I received my diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis in May of my freshman year of high school, after six grueling months of no answers, loss of mobility, and dozens of dead-end doctors appointments.
Two weeks after receiving my diagnosis I went to my doctor at the Pediatric Rheumatology department at D.C.’s Children Hospital to adjust my treatment. My doctor took a conservative approach at first starting with sulfasalazine and it wasn’t helping in the slightest. My mobility was severely declining, and something had to change. It’s that day that I started Enbrel. If you didn’t know, Enbrel is given by injection, which meant before leaving the hospital I had to learn to give myself a shot. I was old enough to be able to do it myself, and also wouldn’t always have my mom around to do it. It was the beginning of my medication journey, that would start with an injection at the hospital and two every week for the next couple of months.
It was in that moment of giving myself a shot, I realized, that I was the only person who could do this for myself. I was the only person who could give me any relief. It was this great act of self-love that I’ve not fully acknowledged before. This huge action of love that would take me to the next level of myself healing.
My doctor came in after it was over, sat down next to me and asked how I was feeling. I’d been tearing up a bit, emotionally overcome with giving myself a shot, and I just shrugged my shoulders. She then, asked me a question that has stayed with me for the rest of my life. “Kari, would you be willing to speak to some residents at the hospital who are studying this disease? Your experience is really valuable and I’d love for them to learn what this is like for you.”
“No, I can’t do that.” I replied, completely in shock. I could barely hold it together talking to my mom about what was happening to me, let alone a room of strangers. How was I supposed to explain my experience when I didn’t even understand it yet?
We sat out in the waiting room for a bit while my medication got processed and I could be released to go home. The hospital is very indicative of a children’s hospital, mural painted walls, games, toys, bright colors, in ways that were comforting, and also reminded me that I was in this middle ground between child and adulthood. And this experience was shoving me prematurely more and more to the latter whether I was ready or not.
Sitting across from me, a little girl, about 5 years old laid across her mom’s lap. Crying uncontrollably while her mom tried tirelessly to comfort her. Both of them completely unaware what exactly was happening for her. There’s only one reason you’re in the pediatric rheumatology department, I knew that, and so did her mom. She had no idea, to understand or rationalize her experience. She could feel it, but she couldn’t process it.
In that moment, I knew I had two choices.
I could continue on with my life, looking back at this moment and feeling for this little girl, relating to her experience. Or I could take action and do the one thing that I could at the time.
When my doctor came back out, I told her I’d changed my mind and would talk to the residents. I was terrified, afraid that I’d embarrass myself with not being able to talk from crying too much. At 15, I’d not done any public speaking before. At the moment, I didn’t know how many people I’d be talking to, but I was certainly afraid of their judgment.
My doctor walked to us to the room where I would talk, when I walked in, it was an auditorium. Eventually this “room” filled up with over 100 Residents of hospital staff, some parents, and a few patients. In the second row, sitting on the left side was the little girl and her mom. It was in this moment that I knew, I had to share my experience. That I had a voice and an ability to share, some understanding of what I was going through, an that it may help her, or help her mom understand her pain. There was no other option in the moment.
I shared this personal experience that I’d barely talked to my mom about, with over 100 residents in the hospital. I cried, and stumbled on my words. But I did it. It felt like a profound moment, the first step in accepting what I had gone through for six months. What I would realize years later is that it was the first step in an even bigger plan.
In one day I’d been challenged in more ways than I could have imagined. I took action in two big ways that had huge lasting impacts on my life. Two actions that not only came from this place of self-love but in what I wish I would have had for myself. I was speaking to myself just as much for that little girl.
When we decide to do something, whether it’s public speaking when you’re scared shitless, not eating certain foods to heal your body, join a gym to get stronger, take medication because we need that intervention, or get out of a toxic relationship, they all require two things; an enormous amount of self-love and action.
Behind all of these choices are the decision to love yourself through the uncomfortable aspects of taking actions that you know are what you need, but aren’t comfortable at first. The hard things are what help us grow. They are our opportunities to deepen our love for ourselves, and to really understand who we are.
Self-love’s backbone is action.
Without action self-love is simply a feeling that may come and go.
It’s like playing a sport, unless you practice it, you’re likely to just sit the bench.
In that moment, with that little girl, I decided to take action. I decided to not sit the bench. To take a big risk, and love myself through the process of sharing this emotionally raw story, not only for her, but for healing in myself.
There have been so many moments in my life in congruence with this one, where I made big life decisions, those self-love actions instead of sitting on the bench. Like, leaving an emotionally abusive relationship, leaving a steady job to start my coaching business, moving across the country to Seattle, and starting intensive healing treatments to get my body to it’s healthiest.
At each step, the choice has been far more rewarding than the struggle I experienced through the process. And that’s the beauty right? In all of these moments (and more) it has been ever more clear to me, that my purpose has always been to serve other women and help them on their journeys, not only to better health, but to greater understanding and love of themselves.
This is why I created Soul Power.
It’s been my dream for years to create a real platform like this. Helping you, connect more deeply, live your healthiest life, and love yourself with the richest self-compassion you’ve ever experienced.
So now I am asking you, I am asking you to take a risk. I am asking you to step into the journey of greater understanding of yourself, of better health, of deeper self-care. I am asking you, to take action with your self-love and be a part of Soul Power.
If you have that whisper in your head saying “I need this,” listen to it, it is your intuition telling you that this message is what you needed to hear.
Love yourself. Give yourself the opportunity to care for yourself in ways you never have before. Your life is depending on you taking action behind your self-love.
P.S. Soul Power is my new platform for helping women nourish themselves and achieve maximum vitality in their lives. Enrollment closes Valentine’s Day. Read details here.