You Have the Power to Transform Your Life!
On January 19th, 2016 after three of the worst months of my life, I made a single change that would transform my life forever.
Three months prior I woke up from anesthesia after an exploratory surgery that resulted in the confirmation of endometriosis and the removal of several lesions. Thanks to this seemingly life shattering diagnosis, I have found what lights me up in life, made peace with my body, and have dedicated myself to my own health and the health of others. But that didn’t happen immediately of course.
Looking back I think it’s safe to say that my first reaction was relief. That may seem strange to those of you without a chronic illness. But if you’ve had a similar set of circumstances, you completely understand. 8 years of multiple doctors, seemingly unrelated symptoms, incorrect diagnoses, pain killers left and right, psychiatric recommendations, and pure apathy towards my debilitating pain left me starving for an answer. I thought, “HAH, I was right, it wasn’t in my head..I told you idiots!”
Then the fear crept in. The fear of never living a normal life. The fear of being put under the knife time and time again (women with endo tend to have multiple surgeries to manage the disease). The fear of never having children–something I’ve dreamed of my whole life. 23 years young, fresh out of college, eager to start my life and career. And in an instant, my world turned black.
But the next day something amazing happened. The owner of a Beverly Hills talent agency that I had interviewed with a few weeks prior gave me a call as I was lying in bed recovering from surgery and mourning the loss of the life I envisioned for myself. She said, “Hi Emily. Congratulations, we would like to offer you the position if you’re still interested.” HOLY SHIT. My dream was to work as an assistant at a top-tier agency and work my way up to an agent. And there it was wrapped up in a big red bow for me. I told her I could start next week.
I had quit my job teaching at the local jail prior to my surgery. It was something that I loved, but also took way too big a toll on me emotionally. I was in search of something uplifting and exciting in the entertainment industry that I would eventually call a career. And just like that, the day after my surgery, I was presented with this chance for a new beginning.
Recovery went fine. My head was mostly on this new awesome job I had longed for. A week later I started my fancy new Beverly Hills job and ten days after that I quit on the spot. I didn’t realize the type A, work-obsessed, non-creative, harsh, and compassionless environment that I was getting myself into. I had accepted a 25,000 salary which seemed legit. Then I did the math and discovered I was making under minimum wage as I was working 9-10 hour days.
Everyone was super type-A (I am not), no one smiled, no one took the time to teach me anything really, everyone seemed to be in a constant state of competition rather than community, and I legit got yelled at my second day on the job for answering the phone incorrectly. People weren’t happy. I realized my upbeat, creative, passionate, growth-centered, and people-loving energy was being beaten and broken down to fit a mold that I wanted nothing to do with. I had just gotten diagnosed with life-long disease, which left me feeling isolated and depressed, and I had no time or energy to walk into work everyday terrified and leave worse off than I was the day prior.
It was not easy coming to terms with the decision I decided to make, but I knew deep down it wasn’t right for me. I didn’t know what I needed, but I knew it wasn’t this.
So I spent a couple months at home with my parents, unemployed, depressed, anxious, confused, totally hopeless, and seriously angry with myself for quitting my teaching job. But with all that spare time I began researching my illness and connecting with women who also had it. I started seeing glimmers of hope in what I was reading–women managing symptoms and living relatively normal and healthy lives through specific dietary and lifestyle changes. Through my research I came across anti-inflammatory diets, which then lead me to Paleo.
I read lists of symptoms that these experts claimed were lifestyle-induced and could be managed and even reversed through this Paleo diet. Things like allergies, IBS, bloating, joint pain, fatigue, anxiety, brain fog, and even excess body fat. I was fascinated. Could it be possible that all of these completely unrelated symptoms could be reduced through my diet? The coolest part was that this diet addressed all of the above symptoms, and also seemed to be recommended for women with endo from multiple sources.
And it made sense–like really just made sense. Of course we should be eating immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense, natural foods that fuel healthy processes in the body. Of course we should cut out chemically processed, pesticide-laden, refined, sugar-filled foods void of nutrients. Of course those of use with inflammatory-related, and hormone-related illness should remove endocrine disrupting foods like conventional dairy and soy, and inflammatory foods like sugar and grains. Of course natural, whole foods will promote an all around healthier body. OF COURSE!
At this point in my life I was going to sleep with a stomach ache and severe bloating. Every. Single. Night. I had headaches constantly. I was exhausted all the time. I had just been diagnosed with an illness whose symptoms stemmed from inflammation. I had no freaking job so I had all the time in the world to cook from scratch every day. Should I go for it?
Then one day I was perusing through Barnes and Noble and came across a book on sale called Your Personal Paleo Code by Chris Kresser. Was it a sign? I like to think so. I read the intro where he shared his story and felt an immediate sense of understanding and connection. I bought the book and read it in a week.
The following week, after continuing my research online, on January 18th I decided that it would be the last day that I allowed myself to feel weak and disempowered; it was the last day that I was going to mindlessly eat ice cream even though I KNEW it was making me worse; it was the last day I was going to work against my body rather than for it.
On January 19th, Martin Luther King Day, I woke up and made myself an egg breakfast and skipped the waffles. I made some sort of protein and veggie dish for both lunch and dinner. I was so hungry. I wanted chocolate so badly. But I kept remembering that my life was going to be so much better if I could just stick it out. The first week was absolutely terrible. I was so irritable, could hardly sleep, almost fainted, and was starving. But I was so fucking fed up with feeling terrible every night that I kept pushing through until it was no longer difficult.
And here I am two years later, a certified health coach, and soon-to-be graduate student in nutrition. I am still on a journey with my health, but my God has my life brightened, my energy increased, my anxiety lessened, my passion ignited, my inflammation gone, and my pain turned down many, many notches. I look back at those terribly devastating, dark and lonely three months with so muchgratitude because they lead me on the most beautiful path to healing myself and others.
If you are truly fed up with current circumstances, remember that you have the power to transform your life. It isn’t always easy, but then again nothing worth having ever is.