By Logan C. Ritchie
January 2014: I am curled up on a loved, worn-in couch and bawling my eyes out with a woman I’ve never met before. She’s handing me tissues and water.
I’m telling her everything I want and need in order to start anew. I want my clothes to fit. I want energy to play with my kids. I want to overhaul my relationship with food.
Through empathetic, patient eyes she tells me all the right things: This is a journey. You’re ready for this. You can do this. She’s not my therapist; she’s my new health coach.
Hiring a health coach sounds so luxurious and exclusive, but I couldn’t afford not to engage in a new plan. Bridget Elliott showed me a glimpse of how to blaze a new path of wellness, fitness, strength and emotional growth. In just a few months I went from broken to badass.
Recognizing that I was wrecked was a long, boring, expensive process. By the time I met Bridget, I had been on steroids to reduce gut inflammation for nearly a year — steroids that chipped away at my bones, tripled my appetite, negated my metabolism and gave me a round hump on the back of my neck.
For some with autoimmune diseases, steroids are a necessary evil. I wanted off the meds.
In addition to my long list of medicines designed to be fighting gastrointestinal disease, I was overweight. Pain was normal. Depression was normal. Dragging myself out of bed, bailing on social functions, struggling to make dinner: It was all normal.
First, my diet got a total overhaul. I stopped eating dairy, and my sinuses cleared. I stopped eating grains, and my sleep improved. I stopped drinking alcohol, and my patience grew. Changes were undeniable.
March 2014: Several weeks into my time with Bridget, I was hospitalized for an obstructed intestine. The throbbing hit me just as I embarked on a solo drive from Birmingham to Atlanta. Through four hours of radiating pain I cried, drove and kept in touch with Bridget by phone. She invested her day in getting me home in one piece.
Hours later I was admitted to Piedmont Hospital.
After two days of hospital rest, pumped full of steroids and painkillers, I was sent home with yet another prescription. This journey wasn’t headed down a well-paved highway.
She encouraged, texted, emailed and cajoled me into trying a boot camp workout that meets in the park across from my house. How could I watch out my window a great group of people working out and not join them?
I cried during the first three workouts. I cried while trying to run (read: walk) up a massive hill. I cried while trying to do a sit-up. Just one. I cried while my face was in the grass as I tried to heave myself off the ground in a pushup position.
You know how many pushups I did last week at boot camp? About 30. And there was Bridget: “You got this, Logan!”
Today: A fog has lifted in my life. This story is not about how many pounds I lost or how my autoimmune disease is being managed by food, exercise and meditation. This story is about seeking help, allowing someone else to drive the bus for a while, and being vulnerable to new experiences.
My kids check my FitBit to discover how many miles I run each day. We go out for runs together in my hilly neighborhood.
My husband is proud of my perseverance. He and I talk about the importance of health and staying engaged in exercise. And I just ran my first 5k race. I stopped making excuses and moved forward.
Now when I hear Bridget say, “You got this!” I think, “Yeah, I really do.”