In 2012 my life took an unexpected turn, which has led to a series of significant personal transformations over the past several years, some of which have been more obvious, visible and immediate, while others have been quieter, deeper, more personal and gradual…. Come along as I share the “short” version of my journey.
It would be challenging for me to tell you the story without telling you a little about me before this time, even going all the way back to the young age of four when I would visit the elderly in our community with my grandmother. I grew to love hearing the stories they would tell us, but most of all I saw how simply visiting with them would bring them great pleasure and have a positive effect on their day. I began to know in my heart that I wanted to be able to help people while continuing to leave a joyful impact on their lives.
My early schooling experiences also play a large role in who I am today. I was mostly homeschooled and attended a private, Catholic high school through which I learned a great deal about striving to do my personal best work, setting goals, and being organized and very independently driven. Exploration of my individual interests was encouraged in various ways as well. So I discovered my attraction to personal health and nutrition, and eventually fitness as well. I found as the years passed that I had a deep motivation to always be learning. For this I am incredibly grateful because it has been one of the most valuable tools I’ve had, along with the others mentioned previously, for navigating my personal health journey.
I began to know in my heart that I wanted to be able to help people while continuing to leave a joyful impact on their lives.
I went to college and received my degree in Occupational Therapy. In the spring of my second year of college (2000) I began to experience dysmenorrhea. I was promptly put on birth control by the health services department as the nurse practitioner there felt my issues were stress-related and the “pill” would certainly remedy the stress, right?! (Wrong! It just covered up the issues that perhaps the stress was causing me.) I certainly couldn’t deny the stress part, though (just think Anatomy & Physiology and Neurology classes!). Over that summer I began experiencing rather severe digestive distress. I had extreme bloating, intense stomach aches, and uncomfortable constipation and gas. I also rather rapidly gained weight. These symptoms affected my ability to function when they came on with great severity and were certainly impacting my social life.
It took me at least 2 years (around 2002) to finally get a diagnosis of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), which always sort of seemed like a cop-out diagnosis to me. It did appease me for a while, though. Little mention was ever made to me about the types of foods that may irritate my “condition” other than the times I brought the possibility up to the doctors myself. It made sense to me that if I was having the most pain after meals that what I was eating may be part of the problem. I searched for more information on this topic (the internet was a fairly new tool for this type of thing) and through self-experimentation learned about some of the foods which were irritating for me. Over the years I continued to experiment with (unguided) elimination diets. Eventually I learned that gluten was one of my worst aggravators.
Around that same time in 2002, I became clinically depressed (highly related to a specific event in my life) and found diet and exercise to be two areas of my life which I could control when my physical, mental, and emotional health felt out of my control. This excessive discipline around food and exercise developed into anorexia nervosa.
In 2003, after overcoming both the depression and the eating disorder (when I felt my life was a bit more stable), I decided I wanted to come off the birth control. With all that my body had gone through, including being significantly underweight, overexercised, and having been on “the pill” for 3+ years (which was likely just masking previous hormonal disturbances), my cycle didn’t return until after several unsuccessful provocation attempts from doctors and 2 years of “healing”. During that time I also dealt with pretty significant rebound weight gain from the metabolic damage the eating disorder and hormonal dysregulation had caused. This took a huge emotional toll on me, especially because I was planning for my wedding—a time in our lives, particularly for women, when we put a whole lot of emphasis on how we look!
Finally, in 2006, I felt like my body really started to return to homeostasis (skin clearing up, greater mood stabilization, weight normalization, etc.). Aaaaand, right at that same time, I got pregnant with our first son (no better sign of healing hormones!). Overall (despite all day nausea early on) my pregnancy was smooth and I felt pretty great after having him. I really began to feel like I had returned to my “normal” self after almost 5 years since my original bout with depression and my eating disorder began. I did still, however, continue to experience painful stomach aches intermittently, bloating and constipation.
In 2008, what seemed like a steady stream of stressful events started to occur. I got pregnant in the spring, was quite sick for 3 months straight, and then learned at my 12 week obstetrician appointment that we had lost our baby. I dealt with emotions that I had never felt before. The experience even started to trigger some of that control around food and exercise again, though didn’t escalate to a full-on eating disorder. I got pregnant again late in 2008, once again experiencing pretty intense nausea for the first few months and fear of having another miscarriage. I also lost a really close grandfather around that same time. After getting past the first trimester or so, my pregnancy went rather smoothly, however two weeks after giving birth, my son started showing all the signs of “colic”. The next 14-16 months were rather intense with one son under 3, and a very fussy, needy baby who rarely ever slept. I was simply at a place where this level of stress was just about putting me over the edge. I am a person who is quite easily overstimulated by noise and the fussiness was incredibly overwhelming for me. I found myself dealing more with unfamiliar emotions, many of which I believe had carried over from the experience of the miscarriage. But I pressed forward. You know, trying to be supermom while carrying (rather than managing) all of my emotional burden and physical stressors!
Within a few months of getting past the most extreme phases with my youngest son, I jumped into growing a business in mid-2011. I was just beginning in the field of health coaching, and so excited about finally finding a structured way to share my passion for health, nutrition, and fitness with others! I didn’t want to leave my children anymore to go to work, so this also gave me an opportunity to try to work from home. I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone immensely many days of the week, and it felt great (yet was a huge positive stressor). My business grew incredibly quickly after lots of hustle in the first few months, so that by early 2012 Iwas trying to find balance in my business while continuing to try to be supermom. Also during this time, I had been doing a lot of experimentation with an elimination diet again. I was learning new things about myself and made improvements in the bloating and stomach aches I had been experiencing for so long, but I also lost a significant amount of weight for my size and became underweight again. I was tracking every morsel that went in my mouth, harkening upon some of my previous disordered eating tendencies. I really truly did feel incredible, though– the best I’d felt in most of my “adult” life, so I wasn’t readily aware of the disordered nature of my habits at the time. I was happy, felt good about my body, and had incredible energy. I’m pretty sure I would have admitted (and know I did at times), that although everything seemed great, I knew I couldn’t maintain that level of hustle in all areas of my life for too long. Yet I continued to try…
I started seeing a naturopathic doctor in April 2012. After having my second son, nursing him, and becoming underweight again, I was experiencing amenorrhea for the second time in my life. I was kind of in denial that being underweight likely had something to do with it, especially since I was feeling so great. I figured this time it would be a rather “easy” process of working things out given some time. I knew that it had “worked itself out” previously and this time I was healthier (or so I thought), had more knowledge, and I felt like I had sought the right support. I hadn’t wanted to take birth control to try to “regulate” things this time knowing it was merely a patch for symptoms and not getting at the root cause. So I started the process of running labs and trying different supplements with my naturopath.
In the fall of 2012 my son was to start Kindergarten at a private school in another town. More than I think I realized I was dealing with the anxiety of having him away from me for full days for the first time. Additionally there would be lots of commuting. It was much more of a stressor than I had anticipated. I’d never been one to like rushing to get out the door in the morning, especially once I had kids. In order to make the schedule work, I was getting up at 4 or 4:30 am so that I could work out and get everyone ready to go. It didn’t take long after the start of the school year for my health to start to unravel…