curious ones where directed to the blog to read the latest news. 

That summer I changed my lifestyle quite dramatically. I removed a lot of different foods, all additives and all processed foods. I cooked everything from whole foods, mainly organic and I was rotating the little food I did eat. I had found a nutritionist who had a theory and was desperate enough to try anything. 

After a few months I started having more and more symptom free days. In the beginning I could celebrate each and every one of them but after a while I had mixed emotions; Who am I now when I can’t identify with being sick? Am I worth being this well? For how long will it last? What can I do today to prepare for when I get sick again? 

I didn’t have very nice thoughts about myself and I wasn’t very present in my life. I was still looking for what was wrong and the slightest sign that I would get sick again. I felt incredibly stressed by all these thoughts and emotions and I tried to hide from them by working too much and trying to live “the perfectly healthy lifestyle”. But in so many ways I was still not healthy, and I wasn’t feeling truly well. 

I have done a talk a few times with the title “It started with food” because that was really what it was for me. I started my healing journey by changing everything about the way I was eating. It was only when I was fast approaching the famous “wall” around Christmas of 2012 that I woke up to what health really is. And it was only when I had found the tools* to handle stress, deal with my emotions, focus on what was actually working, become a better friend to myself and create a greater meaning with my life that I went from only having symptom free days to actually waking up in the morning feeling alive and truly happy about my life. 

Health is not the absence of disease and even if I’ve been free of symptoms for more than 7 years all those diagnoses are still in my medical record. My doctor would still call them chronic. But what I’ve gained from this whole journey is so much more than just symptom free days, it’s about all of me and all that I am. 

My intention is not to stress anyone out who has just started changing the way they eat. My intention is to, through my own journey, inspire to take a broader perspective on health. What is it to you? What makes you feel well? And what can you do today, regardless of your circumstances, to take a little better care of yourself? It can be talking to a friend about something that is weighing you down, go outside and be with nature, ask for a hug, take a deep breath or put on some great music and dance. 

When we change our perspective on health our expectations on it may also change. What are you going to do with a perfectly healthy body if you hate yourself? What if you could be physically ill but still find meaning and gratitude for the small stuff? The fact that wellbeing and gratitude activates the parasympathetic nervous system and lowers inflammation in the body, well, that’s only a bonus.

*a lot of the tools that I’ve found along the way is what I will write about in this blog. 

This is a guest post. The opinions expressed are the writer’s own.

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