By Jamuna Rangachari
Rafael Llenas Ruiz was diagnosed with the debilitating ankylosing spondylitis at the age of 23. While exercise and diet helped, it was freeing himself of fear, worry and stress that healed him completely, says Jamuna Rangachari
Time and again, life reminds us that it is love that is the greatest wellness mantra of all. For it is in loving and accepting ourselves unconditionally that we are freed to lead a complete life. We profile a victor who reiterates the fact we are born to remain healthy, and all health issues will go away when dosed with the tonic of love.
Rafael Llenas Ruiz (Ralph Ruiz) was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to the US as a six-year-old child. He experienced the first symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) when he was 14 years old in junior high school, though he was not diagnosed with the ailment then. In fact, he had begun his career as a fitness and health coach back in 2006 when he was 18 years old as he was sick and not able to work. At that stage, he was evicted from his apartment and his car was impounded. He declared bankruptcy and moved back with his father. He was then diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis in 2010 when he was 23 years old.
Another challenge struck when in 2012 in preparation for biologic medication he was prescribed a nine-month trial of antibiotics because of a failed tuberculosis test. Actually, he never had tuberculosis. After two months of being on those antibiotics he experienced a numbing in his arms and legs, and started having very lucid dreams. The doctor told him to stop the medication immediately and when he did so, he he went into what the doctor later diagnosed as 'drug-induced psychosis'. He was suicidal and couldn’t tell if he was dreaming or awake.
Before the psychotic episode he was on a low sugar diet and a rigorous exercise programme that kept him feeling well most of the time. After the psychotic episode he went deeper into finding better natural solutions so he began exploring stress management much more seriously.
He got on to Youtube and began to share his experiences with people all over the world. Many had found relief through diet and exercise. Shortly after starting the Youtube channel he began holding Skype calls with other people with AS and realised that there were many things AS patients had in common. A difficult childhood was only one of them. He began to suspect that there was something happening in the inner world that was triggering the disease. He started working with a very good friend of his named Edward Gousse, a licensed acupuncturist in New York. The acupuncturist helped him make the connection between his inner world and the disease. In early 2014, it was clear to him that working with his stress, belief systems and his inner world was much more promising than diet and exercise. The more he explored his inner world the better he felt. In October 2014, he was featured as a Macy’s and Under Armour health coach sharing his experiences with AS. It was the last time he said the words, “I have ankylosing spondylitis.” After the filming was over, he ended all the special diets he was on and resumed a normal diet.
When he healed he returned to working in the health and fitness industry through his website:http://ralphitness.com/ He had realised that the AS community needed a lot more than just fitness and nutrition coaching. They needed someone to help them overcome their fears, their anger, their frustration, their sadness and the storm in their inner world. For these reasons he became a life coach and started working with people all over the world, helping them overcome their issues with AS. Excerpts from an interview:
Why has AS and other auto-immune disorders become more common among the young nowadays?
I personally believe it has something to do with the message being delivered through television. Almost every TV programme glorifies the lone warrior who takes down an entire army without the help of anyone else. Pop music delivers a similar message. Any sign of fear, which is a natural emotion, is considered a weakness. That’s the message we see nowadays and the youth grows up thinking that it has to live up to this unrealistic standard of taking on the world all alone. The truth of the matter is that human beings NEED other human beings. Humans are no different than honey bees. We are meant to work in units not individually.
What is the trait that you have observed in patients grappling with AS or other ailments?
Many people with AS display a persistent habit of worrying about issues that may or may not have anything to do with them. Usually when they encounter a challenge, they tend to overthink it to the point that it builds up into something much greater than it really is. People with other ailments also tend to worry a lot, making their condition worse. In fact, in my humble opinion all chronic conditions are due to unresolved stress in the internal world. Once the stress is solved, the body heals itself.
What have you learnt in your own healing process?
In my own healing process I have learned that there is nothing more important than family, unity and human connection. The ability to show vulnerability, to express our fears and insecurities without being shamed for them are true blessings that all humans deserve to have.
What is the lifestyle that you recommend to those grappling with issues suffering from an ailment?
I would recommend being honest with yourself and the world. Love yourself for who you are and stop trying so hard to be someone else. Sure, exercise and proper dieting are nice too but there is no greater detox than letting go of the need to hide your true self.
According to you, how important is the body-mind connect in our lives and wellness?
I personally believe the mind-body connection for health and wellness is as important as our next breath of air. If we are not aware of our inner world, our outer world can easily become a nightmare.
In your coaching, which are the experiences that make you feel you are making a difference to others?
As a health coach I have helped people find relief from Crohn's Disease, IBS, AS, Fibromyalgia and persistent feelings of sadness and nervousness. I've also helped people change unwanted habits and self-defeating behaviours. Most importantly, I've helped many people find and pursue what brings peace, joy and meaning to their lives. The difference I feel I am making is showing each one of my clients how to be themselves and love themselves for who they are exactly. I love it when people are able to express their passions, their fears, their insecurities, their desires, their joys and every other aspect of their soul that makes them unique; without any fear of being judged, criticised or shamed for it, while at the same time celebrating the differences between them and other human beings on this planet.
Who are the people who have been your inspirations?
My brothers are inspirations to me and so is my acupuncturist, Edward. My wife Janill Llenas is also a great inspiration to me. The thing I love most about these people is that they stood by me at my worst, helped me get out of my misery and still continue to love me today regardless of the changes I’ve made over the last 12 years.
Author Jamuna Rangachari is a writer who has authored two books for children, and compiled and
interpreted Teaching Stories-I and II for Life Positive.
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