It is ‘Wellness Wednesday’ and today I want to share my story with you. I know some of you may well be familiar with it, but I feel so incredibly grateful that I have made so much progress and that I am now able to enjoy my life and support others to do the same.
Ten years ago my life literally changed overnight. I went from being fully functioning, thinking I was fairly healthy, to being bedridden pretty much in the space of a few months. Whilst I had many early warning signs, I just kept ignoring them, thinking that it was ‘normal’ and that most people had to feel like this. I had just had my second child a few months earlier, which was followed by a really bad bout of Labyrinthitis. I was tired all the time, had ongoing issues with shingles, daily headaches, irregular cycle, digestive issues, muscle pain, sore throat and more. Somehow, I figured that these symptoms were just part of everyday life and that I would soon bounce back to my usual energetic self.
Sadly, this was NOT the case and my body finally collapsed on me whilst in a meeting. I was left stranded and couldn’t even manage to drive myself home! The early days were incredibly dark and terrifying if I am honest. My days were riddled with frequent panic attacks and I never knew when the next panic attack would happen. In conjunction with this I had chronic migraines, blurred vision, ticks, slurred speech, muscle spasms and pain, insomnia, photophobia, stomach pain and an inability to retain food or regulate my body temperature. I lost a lot of weight in a short space of time.
Evenings were the worst as I tried to push through during the day, only to find that my body could no longer deal with the demands placed on it. I had the most excruciating burning sensation all over my skin, it literally felt like my body was on fire. My nights were spent awake, anxious, shivering and feeling terrified.
Regular trips to the doctors left me even more confused and anxious. There were no answers, no solutions, no explanations. Was this all in my head?? Well they certainly made me feel that way. I was prescribed a really strong antidepressant that only worsened my symptoms. This resulted in trying four different anti-depressants as the doctors genuinely believed that I was having a nervous breakdown. How was this even possible when I felt happy, focussed, enjoying motherhood, high on life and in the thick of writing my dissertation feeling excited to start a new career?
I suppose, it was eight months after having my second child, so the likelihood was there. The question I kept asking, surely if it was depression, why did physical exertion worsen my symptoms and trigger panic attacks? No one knew the answer. I felt determined to beat the ‘nervous breakdown’ and forced myself to get outside and go for walks, only to return to have endless panic attacks, burning, dumping, sleepless nights and more.
During the first ten months, I had countless trips to the doctors, blood tests, scans, x-rays, referrals and finally after ten months was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. It was amazing to receive the diagnoses, until I found that apart from painkillers and/or steroids, there really wasn’t much they could do. But how was this possible? Surely there had to be something I could do to improve my health?
Well as it turned out, there certainly was. I quickly learnt that it would take time, and I wasn’t wrong. It definitely didn’t happen overnight and there was NO MAGIC PILL!
Whilst working with Dr. Raymond Perrin and the Optimal Health Clinic, I was bedbound and housebound. After 2 years, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was confined to a small space with two small children. Life was challenging to say the very least. I enquired about a wheelchair and was fortunate to receive one. This completely changed my life. I could go out and see the world. I could enjoy outings with my family and after a few years, I even made it to France and Italy to reunite with my family from South Africa. A small outing was bliss but would result in needing a couple of days in bed to recover. With each of these outings came significant paybacks, but I didn’t care. I needed to live, and I was determined to find a way to make it happen.
Through Functional testing, I slowly started to piece some of the jigsaw pieces together. For the first time, I had real answers as to why these symptoms were presenting. I had extreme adrenal exhaustion, which was resulting in panic attacks. A few parasites were plaguing my gut, not to mention low stomach acid, malabsorption, low levels of good bacteria, high levels of opportunistic bacteria. Basically, my gut was a mess! Nutrient deficiencies were impacting my mitochondria and therefore my energy.
I spent a small fortune on supplements and therapies, audiobooks and literally tried everything. I was determined to get my health back as this was no way to live. After two years on supplements, using a range of therapies, I started to notice improvements. I was feeling better, but nowhere near where I needed to be. Everyone said that it could take two years to recover, but why was this not happening for me?
As a new mum, I couldn’t always focus on my own needs, but I tried to prioritise my health where I could. I slowly incorporated a regular yoga practice and slowly my body was getting stronger. I knew it wouldn’t be that long before I would no longer require a wheelchair. The problem was that my health was still not where I wanted, I was calculating steps to see if I could go somewhere or do something. I had to plan downtime for every small outing to pick up some eggs. Things were still a long way from right and I knew I was missing things. I knew that the only way forward was to enrol to study nutrition.
Studying with the College of Naturopathic Medicine is one of the best things I have done in my life. Don’t get me wrong, it was tough juggling family life and my own health and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my husband. Halfway through the course, I realised that no one had ever tested my thyroid! Could this have been the missing link all along?! After all, my mother has Hashimoto’s, Sjogren’s, Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis and there is evidence of a strong genetic link with autoimmune conditions.
In 2016 , my second year at CNM, I learnt that I had Hashimoto’s. My antibodies were sky high. Could this explain my inability to regulate temperature, the constant sore throat, extreme fatigue, and problems with my adrenals?
Since embarking on my journey to become a Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist and now studying to become a Functional Medicine Practitioner, I have learnt so much about my own health and why my body behaved the way it did ten years ago. Fortunately for me, I have been able to address some of the key areas that contributed to my health crash back in 2010. Some of these include:
- Gut health (it has taken a long time to rectify all the issues with my gut)
- Severe nutrient deficiencies
- Adrenal health
- Ongoing immune support for my autoimmune thyroiditis
In doing this, I have become so much stronger and healthier. I no longer have headaches, my menstrual cycle is regular, I hardly ever struggle with muscular pain (unless I play netball), my thyroid antibodies are significantly lower than they were, and my adrenal function is so much better. Most importantly my gut function is amazing, and I no longer have parasites or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, a condition that I struggled with for many years.
Life is good. Don’t get me wrong, I still have work to do, but I am celebrating the victories along the way. Most importantly I am getting back to enjoying the things that I am passionate about.
If you have managed to read this far, well done and thank you for taking the time to read my story. Hopefully this has given you inspiration that you or someone you know, can get back to feeling well. I am here to help and appreciate just how challenging the journey can be. Yes, it will require some financial commitment and a tonne of willpower, but there is no price on quality of life and good health.
Over the past two years I have seen countless clients who have managed to turn their health around, simply by following the TWJ Wellness Protocol. In doing so we have managed to:
- Improve their gut function
- Restore energy and vitality
- Balance hormones
- Improve thyroid function
- Restore and improve adrenal function
- Improve their skin health
- Improve migraines and ongoing headaches
- Manage their stress
The list goes on. In Functional Medicine, the key focus is on addressing the root cause. So whilst three clients can present with IBS or underachieve thyroid, each has a different root cause. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to work with a qualified practitioner that can help you to establish and address this.
Having symptoms, whether infrequent or frequent, is NOT normal. Symptoms signal imbalance. Let me help you to rebalance your health and bring you back to wellness.
No matter how small or big the problem, you can improve things! Your body has the most amazing capacity to heal, it just needs the right focus and support. Get in touch if you would like support. I would also love to hear about your own success story in how you improved your health, so do leave me a comment.