I’ve agonized over this post for months [and months]. At first I told myself that I couldn’t write it yet because I was still in the middle of the experience. I needed to wait until I had some distance and a lesson for you. Then I told myself that it was private and I should keep it private. Then I told myself that I was too busy to write it. But here’s the truth – I’ve been afraid to share this. My intention with Spirited Well-being is to be a bright spot in what can seem like a dark world. To inspire you, remind you that you are not alone and empower you to live your best life. And I’ve been afraid to share my struggles in any real way because part of me has been afraid of being seen as a fraud. A health coach who isn’t healthy. A meditation teacher who isn’t meditating. A spirit junkie who is mad at spirit.
But then I feel guilty because my intention is also to be truthful and not pretend that life is always unicorns, green juice and bliss.
So, I’m getting all health coach on myself and doing what I ask my clients to do.
Asking myself the questions to get to the truth, face my fears and share my struggles. I’m turning my mess into my message.
As I’ve shared before, I felt sick my entire life. Chronic migraines. Debilitating [and embarrassing!] digestive issues. Acne. Unwavering sadness. Never-ending insomnia. And I was shuffled from specialist to specialist for my entire teenage and early adult life with limited to no success. I was convinced that I was sick and my doctors were convinced that I wasn’t.
Five years ago I decided that I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and I was going to take control back. I stopped visiting the specialists and I devoted myself to studying holistic health and spiritual principles. And a miracle happened. Within days my symptoms lessened and within weeks they were nearly gone. Within a few months I lost 25 pounds without even trying.
I was healed. Or so I thought.
For a few years I felt amazing. The best of my life. I was finally happy. I found my tribe. My relationship with Andrew deepened. I felt healthy. My body was strong. I was calm.
And then it all changed. Out of nowhere. All of my old symptoms plus many new ones came flooding in. And for the past 18 months I have been suffering. I’ve experienced some of the worst migraines of my life – lasting for days. My hair has been falling out and is basically nonexistent at this point. I can’t digest anything and by the end of the day I am so painfully bloated that I can barely move. Exhausted doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel. I have no stamina. Walking up one flight of stairs leaves me winded. My joints ache and I have a hard time gripping anything. My skin is red and inflamed. I feel weak.
And I thought that I could experience another miracle. I healed myself once before so I could do it again. My job became insanely stressful so I changed jobs. I went to bed early and tried to sleep. I tried to eat healthier but I have been so nauseous that I don’t have much appetite. I tried to do yoga but I’m so tired that I can’t last more than a few minutes. And I just kept getting worse.
I finally acknowledged that I wasn’t getting better so I went to see a new doctor. A doctor who believed in meditation as medicine. An open-minded doctor. And, like the good health coach that I am, I went to my first appointment with a detailed list of symptoms, food dairy and tests that I thought made sense. And then the most shocking thing happened.
Within minutes of the appointment the doctor had a diagnosis. No tests. No detailed review of symptoms. No mention of my food diary. She said that I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and chronic depression.
I left with a referral to see a psychopharmacologist and recommendation to take a fiber supplement.
Desperate, I saw the psychopharmacologist and after 3 minutes I left with a prescription for an antidepressant. I went for several follow-ups with my doctor and had to put my bossy pants on for her to run any tests. All within the normal range. And again, she told me to just take the antidepressant and I would feel better. That all of my physical symptoms (including the IBS) were related to depression.
I was shocked. Every fiber of my being felt that there was something physically wrong. But the doctor told me time and time again that it was just mental. I asked for follow-up testing but she told me that they weren’t medically relevant.
And in the meantime, I kept getting worse. I was struggling to get through a full workday. I had a fever for long periods of time. I was so dizzy that I had to brace myself when I was standing up. But I felt like I couldn’t be sick. If it was all in my head, I needed to push through it. Ignore it. Fight it. Because no one believed me so by acting sick I was just validating that I needed the medication. So I fought. With every ounce of strength I could muster, I fought. I drove to work on no sleep and dizzy. I choked down food when I felt like I was about to vomit. I strategically styled my hair to distract from the hair loss. I wore long, loose shirts to hide the fact that I couldn’t button my pants because I was so bloated. I faked it. Every time someone asked me how I was feeling. “Better. I’m feeling better, thank you.”
I went to take the antidepressant so many times but I kept hearing my internal guide say no. I consulted with my close friends and mentors. I asked for signs (a lime green car) that I should take the medication. But it just didn’t feel right.
My gut kept telling me to explore the symptoms. To find the root causes and heal.
And then I got my sign. After a very upsetting follow-up appointment – when both the nurse practitioner and the doctor told me that my only option was to take the antidepressants – I talked to my former health coach and friend and she put me in touch with her friend. We got on the phone immediately and she described exactly what I was going through. She shared her experience and I was in tears because I felt heard and seen. Our symptoms were almost identical and our experiences with traditional doctors were carbon copies. And she shared her healing journey. And I felt a little less crazy. When we got off the phone the doorbell rang and UPS delivered three books: The Medical Medium, A Mind of Your Own, and Tears to Triumph. I devoured these books and tucked the medication away in a drawer. I sent my lab results to a friend who is also a women’s hormonal health coach and she confirmed what I already knew, my normal results weren’t so normal.
So I once again set out to heal myself. To trust my intuition and body. To believe in the power of healing. To believe in myself.
I recently started working with a naturopathic doctor. Our first session lasted two hours and she was eager to review my detailed list of symptoms, food diary, and thoughts about tests. She validated my experience. I started on a supplement regime last month to address some gut issues, hormonal imbalance and support my adrenals while I wait for test results to come back.
I’ll be honest. I am nervous about the test results. Part of me hopes that they indicate something. And another part of me feels guilty and shameful for that part. Really?! Am I really hoping to be sick?! Part of me is afraid that the tests won’t show anything. That’s the ego part of me, though. The part that wants to validate that it’s all in my head. It’s the part that wants me to believe that I will always feel this way.
But what I am realizing is that the test results don’t really matter.
Sure, it would be nice to have some clues about what is going on and treatment options. But what I have learned through this long and painful process is that I can trust my body. And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that there is something wrong. Did the physical cause the mental? Or did the mental cause the physical? I’m not sure but I suspect that they are bffs and feeding off each other. So, regardless of what this set of tests show, I am committed to healing. And in doing so I am healed.
I am also committed to changing my mindset. I want a miracle. I want to wake up and be healed. I want to feel normal. But I am working to accept that I have a chronic illness (even if I don’t know exactly what to call it) and that the miracle is in the acceptance. I can heal and feel well and thrive. But I can also allow myself the experience of acknowledging that I am going through a significant health challenge. And that doesn’t make me weak or crazy or broken or a bad health coach. It is just a part of my life but it doesn’t have to be my life.
This is just the beginning. As I navigate through this sometimes murky, sometimes hopeful, sometimes overwhelming world of chronic illness I plan to share more, to normalize physical and mental health struggles, to encourage you to listen to your intuition and trust your gut, and to help others [and myself] feel less alone.