It was in 2001, when I started my journey of living a more natural and healing lifestyle. There is not one aspect that I can sum up and say, “This is what caused my physical and mental struggles growing up,” as it was a culmination of everything. Just like for all of us, we have a past, and it collects in a timeline we can evaluate to help us understand our lives today. As I look at mine, without negating all the blessings and enjoyment I have experienced in my life, I see a lot of pain and suffering. I see where the determination that I have today comes from. I have made it my purpose to lessen my suffering and provide myself with more love, nourishment and laughter. If I can gracefully help others around me do the same, then our lives collectively become even more enriched with purpose.
Growing up, I had many examples of disturbances in my body and mind that were remedied with an overload of medications. As I lacked understanding of what was going on within me, the doctors were quick to treat ongoing symptoms without delving deeper to understand their true origin—this was not a good mix. I felt sheltered from other options and resources, so I followed suit with what was available at the time. My family didn’t seem to question the typical Western system of pain management and the health-care practice. In fact, many members of my family worked in the pharmaceutical field, so it was a part of our lives. And to be honest, at that time and in the moment of pain, I was thankful if the medication gave relief. But I was always wondering what was causing the behaviors and what the body was trying to communicate. From the memories I have, I remember always having an inner quest to discover the origin of the symptoms, the Oz behind the curtain. I couldn’t fathom continuing to grow up living the rest of my life in continued suffering.
Looking back at my timeline over the years, I can see patterns of symptoms and reactions that highlight a body in stress. From the very beginning of my life, I can see significant instances that involve the very fundamentals of our survival. From the first time I went to take in food when nursing, I stopped breathing, due to immature lungs. This experience is just an example for me of the appreciation and order of both breath and food. It is only when the breath is abundant and regulated that we should move on to eating food. Conscious breathing through our nose while eating aids digestion by activating our parasympathetic nervous system, allowing the body to relax and regulate digestion.
Six months later, I suddenly started to lose a lot of weight. I was diagnosed with “failure to thrive.” I was severely malnourished, dehydrated and dying—and no one knew why. FTT is where there is insufficient weight gain or inappropriate weight loss. Possible causes for me were believed to be environment and when my body was introduced to rice cereal with the breast milk. Within that two-week period of decline, my organs began shutting down, and I was hospitalized. I was treated, and before I left the hospital, they started me on strained fruit which helped with weight gain. The body has an intricate language of cause and effect in which it uses symptoms to communicate with us. Without these symptoms or reactions, we wouldn’t have the time to respond and make changes.
Looking at the way I ate and spent my days gives a helpful view through the window of my health growing up. There were the home-cooked meals that took time and love to prepare, with whole foods and veggies alongside. But more often, the typical nutrient-deficient “foods,” loaded with dangerous chemicals and ingredients, lined the cabinets. Many of these products, we assume, are fuel for our bodies but contain poisons responsible for much of the decline of our health.
Growing up, I did not eat a lot of meat. In and after high school, I bounced back and forth from vegetarianism and eating fowl and/or fish. I was not a picky eater; I was just eliminating and exploring to figure out what was best for my body. As a teenager and in my 20s, I gravitated toward carbohydrates such as potatoes, rice, bread and pasta. I stopped drinking milk in my teens but consumed plenty of other dairy products. I loved cheese and didn’t shy from it. I loved salty and spicy foods. I also consumed large amounts of coffee and all the fixings. I smoked cigarettes from a young age as well. With an already toxic body, I was adding fuel to the fire.
So there were things I was doing that were harming my body, but there were also things that I wasn’t doing that also were doing damage. I always loved and ate fruits and vegetables, but did not eat nearly enough—especially not raw fresh ones. I did not sleep well and struggled with insomnia. I know now that the body cannot heal or repair if we do not provide it with the sleep it needs and deserves. Neglecting to provide my body of sufficient water was another hindrance to my health—and one of the most significant.
During elementary school years, I struggled with asthma. Then environmental allergies and sensitivities started and were treated with steroid prescription medications. My body was so hypersensitive to poison ivy that I didn’t have to touch it; the wind just needed to blow my way and I had it everywhere, including my nose and throat, putting my breath at risk again. The asthma episodes stopped, but the allergies continued as I got older. My body was on toxic overload, and the discomfort was about to shift into another gear.
As a teenager, my body was trying its best to use all those hormones to orchestrate a system in a rhythm of its own vitality, and this was quite a challenge. When my period came, my body was doing what it was supposed to do—get rid of toxins and repair and refresh itself, but it was struggling to keep up. So it altered itself by giving me two heavy and extremely painful long periods a month, often causing anemia. The pain kept me from school and activities and kept me isolated and questioning what was wrong with me. At least 12 days of every month, I was taking strong pain relievers. All of the over-the-counter and prescribed medication and the administered shots of drugs from frequenting a hospital were piggybacking a fatigued and toxic body. This avenue of treatment continued into my mid-20s and was only masking and harming my body’s best effort in maintaining life.
At 14, I started with increased depression and other issues and reactions due to my environment and state of health. What harms the body affects the mind, and what harms the mind affects the body. This brought me even deeper into the confusing world of more doctors, hospitals and medications. I was grateful for the love and intended care, although the typical care offered seemed to propel me further away from understanding myself. Not only were the symptoms actually rooted in and growing from a significant disturbance somewhere, but I didn’t know how to heal and cultivate self-love, so the disturbances just kept growing within.
I started with ovarian and breast cysts in my late teens, which continued on and off for years. This added another layer of pain to my menstrual cycle and more tests and procedures at the doctors’ offices and hospitals. I had cysts drained, biopsied and removed. I’ve had numerous mammograms, ultrasounds and trips to specialists, which continued to feed this ongoing spiral I was stuck in with the health-care system, just as it seemed all the people around me were as well.
At 26, I got to a point where I could not persevere any longer. When I would inquire about possible origins of all these symptoms, I was given a short answer: “Everyone’s body is different.” Family would tell me how it’s in the genes, and they would apologize for passing down digestive problems, depression, learning disabilities and possible future cancer. I was discouraged and felt cursed and powerless. I was shutting down, and within my current lifestyle, I had exterminated all resources and was at a loss. I had a choice to quit and give up or to learn to go within and team up with that enlightened intuition, which is always eager to lead the way, and see how my life might change for the better. I chose to go within, entering a new chapter in my life that opened doors to the kind of nurturing lifestyle that resonated with me and my healing. I became surrounded by communities of loving people nourishing themselves through breath, food, yoga, meditation, exercise, healing energy, shiatsu, etc. It was in this environment that I had the appropriate resources to begin learning about the body and what it truly needs and how I can help support it through detoxing all the years of toxins and stress it endured. I became an active participant in my life for what felt like the first time.
I live with such gratitude because I am now engaging in life and its opportunities instead of being in a state of suffering and fear. I am empowered by the choices I have and the growing ability to steer myself into the state of life I want to live. My healing path is unmasking me and allowing me to integrate all the pain into purposeful experiences that feed my soul and provide me with the vitality I need to thrive.
Because of the lessons in my life, I am now certified as a Reiki and shiatsu practitioner and yoga instructor, and I am a raw food chef and transition coach. I am no longer taking medication as I no longer have a need. My periods come once a month, lasting only three or four days and usually without pain. I sleep every night. My cysts have dissolved. I understand myself and my relationship with my body more. I am humbled and blessed to be writing this transformation story of how Mother Nature nourishes and heals even when complex symptoms seem hopeless. But we have to clear the way and make the supporting decisions and understand the body is always doing its best to protect itself so that we may live in the best state possible. It is up to us to define what that state is.