I had my health wake-up call, and you know what? Rashes are not sexy! When your body is sick of you ignoring it, and forces you to stop and make changes…
Rashes Are Not Sexy – My Health Wake-up Call
I have a rash. I know, rashes aren't sexy. But wait, it gets better. It is a mystery rash, that isn't a rash at all!!!! I am exotic – being a medical mystery makes you exotic, right? That's what I'm telling myself.
A few months ago I met with a woman who had a recent Hashimoto's diagnosis. I felt for her and was reminded of the feeling of fear and frustration at not knowing what your body was doing and why. Feeling like a crazy person seeing doctor after doctor. Having your family worried or dismiss your symptoms. (The woman I met with is doing great now: lost some weight and is feeling like her old energetic self. YAY!)
While this feels a little similar to the Hashimoto's journey, I have a visible symptom. It's really real! I don't know if I've ever been so excited to have a mystery rash. Excited and totally terrified.
What is Actual F**k is Happening?
I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's early in 2016 and decided what I needed to do… but I wasn't listening to my body. I did a few paleo challenges and would eat mostly gluten-free for a stretch. Then fall off.
I poured my energy into reading to the end of the internet and learning about the in's and out's of thyroid health. I addressed my hormonal health by stopping birth control pills and having a tubal ligation. I did an AIP protocol and a couple cleanses, elimination diets and told myself I needed to #selfcare.
I still worked 40+ (sometimes 60+) hours per week at my day job, I still blogged, I still stayed up late and woke up early. I still forced myself to exercise. I still had poor boundaries with family. I still didn't ask for help or say no.
Anything Worth Doing is Worth Overdoing
How do you get your grandfather's voice out of your head? Or your mother's? “Earn your keep”, “sleep when you are dead”, “don't take all day to do a day's work”. The expectation to always DO. Don't eat a peach: can 50 lbs of them. Don't plant some flowers: grow a massive rooftop garden. Obviously anything worth doing is worth overdoing. There are 24 useable hours in every day.
This is a complete load of bullshit. My friends and family will still love me If I don't can a single fruit or vegetable. I am loved and valued for who I am. Not what I can do. I was the only one putting those outrageous expectations on myself.
Strep That Wasn't Strep
This year I was knocked on my ass. I had what felt like and looked like strep throat, but the cultures came back negative for strep. Whatever this mystery bacterial infection was, I spent 28 days on antibiotics. And then had to take another dose of super-strong antibiotics a month later. But you know what I didn't do? Take time off. Or listen to my body. I spent a couple of days in bed, but not in a row. I worked through it all. I had things to do, places to go, and I didn't listen to my body. I am not a good listener.
Raj and I went to Paleo FX this year in Austin, and I attended as many talks and workshops as I could. I made the most of the experience and threw myself into research. Attending some great talks by Dr. David Pearlmutter (all the info on Parkinson's) and Dr. Kiran Krishnan (the health of your microbiome in your household is all interconnected… I apologized to Raj for the 28 days of antibiotics). But my favorite was Dr. Keesha (autoimmune disease is activated by trauma). This blew my mind.
Of course, autoimmune is when your body attacks itself, so if you are constantly in a stressed state, it means your body is always stressed and working, causing Hashimoto's, adrenal fatigue, inflammation, and a host of other issues.
Autoimmune Disease is Rooted in Trauma
So what on earth could be happing in my life that may have been traumatic? Where do I start with this? I have been estranged from my brother for the last couple of years, a fight about food. Yes, really.
Then my parents loaded up on me. My dad has been coping with Parkinson's disease and made the change to go into assisted living in February. It wasn't his choice but the situation between my parents was increasingly volatile, living in anger and resentment.
My mom couldn't cope once Dad was taken care of, and she ran away from her life, my dad and 40 years of marriage. For the first time in her adult life not having to be responsible for anyone but herself. Actually ran away, living in a camper on her truck miles away from cell service.
I was placed firmly between my parents as they separated their finances and lives, and without the support of my brother. So maybe I was experiencing a little trauma.
It is A Lot to Unpack in One Post
My body has been SCREAMING at me. Pleading, bargaining, trying to get me to listen. For months with an illness, for years with Hashimoto's. I brushed it all off.
I'm a superwoman. Strong enough for all everybody piles on me. I get shit done, I hold space. I am the rock. Reliable, dependable, nurturing. Until I couldn't be anymore. The crushing weight of it all has sent me to bed. And given me a mystery rash. Good one body, I'm listening.
I Finally Listened. My Body Had to Start Spontaneously Bleeding, But I Am Now Giving It My Full Attention
One day in the early summer (July 21st to be exact), I went out and had a great time. I attended an outdoor concert. I ate squishy white bread burgers and I drank beer – a LOT of beer (a lot for me). I wandered around outside in the sunshine watching people on a mid-July afternoon.
When I got back to the hotel I didn't feel great. Maybe I was already developing a hangover or all those carbs were making me feel bruised and tired. I went to the washroom and in the shitty public restroom light, I saw what looked like an allergic reaction from my waist to my ankles.
Shit. Should I go to the hospital? Do I search out some antihistamines and wait it out? I decided the second option was far more appealing than sitting in an emergency room all night. The next day the “rash” was more purple than red, but it wasn't itchy. I felt sore, bruised and really tired. Maybe I was now too old for day-drinking. Drinking in general.
We drove home and I went to see my GP. Of course, I did a Google search and was beside myself with all the things that cause a strange rash that wasn't rashy at all.
I have seen my GP on multiple occasions, and he is as mystified as I am. Rounds and rounds of blood tests, but it's not itchy, it feels like my skin is bruised. And it pops up bright red and fades to purple and yellow like a bruise. It is only on my lower body, rib cage and below, worsening on my inner thigh, and lower leg, or anywhere there is pressure on my skin. I've also had multiple nose bleeds.
Any time your body spontaneously bleeds it can't be a good sign. Something is not good. My body is not happy. This was my health wake-up call. I went to a recent festival, and my rash popped up like a hive. The staff at the medical tent were all mystified as well. The only answer I got uniformly across all of the medical professionals, functional medicine doctors and lab techs were that I should support my immune system and rest.
I Need to Support My Immune System And Rest
What the hell does that look like? I am the person that gets shit done. I DO things. I do things to the point that being effective is how I award my self-worth. What good am I if I just be? BUT, when your body is spontaneously bleeding, it is time to LISTEN.
In fact, it's past time to start listening.
It's one thing to have your health team and support network tell you that you need to slow down and do some “self-care mutha f-er” (my and Raj's line to each other when one of us isn't looking after our own wellbeing). It's a completely different thing when you finally tell yourself that you need to slow down and put your health first.
What have I done? I stay in bed. Sometimes for an entire day or days. I scaled wayyyyy back on my preserving and canning. I took time off work. I am working on my boundaries, urging my parents to settle their differences with the help of a lawyer and a counselor. Maybe not in that order.
I have reached out to my brother, to start bridging that relationship, taking my Dad out to visit him. Since this has started, I've been seeing a Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctor, and he has been really helpful.
Oh, and did I mention resting? I should mention it again as if is really f**ing hard for me to do.
- Eating 100% gluten-free (since I've broken out each time I've eaten wheat this summer), avoiding alcohol (I rarely drink as it is, but my body has also told me to stop that completely), and now, I'm about to take my first-ever month off of work to travel in IndiaIndia. When I return I have a biopsy scheduled with a specialist.
Only being responsible for myself… What Does That Look Like?!?
A month away from work and my everyday responsibilities… I don't know what that feels like and I'm a little worried about it, but I'm also excited. This is the first time I have taken off this much time from work since I started working at 11. Not just to explore India (and eat all the food!) or get away from the stress of my everyday life, but to give my body a long-overdue break. Lower the cortisol and systemic inflammation by being… nice to myself and relaxing. You should definitely follow us on Instagram for trip photos!
I'm actually stressing out just thinking about it, to be honest. Raj assures me that he will remind me that I have nothing that I “should be doing”, other than relaxing, exploring, and enjoying myself. See, there IS a list of responsibilities!
Have you dealt with health mysteries or autoimmune issues? Did it take your body giving you an un-ignorable health wake-up call to listen? I would love to hear your story.