I recently published my health history and thought that post was all-encompassing, but then I realized that there was a lot that I didn't even touch on. I guess that happens when you have years worth of data. In this post, I'm answering reader questions, touching on important details that I missed, sharing lessons I've learned and what I recommend for those of you experiencing anything similar.
After 10 years, how did you finally figure it all out?
I went in to see my gynecologist for an annual exam after I was in Urgent Care last fall, and she was clarifying my health history. I said, "Oh nothing new, still have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis." When she heard me say that, she exclaimed, "OMG! When did that happen? Who are you working with? Let me give you a contact." I think that was when I started realizing, hmmm, okay, this is a lot more serious than I might have thought. And it is. Autoimmune disease is nothing to play around with, just like any other disease. The difference is that autoimmunity is not something that can be cured, just managed. So once I left that gynecologist's office, I went back to Austin and tried to figure out my next move.
How did you put it all together?
I was in a conference room at work last November, in tears from being so painfully ill, when my mom called me. My mom said that she talked to her hair stylist, who had a friend whose daughter had experienced a lot of the same things I have and is now a chiropractor. My mom said, "Why not go and see what she says?" And so I made an appointment for early December. Listen, I had all kinds of preconceived notions about chiropractic work before I knew better. My chiro even said, "Yeah, a lot of people just associate us with clicking and popping." The first day I sat there and explained my health history for an hour. I was adjusted, she pulled my bloodwork, and ordered a food allergy test. All kinds of results came back from my bloodwork, much of which I knew. But, the interesting thing was the food allergy tests. It was like all of the pieces of the puzzle started forming. I realized all of the foods I was allergic to were the same foods that inflame the thyroid. Essentially, I was feeding my autoimmune disease and it just clicked that it's been the stem of everything for all of these years.
What do you do for it?
Well, it's a whole lifestyle modification. Right now, I exercise at least 5 days a week. I put myself to bed around 10/11pm. I do my best to follow the AIP diet. This stands for Autoimmune Protocol Diet. It's like Whole30 on steroids as it eliminates all inflammatory foods, but it's how I can heal my body. And very importantly, I have to really focus on my mental health:
I practice gratitude (in my journal, on social media, to other people)
I journal (writing on paper, typing blogs)
I see a therapist and talk it out
I'm participating in an online well-being course and other personal development initiatives
I meditate daily
I'm a firm believer in diffusing essential oils
I pray and participate in Bible studies with my friends
None of these things have come easy to me, but I work hard every day at them because I know how important it is to my overall wellness.
What happens if you don't eat AIP?
It's hit or miss, which is why I typically don't chance it. Sometimes I can get stomach pains with diarrhea, sometimes I get cramps with constipation. But most of the time, my body will swell / get puffy, like this picture here. There was a ring around my finger that I had to cut off after I realized I was getting a reaction. You can see my fingers are started to get red too.
Or my body will go into shock, and my hands begin to shake like this. I was at a stoplight driving home from work one day in this video.
I've also been known to get rashes on the inside of my legs too, and I'll spare you that picture.
What do you think could have helped?
Having a doctor that specializes in the whole body taking a holistic approach. My chiropractor is my saving grace.
What was it like having an eating disorder?
I was insanely lonely during this time. I was struggling with my health, everyone thought I was either crazy or making things up, I physically felt horrible all of the time, I was angry, I was hungry, I was sad, I was mad. It's awful. My physical health was such a punishment for me and the one thing I could control was food intake, or lack thereof. A lot of how I behaved during this time was very selfish...and I had to be. Many times it was all the energy I could muster, and I was the only one fighting for my health. So I did what I wanted, when I wanted, and how I wanted. The ED changed my life.
What is it like experiencing all of this by yourself?
My mom was a huge guiding factor for me in all of this. When you're sick, you're not in the right mental place to be making decisions like medication that affect the rest of your life. Also, there's a lot of information coming at you that's likely way over your head, so when you're already not feeling well, it almost forces you into freeze mode. Many times I had no idea what the right thing to do was. I'm grateful for my mom's gentle nudging, whether it was finding a new therapist, attending appointments with me, or listening to me bawl my eyes out.
What are the symptoms of PCOS?
I have a numerous amount of facial hair, it's dark and all around my cheeks and chin especially, and my hair grows fast and is thick. I have to wax my entire face every three weeks. I also have a very irregular time of the month (and didn't have a period for a long time). My hair on my head was thinning, and I experienced weight gain. The weight gain can also be attributed to an eating disorder and Hashimoto's. The main thing for me is the facial hair as it relates to PCOS.
What's one thing that happened that you weren't expecting?
Resentment towards doctors.
What do you mean that you didn't know you had anorexia?
I am of the belief that the majority of those who struggle with an eating disorder such as anorexia don't realize that they are classified as having one. Most of the time this is lost in the shadows behind "healthy eating." This right here is why my passion runs deep for the health and wellness industry. Part of the reason I came to terms with the fact that I had an eating disorder was when I was having my health issues in college. On the phone with my mom one day (gosh that lady is everywhere, huh? :)) she said, "I think you're anorexic." To which I ho- hummed about, but sitting outside of my next class in Oklahoma's Price College of Business, I looked up anorexia and every single one of my symptoms that I'd be experiencing at that time was listed.
What do you recommend for someone who's having a lot of health issues, but doesn't know what to do?
I'd recommend visiting a hematologist, tell them your symptoms, and request that they run blood work and tests. I found SO many answers over the years with mine. If you're in the north Texas area, I recommend Dr. Trillo with Texas Oncology. I'd also recommend visiting a chiropractor, and one that specializes in overall wellness. If you're in the central Texas area, I recommend Ply Family Wellness. If you're not in Texas, please reach out to me and I will help you find professionals to work with. I've seen over 30 doctors in 10 years trying to find the right fit. I have some tips and tricks I can share with you.
Facts and Lessons Learned:
1. If you think that you have gluten sensitivity, Celiac disease, lactose intolerance, or anything else like that... DO NOT stop eating them until you're tested. As I've mentioned, I (and doctors) believe that negative results came back for these tests because I took them out and they have not been in my diet, so my body cannot react to them during the tests.
2. I'm still learning. It's been 8 or so years now and I'm still finding things out, and you will about your own journey too. It's okay. Welcome this part of it!
3. Wow, our bodies will talk to us if we listen. The food/drinks that I don't enjoy are the food/drinks that don't sit well in my body. This is hard when you have a history of an eating disorder and you're so out of tune with your body, but gosh is it important.
4. When I feel physically unwell I am emotionally unwell. There've been so many times that I have snapped at my sister, for example. It's generally a direct result of internal unrest and feeling physically ill.
5. People will always inject their opinions into YOUR story. Do NOT do NOT let them influence you. Humans will always insert their opinions on anything, but please know you are not crazy and what you are experiencing is real. Nobody will understand you because they don't know what it's like to not be able to remember normal words from brain fog, or gain 30 pounds outside of your control, or be so constipated you want to throw up.
6. Your true friends will stick with you. I've honest- to- God lost too many friendships over my health story. Anxiety left me shaking to the point of freeze responses. I couldn't go to events. I have friends tell me, "You just seem like you don't want to be here" when we're hanging out. People left, but guess what? I'm still friends with a few girls who were my friends even before my health struggles. The good ones stay. You just trim up the weeds.
7. If you are friends with someone who is experiencing health issues, give them SOME GRACE. I am very passionate about this as it has severely messed with me. The emotional and mental energy that is taken from me on a daily basis due to my health struggles is utterly exhausting. There were days that it was exhausting to talk, much less even move, or want to do anything outside of the house. I've taken so much heat through the years from "friends" who made fun of me for never wanting to leave the house. Or being scared to do anything because I didn't know if I would feel terrible, if I'd have diarrhea, if I'd get stomach pains, or what was going to happen. Revisit point #6.
8. If someone else asks me if "it's just stress," I will lose it. Absolutely, stress is a part of it. Anyone would be stressed with this story for the past 7 years. It's not what's caused it, though.
9. I've been guilty of this- but, if you're not knowledgeable on a subject, don't speak. Anorexics eat, you can't tell if someone has an eating disorder by looking at them. Depressed people can still smile. Chiropractors are doctors.
10. Write everything down! Take pictures, keep a journal, and make a timeline. This has helped me immensely. Funny story is that I took a written timeline to my doctors’ offices and they were all incredibly impressed. One doctor even copied it document for document.