My Healing Story
I originally had this story in my "about me" section. But it's not really about me, it's not who I am and it's not what defines me. For many years I attached this story to my identity, but I didn't want to give it any more power and now it's just something that happened in my life. I am grateful for the struggles because I have learned so much about myself and it has blossomed into a passion for helping others.
My name is Cathy and I am passionate about wellness, healthy living and achieving my full potential. My journey to health and wellness came out of a bit of desperation, to be honest. In the fall of 2017 I began struggling with severe sinus infections, fatigue, brain fog and digestive issues. This is my story:
I'll never forget the day I woke up and felt like I had a vice grip around my head and was so dizzy I could barely stand. I still tried to go to work that day but ended up having to leave when I tried to blow my nose and the room started spinning. I couldn't even drive myself home, I had to have someone come and pick me up. I was no stranger to being sick, I spent most of my childhood and early adulthood catching every virus that went around, step throat every year, constant sinus infections, chronic UTI's, you name it. I just thought that was normal for everyone (boy was I wrong).
I remember thinking that I just needed to get some rest, take some medication and I would start to feel better in a couple of days. Well, I ended up taking an entire week off of work and pretty much slept the entire time. I was SO tired and had this nagging headache and constant sinus pressure. After a week without improvement I had to go back to work because, what else was I supposed to do?
This was right after Thanksgiving and as a retail manager, you can guess how busy and hectic that time of year is. So I credit the onset of this illness to an overwhelming amount of stress that pushed my body over the edge.
What was most troubling was I never really "got better." I more or less stayed in a constant state of "sick" for about a year. I saw countless doctors and went on multiple rounds of antibiotics and steroids in a feeble attempt to quell my ever pounding head, inflamed sinuses and foggy thinking. I tried all the over the counter medications, sinus rinses, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, and even two sinus surgeries.
I sought help from a number of doctors but I was always given the same answer, try to treat the symptom and then move on. At one point I even had a doctor tell me that "I was getting older and wouldn't always feel good." ...At the time I was 31 years old so, imagine my frustration and confusion at a medical professional telling me to basically "suck it up." It's not their fault, they just don't understand or practice "root cause" medicine. Unfortunately my health didn't improve and I spent a year or so trudging through my day, unable to make any real connections or have the energy to enjoy life at all.
My memory and cognitive function declined and I could barely remember anything or recall words when I would try to have a conversation. The most difficult part about being sick was that I looked fine on the outside but inside I had pounding sinus headaches, all day every day. I had such bad brain fog that I eventually had to take a 4 month leave of absence from my job because I simply could not perform daily tasks. My body felt like it had been hit by a truck and I felt like I was walking through quicksand. Because of the sinus pressure, my eyes became very dull and my once big and bright eyes were half closed and squinted out of pain and light sensitivity.
I began searching online for someone who had any solutions or explanation as to why I suddenly and unexpectedly had gone from happy and thriving to sick and depressed. I became very isolated since I didn't have the energy to go out and do things like I used to or hang out with friends. No one really understood what I was going through or how bad it was, how much of a depression I had sunken into. It wasn't that they didn't care but, "sick" isn't something people can really understand until they've been there and it wasn't like I had cancer or an easily identifiable disease.
It was easily the lowest point in my life and the most hopeless I had ever felt. And this was about 5 years into my journey of recovery from a severe drug and alcohol addiction - so, I was no stranger to pain and struggle. I was clean and sober and more miserable than ever.
Since I wasn't getting any help from medical professionals, I began doing my own research to find out what was causing my symptoms and hopefully find others who were experiencing the same thing I was. Even just to have someone who understood would have been a blessing. I think I just typed in "sinus infection" or "sinus pressure" into a google search. Pretty quickly I came across several people who had used juicing and raw foods to reverse their chronic illness and it seemed like this was a great place to start. I read about how cleansing the body with a raw food and fruit based diet could help reverse multiple ailments and after seeing success stories from others online, I jumped head first into this new lifestyle. I'll be honest here, I found Medical Medium on Instagram and decided why not try celery juice, I'd tried everything else, what did I have to loose? I already had a juicer and since I was on a break from work I had a lot of time on my hands. I will say I quickly saw some pretty amazing results.
I did a few cleanses, changed my eating habits, cut out all gluten, dairy, sugar and grains and pretty much lived on juice, fruit and raw foods. Now, I did experience significant results in the short term, but it was a diet I had to follow every day to feel relief. If I ate a food outside of my normal diet I would feel awful for days after, so I thought I just had to eat this way for the rest of my life. This created a lot of stress and major food fear and orthorexia.
I won't say that Medical Medium is wrong or selling snake oil, because I do believe in the healing power of foods and the information I gathered was the beginning of my healing journey, so I will give credit where credit is due.
But, after a couple years of staying on a diet of mostly fruits and raw veggies, I started to experience some of the same symptoms I had before. I had gone back to work, was in a new relationship and even decided to enroll in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I had seen such amazing results and reversed a lot of my symptoms simply with diet. I wanted to learn more about the health + wellness world and share that information so I could help others.
That was a tough year though. Rent was increasing so I decided to move out of my apartment after 3 years, I had to put my cat of 12 years down, and my relationship ended, which was absolutely devastating. I know this sounds like a country song but, looking back I can see how each of these events can be traumatic, and I had all of them happen in a relatively short period of time.
From about 2019-2022 I went back and forth with different diets, countless supplements and went down some pretty deep rabbit holes in the health space. I did find some answers and after piecing together the symptoms and events in my life it was pretty clear that I was suffering from mold toxicity + severe emotional trauma.
I believe I was exposed to mold after a transfer to a new workplace and combined with the high stress environment, my body was just more susceptible to an extreme reaction. Mold Illness is no joke, it is very serious and very real. Most buildings have current or past water damage and depending on your predispositions, you may be more likely to experience chronic health symptoms as a result of exposure.
Although I had a lot of information (maybe too much) I still didn't have a plan or even know where to start. I dabbled in the natural health space, experimenting with different supplements, parasite protocols, gut cleanses and detoxes. I had moved across the country from Georgia to Utah in search of a drier climate with less chance of mold. After settling down into an apartment I finally decided to get serious about my health. I had been dealing with so many symptoms after a second exposure to mold that it had really taken a toll on my relationship, happiness and livelihood. I had been curious about other methods of testing (besides bloodwork) and decided to work with a functional medicine DC who could run Functional Medicine Lab work and get some more answers. [Side note: Blood testing can be an indicator of severe disease but it is rarely a good indicator of trends in deficiencies or how your body is using certain vitamins and nutrients]. I ran ALL the labs. Organic Acids Test (OAT), Hair Tissue Mineral and Metals Analysis (HTMA), Omega 3:6 Inflammation test, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) breath test, Food Sensitivity test and a Stool Test (for parasites and bacteria).
The results of my lab tests showed that I had an overgrowth of bacteria in the gut, I had H. Pylori, SIBO, leaky-gut and several food sensitivities. I also was low in some essential vitamins and minerals, all of which were contributing to my ongoing symptoms.
I mentioned trauma earlier because right at the onset of my symptoms, I was dealing with a very stressful work environment and had several upsetting life events all within a few months of each other. I cannot emphasize the importance of emotional balance, self-care and removing stressors enough when it comes to healing. This is something that is a little more nuanced and difficult to navigate, because you can't simply supplement to heal deep emotional wounds caused by traumatic events. Emotional healing IS possible and essential to lasting full body wellness, especially as it relates to the gut. The mind + body connection has been studied and it is very real.
The biggest shift in my healing journey came when I decided to end a toxic relationship, embark on a transformative breathwork course and actively work on changing my thought patterns, especially around chronic illness. I realized that I had let something so small take over my entire life. I had given this illness all of my power and let it drive all of my actions, decisions, behaviors and happiness. I know this is easier said than done because when you are really struggling it is all you can think about. When you are sick you don't get a break from being sick. You can't just clock out and say, "okay, I'm done being sick for the day, I'll come back tomorrow." There are times where it is relentless and unforgiving and often there is nothing you can do. I listened to several motivational podcasts and decided that I was going to practice gratitude and embody happiness as much as I could, no matter what. I don't mean toxic positivity, I don't think we should ignore signals from the body or suppress gut feelings, but I do think we can get caught up in giving away our power to things that don't deserve it.
Of course there were physical changes I made as well. I completed a 21 Day Functional Medicine Detox, enrolled in the Integrative Health Practitioner Certification program and began a 3 month gut healing protocol. I also added some high quality supplements to accelerate my body's ability to heal. I believe whole-heartedly in the power of good quality supplementation. There is no need to make things more difficult by trying to fix every deficiency with diet alone. There is no shame in taking supplements and to be honest, we need them. Our soil is so depleted in minerals and our bodies are so stressed from our modern lifestyle that trying to do everything with diet + lifestyle alone isn't a fair fight.
Once we remove the toxicities and repair deficiencies, we are able to rebalance the body. Dis-ease cannot thrive in a healthy body + balanced microbiome. Our bodies are designed to fight for us but when they become tired, weak, stressed or lack the vital nutrients to carry out their functions, our immune system suffers and bacteria and toxicity are able to take hold and thrive. This is when we experience symptoms.
I was so inspired by my own progress throughout this journey that I decided to turn my passion into a business. In 2020 I became a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and in 2022 I became a Certified Integrative Health Practitioner. I have learned so much about health + healing over the last 5 years and I truly love sharing my knowledge with others and helping them find the root cause of their symptoms so they can live the life they've always wanted.
Today the future looks very bright! Healing is an ongoing process filled with ups and downs but having the knowledge of how to heal and the awareness of knowing when I need to slow down and nourish myself is such a gift. It has truly changed the way I see the world, live my life and how I show up in the world.
I am always continuing my education so I can better serve my clients, friends, family and myself!