My health story

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During my senior year of college, my best friend (and ex-boyfriend) died unexpectedly. Unfortunately, life doesn't really include time to grieve and put yourself back together after a loss. This was a really important relationship in my life that had just abruptly ended. I pushed on as if nothing happened....I attended classes, took finals, and graduated all on schedule. But, I was an anxious mess. I was nervous, sad, and I cried all the time. I felt panicky for no reason.

A few weeks after this loss, I was diagnosed with a life-threatening seafood allergy. I had eaten seafood all my life - how was I now allergic? And I might die if it touched my plate? Whoa. This food I had eaten my entire life was now life threatening?! So, now I'm SUPER anxious. I'm worried about everything I was eating on top of the anxiety from the grief.

Then, about six months later, I was diagnosed with ANOTHER severe food allergy. Now, I was allergic to nuts - ALL nuts. Again, I was told that I could have a severe reaction if it so much as touched my plate. Great. This is just what my anxiety needed. More fuel. I remember asking my doctor if it was normal to feel so anxious about what I ate, and she said, "Yes - this is a severe allergy. You should be nervous." Yikes. That didn't help.

So, for about six years I lived as though I had two severe food allergies. I rarely ate at restaurants, and I ate a LOT of processed and packaged foods. Labels! Yes! Now, I could be sure of what was in my food, and that was somehow comforting to me. Meanwhile, I fed my body lots of unhealthy food and was in my doctoral program (stressful and busy!), which did not help me heal.

Flash forward to my late 20s when I was hospitalized for over a week (twice) and had extremely low and erratic blood pressure, couldn’t sit up or stand up without passing out, low blood sugar, significant gut issues, several nutrient deficiencies, extreme fatigue, etc. I was given all kinds of crazy and scary diagnoses – the worst of which involved my autonomic nervous system shutting down (I was told this at 27 while in the hospital).

I refused to give up on my health, and I read everything I could find, I found provider after provider until I settled on a good care team. I discovered functional medicine and complementary and integrative health approaches. After leaving the hospital, I radically changed my diet, lifestyle, and mindset. I fought tirelessly for my health. 

Now, several years later, I can work out daily, stand up as long as I want, have much more energy, my gut is in MUCH better shape, and I’m no longer limited by my health issues. Every time I'm in line at the grocery store or attending a concert or any other time I need to stand for a while, I'm SO, SO appreciative that I worked to heal my body. 

Oh, and I found a new allergist, did a food challenge, and was NOT allergic to nuts. What?!

Relief, frustration, anger, exhaustion - so many emotions at once.

I had so many questions. Was I misdiagnosed in the first place? Did I ever have an allergy? Was my immune system just on high alert following the trauma? What the heck? As it turns out, I'm not allergic to nuts. I'm drinking a latte with almond milk as I type this. I became fascinated with the link between emotional stressors - like trauma - and its impact on the gut, nervous system, and immune system. I struggled with waves of INTENSE fear and panic every time I reintroduced a different type of nut. But, I pushed through. Yes, it took me YEARS to reintroduce foods because of that fear. It is not easy to unwind. I have yet to reintroduce seafood - not because I believe I am allergic to it - but because the fear is still present. But, I'm working on it.

By the way, it's not easy to date with severe food allergies (or believing you have severe food allergies, in my case), but it was a great screener to find out who was patient and who was not!

The ending to my health story....

So, I STRONGLY believe that we can heal ourselves. You have the power to heal yourself. We have to do the INNER WORK to heal ourselves - both physically and mentally - in order to reach our goals and create the life we want and change for success. To me, healing your own body involves improving relationships, finding meaning in life, engaging in creative pursuits, tapping into intuition, improving spiritual life, coping with stress and anxiety, practicing mindfulness, and working on dissatisfaction in various areas of our life. 

I wish I had someone to work with during a time when I was struggling with chronic symptoms and had no idea that there was A TON of things I could do to improve my LIFE (like dealing with past grief issues - that was huge!, changing my negative self-talk and having more positive thinking techniques, improve my nonexistent self-care, reducing the hours I worked, changing my eating habits, developing a meditation practice, improving my relationships, reconnecting with my creative side, etc). 

I strongly believe in the power of mind-body-spirit, having a gratitude mindset, connecting with your intuition, setting clear goals and living a vibrant life that aligns with what is most important to you, and cleaning up the stress in your life – it can transform your life. I know it can because it transformed my life. 

Alyssa Adams