I have received several questions about this and wanted to address it here. I ask people to share their heart and story vulnerably with me everyday... so it is about time I share a story of my own (that I am currently working through) with you.
About three years ago my health started to crumble. I grew up an extremely healthy child in a house where it was always encouraged to explore and find personal well-rounded health. My beautiful mother has always been, and continues to be, my advisor when it comes to navigating holistic wellness. In our house, the first line of defense for a cold was a mixture of essential oils, tea, acupuncture, and homemade soup. My parents exposed us to Eastern and Western healing modalities and allowed us to find personal balance between the two medicinal perspectives. My upbringing is the reason I have always pursued health as a top priority. The reason I make sure I get adequate sleep, the reason I eat fresh produce as the bulk of my diet, limit alcohol consumption, meditate, and get regular exercise. So when my health started to decline even though I was doing everything in my power to be a healthy 20 something... I felt lost and discouraged. I want to offer a short timeline and share with you where my health currently stands. I am still very much "in the mud" and this journal entry is coming from a place of still healing not healed.
In 2015 I was living in Switzerland and contacted a parasite, most likely through food. This is what triggered the decline of my overall health. Our guts are our first line of defense when it comes to illness of all kinds and due to the parasite in my large intestine, my body was stripped of its ability to fight. I lost my ability to digest food. Everything I ate, no matter how nutritionally dense, came right back out. I was in severe pain. Eating became an unpleasant experience... I was basically existing off of plain yogurt, mangos, and tea. During this time I learned that our bodies are delicately, and incredibly, interconnected. When my intestinal system began to collapse, my nervous system experienced the aftershocks. I began to experience anxiety that lead to severe panic attacks. My body and mind became fatigued. I watched as my bodies systems shut down one by one.
When I returned home from over seas in 2016 I saw an internal medicine and functional medicine doctor and began taking herbs to help kill whatever bugs and bacteria were still inside my body. My symptoms started to decline and I thought I was back to my "normal" state of health.
In the fall of 2016 I moved back to Malibu, California to finish my undergraduate degree at Pepperdine University. As my stress levels rose due to school, my body began to shut down again. I thought that I had fixed all my intestinal issues, but they were simply laying dormant due to the stable and relaxed environment I was in while home for the summer. All the uncomfortable symptoms from before came back with new found strength. I started taking more herbs, began acupuncture, and was eating a strict whole foods diet that was primarily plant based. While these things leveled out my symptoms, they did not heal them -- my gut was still severely distended, I had horrible acne, eating was uncomfortable, I was extremely fatigued and sleeping 12-14 hours a day, and blood was showing up in my stools. I felt the immense toll it was taking on my whole life...my anxiety was spiking again, my relationships felt strained, and maintaining my academics felt impossible.
The summer between my junior and senior year offered respite. I am now incredibly aware of the impact stress has on our bodies ability to fight illness and heal due to this journey. It was evident that the low stress of summer gave my body time and space to try and kill whatever bacteria or infections my body had contacted. During the summer of 2017 I felt like myself again: I ran a half marathon with my dad, camped with friends, and felt better than I had in years. I really believed that this time I was back to normal.
Life, however, operates on its own timeline, and as soon as I began school again my body was screaming for help. In November of 2017 I came down with the flu. The flu continued to get worse and eventually turned into pneumonia. The pneumonia escalated to the point where I was hardly getting any oxygen into my body. My roommates had to drive me to the emergency room late one night so I could get the attention I needed. They held my hand until 3 in the morning when I was finally admitted into the hospital. I never returned to school after thanksgiving break... I missed all my final presentations and all my final exams. I had to work on and submit my final papers from the hospital bed. The doctors could not figure out why a "healthy" 22 year old would come down with such severe pneumonia. My body was not responding to any antibiotics (I went through four different rounds) and they began testing for auto-immune diseases, infectious diseases, and valley fever.
side note: my mom is the best. she flew to LA to be with me in the hospital and slept in a hard chair for 5 days and never left my side.
Having severe pneumonia affected my life drastically. It left me with lasting pulmonary irregularities... and the aftermath is what I am still dealing with. A year later. The following is a list of symptoms I experience and deal with on a daily basis:
Consistent cough. Wheezing. Chest constriction. Severe migraines. Clogged sinuses. Ears that won't clear (I feel like I am living underwater). Mental and emotional fatigue. Brain fog. Aching joints. Painfully tight neck and shoulders. Skin rash. Persistent itching. Heart murmurs. Fever. Chills. Gut distention. Weak and fatigued body. Abdominal pain. Dizziness. Anxiety.
It feels like my life has come to a screeching halt. I am watching my peers go out and conquer the world and their dreams post graduation while I have yet to get a job because I feel so consistently ill. It has led to an overwhelming feeling of failure -- of inadequacy. I feel like I am moving slowly backwards. I have had to rely so heavily on the people around me for support. And while I have the best support system... I feel so weak. All the time.
Right now, we are approaching my illness from every angle. I am being treated by a lung specialist, a gastrointestinal specialist, an allergy specialist, and a functional and internal medicine doctor. Each of these people are doing everything they can to find out what is attacking my body and are working hard to find the best way to treat me. I feel so lucky to have the resources and support to look at my health from multiple angles. But also, I am finding, it is incredibly overwhelming. Each doctor believes they know what is wrong and are looking at the issue from their own medical perspective. My family and I are left to sift through an incredible amount of information: is it irritable bowel syndrome? is it leaky gut? is it asthma? is it eosinophilic esophagitis? are the eosinophils in my lung or in my blood? what is causing them... an infection or a food allergy? is it toxic mold? has the mold spread? is it a lingering parasite? is it an auto-immune disease? is it rheumatoid arthritis?
These are all potential diagnoses I have received from doctors. The amount of information I have without any real answers is daunting. I leave appointments feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and defeated. There is still much to do before I have any real answers or a treatment plan in place... cat scans, blood work, mold testing, nutrition panels, and more pulmonary testing. I have an amazing team working hard to get my body back to normal. And when I am not at the doctors I have parents and a partner who have taken on all the "heavy lifting" life requires. I go back home to seek respite at my parents house often... my mom makes me soup, takes me grocery shopping, makes sure I have all the right supplements and vitamins, and drives me to all my appointments in Denver. She speaks for me when I can't speak for myself, when the timeline becomes muddled and I can no longer explain what I am feeling with any specifics... just that I feel sick. My dad held my hand as I went under anesthesia for the first time to have two scopes done and then took me out for bottomless pancakes after. He calls me every time I leave an appointment to make sure I am okay. He offers encouragement and support and demands proper treatment when I am too defeated to stand up for myself. Lucas cooks dinner when I am too exhausted. He cleans the kitchen when I fall asleep early. He reads to me out loud when I have a migraine and I can't read. He holds me while I cry -- and I cry a lot. He massages my neck when it hurts to move and calms me down after panic attacks. In a lot of ways, I feel as if I have handed my life to my support system. Please. Hold this. My life is too heavy for my feeble arms.
So, when people ask me what I am up to...well, right now, healing is my full time job.
For a long time I felt shame when I said that. It felt like stopping and slowing down to take care of myself was defeat -- like seeking vitality and health was somehow weak. But I have learned that slowing down is not weak, it is strength. That asking for help is a courageous act of self-love. That saying no to others often means I am saying yes to myself. I have found so much peace in the healing process. In this slow rhythm of two loving steps back, one step forward. I have found peace in the tears, the frustration of the unknown, and in the arms of others.
I have learned, and continue to learn, so much on this health journey and I would love to share some of the things I am doing that are working with you. It has been three years of trial and error... and there are things I have integrated into my daily life that make me feel light and healthy, no matter what my physical state that day is.
I am allowing the doctors to create specialized treatment plans, but in the meantime, I have adopted an Ayurvedic lifestyle. This is what I do on a daily basis to find grounding and try to get back to the healthiest version of myself:
- When I wake up, the first thing I do is scrape my tongue to get all the excess toxins out of my mouth and keep them from re-entering my body
- I have an hour long routine that I go through that includes meditation, breathe work, journaling, and stretches
- The first thing I put into my body in the morning is warm lemon water with apple cider vinegar
- For breakfast I drink a warming, winter Ayurvedic vegetable juice that contains: one cucumber, four celery stalks, a handful of spinach, one carrot, half a beet, one apple, a fourth of a purple cabbage, one lemon, an inch of finger, and a teaspoon of spirulina
- With breakfast I take:
- omega 3 fish oil
- omega 6
- B complex
- vitamin C
- For lunch I have warming ayurvedic kitchari with homemade curry powder and ghee
- I drink an herbal tea made from: fennel seeds, coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, and cumin seeds. (If I feel my immune system needs support I add fresh ginger)
- With lunch I take a plant based digestive enzyme
- Celery juice if I need an afternoon pick-me-up
- I usually take a shower in the afternoon after yoga and I:
- dry brush before I shower
- do a netti pot in the shower
- flo-naze after the netti pot
- oil pull with organic sesame oil
- oil massage with organic sesame oil
- For dinner I drink homemade bone broth or have more kitchari
- Before I go to bed I:
- take triphala
- drink ashwangdha
- take brahmi
- take aloe
- I drink a fiber flush made from: psyllium husks and ground flax
- I drink magnesium
- I drink warm lemon water with apple cider vinegar
- take an antihistamine
Some days I feel so small, so disconnected from my body and the health I once knew. But most days... I feel more connected to my body and my health than ever. This journey has gifted me with agency and control in my own life. I am now able to live intuitively and am intimately aware of the state of my body... of what I need and how to use food, herbs, self-care, and grounding to balance myself and focus on the healing that must take place.
Thank you for seeing me. For reading about my journey and following along as I seek healing for my body and my mind. I am committed to healing in the most loving and organic way possible. Health is never an "easy fix," but I have gratitude for the journey and never ending love for the wisdom it has gifted me.
infinite love and abundance,
I would love to hear from you... what are your favorite wellness practices? What would you like to learn more about? Comment below or send me an email <3