Coping with Seasons of (Un)wellness

What a weird, humbling summer 2018 was. Its theme: find patience in process. I suppose this post is mostly a catch-up on where I've been. I also hope this story serves as a note on two things I'm incessantly working to remind myself of: 

  1. We all go through seasons of chasing optimal health
  2. It's unhealthy to pretend everything is fine all the time

What kept my brain occupied this month was the plan to get through two classes during the month of August. 10 weeks of material per class crammed into 31 days was ambitious. Grinding away at my laptop 60+ hours per week on pathophysiology and age-related nutrition took discipline. I caught a glimpse of myself falling back into the workaholic habits I embodied during my undergrad. Being in my apartment that much also made me restless. 

Looking back on August, it was a time for me to focus on my future as I recover from the health mishaps of June and July. In the midst of that medical mayhem, I developed an unforgiving outbreak of (what we think is) candida. Emotionally, this consumed my August. 

I haven't willingly looked in a mirror in weeks. My belly has red incision scars and it’s weaker than ever. My back muscles are always in spasm. My hands are raw in spots, resembling patches of eczema. The skin around my eyes is red as tomatoes, painful, and flaking. Hot look for summer eh? I tried changing my supplements, eliminating things from my diet, and managing stress. I ultimately came to terms with the fact that I couldn't heal myself on my own. So, I saw a functional medicine doctor just outside of Denver during the first week of August. 

It was suggested to me that the skin outbreaks were a product of a virus I contracted in the spring and yeast overgrowth from antibiotics given during July's appendectomy. An anti-candida protocol was on my radar of things to try, but I don't think anyone in their right mind would willingly go on an anti-candida diet without professional encouragement. In short, it's brutally limiting. 

I'm nearly one month into this candida protocol. I’m hungry a lot of the time and fear eating most things aside from meat and non-starchy vegetables. The die-off symptoms have been wild. Die-off is a period of time when the yeast is essentially being starved and the herbal supplements help in killing it. Candida die-off has entailed a few weeks of chronic headaches, fatigue, itchiness, more eczema-like patches, night sweats, and sugar cravings. 

I never once craved sugar in my life until the first week of the protocol. I wasn't eating a ton of grains, legumes, sugar, or fruit to begin with but oh man.. I wish I had even that small bit back. While you're supposed to be able to eat moderate amounts of certain grains, pseudo-grains, and starchy vegetables, they only exacerbated my skin issues. It has been a painful summer, both physically and emotionally. I've had multiple uncharacteristic emotional breakdowns. I keep asking myself and God "what's the bigger lesson in this season of struggle?", "what did I do to deserve this?", and "how do I heal? I'm so overwhelmed".

The protocol was working in waves to relieve my skin issues until a full return at its worst came back last week. My clearing skin became red as tomatoes again, itchy, and flaking. My hands developed more raw patches and burn in water. I spiraled into a really negative space of self-talk again. I don't want to leave the apartment or be seen, even by my own roommates. I can't eat out or share a meal with friends unless I make it. I've always been comfortable being the sober one at a party but suddenly I'm not. I'm living in a chronic state of fear that I'll eat or do something to exacerbate my symptoms. I feel alone and helpless most of the day. Someone asked me at Wells Fargo this week if I had been punched in the eye. I go through waves of overwhelming regret and disappointment. I'm less than a year away from being a practitioner, shouldn't I be able to heal myself? 

I'm continually reminded of the sentiment: find patience in process. There was a long period of my life (high school and college) where I was in an unhealthy relationship. I chronically lived in fear, crippled by the anxiety of expectations and traumas. I worked my a** off to get out of that space. I cringe at the thought of slipping back into that space. So in this season, I'm forcing myself to seek out community and share what I'm going through. Here on this platform, at church, with friends, and family. I'm doing what I can to heal physically, but the emotional ride of this summer has been unexpectedly intense. 

Seasons of being unwell pose an interesting challenge for me. First, as someone trying to make a career in functional health. Second, as someone who wants to jump out of their own skin when asking for help. Developing recipes and engaging with others about nutrition and health were my passions. I suppose they still are, it's just on hold in this season. I've had no desire to pick up my camera or even attempt to develop a new recipe in weeks. I don't want to talk to people about being healthy when I'm not healthy physically or emotionally myself. I hope that space will open up for me to feel joy in my passions again. I know they will, but there are moments when that time seems unattainable. 

I invite you to honor those moments. They're human and it took me way too long to honor them. We're all doing our best, and there is no linear path to optimal health. It is something constantly in flux, and we are more resilient than sometimes we believe. The importance of seeking validation and acknowledgement from others in seasons of unwellness is bigger than I thought. Thanks, NTI, for teaching me coaching skills this month that are personally applicable. I hope that when my health improves, I'll be able to share more information with you on these health issues because I experienced them first-hand. Perhaps I can prevent someone else from having to go through the same things and that would be fulfilling. And if nothing else, I can be the support that I found in others in my seasons of being unwell. 

I'm writing this on the day I finished my last two exams and a case study. I'll be in Montana for the holiday weekend with Alex and my laptop will be at home. I'm hopeful this trip will bring an emotional break. I'm of course afraid of circumstances that I can't control, but this is a process of adaptation. Cheers to health and hoping for new days of putting your best foot forward, friends. Seasons of unwellness will pass.