Abundant Life | Manifestation Affirmations

  • I got an autoimmune disease at age 21, and didn't take it seriously because I was in denial.
  • Now at 28 and engaged to another chronically ill person, I have to start really investing in our health.
  • I'm saving heavily for early retirement and emergencies, and I'm investing in preventive care.
  • Read more from Personal Finance Insider.

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In early 2015, during my final semester of college, I started experiencing a strange, consistent pain in my hands. I thought it was weird, but I chalked it up to psychosomatic stress pain because I was very busy. I dealt with it by popping an Aleve every morning. 

My symptoms rapidly got worse, until I woke up one day during my spring break in excruciating pain and could no longer get out of bed. Then, I finally acknowledged that something was very wrong. However, I thought that finishing school and continuing to work was more important than figuring it out. I limped across my graduation stage.

That summer, I was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis, which is under the umbrella of autoimmune diseases. Before I was put on an effective treatment, I couldn't do even the simplest tasks like dressing myself, opening containers, and typing. I walked with a cane, and needed to use a shower chair when I washed myself because I couldn't bend my knees.

It took me months to get back on track with some pretty heavy duty medications from a very helpful doctor. However, once I got my more serious symptoms under control, I went back to burning the candle at both ends. 

In hindsight, I think I felt cheated and bitter about the fact that I had serious health limitations now that most of my peers didn't have. I did everything in my power to pretend that I didn't, and that I could live like any other typical, healthy twenty-something. So, I ate, drank, slept, worked, and partied like one. I blew off appointments with my rheumatologist and tested the limits of my meds. I wanted to pretend like it wasn't a big deal, and that my illness was just an inconvenience.

Eventually, these choices accumulated and caught up with me, and I am sicker right now than I realistically needed to be at 28 years old.

Changing my attitude about my health

Whenever I'm not feeling well, I get a lot more calls and texts from my soon-to-be mother-in-law asking me extremely detailed questions that I don't often have answers to.

Chaya is a warm, very outgoing Orthodox Jewish mother of four who dropped out of medical school after 3 years of study to care for her young kids, which is half of why she knows so much about medicine. The other half is because she has been in treatment for lupus and Crohn's disease for over 20 years and spends a lot of time talking to doctors.

"You know, my mom only harasses you about your health because she doesn't want you to wear yourself down like she did in her 20s," my fiancée said to me once after I got off the phone with her mom. "Otherwise, you'll be bedridden with a life expectancy of 60 by the time you're her age, too."

Like her mother, Samarah also has an autoimmune disease, and is currently undergoing treatment for early signs of lupus.

"It doesn't have to be that way," Sammie added. "We can both live long, fruitful lives together — but you have got to seriously start taking care of yourself."

When we first started dating, I often used to blow off her concerns about my lack of care for my health, and would make jokes about it. But as we got more serious and I proposed to her, I got a wake-up call that we're both permanently sick, and that we need to prepare our lives together with that in mind.

It is notoriously expensive to be sick in the United States, and that goes double for people with chronic conditions. There are many people living with chronic illness, and it only seems like more and more people are developing them — especially as we begin to see the long-term effects of COVID that some people are experiencing now.

So, even though I was bad about investing in my health before, I'm doing it now so I can improve my prognosis. Here are six places where I'm investing my money so I can live a longer life.

1. Keeping my anxiety low and living space stress-free

Nothing exacerbates my condition more than excessive stress, which is unfortunate because I have a predisposition for being overly anxious. I can certainly feel it in my body whenever I'm going through a stressful period, and I always have worsening symptoms when I let it go unchecked. 

There are little ways I've invested in stress management, like making my apartment as comfortable as possible with light dimmers, incense, diffusers, and cozy furniture. These aren't purchases that I would have made before, but they've gone a long way in helping me feel more at ease when I'm home. 

A bigger thing I am currently doing is seeking out a new therapist. I haven't seen a therapist in a very long time, but I think I need one again to help keep my anxiety levels low for health reasons.

2. Investing in my diet

"You are what you eat" is not just an old saying — it's very true, especially if your body is already constantly inflamed. When I first got sick, I was told by everyone about how autoimmune disease "starts in the gut" and that what you eat can affect your symptoms. 

I largely ignored this advice at first, but I've been listening much more now and have made it a point to buy healthier foods that are known to reduce inflammation. Eating healthier is more expensive than the diet I was previously accustomed to, but I hope that by changing my diet I'll spend less on healthcare.

3. Putting away as much as I can for retirement now

This is something I know that I really need to be better about, especially since I'm pushing 30 now. Even when you're healthy, the compounded interest that you earn by investing in your 401(k) or IRA early can set you up for a much more comfortable retirement than if you start later in life.

When you're sick like I am, it's extra important to start early and to contribute as much as you can. After all, I am probably going to have to retire earlier than most people do.

4. Paying for the best health insurance plan my employer offers

Whenever you get a new job, you might find yourself scratching your head looking at all the different plans that your employer offers for your health insurance. High monthly premiums can cause a lot of workers to balk, and if you're healthy enough, maybe you can get away with having a high-deductible plan.

I never go for those options. It wouldn't make sense for me, because I know I'm definitely going to use it — therefore, I always go for the most comprehensive plan available to me, even if the premium seems high. I'm just grateful for less out-of-pocket costs.

5. Having a substantial emergency savings fund

One of the first things I started putting my savings toward when I started accumulating disposable income was an emergency fund. Both my future wife and I are chronically ill, so I know that I need to plan for future scenarios in case neither one of us can work for an extended period of time.

Even though the typical recommendation is that you have three to six months' worth of living costs in your emergency fund, I have just over six months' worth of our expenses saved for us in a high-yield savings account, and I plan to save even more after we get married.

6. Investing in over-the-counter supplements and wellness items

Even though I take a lot of very expensive prescription medications to manage my condition, I also look out for additional over-the-counter supplements that can help as well. 

There are a lot of over-the-counter products that don't really do much, and it can be hard to tell which ones work and which ones don't. But it's worth it for me to go through the trial and error of figuring out which ones do help, because I know from experience that the compounded effects of them can have a real effect over time.

In addition to investing in supplements like B-complex vitamins, fish oil, strong probiotics, and CBD oil, I also frequently buy things like compression gloves/sleeves and gel shoe inserts to soothe my joints.

A.J. Jordan is an editor for Personal Finance Insider's storytelling team. She takes freelance pitches on budgeting, saving, insurance, investing, the race and gender wealth gaps, banking, financial planning, and more.  Prior to Insider, A.J. worked for the aparment hunting platform Localize as a website content editor and worked with writers on urban development news, information about New York City neighborhoods, real estate buying and renting tips, and more. She has also worked at The Financial Times as a speciality publication reporter covering asset management, and as a local news reporter in lower Westchester county in the past. A.J. has an M.S. in Urban Policy and Leadership from CUNY Hunter where she concentrated in healthcare policy and a B.A. from SUNY Purchase in journalism and economics. She is a longtime resident of New York and lives there with her partner Samarah and their cat. How Personal Finance Insider chooses, rates, and covers financial products and services Sign up to get Personal Finance Insider's free email newsletter in your inbox »

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