Erin's Healing Story
Updated: Nov 18, 2019
“...It is only when we heal the roots that our body begins to truly heal.”
We all have our health struggles. Some of us have struggles that are obvious to the world and others aren’t even aware that something isn’t right. That these symptoms, this pain, this dysfunction is not the way it is supposed to be. We think that it is normal to be taking daily medications, normal to have daily pain, insomnia, gut problems, anxiety and depression. In our world, these things are incredibly common but they are not normal. One of my biggest takeaways from my health journey and one of the things that brings me the most comfort is that these “symptoms” are just that….symptoms. They are clues, our body’s way of letting us know that something isn’t right. They are signs asking us to take a closer look at how we are living, what we are eating, what our body needs. We have a choice. We can mask symptoms away, ignore them, medicate them or we can dig in and look for answers. We can search for the root of the problem. Because it is only when we heal the roots that our body begins to truly heal.
I thought I was healthy as a child. Looking back now, I see the beginning of my body saying, “Something is not right.” I had pretty severe seasonal allergies. But this seemed “normal”--I did live in Missouri, after all. I also suffered from recurrent bronchitis and pneumonia. My mom tells me I was diagnosed with pneumonia 7 times as a child. In other words, I had a lot of antibiotics growing up.
Fast forward to college. My junior year I became very sick. I had major digestion issues, to the point I often couldn’t eat until mid-afternoon and I was missing my morning classes often. Long story short, four doctors and a colonoscopy later, every doctor came to the same conclusion. “You have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Take this medicine.” Perhaps it was my determination for answers (or my stubbornness, as my husband calls it) or perhaps it was what I had learned from watching family members navigate health situations. But, I refused to take the medication. I wanted to know why I was sick. I wanted to fix it, not medicate it away. So I drove to another state where a doctor friend agreed to give me a blood food allergy test (because all 4 doctors I saw in Columbia refused to do this). A week later the results came back. I was allergic to wheat, corn, soy, and peanuts. I cut these foods out. Within the month I was totally well. No more digestive issues. Foolishly though, instead of refraining at all times from these foods, I learned to cheat. I knew what I could eat and get away with. Like...I could eat some thin crust pizza and maybe only have a slight tummy ache in the morning as long as I didn’t eat too much of it.
It’s also significant to note that during high school and into college I began having frequent sinus infections. At least twice a year I ended up on antibiotics for these and this was typically in conjunction with flares in my seasonal allergies. So basically...more antibiotics.
I graduated college and became a teacher. Since my “IBS” diagnosis I had become interested in the root cause of illness and I began reading random health and nutrition articles for fun. I learned about juice fasting and the potential healing benefits for the gut and on overall inflammation. I experimented with juice fasting and found many benefits including improved sleep, energy, and skin. This lead me to read more about the healing power of food, specifically vegetables. This was another significant time of my healing journey.
All of this history laid the groundwork for the most challenging and terrifying 6 months of my life. I was married in 2010 to Jeremy. Had my first baby, Ben, in 2012. Then in April 2014 Molly was born...and this is when my life changed. I actually refer to my life now as Before-Molly or After-Molly. :) Molly’s birth was easy and uneventful (as far as births go and especially compared to Ben’s birth). When I left the hospital with her I felt great. That first night at home I went to sleep with my sweet baby beside me in the Rock’n-Play only to be awakened two hours later with the most horrific symptoms I have ever experienced. I will save you from all of the painful detail of that night, which I still remember vividly. I will just say this...I felt as though I was dying. I was incredibly nauseous, my arms and legs felt numb. I was dizzy. I was shaking. I felt so cold. I woke my husband up telling him something was very very wrong. We called the hospital and I spoke with a nurse. She said it sounded like I had a virus. She said as long as I wasn’t running a fever or having heavy bleeding there was nothing to worry about. That night I sat up in bed alone all night in the dark. I couldn’t go to sleep. Every time I did I felt as though I was passing out. The next day the symptoms persisted and I was rehospitalized. During my four-day stay, I saw seven doctors including at least one specialist. I had lots of blood drawn and an endoscope (to check for gallbladder issues). Test after test came back negative. I appeared healthy on paper. No one had any answers. I was sent home on day four because I could keep down one saltine cracker an hour and drink enough water to stay hydrated. The doctor who discharged me said, “The good news is you aren’t dying; the bad news is we have no idea what is wrong with you. So either eventually you will get well or eventually someone will figure it out.” And so, I returned home with a 7-day-old baby and a 2-year-old waiting for me. I was severely sleep-deprived, I felt awful, I weighed less than I had pre-pregnancy (because I’d eaten nothing for 4 days), and I was scared. Scared because the doctors had no answers for me and scared because I didn’t know what was happening to me.
All of this happened in April. Throughout May, June and July, I got slowly but progressively better. I was able to eat more and function most days. I was feeling hopeful that I would soon be myself again. Then one evening in early August I was laying in bed with my husband and I felt it all again. The numbness, the dizziness, the nausea, the shaking, the feeling that I was dying. This night was the beginning of two and half months that were even worse than that time in the hospital. I began having these “episodes” 3-4 times a week. Which meant 3-4 times a week I would go to bed only to be overtaken by a wave of all these symptoms that led to me sitting up, alone on my couch until 2 or 3 or 4 am. I would get a couple hours of sleep and attempt to function the next day feeling physically ill, sleep deprived, and depressed. It is impossible to explain the fear and the misery that these episodes brought me, unless you too have experienced something similar. There was no relief and no one to help me. (Of course my family was helping me greatly by taking care of my baby and toddler). The weeks went by and the episodes continued. As the sleep deprivation accumulated, I got to the point I could barely function. I didn’t see much point in going back to the doctor; after all, I’d been hospitalized for four days and no one had any ideas. But I was desperate for anything or anyone who could help. I returned to my OB, who had me fill out a short survey then said, “It appears as though you are moderately depressed with moderate anxiety.” She prescribed Paxil. I had done enough reading to know the side-effects of drugs like Paxil. I knew there was a potential for withdrawals from it and I knew I didn’t want to be taking it while breastfeeding. I remember my doctor telling me it would take 4-6 weeks to kick in at full strength and I remember thinking… “I won’t make it that long.”
To all of you reading this now, if you have ever suffered from depression or anxiety my heart hurts for you. Never in my life had I known this kind of suffering. Never had I known the feeling of such despair. Never had I known such fear of an attack overtaking me again. And never had I felt so unable to do anything to help myself.
And so for another month, while taking the Paxil, I continued to deteriorate. My husband took off work at least once a week to stay home and help me and often went in later than normal. And the grandmas helped out with the kids. I was terrified that I would never be myself again.
Then one day, I was sitting on my couch when I saw my neighbor, Lila, walking down the street. I had met her once or twice. I knew she was a nurse and I knew we went to the same church. I flagged her down and told her what was going on with me. She started asking me more questions about all of my symptoms (including significant milk supply issues). And she told me about another woman named Tracey who had a very similar story. She told me there was a doctor in town that had changed her diet and given her some supplements and that she was doing much better.
In my desperation, I called the doctor as soon as I walked in my door. I saw Dr. Trumbower the very next day. He sat down with me. He listened intently to the story of my last 6 months. He took notes on his notepad. And he spoke to me with great compassion, empathy, and understanding. It is still impossible for me to think about without crying. Because in that hour (yes HOUR!) he sat with me, he gave me hope again. He didn’t think I was crazy, didn’t think I needed Paxil, didn’t think I was overreacting...and he had answers. He told me that I was to change my diet immediately. He told me absolutely no grains, sugars, dairy or processed foods. He also prescribed 5 supplements which he guessed I was deficient in. He did blood work (blood work that no one in the hospital had done). He checked for nutritional deficiencies and took a closer look at my thyroid. I bought the supplements on my way home from his office. I began to change my food right away. And THREE DAYS later I was 80% better. I still felt bad. I was still having “episodes,” but they were less intense and much shorter. And I was sleeping again. Over the next 6 months to a year I continued to tweak and refine my diet and each week I got better. I was able to taper off the Paxil (which I had noticeable withdrawal symptoms from). The episodes became further and further apart and less severe. I began living normally again (other than my new crazy real-food diet!).
Since this time I have had a third baby, something I swore I would never do after the misery I endured post-partum with Molly. I lost a lot of blood after Hudson's birth and had a painful return of all my Post-Molly symptoms. But this time I had knowledge and experience, and friends that knew how to help to come alongside me. Within two weeks I had my symptoms under control using my supplements and many tricks I had learned over the last 3 years.
Today I see very little of these symptoms. Occasionally they show their ugly face for just a brief moment...usually if I get sick or at the beginning of my cycle. But I no longer fear them like I used to. I notice them now and I stop and wonder...what does my body need? What are these symptoms telling me? For me, the answer typically involves: more water, less sugar, more good fat, more sleep and a few supplements. Once my body has these things it returns to its happy normal self. I am now finally at a point where I can say I am thankful for the suffering I went through. I’m a much more empathetic person because of it (which sometimes doesn’t feel like a good thing). When I hear of others’ pain, suffering, depression, etc...I feel the pain and weight of their suffering. It is this pain as well as the knowledge I have gained and the hope it has given me that drives me on to want to help others...through the CoMo Wellness Conference, through this blog, and through my daily interactions. I want few things more than to help others take steps towards freedom from suffering and chronic illness. If you are reading this now, I pray it gives you hope for whatever health challenges you may be be dealing with and that you are able to find the cause of the symptoms you are experiencing and begin to heal.