I didn’t know who, when, where, why or how to ask for help.
What Shaped My Past
In 2011 I was slightly overweight and wasn’t really happy with the way I looked. The following year I developed hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), and lived with it for the next five years without healing, help from doctors, or an end in sight. In 2018 my blood glucose level was one point away from pre-diabetes. My days were covered by a thick layer of mental fog where I’d daydream of getting some sleep that night but the nights didn’t bring much relief because in spite of my exhaustion, I couldn’t sleep. I was constantly hungry for chocolate chip cookies, my hair was falling out, the constant throbbing and shooting pain from HS was overwhelming, and my right eye would randomly go super-blurry. Emotionally I was at the end of my rope. I remember saying out loud at a particularly upsetting moment that, “I seriously feel like I need someone to remind me to breathe sometimes.” Siri heard me, and she asked when I wanted to be reminded—if only it were that easy!
I hid how I felt from everyone. I wanted to project that life was good because I didn’t want to complain, answer questions, or burden people I cared about. I began to believe the lies I was telling everyone else and didn’t realize that as the disparity between the truth and the lies grew and grew it was compounding my stress.
My personality changed and it affected everyone in the house. I’d try to stick with my pretend-life-is-perfect pattern, but I couldn’t keep it up consistently and little things would send me into a tail spin. I felt like my HS was killing me, from the inside out. I was so afraid, and so sad. I was missing out on life in general and I felt like a horrible mother and wife. It got harder and harder to keep up the act. I was terrified that living the rest of my life with HS was going to be my reality and I didn’t want to accept that sort of reality.
One night at the dinner table I broke down and cried—the ugly cry—it was the first of many times I cried because I didn’t know what to do to stop the pain, to make things better, to heal.
What Changed Inside Me
In 2011 when my only real ‘health’ goal was to lose a few pounds, I remembered a middle school science exercise where our teacher had us chew on a cracker for a while. We weren’t allowed to swallow. The intention was for the class to understand how carbohydrates end up tasting sweet even though they start out bland. This simple exercise stuck with me and from then on I related all high carb foods like pasta, crackers, etc., to sugar. When it came to looking for a way to lose weight, I easily bought into the notion that carbs were bad because of the middle school science exercise equating carbs to sugar. Through some Google action I landed on Mark Sisson’s Marksdailyapple.com and confirmed there that sugar was no doubt the enemy. Following Mark Sisson’s advice, which included avoiding sugar, I lost 11 pounds in two weeks with absolutely no exercise and minimal effort. Unfortunately, I stopped eating low carb two weeks in. Finding out I was pregnant was the perfect excuse to eat whatever I wanted and not worry, temporarily anyway, about gaining weight!
That my weight dropped so quickly and easily, was evidence enough for me that first, my science teacher was onto something by aiming to illustrate for all of her students just how much of what we ate turned to sugar, and second, that what I read on MarksDailyApple.com about sugar (and not fat) being the enemy, was the real deal. At that point Mark Sisson’s blog became my go-to source for all things health. The majority of Marksdailyapple.com’s content went against main stream information, but I didn’t care, it made sense to me, and it worked. Around the same time, I started to wonder if too many carbs lead to weight gain, what other negative effects were there while eating a high carb diet?
Fast forward to 2016. My desire to heal from HS was different than trying to lose a few pounds and I’d had it in the back of my mind that I might be able to help myself through diet. I was desperate! I’d been living with an open lesion on my right leg for five years. I winced in pain playing with my kids, changed my bandages in tears from the pain, and went through multiple rounds of what I’d call ‘exploratory’ procedures because, frankly, my team of doctors had no clue what was wrong with me. With no diagnosis in sight, I typed my symptoms into Google and my doctors soon agreed with my self-diagnosis. All they could tell me was less than what I’d already read online—there was no cure. Their only suggestions were to stay thin (I certainly wasn’t obese), stay away from all types of tobacco (check), and keep my stress levels reasonable (I was young, what did I have to be stressed about?).
I’d heard that stress was a killer, but in my mind, stress looked like a middle-aged overweight man on Wall Street that couldn’t meet his work demands and drank himself into oblivion every night. That wasn’t me, so I couldn’t be under stress! Right? Instead of focusing on stress, I put effort into adjusting my diet to avoid the nightshade food group. It seemed absolutely impossible at the time. Looking back now, I understand fully why I cried that night at the dinner table. I was grieving. Beginning the process of accepting my new reality. A reality that would have kept me from experiencing joy. I’d think, “Why is this happening to me?” I felt like I was being punished for everything I’d done wrong in my life!
Then, one morning in 2016, I woke up for the first time in five years and the pain wasn’t as bad as it was the night before. My hidradenitis suppurativa began to heal. Overnight. I literally felt my body change, from the inside out, and I knew the lesion on my leg would be gone soon. It was nothing short of miraculous! Not coincidentally, a significant source of stress was nearly eliminated the day prior to this event.
In the days and weeks that followed my miracle morning, I saw my HS for what it really was—the way my body physically manifested stress. I saw small improvements in my HS symptoms while avoiding nightshades, and also by drinking an insane amount of water, but by neglecting my own basic human needs, I’d completely sabotaged my health! It was the stress that caused my HS. Not my diet! Go figure.
Waking up without pain opened my eyes to just how much stress affects us. How could I have been so stressed out and not have realized it?
Reducing my stress removed a stumbling block I wasn’t even aware was between me and my much less critical health goals, like losing weight. I’ve been HS free for several years now. Have been able to lose weight. My sleep has improved immeasurably. My right eye isn’t blurry. My hair is no longer falling out. I’m able to enjoy activities with my family and I feel like I finally have the freedom to improve on other areas that are now important to me like my energy levels and stabilizing my blood sugar.
Why Coach Others
When my middle school science teacher showed me a cracker tasted like pure sugar after a minute or so of chewing, I subconsciously became a fan of “low carb.” Since discovering Mark Sisson’s blog in 2011, my positive and negative personal experiences have consistently agreed with Mark’s ‘Primal’ advice and philosophies—in which, reducing stress is paramount.
Living a more primal—read as low carb and low stress—life has truly changed me for the better. Above all else, I’ve learned that health isn’t only about the food we put in our mouths, it’s also about what we make space for in our lives. This lesson hit me hard because it’s so important and I want to fast track what I’ve learned toward others so the years it took me to heal aren’t necessary for those in the midst of similar struggles right now. Over days, months, and years of taking on everything—often alone—it’s easy to forget that help is an option, and that asking for help is acceptable!
That said, when I heard God’s voice telling me to become a Primal Health Coach so I could help women like me, I listened. I learned the science behind what’s transformed my life over nearly the past decade and enjoy coupling that knowledge with my natural tendency toward problem solving. It’s a match made in heaven! What I look forward to most is helping women who are desperate for a solution, unaware that help exists, and oblivious to the notion that it’s time to ask for it.