Hope Warriors

Courtney Maiorino

Wooie it’s been a while. As per usual. Sorry about that. I would give an explanation, but I’ve truly just been busy and enjoying life. Not going to apologize for that because you should be doing that too! That’s part of why I’m so excited to share with you this featured Hope Warrior. I first found Courtney on instagram under an IBD hashtag, but loved the hashtag she uses most, #thrivingNOTfighting.

What an awesome concept. With any autoimmune disease, fighting for your life is sometimes a daily task, and sometimes it is literally what your are doing. This mantra, if you will, isn’t really for that literal fighting for your life time, but more for the times when you are constantly fighting against having that disease. What would happen if you turned that mindset around and used that energy to think about how you can thrive with your disease instead of fighting against it all the time? Just an idea, and I think she’s a great example of what that looks like. Meet Courtney, everyone, and show her some love

What type of chronic illness/autoimmune disease (s) do you live with? 
1. I currently live with Crohn’s Disease.
When was your diagnosis? How did you cope?
2. I got diagnosed in January 2012. I believe I got to this point by going through the normal grieving process. At first, I was very angry. As time went on, I found people like me, became educated about how to make myself feel better, and did a lot of trial and error with things that I learned. Once I knew more about how to help myself, I took my power back and began to let go of the anger that I felt.
What medications/treatments/surgeries/lifestyle changes have you gone through to manage your disease symptoms? 
3. When I was first diagnosed, I was put on Entocort and 6MP. Throughout the early part of this new chapter of my life, I was off and on Entocort a lot, but I never liked it. I felt angry and sad all of the time and for no reason. I was hungry 24/7 and gained a large amount of weight in a very little amount of time. I was so miserable and hated looking at myself in the mirror. After the massive weight gain, I told my doctor that enough was enough and that I wanted off of Entocort, which was successful. I’ve been on 6MP since my diagnosis, but just recently started Remicade infusions every 8 weeks to get a bad flare and some pretty intense inflammation under control.
Although I’m taking medications to help me feel better, I truly feel that the work that I am putting in outside of that is what is helping me the most. I’ve completely changed my diet over the past year, eliminating most packaged and refined foods. I’ve also noticed that, for me and due to the narrowing that I have in my colon, animal products don’t settle that well with me, so I am currently eating a plantbased diet. This was only possible after working with a holistic nurse practitioner who helped me to reset my gut bacteria and restore some normalcy to my digestive system. I’m also working hard on trying to keep my stress in check, practice lots of self love and do things every day that make me truly happy.
What are some of the things that you’ve found trigger a flare up in your disease?
4. For me, animal products make me feel bloated and uncomfortable, so I’ve eliminated them from my diet (as of right now). Also, anything with gluten makes me angry, have severe brain fog, and makes my stomach crampy, so I eat as gluten free as well.
Stress is also another huge trigger for me. Personality wise, I seem to be a highly sensitive person. When others are upset, or sad, I tend to take in that energy without knowing it, which affects my moods. When I am highly stressed, my digestive system responds by exacerbating my symptoms. After becoming aware of this connection, I’ve made it a priority of mine to keep my stress levels as low as I possibly can.
If you could tell yourself one thing looking back on your diagnosis, what would it be?
5. Looking back, I’d tell myself something that my mom told me back then (and I didn’t listen): “Focus on your health first and foremost and your appearance will take care of itself.” At my worst, I was so focused on how much I hated the way that I looked because of Crohn’s Disease, that my mind couldn’t focus on anything else. If I had just listened to my mom and focused on helping my body re-learn how to be healthy, I probably would have helped my appearance get better faster.
Another thing that I would tell myself is something that someone very inspiring told me recently: “Love is the only thing that matters.” If we really think about what we are “fighting” when it comes to living with an autoimmune disease, we are only fighting ourselves. That anger and resentment that all patients have early on is necessary for us to grow, but continuing that thought process years and years down the road might only hinder true healing.
Do you have a saying or quote or song that you turn to when you need to be uplifted? 
6. My mantra came to me about 6 months ago.. For so long, I was a “Crohn’s Warrior” because that’s what I thought I had to be. Its what I read in forums, articles and on social media. However, I didnt really resonate with that. As I’ve embarked on this journey, I’ve learned so much about holistic health/alternative medicine. In my studies, I learned about energy and the power that words have on our minds. It may sound weird, but I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to fight my body the rest of my life. Crohn’s disease, however uncomfortable and infuriating at times, is now a part of me, and I wanted to learn how to work with my body to thrive with my new reality. That’s when #ThrivingNOTFighting was born. I truly believe that if we learn to love ourselves (including the parts that are less than “perfect”) and our new life circumstances, that we can thrive while living with autoimmune diseases.. We just need to start talking about this and make it a part of the IBD conversation, so that it becomes mainstream.

“My song” is Brave: by Sara Bareilles. I love that song because it is a constant reminder to push myself out of my comfort zone, chase my dreams, put myself out there and be brave. Even though I am living with Crohn’s disease, I won’t let that stop me from making a difference in this world and helping other people.

 Things that keep me hopeful: 
– seeing IBD patients want to learn about alternative medicine/holistic health in order to help ease their symptoms and improve their quality of life.
– knowing in my gut that what I am doing to help myself is helping me heal in all aspects of my life.
– finally knowing what its like to feel like “me”. The changes that I’ve made since being diagnosed have been so natural, yet so unexpected, but I finally feel like me. It’s an amazing feeling and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
– realizing that, if I push myself out of my comfort zone, that I can accomplish so many things that I thought Crohn’s disease had taken from me.
– being able to (hopefully) help and inspire other people like me to truly love themselves and their lives and to help them become healthier so that they can thrive with IBD.
– support from my family, friends, and people that I’ve never met. All of these people continue to support and push me to be better, even when my dreams seem insane.
– knowing in my heart that sharing my story and being open about what I go through has healed me more than I ever thought possible.
What are some of your coping mechanisms for dealing with stress?
8. My favorite coping mechanisms to deal with stress are: exercise (running, yoga, other forms of movement), lavender essential oil, meditation, journaling, coloring, making homemade green juice or smoothies, among others. Also, sometime you just need a good cry, and that’s okay too.
What us your favorite food or drink that makes you feel better? 
9. My favorite thing to eat/drink when I’m not feeling well is green juice and any kind of smoothie. Even when I have those bad days, I really try to choose foods that will still give my body the nutrients that it needs to help heal. Also, I love potatoes (random) but eating them in any form is super comforting when I’m not feeling my best.
Who do you seek hope and inspiration from? 
10. As I meet others who live with IBD, I realize how lucky I actually am. Other people are recovering from multiple major surgeries or are having hard times and are still living their lives to their best ability, and I find that super inspiring, so I pull inspiration from them. I also have a particular IBDer who I think is one of the most inspirational people out there. Her name is Sarah Choueiry Simkin, the founder of The Crohn’s Journey Foundation. Throughout her journey with Crohn’s Disease, she has always tried to help others, hence founding TCJF. She put all of herself into the foundation and made sure that other IBDers had different options to help them feel their best, and I find that truly admirable. Even as she goes through her own rough times with her disease, she always puts others first and truly cares about the many people who have followed her journey. If you don’t know who she is, you should because there’s no doubt that she’d inspire you too!
If you could paint a picture of your favorite place to be, what would be in it?
11. I have a few favorite places, but I’ve found that the place isn’t what makes them my favorite. I want to be surrounded by people who I truly care about and can have authentic conversations and laughs with, eating food that makes me feel good and that tastes good as well, and be able to be fully myself. Being able to have those types of interactions and true friendships are priceless.
What has been your greatest accomplishment?
12. I think I have two “greatest” accomplishments that come to mind. The first: getting offered a guest blogger spot on The Crohn’s Journey Foundation’s blog, where I was able to write about what I cared about and share it with the foundation’s followers for six months. Sharing what I loved and being able to share my story publicly has helped me grow in so many ways and I wouldn’t be the person that I am today without that opportunity. I am now the co-president of The Crohns Journey Foundation and am so thrilled to be able to help other IBDers through this non-profit! The second: running my first ever half marathon with Team Challenge and raising awareness and funds for the CCFA. Participating in that race not only helped me feel like part of a community, but helped me break through a self imposed barrier. I had always told myself that I wasn’t a runner and that I could never run that distance, let alone in a certain time frame. I did it, with high heat and humidity and some intense hills, and it felt so amazing. Crossing that finish line helped me realize that the limiting beliefs about myself and my abilities due to my disease are there because I put them there and I’m working on taking them down, so that I can achieve more of my dreams!
Social media accounts /website? 
13. My Instagram is: CMMaiori.. You can find me on Facebook by searching for Courtney Maiorino and my health coaching website is:www.TheGutsyGuru.com. You can follow The Crohn’s Journey Foundation on Instagram: crohnsjourney, on the web:www.thecrohnsjourneyfoundation.org, and on Facebook: search The Crohn’s Journey Foundation!  🙂  (Update: This information is no longer active. You can find Courtney on Instagram at : @cmmaiori and @thethriveeffect. The website is www.thrive-effect.com)
IMG_1232 (1)
Attached  is a side by side “transformation” picture. The left: two years ago, when I was at my heaviest. I hated the way I looked and felt and didn’t know any other way to help myself feel better. The right: this past June, listening to one of my favorite bands.. I’m also smiling, but my hair is longer and shiner and my face is way slimmer. What you can’t see is what is most important: I have learned to thrive while living with IBD, have made taking care of myself my most important priority and finally feel like me! I have also found my purpose and how I can help people, which is the most amazing feeling in the world! 🙂