Everyone has a journey, right? No one gets to that amazing point in their lives where they are able to be truly grateful for everything they have or what they have accomplished without overcoming obstacles. Well, just like everyone else I have a story to tell.
Hello, I’m Erica and here is my journey…
I grew up very loved and nurtured. I loved spending time with my family especially my parents. Well, the day came that I could no longer do that. School happened. Looking back and knowing what I do now that is when the anxiety and feeling of fear began.
As a kid, I had this anxiety/fear of being judged and “picked on”. I didn’t like eating dinner with my siblings because they would tease me about being a picky eater. Then every single thing I ate would “bother my stomach”. Add in the fact that I was eating foods I didn’t know weren’t right for me and things were a mess.
I dreaded going to school. I wanted to stay home a hang out with my mom. So she had to force me to go, even though she would have loved to keep me home every day. I had terrible anxiety about being in big groups. I didn’t want to do something stupid and get made fun of for it. I wanted to take gymnastics so badly. I was so nervous about not being able to do the moves right and being judged, that I never did it.
My three best friends (who were sisters) took gymnastics. We would hang out and they would teach me everything they learned that week in class. I loved every minute of it and was actually really good. Put me in front of people I didn’t know and I would freeze and my body would forget everything I knew how to do. I was a nervous wreck before every volleyball game I had to play and usually made mistakes because I was so focused on how many people were there instead of the game.
I was interested in Karate. My parents were excited that I was willing to do a group activity. Once we arrived at the place, I begged my mom to let me do private sessions. I was extremely good at it and advanced two levels in less than one month’s time. The instructors were shocked and informed me that I would have to do group activities since sparring was the next step. I quit the next week and still regret it to this day.
Eventually, I decided to work instead of play sports because I loved having control of my finances and started to grow my savings for my future.
This pattern continued into high school and got worse after I started getting bullied before starting sophomore year.
I was bullied all the way into college from some of these same people. This was not just getting picked on. I almost got ran off the road multiple times, I had to call the cops, I had my tires flattened, I had profanity written all over my car, I had my locker broke into and the contents scattered down the hall, I was made fun of every day walking the halls and even in certain classes, and I even was attacked physically in college. So again, the pattern persisted.
I chose a completely different career path specifically because the jobs I wanted to pursue required me to take a public speaking class. Just reading those words on the requirements terrified me so much that I chose to go into Radiology because it didn’t require public speaking and I could still make decent money. Plus I thought I would still be helping people in a self-fulfilling way.
Let’s move away from the emotional stuff for a moment. I decided to care more about what I was putting into my body around the age of 18. My mom had already switched to more natural cleaning and beauty products when I was younger because I was allergic to many chemicals and fragrances. I would get skin rashes from any product that wasn’t natural. I would have sneezing attacks and sinus issues by simply going down the household product aisle at the stores.
One day while I was feeling bloated, tired, fatigued, and just plain sick I decided that something needed to change internally. As a child, I was constantly sick. Sore throats, strep, mono, and the flu were yearly occurrences for me. I took antibiotics often until my mom learned more about them and made the choice to support my body with vitamins instead. I had several dental issues and constantly had cavities. I also developed gut issues and dealt with severe constipation for years.
Looking back, I can tell that it was a combination of the emotions I was constantly having, the lack of support to my liver, the added toxin exposure, and the antibiotics I was always on. Ultimately, I knew that I could do more to help my body feel better.
The first thing I changed was my diet. I eliminated white bread, pop (yes I drank mountain dew on a daily basis) and sugar. I started eating a “healthy” breakfast.
I don’t know how I even functioned. If I had one glass of water throughout the day, that was a huge accomplishment. I can’t even imagine that now. I completely stopped eating what I thought at the time was fast food and would only eat subway.
Many people look at my lifestyle now and think that I must have always lived this way. No, I did not. I ate fast food, drank pop, ate white bread, and raw spaghetti noodles were one of my favorite snacks.
“I was gaining weight and emotionally negative. I involved myself in drama because of the negativity I was constantly feeding myself through food and emotions.”
During this new food journey, I walked into a health store to look for a cleanse to rid my body of all the junk. I found a two-week herbal cleanse and started it immediately.
Within two weeks I lost two pants sizes and felt completely different! My bloating got better, I wasn’t as constipated and I had more confidence with the weight loss. I started working at the health store and found myself deep into what filled my soul. I was learning about how the body works and all the natural ways that you can help the body. While working there I tried many supplements. We always got new products in the store and I believed that one day I would find that one natural thing that would make me feel complete.
Little secret, I never found it.
In fact, I was eating healthier but my emotional health was worse because of stress with school and my fear of starting a new career and working in the hospital. I developed kidney stones and got mono again! My sore throats were still on and off as well as my constipation. The best thing about working at the health store was that I could cure my ailments naturally and didn’t take antibiotics or medication.
I continued to work at the health store to help pay for college. I read and researched as much as possible until it was time to start my new career. I considered changing paths hundreds of times, but the doubt, lack of confidence, and fear of stepping out of my current comfort zone held me back.
I also felt like people wouldn’t respect my knowledge. And if I couldn’t help myself completely how was I smart enough to actually help others?
So I eventually finished college, got hired right away, and advanced in my career quickly. I was usually good at what I set my mind to.
After working in a hospital setting for 8 years, I grew to despise my job and what was required of me. I wasn’t being challenged and I felt I was missing out on what I really should have been doing in my life.
I witnessed people get sicker and sicker every day. I watched people pass away from illnesses that could have been prevented by lifestyle changes. My job didn’t allow me to educate these people and I believed that I was doing these patients a disservice every day.
The stress got worse and even though I was eating and living as healthy as I ever had, I was still not feeling fully healthy. My life outside of work was lacking peace, joy, and fulfillment. I felt a disconnect in my relationship and I wasn’t willing to allow that to continue. My health wasn’t getting any better. I had joint pains from driving 3 hours a day to work and lifting patients more than twice my size on a daily basis.
I ended up in physical therapy for a herniated disc in my lumbar spine and terrible sciatica that would keep me up night after night. Looking back this isn’t shocking. I was feeling unsupported at work which emotionally puts stress on the spine. Add the physical demands on my body and this again was a recipe for disaster.
“Then an accident occurred that would change my life forever.”
One simple fall while riding my bike one block from my house. A simple fall off my bike was the turning point of my life and career.
Because of the fall, I lacerated my kidney and fractured my tenth rib. I spent 7 days in the ICU waiting for my kidney to heal and stop bleeding. I didn’t take any medication besides Tylenol through an IV and only when the pain made me want to throw up or pass out.
My husband cooked all my meals so that I could eat healthy foods. I took my own medications and supplements. I drank as much water as I could so that I wouldn’t have to be hydrated through an IV.
I was discharged from the hospital when the bleeding stopped and I was able to walk to the bathroom mostly on my own. I have never felt so weak and dependent on others. It was terrifying to lose the strength to walk. For weeks I couldn’t even lift my left leg to get it into my pants because I had no strength.
The fear lasted years. I had fear every time I went to the bathroom that my urine was going to be red because I had done too much and reinjured myself.
To me, it was a logical thought because I was in so much pain on a daily basis. Everything I ate bothered my digestion so badly that I ate the same meals every day. My job required me to get right back into heavy lifting so I never rehabbed my body in the proper way. I was still having trouble just lifting my left leg.
The doctors gave me no timeline as to when I would start to feel like myself and what was normal to feel and what wasn’t.
Plus I had no set advice as to when I could start back into my regular exercise routine. Prior to the accident, I was into exercising and weight lifting. I lifted heavy 5-6 days a week.
Many years after the accident working out the way I had been was so exhausting to my body that I started to stop doing it altogether. I would get so tired after working out that it felt like too much to even stand.
I spent many nights lying awake wondering if there would ever be a day that I would feel “normal” again. If there would ever be a day that I could eat and feel ok at the end of the day. A day that I could exercise and feel energized after. The pain at my injury site would get so bad sometimes that it would send me into a panic attack.
For over two years after the accident, I dealt with severe abdomen pain, rib pain, back pain, migraines, extreme fatigue, panic attacks, costochondritis, visits to the ER, new aches and pains all over my body and extreme anxiety.
I was absorbed in my pain and altered my entire life around it. I had anxiety about eating at restaurants for the fear that it would send me into extreme pain that I would have to deal with outside the comfort of my home. I had constant neck and shoulder tension, TMJ, and developed carpal tunnel symptoms. My chronic heart palpitations continued to get worse and more frequent. I had constant chest heaviness and shortness of breath.
I didn’t talk about my pain much because who wants to hear about that all the time?
I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me. I didn’t want my friends and family to worry about me. I felt lonely and that no one understood what I was going through. When I would talk about it, I felt like people didn’t believe my pain was real because I always acted fine.
After countless visits to the doctor and getting the same feedback, I gave up on them. They advised me to take ibuprofen and an anti-acid for my digestion. The doctors claimed that I must have inflammation and scar tissue that was still healing after well over a year. I received no other answers. I found myself searching for someone that would give me a diagnosis for my pain. I was hoping for that one diagnosis that I could maybe blame my “problems” on. I felt that if maybe I had that diagnosis I could finally be satisfied and I would be able to accept why I was having pain.
I decided to put my trust in someone new.
So I went to see a recommended massage therapist who had specialty education in various techniques. I first scheduled appointments for my neck and shoulder pain. After a few sessions, many of my symptoms started to get better. My neck, shoulder, low back, and carpal tunnel pain all improved. I finally had hope. I allowed her to work on my injury site. It was very emotional for me. I felt relief almost instantly. I even broke down crying. This gave me even more hope.
During all this, I had asked the doctor I was currently seeing to help me with my stress outside of medication. I had noticed through the new awareness of my body that when my pain would come back it was always when I was the most stressed. I knew I needed better tools to deal with emotions and stress.
When I was given no tools or options for them I decided it was again time for me to figure this out on my own.
I ultimately decided to change my career and learn everything I could about these techniques that helped me and dive deeper into the emotional components of pain. Through all this training I met even more amazing people who used even more techniques on me that continued to help my symptoms. Each training gave me more hope for myself and for others that are suffering. I eventually found functional medicine and dove deep into years of studying with The School of Applied Functional Medicine.
Through this process, I found my true passion. I am no longer angry that this happened to me. I am grateful for this accident and how it has helped me understand what many others are going through.
I believe that I was ruining my body through my emotions and eating habits years before the accident and this was the universe kicking my butt and telling me to wake up. Follow your heart, help yourself, treat your mind and body better, and then get out there and help others!
After getting through much of my physical pain, I still had some lingering issues. One of those was my problem with digestion. I reached out to one of my dear friends whom I connected with during my journey. She helped me understand my DNA better. She discovered that my DNA showed Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid. She also found hemochromatosis and MTHF issues. The biggest thing that I have learned with DNA is you can either feed your “unhealthy” DNA or you can feed your ‘healthy” DNA.
With the trauma I had, the foods I had previously consumed in life, the chemicals I had exposed myself to, and now the major emotional trauma I had were all feeding those “unhealthy” DNA.
My liver was still processing things from my past and was completely overwhelmed with all this new trauma. My stomach was destroyed from all the emotions it was holding onto and on top of that, I had a leaky gut from the multiple rounds of antibiotics as a kid and years of not supporting my gut health with healthy foods. Then add anxiety to the mix and my poor gut was doomed. Leaky gut is one of the worst things you can have if you have any thyroid or autoimmune history. It’s a direct link to making thyroid symptoms worse.
What did I do to get relief? I stopped searching, I spent time focusing on what I knew would truly help me. I researched it, studied it, applied it and I believed in it. I looked at my body differently. I reconnected with myself and went inward. I stayed open to always learning and never let my self believe I knew it all.
Instead of feeling like there was something wrong with me, I started to learn to love myself. I focused on remembering that the body is always working to heal. Symptoms are a gift from the body. They are warning signs. Every single minute of the day your body is working to heal and fight off anything foreign that’s inside you or working against you.
I worked on connecting with my body and understanding that pains, aches, and illnesses are the body’s way of asking you to change. The sooner you listen to those requests the faster you begin to heal. I realized I didn’t need a diagnosis to get better. My body just needed a change. Having a diagnosis only made me feel like I was stuck in that diagnosis forever, which is not the truth. I also no longer let age define me. I feel younger now than I did in my teens. Just because you are getting older doesn’t mean you have to feel that way.
Often times people get diagnosed with something and lose hope. They become the diagnosis and never move forward. They know the symptoms of this diagnosis and if they don’t have them all, they believe they soon will. This belief alone can push that person straight into those other symptoms.
I used to think that once I “fixed” something I was done working on that.
That is not the truth. Every day I work on myself. It may be something as simple as stopping to take a few deep breaths or taking ten minutes out of my day to write in my journal. A warm bath or a good juice to help give my body a boost. Every day I try to remind myself that it took years to be in pain and it has taken years to feel better and I will continue to work to keep myself feeling better.
Every day we are exposed to environmental toxins. So to think that we can just treat our body nice for a few months and then go back to old habits is not looking at the bigger picture. Your body is working to heal you every day. Shouldn’t you try to provide the best environment you can for it to accomplish this?
I have changed my priorities too. I save money to buy things that support my health and happiness first and what is left I use for things I want. I had to learn to change my habits because habits are part of what got me stuck in the pain in the first place.
Working on emotions can be a daily routine as well.
Being at optimal health isn’t always easy but it is worth it. Life is so much more fulfilling. You will find more abundance in all aspects of your life. Your physical health, emotional health, relationships, and finances.
So I encourage you to be more aware of what your body is asking for. I encourage you to take that next step towards healing. You will find it is worth it. Emotionally, physically and financially. Healing is priceless in the end.
Contact me today to see how I can help you in your journey to better health.