I have been sick for a long time. But I am getting better. I can feel it. Everything has shifted. I haven’t told very many people how bad things have been…I always want to wait until things are better before I tell how bad they were.
If you have been dealing with any of these same symptoms….I hope I can offer some information to help you. I have been researching for years trying to get this all figured out….and trying one thing after another. I haven’t wanted to write about it until I felt “stabilized” for at least a few months…..and that’s where I’m at, a steady incline for a few months now. Things have only gotten better and better, right after they got really really really bad. I didn’t know some days if I would make it through the summer.
There is a lot I want to tell you. It’s just going to take a long time….because there is just so much. I have been on SUCH a long journey with all of this, and it has not been fun….but I learned so much and also learned that so many other women are going through a lot of the same health problems and I really just want to help. It was so hard to find a way out of this…..and if this can help just ONE of you…it will be worth it to write it all out.
So….I am going to write it out over the next few weeks in a few different posts…this first one I am just going to tell you the timeline of my health decline.
Here are the basic facts.
-I was in the best “shape” of my life when I turned 40. I was wearing a size 6 and I had worked really hard for that. That was 3 years ago. I was also addicted to caffeine, did lots of crazy diets and I worked my fingers to the bone. But I generally felt pretty good…as good as you can feel when you live on caffeine and adrenaline and deadlines. I also felt SO WONDERFUL because I felt confident that my husband was finally on the other side of his brain injury, and so close to a full recovery and our life was starting to be put back together. It had been a long 7 years of taking care of him and watching our life fall apart and trying to hold everything together by myself in our family and business.
-I started getting chronic hives right before I turned 41, no doctors or healers could figure out why, or how to make them go away….they lasted for 2 years…and now I pretty much have them under control. I just turned 43 and I feel like I’ve been in a 2 year battle…a warzone with my own body.
-My adrenal system was completely drained. I was so exhausted, and that got worse and worse. I could not tolerate exercise. I was more tired than there are words to explain but I could not sleep. When I would finally START to go to sleep, I would have a huge panic attack and a surge of massive adrenaline that would make my heart beat for hours, if I did finally go to sleep, the same kind of feeling would wake me up in the middle of the night. Night time was hell.
-I had incredible anxiety…so bad that most days I couldn’t tolerate being with or talking to people outside of my own family…or dealing with life in general. Everything felt overwhelming, and even scary. I cried a lot.
-My hormones were wacked out….mostly depleted. This left me feeling crazy…grouchy and irrational. This is not so fantastic when dealing with relationships. I cried a lot.
-No matter what I did, I kept gaining weight. Currently I think I am about 40 pounds over my weight on my 40th birthday….the weight that I feel comfortable and most like me. I don’t know for sure the exact amount because right now I refuse to weigh myself…but I can feel my body balancing and starting to shed extra weight and I’m going to start exercising again and then I will maybe weigh mysef. I have a fairly public career and it has been a real exercise in self love to allow myself to show up to my job of facilitating women’s retreats and doing online videos with my body ballooning up and hives that were sometimes frightenly disfiguring. Seeing my body change from this illness has made me cry…a lot. But one thing I will tell you before I write a whole post about this subject in general is that learning to sit with myself, to love myself and to accept myself exactly as I am has been absolutely critical in my healing. Even though I am 30-40 pounds heavier than I have ever been, I have learned to love myself, protect myself and take care of myself. This has been the most incredible miracle and one that made it all worth it. I don’t know how I ever would have become who I am meant to be otherwise.
…so, those are the facts…I will get started on the whole story….
A little more than two years ago, it started with a big uneasiness….anxiety, but deeper than that. I felt a sort of soul deep urgency and a feeling that felt like an out of tune guitar. Like my whole self was sharp, or flat…..just not in tune. I just felt uneasy…..
Then the hives started one August night. I woke up with them. My eyes were swollen shut. These were no ordinary hives….big welts all over my scalp….that moved to my ears, my neck, my throat……then all over my face. I also had them all over my wrists and arms….and then they moved down my body. Big, itchy swollen welts that felt like bruises when they were touched.
I went to the emergency room when it felt like my throat was swelling. They put me on an IV of Benedryl. The doctor then told me that about 90% of hives cases are never solved. I figured it was something that I ate and I felt certain that they would go away and never come back. The Benedryl didn’t even touch my hives. They wanted to give me steroids and I refused. I just decided they would go away on their own….and I went home. The next morning I had to go on a very important trip…I almost didn’t go. THAT TRIP, however, sent me into the exact relationships that would sustain me through this illness. You can read about that HERE. When I wrote this post, I had no idea that I would still be sick long after it. I was sure the hives were very temporary.
Well…they stayed for a very long time….on and off for more than 2 years. (I still get them if I am not very careful about what I put in my body) I will write a whole blog post just about the hives. The hives have been one of my greatest teachers, one of my most painful teachers….the hives taught me things I don’t think I could have learned without having lived a few years being disfigured and unrecognizable and even scary some days….having to see myself like that and dig deep for who I am on the inside. Having to show up to the public like that and hope they would see me on the inside too. I still cry when I think about the hives.
Around the same time 2 years ago, I started to get tired….and I acquired anxiety, especially in social situations. This is not a wonderful symptom for a retreat facilitator, but somehow I was able to rally enough to do Brave Girl Camps, mostly because it was in my own home, and I felt safe. Over the last few years, both the exhaustion and the anxiety about talking to others got worse and worse….until I have mostly been staying at home and not really going anywhere except when I have to travel. I have become a hermit.
I guess I just thought that my personality had changed. I know that I am an introvert, but I have always been a very outgoing and social introvert. During this time….the thought of having to talk to anyone except my very closest family and friends brought on so much fear and anxiety that it made me even sicker. I went deeper into the hole.
Then the weight….it just started creeping up. I guess staying in bed didn’t help matters much. No matter what cleanse I tried, what diet I did….even working with a trainer for a while, my weight just kept creeping up and up and up. None of my clothing fits. It’s all stretchy stuff for me. Stretchy and comfy. Lots of old self-loathing during that time. I couldn’t bear seeing myself. SO MUCH of my healing work has been around this. I finally stopped trying to fight the weight and it is just now starting to release…..but I am going to be gentle and easy and kind about it this time around…and who knows if I will ever have my old body back? I have finally let go of that requirement…the requirement I used to have to acheive before I would allow myself to love and accept myself. I have EVERY intention of getting more healthy than I have EVER been, but I have no requirement for what that weight will be, or what that size will be. It will be whatever ends up being very best for my body. No more forcing.
Ok…THE HORMONES. Ugh. I got a lot of blood tests and saliva tests last Spring…about 6 months ago. I had gotten a lot of blood tests over those few years, but had never done a full panel of hormones and everything else. When I got my tests back…everything was SUPER LOW. Even my cholesterol was severely low! My body was completely drained. One of the things that was making me feel so terrible was how low my progesterone was, especially in comparison to my estrogen. Sticking with a regimen of progesterone cream made a HUGE difference for me on every level….and that’s when my hives started getting under control. That’s when I started to calm down, too. But that was only a small part of the battle.
I also found out from those blood and saliva tests that I was almost in complete adrenal failure. Your adrenals are the tiny little things that give you your energy and do all sorts of other things. I was stage 3 adrenal fatigue…..which means I have depleted just about every last drop of anything that my body has to give. This makes sense as it was just about the 10 year anniversary of my husband’s accident….and I had been running on adrenaline, fear, desperation and big dreams and deadlines for all of those 10 years. When I ran out of my own energy, I just drank more caffeine. I was in energy debt…I’d used up all of mine and more…….and the only way to recover from severe adrenal fatigue is to build it back up. My doctor told me it would take at least a year before I was back at a good level. A year of diligent sleeping, clean nutrition, supplements…..and ugh……emotional healing.
So…then there’s that…emotional healing…and at least one whole post is needed to write about that. I had not been to therapy, or counseling or any kind of consistent support for those 10 years. I was waiting for my husband to get better so we could heal together. In the greatest knock-the-wind-out-of-me moment of all of my life, I found out in what was supposed to be our first healing conversation together, that my husband has no memory of the most horrific things that occured while he was in full-throttle frontal lobe brain injury mode. I had saved all of it, grieved or dealt with none of it, never talked about ANY of it, and kept it all in a cooler…fresh and ready for he and I to heal over it together. Finding out that I was the only one holding those very heavy, horrific memories pretty much sent me into the darkest time of my life.
So…I spent the Spring and Summer in deep therapy. I have never done that. It sucked. I felt like I was bleeding to death. My weight kept creeping up. I felt angry, resentful……FURIOUS. I have never ever let myself feel angry in all of my life. I just thought I didn’t know how to do that, or my anger organ was broken or missing. Fact is…I just got really good at repressing it. 42 years of stored up anger came out over a few months.
…AND THEN…I started to heal.
So….you see how it wasn’t just one thing? It has been nutrition, sleep, supplements…..it as been the right doctors and healers. BUT MOST OF ALL….it has been ME finally being COMPLETELY honest with myself about how I feel and what I have been through. It is me OWNING MY PART IN IT. Because I certainly am the one who made all of the decisions I made to get me to where I am now. And just like all of life, the consequences of other’s decisions are thrown in there along with things that are completely out of EVERYONE’s control……things that are just hard about life….
But I did not start to heal until I dug deep and claimed my anger…claimed my mistakes and claimed my awesomeness too. I did not start to heal until I got really really really honest.
Everything has changed for me since then. EVERYTHING. I feel like a new person. Now that I love and accept myself…all of me….even when I look like a monster from hives, or when my bum is extra wide and chubby….I love and accept myself. And when you love and accept yourself….you stop tolerating abuse. You stop tolerating abuse from yourself in the form of overworking and crappy eating and not sleeping………and you stop tolerating abuse from others. EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED.
Ok….that’s it for now.
I will write in detail what I have done to get healthy again….the green juicing…the supplements, the doctors. The 100% refrain from caffeine. (I NEVER thought I could EVER live without caffeine!) The therapies, the doctors…the books…the stuff that has helped.
BECAUSE I WANT YOU TO FEEL AS GOOD AS I DO. And I really really really truly thought I would never feel good again, I was certain that I was ruined. But I stayed with me. I stayed with me no matter what…….and that made all the difference.