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Rheumatoid arthritis and being a mother – challenges that transform us

Being a mother. Today I am more complete. But being a mother forced me to look inside myself, to get to know myself better and, ultimately, to heal wounds that clouded a more serene understanding of the world. But I only got there after the universe sent me a truly «beautiful» rheumatoid arthritis.

This is the story of how these two challenges shaped my (evolving) view about the world and the meaning of life and contributed to the emergence of the Peneda ecofarm project. There were other challenges, of course, but for now I choose to share these two fundamental ones. The others will come up naturally, if it makes sense, around the table, with a glass of wine, after a day well spent.

For various reasons I was forced to be an “adult” very early in life. Maybe when I was 6 or 7 years old, if not earlier, I started having to be emotionally very independent and mature, in a home where we were 3 brothers, a dedicated mother with her own inner challenges, unemployed and struggling daily for the life of a son, my brother, who suffered many years constant and severe crises of asthmatic bronchitis, and an abject father who, blessed the hour, ended up leaving home. There was little money, but life with my mother and brothers was happy, we were always united. We had the joy of being together and a solid set of values: care and solidarity, honesty and truth, which kept us proud of who we were. At the same time, I was always instilled with the idea of ​​being a very good student, brilliant if possible in everything I did. This exacerbated my natural tendencies of self-demand and independence, which partnered very well with my ability to do many things at the same time, so that when my eldest daughter, an angel child, was born, it was chaos.

This daughter of mine just wanted to be held, kissed and hugged… all the time. And if I tried to stop her to be always glued, clinging, dependent on me, she got highly disturbed. And she cried, cried a lot. As a baby she didn’t sleep for more than an hour in a row, day and night, almost until she was 3 years old. Interesting, isn’t it? And I was tired and irritated and felt like pushing her away, almost with aversion and fear of so much dependence. Me, the self-sufficient independent, survivor, adult since 6 years old. You can see the picture.

At the same time, I had a job that I loved, but that was gradually being contaminated by an entry of values ​​that were not aligned with my own, along with a demand in terms of volume and pace of work that were not healthy at all.
I was trying to be a mother of 2 children and to lead a team of several people in a demanding work context, each day less aligned with my core values, when the Universe decides that I needed to stop and reflect. And since I did not stop voluntarily, it decided to throw at me the disease of immobility: rheumatoid arthritis.

Believe me, it was the only way to stop me.

I was really moving very fast: doing outdoors sports, being a vegetarian, young mother, leading a successful career, always fascinated by life and the world, trying to do it all and clearly collapsing without realizing it.

Believe me: rheumatoid arthritis stops everything. Even our hair hurts. And in my case, I developed the rampant form of the thing. The doctors even looked to the side when they saw my analysis, so bad was the inflammation all over my body. In a short time I almost stopped walking. And that´s when, the exact personal characteristic that made me sick were also the ones that allowed me to put the disease into remission without taking immunosuppressive drugs: obstinacy. It took me 3 years. Of pain and facing personal ghosts. And the result was an immense personal growth. I must state that it was my infinite dedication to my extraordinary husband, which deserves a text dedicated only to him with all the reasons why I love him, and the instinct of being a mother that gave me the determination to do so.

From the beginning, I didn’t want to take immunosuppressive drugs. Rheumatoid arthritis conventional medicine approaches the problem with the idea that if your immune system is attacking your own body and destroying it, then you need to «weaken» your immune system so that it attacks you less hard. (?? !!) This for me was not smart. I thought that if the immune system had started to malfunction, it was important to understand why and restore balance as soon as possible, giving it the conditions to function well again. With this in mind, I did not take immunosuppressive drugs, painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs for as long as I was able to bear the pain, because I wanted to listen to my body and understand what helped and what didn’t. I researched, read books, took the same approach that I always take in life: gather information and trust my extraordinary brain to organize data, along with intuition, to find the right path.
I soon realized that the nervous system controls the immune system and that the intestine is the health center of the body. I did shiatsu, tested for food intolerances (I was intolerant to almost everything), I learned a lot about healthy eating – raw food, fermentation, wild herbs, sourdough bread, I started to meditate (thanks Awakened Life Project), I adopted Pilates as a form of physical recovery and maintenance (thank you physiotherapist Paulo, Sentir Saúde), and I discovered, through the wonderful Dr. Cristina Sales (Cristina Sales, integrative functional medicine), the relationship between Vitamin D and autoimmune diseases. At the same time, I embraced several ways to get to know myself deeply – for this it was very important the body-mirror system I did with the wonderful Rui Leal, an experience that I still bring close to my heart, suggested to me by my dear naturopath and specialist in Iridology, Noémia (Holistic Contact).

All of this helped me to free myself from patterns that so often hold us in life, opportunities to move forward, just we don’t know how.

I am so much more serene today because of this journey of self-discovery. In the end I have recovered my inner-child and that allowed me to truly embrace my angel-daughter, and to welcome her without fear for her, with confidence in Life and in the Universe. And so she appeared in front of me, loving, confident, always available to give love, but knowing what she wants, autonomous regarding who she is, what she feels and what she believes in.

When you open your arms to Life, listen carefully and pay attention, you develop your intuition and you really begin to fulfill your mission in Life.
Having not been raised in any kind of organized religion, I have immense faith. Faith that we are all evolving souls, learning and celebrating each achievement in this earthly existence, in this paradise that is our planet Earth.

I identify with this idea so much that I marvel at imagining the communion of beings that must exist, at every moment of time and space. Human and non-human living beings, imaginary and symbolic beings, spirits, potential beings or memories of beings that were. Can you imagine the richness of possible speeches in a Universe where the tangible and the intangible meet? Doesn’t it excite you the infinite possibilities of light and learning?
I thank the beautiful miracle of Life, and in silence I try to understand my mission and embrace it with dedication and love.

So, this is why Peneda ecofarm was born, a jump of faith, so risky in practical life “as we know it”, so essential to actually embrace what we believe to be our life mission and, now Peneda ecofarm’s mission.

Elisabete Alves

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