Chronic Voices: Natalie Kelly – Plenty & Well

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Mayv Editors

What chronic conditions do you live with?

Ulcerative colitis

What’s is the most common misunderstanding about you or your condition?

I think the biggest misunderstanding is that it’s “just a bathroom disease” which could not be farther form the truth. Truthfully, my biggest and hardest symptoms to deal with are extreme fatigue, extreme brain fog and the mental health aspects that have come with living with an invisible chronic illness. Ulcerative colitis impacts every aspect of your life and how someone looks doesn’t actually tell you anything about how sick they truly are.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you got diagnosed?

I wish I had been told to work on acceptance earlier on and that acceptance didn’t mean I was giving up, it meant I would get more out of life. I felt like acceptance equated to resignation, but I now see (and teach others) that acceptance opens the doors to more confidence, joy, unconditional self worth and self love, better (healthier) friendships and relationships and so much more. I also wish I could have known that there would be so much purpose to come from my pain. It was hard at 21 to see what good could come from being diagnosed with a chronic illness, but I wouldn’t be half the woman I am today without it.

What’s the most ridiculous thing a doctor has ever said to you?

I think one of the most ridiculous (and frustrating!) things a doctor ever said to me was questioning me on whether I was making up my symptoms because of my past eating disorder. First off, that makes no sense!! Second off, I think it’s so disrespectful of doctors to use mental illness and past conditions as a tool to downgrade what patients are going through.

How has chronic illness shaped your relationships?

I can truly say I have SUCH better friendships now that I have a chronic illness. I know that probably sounds strange, but chronic illness robbed me of so much energy that I no longer could keep friends and connections around that weren’t truly adding positivity, respect, and support to my life.

I’ve been able to get closer to the friends who I did hold close because I’ve had to be more open and vulnerable, and then I was also guided to so many NEW friends because of the chronic illness community on Instagram. Truly life’s biggest gift!

And although I am currently single, chronic illness has given me such higher standards for potential partners. I now know the level of empathy, understanding, kindness, and maturity I need in a partner in order to feel comfortable being at my best and worst with chronic illness. I always say ulcerative colitis has been the best dating filter!!

Tell us a funny story about when nothing went to plan…but the story is one good one to tell!

I tell this story often, but I still laugh about it to this day! A big thing that was hard for me post-grad and post-hospitalization was getting into dating because I lost a lot of confidence in myself and my appearance from losing so much weight and being so sick.

I had started seeing this guy and although I had been open about my ulcerative colitis, I obviously didn’t tell him every little detail. I knew I had been losing my hair at an alarming rate post-hospitalization, but thought I could play it off.

After hanging out at his apartment for the first time, I stood up from his bed after watching a movie and noticed my hair was everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Not like a normal amount of shedding but like a “I might be going bald at 22” type of everywhere. When he wasn’t looking I frantically tried grabbing as much as I could but I wasn’t very successful.

Instead of just being honest and laughing about it right then and there, I left and ended up getting a text asking why my hair was everywhere in his room hahahaha I was able to laugh about it then but I was mortified at the time!

To what do you attribute your ” daily will?”

I attribute my daily will to the amazing chronic illness community on Instagram, as well as my clients. The folks I get to connect with and guide each day make every hard day so, so worth it. Especially the women I work with one on one and in my group program – they’re my biggest motivators!

What alternative treatments or therapies have most helped you? Any that surprised you by how effective they were?

I did acupuncture for about a year after my hospitalization and it was amazing! I was always skeptical of it, but it truly did help my symptoms quite a bit.

I also find that actual therapy is huge for me on my chronic illness journey because stress and anxiety are two of my biggest triggers. By working on my mental health, it’s actually helped my physical symptoms!

What has been the hardest thing you’ve overcome with your condition?

I think the hardest thing for me to overcome with my condition was imposter syndrome and self doubt. I felt like I wouldn’t be able to successfully run my own business because of my illness, but it’s actually turned out to be the biggest blessing because I can create my own hours that work best for my body and health!

How has “being disabled” changed you as a person for the better?

I’ve learned to not tie my worth to how much I “do”; I’ve finally learned the importance of rest (and that rest doesn’t have to be earned and I don’t have to feel guilty for resting!); I’ve learned to put up boundaries and protect my energy; I’ve learned to voice my opinions and needs; I’ve learned to be so much more empathetic and compassionate towards others and myself.

What made you decide to become a chronic illness advocate and start your blog or social advocacy account?

plentyandwell.com

I had started my blog in 2015 to share about my love for nutrition, wellness, and distance running, so by the time I was diagnosed in 2017, I had gotten used to sharing about my own journey and health online. It was a natural transition to start sharing more about chronic illness since my life started revolving around that.

When I took my blog and brand full-time and decided to move into the coaching realm, I knew I needed to choose a niche. The only niche that called to me and lit me up like no other was chronic illness. I knew I was meant to walk this path in order to help others.

What immediate changes or improvements in patient advocacy would you like to see happen over the next 5-10 years?

I would like to see doctors getting more education on nutrition and bedside manner. Having a chronic illness tied directly to gut-health and therefore the food I put in my body, I was given zero guidance on this topic and had to find all my own help and answers.

I think nutrition plays a critical role in MANY illnesses and having a doctor be able to provide resources or see links would be amazing. I also have had far too many instances of gas lighting and disrespect from doctors and hear about the countless instances from my friends, followers and clients as well; it’s appalling. I think patients would feel so much more empowered to advocate for themselves if doctors met them with more understanding and belief.

What is the one thing you are MOST proud of yourself for achieving despite your condition?

Running my full-time business and launching my group program the Path to Empowered Acceptance. It was a DREAM of mine to run my own business that helped others, and it’s exceeded my wildest dreams.

What are your favorite life hacks for getting things accomplished day to day… while overcoming the fatigue, brain fog and all the symptoms?

My biggest tip for fatigue and brain fog are to give yourself grace and not try to simply power through it. If you have the ability to rest, rest. It’s okay to just *be* and not *do.*

What advice would give to someone newly diagnosed with your condition?

I would tell them to find a community that they feel comfortable asking questions and sharing their journey – whether that’s Instagram, a Facebook group, or a support group – talking about their journey will help them so, so greatly in the long run. I would also tell them to be open about their illness(es) and to remember that everyone else’s reaction to their chronic illness says everything about that person and nothing about them.

I would also tell them that it’s okay rest, it’s okay to say no, it’s okay to put up boundaries. We live in such a hustle-minded society that isn’t a fit for the chronically ill. I would tell them that it’s okay to go against what society says makes us worthy. We’re inherently worthy simply by being who we are.

What legacy do you want to leave for the next generation of chronic warriors?

I want to leave a legacy of work that continues to help chronic illness warriors take control of their minds when their bodies feel so out of control. I want to, for decades to come, be a beacon of light for others to be reminded that confidence and joy can live alongside pain and suffering without invalidating it. I want to show others that they’re still so worthy, no matter the diagnoses.

How can warriors connect with you?

instagram: @plentyandwellwithnat

blog: plentyandwell.com

This article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek medical advice from your physician or health provider for your specific needs.

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