Category Archives: backstory

Stronger

I stuck with the protocol, took a nap during the day as often as I could and rested. I said, “No.” a lot. Your adrenal glands sit right above your kidneys and I could feel mine aching at times. My body soon responded, though, and my exercise regimen expanded to 30 minutes of rebounding or 45 minutes of yoga, or walking outside. Occasionally, I incorporated a quick kettle bell workout. I had weekly appointments for 3 months, then in the spring, moved to appointments every two weeks, and am currently at once a month. Definitely stronger!

It’s imperative when pursuing natural courses of healing to remain consistent. It’s not about perfection, but seriously taking charge of your health. I am currently 10 months into my journey, and I know much has changed. We had the opportunity recently to go to the U.S. National Whitewater Center, and I completed every obstacle course and ropes course that I attempted! What a difference – not only physically, but mentally! As a family, we were able to conquer our fears – some of those ropes course are a bit high – and we did this together. A year ago, I couldn’t even go for a walk with everyone. I am so very grateful!

This doesn’t mean I am completely healed or that I have met all of my goals. We are still working on a number of issues and I am continuing to address my anxiety. It’s not an overnight fix at all, but I am a different person. Well, maybe not a different person; just becoming myself again. I am thankful for the journey, and honestly, thankful that my girls have seen us struggle and not give up. I am thankful they have weathered these storms with us and watched how we handled things – not all of it has been good. We are human. We make mistakes. We fail miserably again and again. I am so grateful that my hope and security isn’t dependent on me, and my kids have experienced this with us.

 

 

 

 

Small steps: forward, backward & sideways

I was barely two months into my protocol when I had my first setback. Stress is a huge factor in our lives. It can determine our physical, mental & emotional state. It also affects us spiritually, as we can either lean in to the Lord or be tossed about on the waves. Many times I asked the Lord to heal me, understanding that it was completely in His hands and whatever He chose to do was for His glory and my good. Sometimes it’s hard to ask for healing when we’ve been given so much already!

I am well-versed in herbal remedies, preparations, and many alternative treatments to care for my family. Thankfully, we have seldom had to seek care outside of our own “medicine” cabinet for the various ailments that childhood brings. I have numerous reference books; the internet is rife with information, and a great naturopath if I encounter something beyond my scope. I have some old school thinking ingrained in me – I know my children. I know their behavior, attitudes, strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. This knowledge is crucial to their “healthcare”. I’ve cared for them in sickness and health for many years now, so I am an expert – on my children.

Late one February night, my husband rushed my youngest child to the ER. We didn’t know what was going on with her. I had been treating her for about a month; we had taken her to an osteopathic doctor, recommended to us by Dr. Haas, and she was in the hospital for several days. Lots of antibiotics, IV’s and $$$ later, we never received a diagnosis. (This is another post, for sure!) When my husband took her to ER, I stayed up all night, texting and calling people to pray for her, my husband, and the doctors she would see. After a thorough examination, the ER doctor told my husband he had no idea what was wrong with her. I was scared.

There it was. Fear. My arch nemesis rearing it’s ugly head again.

Have you ever had a situation in life that you look back on and have no idea how you endured it? We have a few of those, mostly relating to our children. My daughter was finally discharged from the hospital and at the time I’m writing this, we are still working on her total recovery and health.

My husband and I took turns spending the night at the hospital with her while the other came home and cared for the rest of the family. It was exhausting, to say the least, and I had a newfound respect and admiration for parents of critically and terminally ill children. The Lord was gracious and we weathered the storm. I informed Dr. Haas of our situation, and we cancelled a couple of appointments – just until I knew my daughter okay. When I finally rescheduled, it was like starting over. I was so depleted and it felt like all my hard work was down the drain. He encouraged me, spent some extra time working on me and told me to guard my sleep and my diet.

Getting back into the swing of things was difficult. I felt like I was in a dance and I didn’t know the steps and there was no leader. Just moving around, going nowhere in particular: forward, backward, sideways, repeat.

What does hope look like?

Hope is a strange word, isn’t it? We use it so flippantly and yet it can be dashed in an instant, alongside our dreams. “I hope it doesn’t rain today,” is vastly different than, “I hope this works,” referring to a life-long pursuit. I always imagine that great inventors, such as Einstein and the Wright brothers, would put all of their science, logic, calculations and equations to the test, but is there an equation for hope? Is it calculable mathematically? I don’t think so, but I’m sure they “hoped” all of their hard work and scientific exactness would pay off. It’s inherent to us, to hope. I had it now, too.

For 3 months, I diligently followed the protocol. I was impressed by the professionalism at Haas Wellness Center. All of my responsibilities were clearly mapped out and given to me in this neat folder with important areas highlighted. A schedule was typed up with all of my supplements and the time and frequency I was supposed to take them. I hung this on the inside of our “supplement” cabinet so there was never any question. I had phone call/text access, email reminders of appointments and was encouraged to take note of how I felt and discuss it the next time I saw him.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing. Dr. Haas told me to be careful exercising with adrenal fatigue. I absolutely could not go for a run or walk briskly – not yet. I needed some healing under my belt and if I did these things, I was actually hindering my progress. So those three months of doing “Insanity” were completely taxing to my body! No wonder I hated it! I was to do the rebounder, gentle walking, preferably with sun on my face,  or yoga that wasn’t intense or hot. I started out rebounding and could only do about 15 minutes until I started to feel dizzy. My girls actually had to help me off the rebounder a few times when I was too exhausted or the room felt like it was pitching.

I also had to exercise caution with the detox baths as well. Once, I completed my 20 minute detox bath and went to shower off, which is a necessary part of the protocol. While I was in the shower, the glass started spinning around and around and I thought I was going to fall through it. I dropped to the tile floor and turned the shower to cold to try and shock my body. It didn’t work so I turned the water off and crawled from the shower to my bed, my hair dripping with shampoo. I couldn’t stop the spinning; I felt drunk and like I was having an out of body experience. Scared to death, the girls called my husband and I tried to tell him what was happening. He immediately headed home, and called Dr. Haas en route. Apparently, I had what was called a “blood dump” where my body detoxed too quickly. After a couple of hours of lying perfectly still and drinking water with magnesium, I stabilized, but I was incredibly weak. My husband made a roasted chicken with steamed broccoli and I managed a few bites. I honestly don’t remember if the shampoo got rinsed out that night or the next morning!

I stuck with it, though, because I was seeing and feeling results. Small, incremental steps – not huge overnight changes, which made sense to me. What a blessing! Dare I say it? I had hope.

A light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not a train!

I immediately began researching doctors in the area. I live near a decent-sized city, so I was hoping to have plenty of options for holistic care. I narrowed my research down by focusing on female wellness, insomnia, and hormonal issues. I perused websites to further whittle down the list, and then called and “interviewed” the practice with a list of questions. Both my husband and I prayed extensively over this process. We felt that choosing the right doctor was paramount!

After a few weeks of prayer and research, I ended up making a free consultation appointment with Dr. Kenneth Haas of Haas Wellness Center. I had some forms to fill out prior to the consult, and he met with me for around 20 minutes. He had already read my history, so I got to the bottom line quickly. “Can you help me?” His answer was yes and he gave me some information to read over and discuss with my husband.

I took the information, read every word of it and perused his website. What struck me most though, was a comment from one of his employees. She looked at me and said, “I was in your shoes last year and he helped me so much, I got a job here.” That spoke volumes to me. We finally decided to give Dr. Haas a try. I scheduled a 2 hour work-up session for December of 2012. Numerous tests were run and a follow-up appointment was made to discuss my specific protocol. No two people are alike, so protocols vary from person to person. This was the type of care I needed: honed in on what my body was doing or not doing in my case.

My follow-up appointment was daunting. In the words of Dr. Haas, “Your body has basically shut down.” I was struggling with multiple food allergies – even with my clean, organic diet – a taxed liver, heavy metals, severe adrenal fatigue, low progesterone/high cortisol (in the evening)/estrogen dominance, blood sugar imbalance, and all of my other organs, including my heart, were working over time just to get me through the day. This is a summary of his explanation: “Your body is going to do what it is designed to do, so if it has to rob from another organ or part to complete it’s job, it will do that.” Since my adrenals were so taxed, they were robbing from my thyroid. The thyroid and pituitary gland are the last to go, then you’re in crisis mode. My thyroid was compromised, so it wouldn’t be long until my pituitary faltered, if it hadn’t started already. It was imperative that I began treatment.

The protocol included a specific low-carb, high protein diet with a long list of foods I was to avoid, based on my work-up. The main offenders were gluten/wheat, dairy, a little raw dairy was ok as long as I could tolerate it, all nuts/seeds (NO MORE ALMOND BUTTER!), soy, all sugar, including fruit and potatoes, and so many others, I can’t recall! I had to stick completely to whole foods, increase my fat intake – crucial for hormone balance and repair – drink a specific amount of water, daily dry brushing, detox baths four times a week, daily rebounding – working up to 30 minutes and lights out at 10 pm. In addition, a host of supplements to get my body back in balance. Wow. It was a full-time job just to keep up with my stuff! In addition, I had weekly appointments for 3 months where I would receive a chiropractic adjustment, muscle testing, color therapy, allergy re-programming, and an ionic foot detox bath.

I scheduled my first appointment for early January 2013.

 

The underbelly

Life is full of ups and downs. Everyone knows that. Sometimes you’re in a valley for a while, but the mountaintop is right around the next bend. Then, there are times when it seems you are buried in the valley, under an avalanche or a rockslide. That’s where we were in 2012. For the sake of privacy, I am not sharing details, just my emotional state and the condition of my family, as it pertains to the story.

As wave after wave hit us, I really tried to hold it together, to be supportive and to meet the deep needs I saw around me. We were all struggling, individually and collectively. We limped across the school finish line and I have never been so relieved! I love homeschooling, but frankly, for the first time, I couldn’t wait to put it behind us. Summer is such a great time of year where we live. We are in a very active community with a swimming pool, a lake, tons of bike and walking trails, various playgrounds nestled among the trees, and a golf course within walking distance. The girls love exploring and nothing beats the southern heat like a dip in the lake or the pool.

By this time, I was spending numerous days in bed. The migraines continued and exhaustion was just a regular part of my day. My sleep issues worsened. We were having issues with the kids because I completely lacked the energy to deal with anything. Not just physical energy; I lacked the emotional energy as well. It was all just too much. I knew something serious was going on when I tried to go for a walk with my family one evening. I started out fine, then felt nauseated, dizzy, and faint. My heart was racing unbelievably and I thought I was having a heart attack. I was afraid to continue and turned back. The tears flowed freely that night.

Summer came and went and I was in a fog for most of it. I sank deeper into depression; the guilt was heavy and painful.  I was still researching, trying this and that, praying for the Lord to guide me and earnestly interceding for my battle-torn family.

I don’t remember what precipitated my almost-nervous-breakdown. It was an early October night and I told my husband I couldn’t do this anymore. It was too much. I needed help. I wasn’t making it on my own and it wasn’t for lack of trying to “cure” myself. I had all this knowledge, but couldn’t fit the pieces together. I was done. I’m not going to sugarcoat this, and it was definitely not my proudest moment. It was ugly; the underbelly of our human nature alive and well in suburbia.

He agreed I needed professional help. We were both drowning and neither of us had a lifeline to offer the other. It’s a difficult thing to love someone and not be able to help them.  So where do we go from here?

 

 

The day the dam broke

I’m really good at building walls. I like them. I feel safe and secure, guarded from the inevitable disappointment or hurt found in forging new relationships. It’s much easier and less daunting to maintain something than to charge ahead into new territory. I don’t share pain easily – not because I feel the need to have this perfect image or life. I don’t share pain because it’s just … painful. It’s showing a vulnerability, and if a person can identify your weaknesses, well, then, you’re just playing defense. Crazy, I know!

It was January 2012 when I blurted out briefly to a friend that I was struggling with insomnia. It was a quick, almost incoherent sentence, in passing. She looked intently at me and said, “You need to share this with the small group,” referring to the group of ladies I met with at my church. I mumbled, “I’ll think about it,” and the moment ended as we were joined by others. I did think about it, prayed about it, discussed it with my husband and dreaded it. I knew I needed to do it, but wow, I really didn’t want to go there. I love my walls!

My small group met early on Wednesday mornings – the unholy hour of 6 am, to be exact. I showed up the morning following my conversation with my friend, not really prepared to divulge anything, but it had been on my mind. As we chatted and caught up, I was completely taken aback by what followed. All of a sudden, I began to share what was going on with these precious friends; the dam broke, and the flooding waters swirled in and around me, over my head, and I was poured out until there was nothing left. Empty, bereft,  I blubbered and sobbed. Everything was in the open now. These wonderful, amazing women, wrapped their loving arms around me, prayed for me, held me and wiped my tears away. I felt very secure.

I now had a small support system. My small group listened to me … a lot. They covered me in prayer – about possible treatment, peaceful sleep, my family and responsibilities -everything! I felt a huge burden lifted. Secrets weigh so much! I am incredibly thankful for this group of ladies the Lord put in my life at this specific time! They walked through this valley with me, and I am eternally grateful!

Does it ever seem like as soon as you make one step forward, you’re immediately forced backwards? 2012 was not a stellar year for this family. If it could go wrong, it did! We faced circumstances and situations that we never dreamed we would face. We were chewed up, spit out, then chewed up again. It was an incredibly difficult time for our family and we each bear multiple scars from it. Tack this stuff onto an insomniac at the end of her rope, and you’ve got a recipe for – you know – disaster!

Barely existing; not living!

We had some great things happen in 2011. We finally moved into a new house after a brief stint in an apartment. All three of our girls were baptized, my husband’s job was going well,  and we were looking forward to getting settled into a new neighborhood. Blessings a-plenty and we were so very grateful beyond measure!

At this point, I was having a difficult time completing tasks around the house. My husband and kids cleaned and unpacked most of our stuff. (I still can’t find some of it, but that’s another story!) There were so many things I needed to accomplish, but I was having consistent migraines that would put me out of commission for a couple of days. I missed out on life: gatherings with family, friends and my church community, because I was too tired or felt too sick to go. Indescribable pain in my joints, my head, and lower back. The girls and I would run errands and I would have to find a safe spot to park, lay my seat back and sleep, sometimes as much as 20 minutes, because I simply could not stay awake driving. This was in broad daylight! My temperament was not good. I fluctuated between being irritable and overly sensitive to apathetic; I didn’t care about anything. Looking back, I recognize the depression, but often when you are in it, the abnormal becomes normal. My oldest daughter had completely taken over making breakfast, and usually, lunch too. Unfortunately, this was out of necessity because they weren’t sure when I would wake up in the morning.

My great sleeping time was early in the morning, between 5 and 9 am. It was a dead sleep. I heard nothing and felt nothing. I can’t remember the last time I had a dream. I would drag myself, groggy and spent, out of bed, try to eat something, but the only things I could muster were almond butter and carrots. A strange combination, for sure! I had no appetite, no energy and looked like a walking corpse!

In the months that followed, we mostly unschooled, because that’s what I could handle. Documentaries, small art projects, lots of Lego building, reading aloud, music, dance – nothing mentally strenuous or taxing for me and things that didn’t take much prep. Our diet was still organic – more on that later, but processed organic foods because, again, those didn’t require much of me.

I muddled through several months in this fashion: barely existing. Lying awake at night, I would cry out to God, pouring out my frustration and anxiety, my self-loathing for my condition and how I was hurting everyone around me. Yet, it was a private struggle I had not shared with anyone outside of a very close, immediate circle. To break my wall of silence would be momentous. I don’t trust very easily and if I shared my pain with someone, I had to know, without doubt, that the person could be trusted. I was desperate, yet terrified of breaking my silence. Something had to give. Eventually, that something was me.

 

A Mid-Life Crisis? continued …

I spent the next couple of years trying various remedies. Melatonin, tons of herbal concoctions, teas, essential oils, acupuncture, just to name a few. In the meantime, my health and quality of life was deteriorating fast. It was all I could do to drag myself out of bed in the morning and deal with whatever the day would bring. During this time, our house was on the market, the economy had tanked, my husband was traveling a lot, and I was homeschooling our kids. Stress was my middle name and I was barely making it.

Much of my research during this time confirmed what I’ve always suspected. Our health is directly tied to our emotional well-being; we cannot isolate that important fact from other areas of our health. One aspect of Western medicine that confounds me is how the body is separated from the mind and emotions during treatment of chronic illnesses, hormonal issues (both men and women), arthritis, etc. This may sound existential, but we are clearly not one dimensional people. This was an area I did not want to face.

Fear is a powerful motivator. For as long as I can remember, fear has been a part of my life. There are many psychological and practical reasons for this, but that is not the purpose of this blog. Only in the past few years have I realized what a hold fear has on me. For this Christ follower, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. I am redeemed, yet enslaved to my thoughts. Trust me, when you’re lying awake in the middle of the night, the fear is palpable. How can I reconcile my fears with my spiritual life? I felt like a constant failure because my desire to live humbly and peaceably deeply contrasted with my reality. I was broken by life, relationships and heartache. Where do I go from here?

While a huge part of my struggle was spiritual, there were also physiological aspects contributing to the slippery slope. A gut imbalance from years of antibiotics, a hormonal imbalance, neurotransmitter issues, adrenal fatigue, and, I suspected, a gluten intolerance.  I was overwhelmed with all of it. My precious family was suffering, I was suffering and I could not see a way out of it.

“Fear not; I am with you; do not despair; I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my righteous right hand” – Isaiah 41:10. 

 

A Mid-Life Crisis?

It was almost a year ago to date when I lost it. Completely exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, I didn’t have the energy to care anymore. It was just too much work. I was 42 years old and done.

Let me back up. I have struggled with chronic insomnia since the birth of my last child in 2005. I had bouts of insomnia while pregnant with all of my children, but the first two times, it resolved after birth. The third time, it didn’t. Although the severity fluctuated, waking up refreshed was a distant memory, even when my baby was sleeping through the night and weaned. There were times I would fall right to sleep, only to wake up two hours later, wired, and unable to fall back asleep. Other times, I would collapse into bed, only to amp up as soon as my head hit the pillow. Three hours later, I would still be awake. I distinctly remember several times of being awake all night, unable to sleep, and spent the night baking muffins or cleaning out and organizing so my tossing and turning didn’t wake my husband. At least breakfast was easy for a while with all those muffins in the freezer!

In 2007, desperate for relief, and experiencing some other hormonal symptoms, I saw my OB/GYN. He had been my doctor for years, through my single days, all my pregnancies and performed the c-section that delivered my last baby. I trusted him, even though I didn’t always follow his recommendations because they clashed with my granola tendencies. My experience that day ended our professional relationship. I am not here to bash him or the medical community, so no details on that. I just knew from that moment on, that I would not seek out allopathic medicine. I called a trusted friend who referred me to a naturopathic doctor, specializing in female issues.  Saliva testing revealed that I was estrogen dominant, had almost no progesterone, no serotonin, a whole host of food sensitivities, adrenal issues and needed quite a bit of work. Great. But it was a start.

I followed the protocol for around 6 months and definitely experienced improvement! However, natural remedies are not covered by insurance, and my supplements and the monthly testing were adding up. My husband worked on commission and things weren’t going great at that time. That’s how it is in sales. Feast or famine. We were used to it, but I had to discontinue the treatment.

A couple of years went by and I’m doing okay. Not great, but definitely not where I was. When I began to experience the same symptoms again, I contacted the naturopath to initiate another protocol. This one didn’t take. Three months in and no relief; no change. I felt so guilty spending money on something that wasn’t working. Wife  and/or mom guilt is a powerful thing so I stopped after my supplements ran out.

For several years, I researched the heck out of insomnia, hormone issues, bought my own supplements, spent who knows how much money trying various things to just feel normal! Why wasn’t any of this working? Some things worked for a while, but then would stop. I am a firm believer that God has given us, even in this fallen world, so many beneficial things for our health and well-being. Plants, herbs, essential oils – I used all of these on my family with great success! Why wasn’t it working for me?