My health journey began several years ago when I encountered health problems that became progressively worse as I continued to ignore them. Mild teenage acne turned into adult cystic acne compacted with hormonal imbalances, fibrocystic breast, hypoglycemia and IBS. There seemed to be no other explanation for why I would have so many seemingly unrelated health problems other than my body was a lemon.
Thus began my lifelong passion for holistic living, natural nutrition and spiritual connection. As I did research I became increasingly aware about the undeniable connection between what we feed ourselves (food and thoughts) and how we feel. I believe that returning to a natural, holistic lifestyle (A.K.A. the way our grandparents and ancestors lived for thousands of years before industrialization and the epidemic of auto-immune diseases) is at the core of healing or managing many of our modern illnesses.
For years, I knew these truths, but I struggled to apply these principles to my own life. I was a Holistic Nutrutionst and knew exactly what I ‘should’ be eating, but couldn’t stick with it. I felt like a fraud. I wasn’t taking care of myself on all levels and soon my mental health suffered as well.
As a teenager, I had struggled with depression and anxiety. As an adult I had convinced myself that ‘I had dealt with that’ because I generally defined myself as a happy person. I was in total denial about the fact that my perfectionist behaviour and racing thoughts meant I was still living almost every moment of my life in a flight-or-fight mode.
Then my health declined rapidly as I suddenly suffered one excruciating IBS attack (intestinal spasms) after another. The physical pain and powerlessness I felt towards my body failing me was traumatizing. I suffered these attacks at work, in the middle of the night and at social outings. I lived in constant terror of another attack compounded by all the other issues that I had resolved to ‘stuff down and keep tough’. Within weeks, I felt like my sanity had been ripped away from me. I had anxiety attacks daily, suffered terrifying insomnia in spite of exhaustion and couldn’t make it through a day without taking ‘crying breaks’. I developed strange phobias that I never had before: everything from diseases to car accidents to bridges and storms. I was living with a constant feeling of hopelessness and doom.
It isn’t easy to come out of the ‘mental health’ closet. Yet I feel compelled to share what I have learned on my healing journey in spite of my feelings of vulnerability about being labeled as a self-professed basket case. If we are to ever truly heal ourselves we must find the courage to speak up and seek out real answers about what’s going on in our minds and bodies. If we want to live our best, most authentic life we can’t stop at anti-depressants, pain killers and other band-aids and never take the next step to face our fears and find out what brought us to the crossroads in the first place. We must own our health and wellness.
In the last few years I have seen several naturopaths as they each have their own area of expertise (just like conventional medicine docs). Each one has offered me another piece of the puzzle concerning my health. I have recently come to learn that I have advanced endometriosis which on average takes 10 years before a woman receives a proper diagnosis. Endometriosis often mimicks IBS and so many women, like myself, walk around with the mistaken belief that they simply have benign IBS when in fact endometriosis is growing out of control. I discovered long before my endometriosis diagnosis that I had severe adrenal exhaustion, was estrogen dominant and had low progesterone.
I had been told almost a decade ago that my adrenals were weak, but figured ‘big deal’. I had no idea how much the adrenals regulated. Mood, thought processes, blood sugar levels, the general ability to handle stress as well as hormone regulation are all significantly affected by adrenal function. My sudden, strange phobias were a classic indicator of adrenals that were severely insufficient. Depression and anxiety and even IBS are all linked to poor adrenal function. Since adrenals produce progesterone (as well as the ovaries), insufficiency results in estrogen dominance–this explained the fibrocystic breast, the difficulty getting pregnant, the adult acne and the endometriosis.
All of this went undetected by conventional blood tests through my MD, but appeared on saliva and urine samples that were recommended by my Naturopathic Doctors. As one of my naturopaths, Dr. Katherine Willow, unraveled more we discovered that my health issues went further than the physical. For years I had wanted to put my knowledge and passion for holistic health into practice. Like many I had found myself on the hamster wheel of working to pay the bills and raising a family and I had pushed my passion aside–functional health. Here, I take the first step.
While I initially saw these issues as a curse, I now see every ‘ill’ I encounter as a blessing to bring myself back to balance after years of chronic neglect–even abuse. My health issues have been my greatest teachers. They have empowered me to heal what was deemed by most doctors as ‘unexplainable’ and ‘incurable’. I am still on the road to recovery, but today I feel happier, healthier, calmer (phobias are gone!) and more energetic than ever before. Somedays, I feel like I am getting younger.
My hope for anyone struggling with a health issue, whether it be mental or physical, is not to give up-be persistent and downright annoying if need be. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t allow yourself to be written off, ridiculed or minimized. Consult with a variety of health care professionals: family doctors, naturopathic doctors, functional medicine doctors, Chinese medicine doctors, chiropractors, acupuncturists, herbalists etc. They each have their area of specialty and no single one has all the answers.
The journey to health takes time (often years). Find yourself a doctor who is willing to work with other practitioners. If he or she won’t work directly with a practitioner, then at least require them to be respectful and supportive of your choice to practice integrative/ functional medicine. The body is both fragile and resilient and usually bringing it back to health requires a number of approaches-after all your health doesn’t usually decline over night because of one single factor.
As I emerge from my ‘dark night of the soul’ I wish for nothing more than to be able to share with others that they can heal through the seemingly simple, but invaluable practices of nutrition, meditation, REST!!!, exercise and most importantly honoring that little voice inside you (your passion) that is calling you. This I know is the most promising path to restoring your mental, spiritual and physical health so that you can live the life that you were called for.
In Health and Wholeness,