I do not share this story with many people but here it goes…
The pain started in my shoulders while I was in high school. After seeing a doctor, I went to physical therapy and learned that my shoulders were double jointed. Knee pain came next when I was in college. The knee specialist did an x-ray and told me that my cartilage was wearing away. I was only 19 and not much of an athlete so this came as a shock. I was told to lose weight to relieve some of the pressure on the joint. I took full responsibility for the pain and did my best to rehab my knee. Eventually, the knee pain subsided and I went on with my life…
Throughout college, being ‘healthy’ was not a priority. I weighed around 120 (on my 5′ 3″ frame) when I entered college and around 140 when I graduated. My weight was always fluctuating. I never felt overweight because I was happy! I had a full life with lots of great friends!
It was not until I moved to Thailand in 2008 that I was extremely aware of my size. In America, I was average and blended in easily. In Asia, I really stood out! My job was teaching conversational English in a rural high school. The teachers were very friendly and helpful, but it was an isolating experience at times. While in Asia, I had a lot of time alone to reflect on myself, inside and out. I realized that it was time to take action and thankfully, I was in a perfect place to get started!
First step: Changing what I ate. Most of the time, I shopped at the supermarket in town that provided me with packaged American favorites, at an expensive price! These items kept me from becoming homesick for a while, but it was time to give them up. I switched to shopping at the local markets as much as possible. I cooked in my tiny apartment using an electric pot, wok, and toaster oven. I had to get very creative with limited resources, but I made it work. Soon I was eating more veggies and less junk every day.
Step two: Find an enjoyable way to exercise. By my second semester, I had made a few new friends who helped inspire me to get moving! Our small town offered an aerobics class at the park every Monday – Friday at 6:00 p.m. Anyone could attend and the instructors did a great job to mix up the routines and used fun music. Aerobics was fun, but I spent most of my time at the local pool. It was olympic size and I had always enjoyed swimming. Over a 4 month period, I set some serious goals for myself and achieved them. I taught myself to swim a mile, which took extreme dedication and eventually I lost around 10 lbs.
This was only the beginning, and I’ve learned the hard way that results only last as long as you stay dedicated to your heath!
I lived in Asia for two years, and I learned a lot about eating right and the effects of certain foods on my body. It was a lot easier for me to keep the weight off when my life was stable.
It’s been over five years since I made my way back to America. In the beginning, it was hard to adapt to my old life and with many inconsistencies, my body began to show signs of rejecting all the change. I started to believe that something was really wrong. Weight was falling off of me like crazy, which I later tied to Anxiety, and I had constant digestive issues. My mother helped me see a specialist who performed an endoscopy and a blood test for Celiacs Disease. All of the tests came back negative. But the doctor did ask me about my anxiety, which has been a huge factor over the last few years.
Finally, I saw the light! I went to a Chinese medicine man for acupuncture (which I used to get regularly while living in Taiwan) and I told him my story. Originally, I was looking for help with joint pain, but when I told him about my digestive issues, he put the two together. He told me to look into Leaky Gut syndrome and food allergies. This is the FIRST TIME that someone truly listened to my symptoms and saw a connection. The more he talked, the more empowered I felt. Maybe I could reduce the pain and irritation by changing my diet.
That was four years ago and since then I have done loads of research, read many books and experimented with many natural remedies. One summer when I read the book Strong Women and Men Beat Arthritis by Miriam E. Nelson, I broke down and cried. The facts about Rheumatoid Arthritis and muscle deterioration were so depressing. It was extremely shocking to read facts about what I could feel happening in my body on a daily basis. The book isn’t overly optimistic about R.A. but it does give helpful facts about how to eat right and build back lost muscle.
Two years ago:
On one particularly awful night, when I was tossing and turning in bed, I pulled out my iPad and began researching the best ways to heal the body naturally. I bought Margie Garrison’s book I cured my Arthritis and You Can Too. I spent hours reading her story and feeling more hopeful. Doctor’s had not been of much help to Garrison and she eventually ended up addicted to medication. She had to take control of her own life and eventually save herself in a Natural Way.
I have tried many things since reading this book. I followed the cleanse in the book and tried the ‘cave man diet’ where I slowly introduced new foods back into my diet… But eventually I fell off the wagon. I have fallen off this wagon many times sense, but today I am hopeful that I have the strength to do like Margie Garrison and cure my pain naturally.
I started this blog two years ago and did my best to heal my body naturally. Unfortunately, about a year ago, the nerve and muscular pain began to become unbearable. After finding a new primary care physician and sharing my symptoms with her, she agreed that I may have fibromyalgia. This was the diagnosis I was hoping for but there is no magic test. I had to get a lot of blood work done first and rule out a lot of serious disorders like Lupus and Lymes Disease. My blood test did test positive for elevated levels of Rheumatoid, therefore, I was referred to a Rheumatologist. After 5 years of thinking I had RA, I was finally going to see a specialist! This was a huge milestone. I told him my whole story and he explained all of my blood work and ordered new tests. He also examined me and surprisingly said that he did not have any physical signs of RA but that we would continue to monitor my symptoms. He also prescribed Plaquenel for the joint pain. After months on Plaquenel, I have seen a decrease in my joint pain, which allowed me to focus on my muscular and neralogical pain. When I went back to my doctor and he examined more blood tests and listened to my explanation of the tenderness in my muscles, he finally agreed that I had fibromyalgia. Such a tricky diagnosis and it is hard to treat. He prescribed Gabapentin, which I have now been taking for about 4 months. I have seen some improvement but every day is different. I have also worked on staying Gluten Free as much as possible and always Dairy Free. Surprisingly, I have added more meat into my diet but kept it as lean as possible and organic. But the biggest help for me has been Bikram Yoga. I have tried other types of yoga and had mixed results. Only Bikram has given me immediate reflief from my neralogical and muscular pain. My muscles have never been stronger and this is crucial for supporting my weak joints, especially my knees. As long as I keep up with my yoga, generally stay as active as possible and eat healthy, I have good days. The bad days usually are tied to a fluctuation of hormones. I am currently investigating this connection. Stress is another pain factor but the yoga and Gabapentin have definitely helped with my anxiety.
Why am I telling you all this?
Because you have a story too! And everyone’s is different, but together we can see patterns and begin educating others! I believe it is so important to Know What we are Putting Into our Precious Bodies! Advertisements are not our friends and we have to be aware of the harmful substances in many of our foods. I am not perfect and I do not follow a perfect diet but when I do take care of myself, I definitely see the benefits!
On a lighter note…
My biggest passion is teaching. I teach middle school English and I feel that I am exactly where I am meant to be. I love living at the beach and swimming is still one of my favorite things to do. I try to do Bikram yoga five days a week. Cooking, photography, reading, writing, music… and using my creativity on a daily basis are what make me most happy! As an educator, learning new things and teaching others is a priority. Living with fibromyalgia and arthritis pain is a daily battle, but I’ve heard that a positive attitude can go a long way!