Empaths and Energy

It has been several years since I first read about empaths and what it means to be one, but it was like a huge, bright light got turned on for me, and it helped me understand why I move through life the way that I do.  I won’t reinvent the wheel here, because you can do a google search right now and find a million articles telling you what being an empath means and how to know if you are one.

For me, one of my traits is that I am very sensitive to the energy around me.  I’ve always been this way, but I didn’t always realize it.  I have always absorbed the energy from other people, but didn’t know I was doing it.  So at times, I would internalize someone else’s feelings and take them on as my own.  This worked to my detriment as a child growing up in a house with a lot of fighting.  I was absorbing that negative energy and internalizing it as my own burden to carry without realizing what was going on.  Looking back, it was exhausting and was at least the partial cause of my depression as a teen.

In recent years as I realized just how powerfully other people’s energy affected me, I would still feel drained and negative after having an interaction where someone was giving off a very strong, negative energy.  I’ve done a lot of work to learn how to separate someone else’s energy from my own. Recently a teacher of mine channeled for me and found that I am able to differentiate my energy from someone else’s about 70% of the time.  So, about 70% of the time, when I interact with people, I can tell what energy they are emitting and I am absorbing from them.  And recognizing this has been very important for me, because the more I can separate my energy from someone else’s, the less I am going to unknowingly take their energy on for myself.  I use this a lot in my day-to-day life.  For instance, I use people’s energy to make decisions about whether or not I want to spend time with them. I have very strong intuition and I have been learning to trust it, and the more that I do, the stronger my intuitive sense becomes.  If someone has a really good energy about them, I don’t need to know a whole lot else about them before I find myself wanting to hang out with them.  I pay attention to the energy I receive from potential baby sitters, friends, healers etc.  A person’s energy tells me a lot about them. And I take it more seriously than the words that someone tells me, because people can lie, but energy doesn’t.

Last year, I had an experience where I was hanging out with a friend just after one of their parents died.  I enjoyed my time with them and felt good while we were hanging out.  But when I went home, I felt drained for no apparent reason.  Based on what was going on with me, I felt like I should have had more energy.  And I was excited about an upcoming concert that night too.  Then I realized what was going on.  I had taken on some of my friend’s energy during our interactions.  I took on some of the heaviness of the situation, and some of the sadness.  I actually had to take a nap before the concert. It was a really cool experience for me to be able to recognize that what I was feeling was not a direct reflection of something going on in my own life.  I think that sometimes, part of my purpose here in this lifetime is to take on some of the heavier energy around me and transmute it to positive.  I think that’s part of what I was doing in this case without even realizing it.  I took on some of the heaviness so that my friend would not bear all of that weight alone.  But what I am also realizing is that it is not my responsibility to take on energy that does not belong to me.  And that in fact, as Abraham Hicks says often, I cannot become poor enough so that others are not poor, I cannot become sad enough to keep others from being sad, and I cannot be negative enough to keep others from being negative.  It’s just not the way the Universe works.  In becoming happy and prosperous, I am not taking away from anyone else.  There is always enough to go around.  We live in an abundant Universe, not one that is lacking.  It is much more useful and important that I remain in my vibration of positivity and attracting prosperity, so that I can be an example that others can follow to help them find ways to raise their own vibration.  We don’t do anyone any good by lowering our vibration thinking that if we bring ourselves down into a state of sadness, lack, negativity, that we will somehow help those around us feel better, or at least not feel so bad.  I have spent my life working this way.  Feeling bad to be happy when I was surrounded by sadness.  Feeling bad to be healthy when I have been surrounded by those with illness.  But the important thing that I have been learning and figuring out and working to internalize is that this method never works.  Plus, I end up feeling terrible.  I listened to a great audio clip on YouTube today of Abraham Hicks, and it ends with this quote that is my take-away on this subject and that is “I’m going to be who I know I can be, so that I can show you who I know YOU can be.”  You can listen to it HERE.  It is often said that misery loves company.  When we are down, we get comfort when others join us in that vibration.  But, when was the last time that someone joining you in misery really helped you dig yourself out of the hole that you had found yourself in?  I know that I have been uplifted by others who are uplifting.

For those of you in a health care profession, or experiencing illness second-hand via a loved one, I want you to know this:  at no point in my healing journey have I needed anyone to lower themselves to my level of despair in thinking that it would make me feel better.  I did not want anyone to “fix” my problems for me or take away my illness.  I simply wanted support and love from those around me.  I had to go through all that I went through to get to the level of high vibrational functioning that I now get to experience.  My experiences not only make me a better nurse, but they make me a better human.  My experiences give me much more compassion than I could have developed any other way.  Like I have written many times here, losing my health completely has made me appreciate my health and body more than I would have otherwise.  I live my life in a state of gratitude for all that I have because I almost died, not in spite of it!  Therefore, losing my health is one of the best things that has ever happened for me, second only to the birth of my son.  Let me repeat that:  LOSING MY HEALTH IS ONE OF THE BEST THINGS THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED FOR ME!  Granted, I did not feel this way as I was going through it.  But I can tell you from where I am currently, if I could go back in time and change things, I would NOT do it.  I would experience everything I have gone through again knowing that it would lead me to my current level of gratitude for this precious life that I have been given.

Everything is made of energy.  We have limited senses to perceive the energy around us, but it runs through everything around us, and through all of us.  That cannot be denied.  Are you aware of the energy you are putting into the world?  Is it positive?  Does it uplift those around you?  Are you an empath, like me, who has a difficult time differentiating your energy from those around you?  Does knowing that you’re an empath make you feel better too that you have some clarity about why you move through the world like you do, and why you feel SO MUCH all the time?  I know it helped me a lot to realize my gifts as an empath.  Sometimes, those gifts have felt like a curse, because I can feel the hurt around me as if it’s my own.  The first step for me was connecting the dots, the next steps have been creating energetic boundaries for myself.  If I can do it, so can you.

I have more difficulty differentiating the more at large energy field of the world from my own than I do the energy of other people.  It’s much more common that I take global energy on as my own before realizing it. It becomes most apparent once a friend who is also highly sensitive mentions the way they have been feeling and the energy that they have been picking up on.  Then we all share a collective sigh of relief to have some understanding that the energy affecting us is outside of us and our lives.  My brain likes to connect what I am feeling to something happening in my own life, yet it doesn’t always realize that the energy I am sensing isn’t always originating with me.

As our collective consciousness continues to shift and more people begin to awaken, it is imperative that we do the inner work that each of us needs to do so that we can keep our vibration high, even when we can feel the energy of the collective dip down.  Those of us functioning at a higher vibration will be the best help to others if we stay where we are, so that they can rise up to meet us, versus lowering our energetic vibration to meet theirs.  This is the work that I am currently doing within myself.  I am working to do things that make my energy vibrate higher, so that I can live my best life and in turn, affect others positively.

If you have read my other posts, you know that I got into nursing after I, myself, became gravely ill.  Even as I was struggling with my own health issues, I was in nursing school, learning how to help others.  I feel like my journey with nursing has come full circle.  In nursing school, I was able to witness some of the people who were present during my heart surgery, perform an open heart surgery.  A few of them even remembered me.  I was able to thank them for saving my life and told them that I was using my experience to go into nursing so that I could help others.  In nursing school, I met with a few of the nurses who had been there after my surgery and had come to check on me as I recovered in the hospital, and I thanked them.  As a new nurse, I eventually ran into the nurse who had taken care of me on 3 West, the step-down ICU, and I realized that her name wasn’t “Angel” as I had remembered from the scary night that she took care of me prior to my heart surgery, and was able to thank her for being there with me and getting me the help that I needed.  I’ve had the honor of taking care of some of the sickest patients in the hospital who were wrought with pain and fear, and I overcame my fear of death, as I helped alleviate their fears.  In taking care of new Mothers, I have been able to heal my wounds related to not having the natural birth that I had hoped for, because I see now that the healthy Mom and baby ARE truly all that matter.  And I have been a part of the process of c-sections to show me why I did not get to hold my son right away, which has been healing.  I have helped Moms struggling with breastfeeding which helped heal the parts of me who placed so much responsibility on my shoulders to feed my baby the best milk I had available, even when it wasn’t going so well.  Working as a Nurse has given me such a wide variety of people and energies to work with, which I believe has led to me being so good at recognizing my own energy vs others’ energy, a skill that is highly valuable to me for so many reasons.

Early in my nursing career, I often felt pulled down into the despair that my patients were feeling.  Over time, I have learned to separate my energy from those I care for in a way that makes it much more healthy for me and for them.  But even still, working in the hospital as a Registered Nurse lends itself to a level of stress that only other Nurses can relate to.  Adding to that stress the fact that I am so sensitive to the energies that surround me, the hospital is not a good working environment for me.  Luckily, I have been through enough in my life to recognize when something is affecting my health negatively, and so I am moving on.  This is not the first time that I have witnessed a direct correlation with the stress that I experience and the health problems that it creates.  So, I am choosing to not wait until the health problems become debilitating before I change my course.  I am proactively choosing to put my health first, above EVERYTHING else, including my job.  I will continue to help people in other ways, and if you want to know a bit more, you can check out my “About Me” page above (I will be writing more about it here shortly).  My purpose in this life is to heal myself, body, mind, and spirit, so that I may help others navigate through their own healing journeys.

Life really is always working FOR us.  Everything that happens for us in this life is meant to grow us so that we can become the people we came into this life to be.  How have you benefited from your challenges, and in turn, how have your challenges benefited the world around you?  Have you discovered a way to use your empathy to help yourself and others?  Are you able to see the blessings in your extremely empathic nature?

It’s never too late to start the day over.  It’s never too late to choose to put yourself, your happiness, and your health FIRST.  Life is too short to live it any other way!

Listen to Michael Franti and Spearhead’s song “Never Too Late” HERE

Thanks so much for reading.  I’d love to hear from you!  If you enjoyed this post, please like and share it.

 

5 Years, 1,825 Days of Being a Nurse

Today, 3/11/18 marks 5 years since I started my work in the hospital as a Registered Nurse. A low-mid estimate puts the number of patients that I have taken care of during that time to over 4,000! I feel honored that I have been part of so many people’s story. And I hope that I have positively touched their lives in some way. Their stories are now interwoven with mine, and all the time they give me the priceless first-hand experience that we are all connected. That all of our challenges despite how seemingly different, all turn us into humans with similar baggage and triggers to overcome in this life.

No matter the person looking back at me from the hospital bed or crib, I have seen the beauty of their souls. We are not our experiences or our stories. We are not what we have been through. But at the same time, our experiences work to shape us into the people we came here to be. So rather than getting lost in our personal stories of tragedies and triumphs, we are meant to use those times to move us to help make the world around us a better place. When I decided to go into nursing, I was a patient in the hospital recovering from a heart surgery. I asked the nurses taking care of me what their experience had been in nursing school and if they were happy with their decision to become a nurse.  I asked them about their work schedule and about how they manage with having kids while being a nurse.  I chose to use my experience to become a Nurse in hopes that I could alleviate some of the fears that I knew my patients would be feeling in the hospital. I am so grateful that even in the midst of going through my own health crisis, that I was given the strength and perseverance to get through school and these last 5 years as a Nurse.
I know that my main purpose in this life is to help people on their healing journeys in whatever way I can.  For 5 years, it has solely been as a nurse in the hospital.  I started out in reverse, taking care of adults, some of which died during my shifts, and then moved on to my current position where I sometimes care for brand new babies just entering the world.  I am grateful that I have been an intimate part of the full circle of life.  The birth to the death, each are sacred as they are the entering of the soul into the body, and then the exiting of the soul from the body.  But the soul never dies.  It is born, it grows and transforms, and then moves onto its next journey.  After all, everything is made up of energy, the divine life-force energy that moves through everything, and energy is never destroyed.
When I hit my 3 year mark, I wrote this on my Facebook page, which is a beautiful way to share my experience: “I’ve witnessed the strength of the human spirit and body. I’ve been a witness to pain with perseverance, death as a natural part of life, people holding onto hope, and people staying positive regardless of circumstance. I’ve supported families as their loved one took their last breath, and also as their baby took their first. It has been amazing. It has been stressful. And it has helped put everything that happens in my own life into perspective.”
What are some ways that you have used your own, personal challenges in life to do good for other people, or for the world around you?  How has your life been positively influenced by a nurse in your own story?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

What is Your Illness Doing for You?

2

So, I have been hanging out at home all week, sick.  Today I jokingly referred to it as black lung disease, and my son called it the black plague.  I got him laughing when I sang with my raspy voice to an Imagine Dragon’s tune before school, “don’t get too close, its red inside, it’s where the black plague lies, it’s where the black plague lies…”  We thought I was pretty funny.  I don’t know what it is exactly, but I feel like crap.  My throat hurts.  I wake up with loads of congestion in my chest that I end up hacking up all day long.  I sound a bit like Darth Vader.  I wake up and use cough drops in the middle of the night, because my throat hurts so bad.

During the weekend, the black plague was just a feeling of overall malaise and the subtle warning of impending illness.  I upped my essential oils, I upped my homeopathic remedy, I started taking about 4-5,000 mg of vitamin C per day, and I was drinking green smoothies by the quart.  But in the end, after making it through the weekend, the plague hit me like a ton of bricks.

I was thinking today and had a HUGE Aha!  moment!  For as long as I can remember now, I have associated illness with a sort of free pass to focus on taking care of myself.  I see it also as a reminder from my body that I need to slow down and listen to it and take care of it in the ways that it is telling me to.  This past weekend, I was so excited!  I was lucky to attend Jake Ducey’s (check him out on YouTube and Facebook) workshop titled, “Genius Within.”  When I had seen that Jake was going to have a workshop in San Diego, it sounded perfect. It was one of those times where every line that I read to explain what the workshop was about spoke to me.  I was especially excited to shed light on more of my self-limiting patterns and beliefs, because I am really feeling the need to just let go of all of my old shit, once and for all.  The price was right, the location was close enough to drive there in a day, I really like Jake’s message and positivity, and above all of that, my intuition was very strongly urging me to go.  And then, as the weekend got closer, Matisyahu released his Fall tour dates, and one of them landed in San Diego on the Friday that I would be in San Diego!  So, I was going into the weekend thrilled, but I also had some major Mom-guilt creep in.  For starters, I had only seen Matisyahu with my son, and I knew that he really liked that fact.  Also, because the workshop was all day on Sunday, there was no way that I was going to be able to make it back in time to get my son at the normal time on Sunday night, so I had to make arrangements with his Dad to keep him that night.  I think that Moms reading this will maybe get where I was coming from the most, because I think that in general, it is the Moms who are usually more comfortable putting everyone else before themselves.  I am no different.  So I began to have some major Mom-guilt, to the point that I didn’t even tell my son about seeing Matisyahu until after the fact.  It was a 21 and over show, so he wouldn’t have even been able to go if he was with me for the weekend. Yet, I still felt bad about it.

I knew before last weekend, before today, that I am my own worst critic.  I have always been so hard on myself.  And while I have done a lot of the work to move past that way of being, it obviously still sneaks up on me sometimes.  I ended up having a fantastic weekend!  I got to explore a new beach my first day in town, which was really beautiful.  I find that the ocean is so grounding for me.  I stayed with an old friend/coworker who I hadn’t seen in 13 YEARS! Yikes!  It was so great to spend time with her and reconnect.  Her 5 year-old and 2 year-old daughters treated me like their long-lost Aunt who they adored, which was a lot of fun!  I went out on my own in downtown San Diego (which is GINORMOUS by the way!) to dance for hours to Orphan, Zion I, and Matisyahu!  And I basked in Jake’s positivity for two whole days and connected with some wonderful people who also attended.  I also unraveled some more of my long-held beliefs, and was given some new ways to look at things, as well as new ways to create the life that I want for myself.  I was baby-ing myself the whole time with a cold that was brewing just under the surface.  Today, I realized that in always being so hard on myself when putting myself first, especially since the birth of my son, I generally only give myself a completely guilt-free pass to take it easy in all ways when I am sick.  That was my Aha! moment today.  My thoughts brought on this illness.  My body was wanting me to slow down and take care of me, and my thoughts put it into the Universe that the only way I would do that would be if I was sick.  And boom!  I have been sick all week.  I went to the grocery store for a short trip early in the week and got enough stuff to get us by for the week, but otherwise, I have done nothing but rest and take care of myself while my son has been in school.  I’ve napped.  I’ve taken extra vitamins.  And I’m still chugging the smoothies, because my body is seriously craving greens SO much right now!

I watched “The Secret” last night, which really further reinforced the things about the Law of Attraction that Jake shared with us at the workshop.  The fact that our thoughts create our reality.  So consider what my thoughts just did in my life.  I was feeling guilty for self-care, but that went away once I was sick.  When I am sick, I give myself permission to put myself first, and I don’t feel guilty about it.  But why do I feel that I must be suffering with a black plague before I can feel OK with putting myself first?  Can you relate?  I can look back on my past and see a similar pattern.  In college is when I first started to think of illness this way.  I would see it as my body’s way of telling me to slow down and be extra caring towards myself.  I would notice that about once a month, I would feel a bit under the weather, and would shift into self-care mode during that time.  Later, when I lost my health, it kind of gave me a pass to allow some of the cards that I was constantly keeping in the air to drop.  I felt completely responsible for the care of my son, the care of the two dogs, and the overall upkeep of the household.  I did the majority of the household chores, and I did the majority of the grocery shopping.  I was exhausted and stressed.  At the time, I was in nursing school, and not working outside of the home, so I felt immense pressure to basically do everything else.  I’ve always been independent and I preferred to feel like I was pulling my own weight.  I kept it up until my illness struck.  And then, over time, I stopped being so stressed about the things I was not able to get done around the house.  And as I have written before, I was forced to take care of myself because of my illness.  I had been so used to just going and going all of the time that I rarely focused on what I needed.  That stretches back for as far as I can see.  I think a lot of us get wrapped up in the go-go-go mentality of this fast-paced society that we’re living in that we rarely stop to just BE.  But for me, those moments where I just stop and soak in my life in the moment are the ones that I treasure the most.

So, the Universe in all of its preciseness of divine timing, told me that 30 was going to be the year where I would finally start to focus on myself and my own well-being for a change.  It gave me a very clear picture, that I lived through, of what life was like without good health.  I was shown that without my health, I essentially had nothing, because I couldn’t even function without it to enjoy my son, to take care of him at times, to walk, to do the chores that needed to be done, or to do things that brought me joy.  When you lose your health, you realize very quickly that everything else in life is secondary.  You can have every other thing going for you, but if you don’t have your health, it’s very difficult to appreciate the other things in your life.  Since January 2016, I have found that having a daily gratitude practice has led to a lot more joy in my life and a lot more things to be grateful for.  I would say that writing out the things that I am grateful for every night before I go to bed has been one of the simplest yet profoundly life-changing things that I have done for myself.  Try it.  I promise that only good will come from it.  And it is especially important to take note of the good things in your life when you’re struggling with illness or some other challenge.

I love when beliefs that have been held in my subconscious mind become conscious!  Once it becomes a conscious thought, I am able to examine it, look at how it’s been affecting my life, and release it if it no longer serves me.  In this case, the belief that I have to be sick in order to feel OK about fully taking care of myself is definitely NOT serving me well.  Can you see that?  It would be much more pleasant to stay healthy and take care of myself, than to spend a week knocked on my ass to force me to do it.

In the movie, “The Secret,” they talk about the fact that illness has no place in a body that is at ease.  I know that I have mentioned in other posts on this blog that I feel like my illness (or dis-ease) stemmed from my utter disregard for myself.  I stopped holding myself as a priority in my own life, I stopped listening to my intuition regarding situations in my life that were no longer serving me.  My body became a breeding ground for dis-ease.  I sometimes have friends who will tell me about friends or family members of theirs who are struggling with ongoing, chronic health problems, and they will ask if they can pass my contact info to the person.  I have always been happy to use my experience to help other people.  I know that the pain has had a purpose in my own life, but I enjoy using my pain to serve as a purpose in others’ lives as well.  It makes my struggles doubly worth it.  So at this point, when I talk to these people who are often also struggling with Lyme Disease, I ask them to really look at their life to see what is going on.  I ask them to look to see if there is something in their life that is causing them stress.  I would ask them to look for the lessons in their illness.  Have they been neglecting themselves?  Are there situations in their life that are toxic for them?  Have they been ignoring their intuition about things in their life?

Now, I would add for those reading this post, is there a way that your illness is serving you?  Is there a comfort in being ill?  Do people take care of you when you are ill?  Do you have less responsibilities when you are ill?  Do you receive more love from people when you are ill?  An even better question would be, do you receive more love from yourself when you are ill?  And I don’t ask these questions to make you feel bad or worse than you already do, but instead I ask you them to break your attention away from the illness you have and direct it to the thoughts that you hold about your illness.  I would say that I definitely give myself more love, more freely, when I am sick.  This week has been a perfect example.  But why can’t I do that for myself all of the time?  Why can’t I always feed myself well and give myself important vitamins?  And make sure that I get enough sleep?  The answer is that I CAN.  Now that I see what I have been doing, I can choose to change it.  And believe me, I don’t need another illness to come along like this one before I make that change!  Just as I have written before, sometimes, we have to get to a point where we’ve suffered enough before we are willing to make the changes that we need to make for a better life for ourselves.

I have a lot more to my health journey than I have written on this blog so far.  I will write about it as I feel guided to do so.  But at one point towards the end of my time on antibiotics, a woman was placed on my path who served as a sort of counselor for me.  I remember that during our first phone call, she asked me about my life.  After I had told her about my life which invariably included a lot of information about my health struggles, she said to me, “boy, you’re really holding onto your illness aren’t you?”  I remember being kind of stunned, and a little bit pissed off at her response to what I had just told her.  I said something like “well, yeah, I take handfuls of medications and supplements several times a day and pay out-of-pocket for a specialist that I have to go see at least every 12 weeks.  My illness is part of my life.”  Well, in that moment, I didn’t really “get” what she was saying to me.  It took me some time to understand.  But eventually, I did come to understand.  You see, when I got ill, I began to identify myself as sick.  The people around me began to identify me as sick too.  Once I had the diagnosis of Lyme Disease among others, the Lyme became part of my identity.  I identified myself as someone with Lyme Disease.  But you see, I am no more Lyme Disease than you are cancer, or MS, or Lupus, or depression.  I am NOT my illness, just as you are NOT yours.  I was able to flip that switch in my mind after several weeks of being off of my antibiotics, so that I could do a few rounds of medications for the yeast that was becoming more of an issue in my body.  I had been so used to having a flare whenever I came off the medications, but this time was different. (I believe a big factor for me was that I had been on a homeopathic remedy for about 7 months by this time.)  I wasn’t having a flare, and so it gave me space to ask myself some questions.  Like, what makes me sick?  Am I sick because I have had lab work come back positive for several different infections?  Or am I sick based on how I feel?  I decided that because I was managing to work full-time while taking care of my son on my days off, and I was feeling good, that I was not sick.  I had intended to go back on my antibiotics, but I decided that I was going to let how I felt be my barometer for how I was doing rather than some labs.  It was at that time that I stopped telling people that I had Lyme Disease in the present tense.  I started to talk about it only in past tense, if I even brought it up at all.  I began to think of myself as healthy, and I started just being grateful for how I felt in the moment.  I stopped identifying with my illness.  I stopped identifying myself as a sick person.  And my life changed for the better.

This isn’t to say that I don’t have lingering symptoms.  No one has ever told me that I am cured and in fact, this week, my PCP went over labs with me from September and she concluded that I am still “not well.”  Strangely, that felt more warm and cozy and familiar to me than if she had said I was cured.  I easily took on that illness cloak again.  I even told a few people what she had said.  But since then, I have decided that me not being well is no longer part of my belief system (nod to Jake Ducey).  I am not going to allow numbers on paper or cells in my body to determine my health.  I am going to judge my health based on how I feel.  When my body asks for something, I am going to aim to give it what it needs on a consistent basis.  I have been asked if I worry that I will get Lyme again.  (Yes, you can get MORE Lyme, or re-infected with Lyme following treatment!!)  But I am not worried.  I choose to no longer live my life from a place of fear.  I believe that I have gleaned the lessons that I was meant to learn from my illness, so I do not believe that I will have a repeat of Lyme.  I believe that I will continue to be as healthy as my thoughts, which I am always working to improve.  Our thoughts really do create our reality.  What kind of reality have you been creating for yourself?  What feels comfortable to you even though it causes you strife?

Jake reminded us all this weekend that every 7 years, every cell in our body gets replaced.  So every 7 years, we essentially become new people made up of brand new cells!  I’m almost at the 8 year anniversary (November 27th) of passing out at home and losing my health.  None of the cells that were present in my body on that day in 2009 even exist anymore!  How cool is that??!  For me, it was a great reminder, because I have come to see and experience the power of my mind.  Our minds have the power to keep us feeling ill long after every cell in our body has been replaced by a new, healthy cell.  And our minds have the power to free us from our dis-ease.

I invite you to consider that sometimes using our mind to free us from dis-ease isn’t necessarily about getting cured from that which ails us.  Sometimes, it’s about shifting the way that we think about the illness that makes all the difference.  I see my illness as a blessing because of the level of gratitude that I now live with every day.  I could not have gotten that any other way.  So I would not wish it away or go back in time and change things so that I wouldn’t lose my health.  Life is not happening to us, it’s happening for us.  We are not victims, we are students. It is OK to grieve for the loss of your health.  It is OK to feel angry and sad.  It is OK to feel like it is unfair, and to throw shit.  Just try not to live there forever.  Your illness is not a torture device, but rather a teacher.  In the thick of my illness, I would have told you that you were crazy if you told me that in 8 years, I would be writing about how grateful I am that I lost my health.  But here I am.  And I am no different from you.  Our illness may have the same name, or a different name, but that’s meaningless in the grand scheme of things.  We all have the ability to choose peace in every situation, peace with what is.  Because, I have found that it’s usually the way that I am thinking about something that causes me the most suffering.

When I look at a situation and say OK, this is how it is, I can decide how I want to show up.  I am in control of my thoughts, feelings, and actions.  That’s it.  I encourage you to think, feel, and do things that make you feel good as often as possible.  Work to shift yourself into a place of ease, so that dis-ease no longer lays claim to your body.  You are not your body.  You are not your illness.  You are much more expansive than either of those.

Listen to Michael Franti’s “Hey Hey Hey” HERE

If you enjoyed this post, please like and share it!

Time Travel

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a good friend of mine and I told her that I wish that I could go back in time and relive my life, but with my current mentality.  I wanted to go back and have the experiences of the traveling and hiking for work with the level of gratitude and mindfulness that I currently experience.  I just had this idea that I would appreciate every experience, every hike I was able to do, every connection that I made with other people back then so much more with my current perspective on life.  In those days, I traveled, hiked, and LIVED in some of the most amazing and beautiful places that you can visit in the United States!  And I enjoyed it all at the time, but my life sort of splits at the time that I lost my health.  There’s the ‘before I lost my health’ time, and the ‘after I lost my health’ time.  Can you relate?  Did something change your life so dramatically that you also have a before (fill in the blank) time, and an after (fill in the blank) time?

Before I lost my health, I did what my body could do and didn’t even really think about it.  My body did whatever I wanted it to do.  If I needed to hike 17 miles in a day for work, I did it.  If I needed to carry a heavy backpack for 10 miles for work, I did it.  If I needed to lift a recliner into the back of a truck by myself, I did it.  After I lost my health, I experienced times when I couldn’t get off the couch because my chest pain was so bad.  I couldn’t walk to my mailbox that was maybe 30 feet from our house.  Actually come to think of it, maybe I am living in the after I lost my health AND after I got my health back time.  I am the same person, except now, I have all of the collective memories from all the time periods of my life.  And with the memories of the stark differences in what my body was able to do, I live with an immense gratitude so enormous that when I hike (or do something else that I thought I would never get to do again), I am usually brought to laughter and tears of joy.  And I am not exaggerating in the slightest.  I’ve asked friends of mine if the hikes they do ever bring them to tears, because it happens so often to me now.

As my friend and I discussed my time travel idea, we came to the conclusion that if I could go back with my current perspective that my life would likely be completely different now.  And really, I wouldn’t want that, because I would always choose to have my son.  But what I have realized since talking to my friend is that while we cannot currently (I never say never about anything) travel back in time physically as who we were then and experience things over again all “Back to the Future” style, we do have the ability to travel back to places that we once visited, experiencing it as our current selves.  And over the last few weeks, I have found that it’s pretty damn close.

I went to Southwest Utah last weekend on a whim.  I have been called (ie my heart/gut/ intuition/soul keep bringing it up over and over) to revisit the beautiful red rock of Zion National Park now for a long time, especially for the majority of this year.  Because I do not usually have a three-day weekend off all to myself, I was not about to waste it by sitting at home doing things that I could do on any other day.  I worked in SW Utah back in 2003, initially hiking through the desert looking for desert tortoises, and later using seining and electroshocking in rivers and streams to collect data on various fish species.  I even did some work in the Virgin River in Zion National Park.  I fell in love with the contrasting colors of the red rock against the bright blue sky and earthy green sage and cacti.  It’s art for the eyes unlike any other place I have ever seen.  When I realized that I had a 3-day weekend coming up, I began thinking of things that I could do during that time, specifically where I could go hiking.  I immediately thought of Zion National Park.  But as quickly as I thought of it, my mind started to work against me.  It’s an 8-hour drive and I haven’t done a long road trip like that by myself in a long time.  Can I stay awake, driving for that long?  How much is this going to cost me?  Can I afford it?  I can do it if I find a free place to stay, but not if I have to pay.  How much gas am I going to end up using and paying for?  Is 3 days really long enough to go all the way to Zion?!  I mean I’m basically going to drive there, hike, and drive back.  But, luckily, there are bigger forces at work than my mind that obviously wanted me to go to Zion.

I began to get messages in the form of Instagram and Facebook posts.  For instance, upon sitting on my couch and contemplating the trip while looking up places to camp and stay, I checked my Instagram to find two posts from two separate accounts featuring pictures taken in Zion National Park.  You can believe whatever you want, but I have seen enough in my own life to know without a doubt that there are no coincidences in this life.  If you feel like you’re getting messages, you are.  One of the pictures was taken from the top of Angel’s Landing, one of my favorite hikes in Zion that I planned on doing if I made the trip.  I also began to have other quotes, and articles pop up on my Facebook feed dealing with blocks that we sometimes create between ourselves and money, and also about the importance of following your intuition and doing the things that you are feeling urged to do.  So between message after message essentially yelling at me to go to Utah, and a sweet guy in Utah who runs a camping airbnb who hooked me up with coordinates for free camp sites on BLM land with a fall back option of his backyard if they were all full, I decided to go to Utah!  And man, am I happy that I did!!

Zion was always a magical place to me, but I think it was even more so during this visit!  I was able to experience the entire trip with the perspective of getting my health back after losing it, and during every shuttle, and hike, and conversation, I was saying to myself, I cannot believe I am lucky enough to be here right now!  I looked around with awe and a huge smile on my face the whole time.  I noticed some of the other hikers walking with almost grimaces on their faces, and I wanted to shake them and say “Can you believe that we are here in this magical place?!  This place is AMAZING!  Aren’t we so lucky that our bodies allow us to hike like this??!!”

I got there on Friday, set up my camp, and then went straight to the park to hop the shuttle and ended up hiking the Emerald Pools trail.  As I hiked, I smiled BIG!  It felt so right to be back there!  I looked around amazed as if I was seeing the Park for the first time!  On the shuttle to Emerald Pools, I struck up a conversation with a woman beside me, and asked her what hike she was going to do.  We started talking about where we were from and how long we were going to be there.  And we talked about hikes that we were going to do and that she had done.  She told me that she had hiked The Narrows the day before and that it was so beautiful and that I should do it if I had the time.  I had thought about it before my trip, but was not sure that I wanted to rent the gear for $40.  This conversation sealed the deal for me, and she told me where she rented the gear and what time they opened in the morning.  So again, flying by the seat of my pants, on Saturday, I hiked The Narrows, one of the most iconic hikes in Zion National Park.  I have hiked a lot in my life, but The Narrows is now my absolute FAVORITE hike!  My soul was overwhelmed with joy to be hiking through a river surrounded by a red rock canyon!  If your body is able, and hiking in a place like that makes your soul happy too, you MUST get yourself there and experience it for yourself.  No picture, no matter how beautifully taken, can ever capture the feeling of being there yourself.  In my opinion, Zion National Park is a must-see and The Narrows hike is a must-do!

Me on top of Angel’s Landing in the Fall of 2003:

22498875_10155775370597943_4897427867614242277_o

Me on top of Angel’s Landing on October 15, 2017:

IMG_6392

Our souls/higher selves really do know what is best for us.  I see it play out in my life all the time as opportunities and people are placed on my path.  After my trip to Utah, I knew that I could in fact travel in time by revisiting places I have lived and loved in the past.  But, I had no idea that another hike I did yesterday in Sequoia National Park would show me that again.

I had wrongly assumed that I was working all weekend this weekend, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, until I looked at my work schedule again last week.  It turns out that I had Sunday off.  So again, I began to think of hikes that I could do that day.  I have a friend that I have written about before who does all sorts of cool, epic hikes in this area, and he’s always happy to give me trail recommendations.  When he told me about the Lakes Trail in Sequoia National Park, it sounded perfect!  There are four lakes on the trail, all at various distances from the trail head, so you can decide on how short or long you want your hike to be, and the scenery at any of the lakes is gorgeous, so you win regardless of how far you go.  Before I left, he said to take the Watchtower trail vs. the Hump trail at one of the junctions on the way to the lakes, because of the scenery along the Watchtower trail.  Inspired by my friend, I set my alarm, and ended up being on the road to go hike by 4:45 am!!  I started the trail at 6:45 am, just before sunrise.  I was leaving my plan open-ended and decided that I would see how I felt at the various lakes before deciding on my ultimate destination.  The trail was so beautiful!  I had the trail all to myself until I hit the first lake, Heather Lake, when I started passing people who had camped at the lakes going in the opposite direction as me.  Aside from that, I felt like I had the entire trail to myself.  I stopped to take some pictures at the Watchtower.  The view up there is amazing!  All of the granite peaks and drop offs, the sun just making its way up into the sky.   Stunning!  I thought of how grateful I was to be able to hike that trail.  I felt so lit up from the inside.  I kept going.  At one point, there was a sign that said something like Emerald Lake 1 mile, Pear Lake 2 miles, and right then, I decided that I was feeling good enough to do the whole 12.4 mile round trip trail to Pear Lake.  There was no way that I was going to stop short just 1 mile from Pear Lake.  The hike was just what I needed!  It felt so good to get out there and do the whole 12.4 miles.  I went to bed feeling exhausted (in a good way) and full of love and gratitude for my life.  All of it.

When I checked Facebook this morning, I had memories to look back on.  Wow, did I!  As I scrolled down, I came to a group of photos that were part of an album labeled 6 to 11 months.  There was a picture in particular that I noticed where I was holding my son at an overlook on a hike that we did when he was 6 months old.  I wondered where the picture was taken, because I had no memory of the trail or its name.  So I clicked on the picture and under it was the caption “At the Watchtower.”  My son turned 6 months old on October 23, 2009.  We must have done that hike almost exactly 8 years ago.  And as I just wrote that sentence, I checked today’s date and got chills when I saw that today is October 23, 2017.  Wow.  There are seriously NO coincidences in this life!  I could have gone on any hike yesterday, but I was led to go on the same hike that I had gone on 8 years ago almost to the day!  Again, I got to relive my past with my current perspective and level of gratitude and mindfulness.  In 2009, the first picture was taken not even two weeks before I started having symptoms that ultimately led to my complete loss of health, so it falls just into the ‘before I lost my health’ time period.

My son and I at the Watchtower in October 2009:

FullSizeRender (4)

Me at the Watchtower on October 22, 2017:

IMG_6449

I know I have said it many times, but without the perspective of gratitude that I have gained from having my life split into two when I lost my health, I would not have hiked with as much joy as I did yesterday, last weekend, or during the last few years as I have been getting back on the trails.  I would not be as grateful for all that my body is able to do, because I would not know any other way.  The scenery and trails haven’t changed, but I have!  I am lucky, because life has given me the opportunity to go back and really soak in the experiences that I have had.  I have gotten a second chance at life, so I do not intend to waste it.  This perspective is why I do the things I do.  It’s why I live my life seeking the things that bring me the most joy.  It’s why I don’t wait around for other people to be available if I really want to do something.  I know that I woke up this morning and am alive TODAY.  I know that I am healthy enough to go on long hikes by myself TODAY.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed, friends.  What are you putting off for another day?  I would encourage you to do it!  Be here NOW.  I hope that you, too, are living this amazing and magical life to the fullest!

I sang Michael Franti’s song, “Gloria”, all weekend as I drove to and hiked around Zion NP.  I was really feeling the lyrics, because I am so glad to be alive!  I had no idea of the story behind the song until I just searched for a link to add here!  Watch an amazing video of Michael Franti talking about and singing his song, “Gloria” HERE

or the album version of “Gloria” HERE

Forgive Others

What does it mean to forgive someone?  I’ve been grappling with this question for years.  Various memes, articles, and quotes tell me that forgiveness does not mean that you are excusing the person’s behavior, but that when you forgive, you are freeing yourself.  There have been times when I believed that I had completely forgiven a person, but then something comes up, and buried feelings float back up to the surface, and I am reminded of more work that I need to do.

This morning, a friend posted a video of a Holocaust survivor named Eva.  During the Holocaust, Eva was a young girl living in Romania.  She and her entire family, including her twin sister, were taken to the concentration camp of Auschwitz.  Within 30 minutes of getting off of the cattle car that transported them there, Eva was separated from her Dad and Mom and never saw either of them again.  When the SS Officers realized that Eva and her sister were twins, the two young girls were sent off to special barracks were the doctors were performing experiments on twins in an attempt to figure out a way for the Aryan race to proliferate faster.  As you can imagine, it’s a very sad story, but also a very inspiring one.  You can watch the video HERE.

The reason that I am writing about this video is because in the end, years after the Holocaust had ended and Eva was an adult, Eva took it upon herself to go to Germany to meet with one of the doctors from Auschwitz and later, ultimately forgave him for his part in the torture and killing.  She later forgave Dr. Mengele, the doctor directly responsible for the torturous experiments that were done on Eva and her sister.  To me, this was extremely powerful.  Here is a woman who lost everyone but her sister at Auschwitz, and she’s finding it in her heart to forgive the people responsible??!!  While I acknowledge that all struggles are relative and that we don’t have to go through the Holocaust to have deep wounds from a painful past, to me, if Eva can forgive these SS doctors, who am I not to forgive people in my life?  Later, Eva was denounced by many other Holocaust survivors, because of her act of forgiveness to these doctors, but she stood by her decision.  Eva saw that forgiveness had led to her own healing, and to her, that was more important than staying in line with everyone else.  So I went for a walk on this gorgeous day.  And as I walked, still amazed by Eva’s ability and willingness to forgive those SS doctors, I started thinking about forgiveness and my own relationship with it in my life.

In the years when I was struggling with illness, I felt trapped in a body that I no longer recognized and simultaneously,  I also felt trapped in a marriage that had become toxic for me.   My belief is that we all choose the big, key players in our lives.  As souls before we incarnate into this life, we choose our parents, siblings choose each other, and I believe we also choose those who we share major relationships with in our lives.  And likewise, our children choose us, their parents.  In every case, our souls make agreements with each other to help each other learn various lessons in this life with the ultimate goal of our incarnation being to awaken.  (If you want to read more about this, check out  the book, “Your Soul’s Plan:  Discovering the Real Meaning of the Life You Planned Before You Were Born” by Robert Schwartz that I posted on my book list.)  Each of our souls reincarnate to this Earth School many times over, thousands of times, in order to learn the lessons that we are meant to learn that will eventually wake us up. And many times, we travel with a soul group that we have known in past lives.  So it is highly likely that my ex-husband and I have been closely connected in many past lives.  We choose the souls in our lives knowing the details of what the relationship with them will look like.  To put it in the simplest terms, I think that his soul lovingly agreed with mine to enter into my life this time around in a relationship that would tear me down, so that I could eventually build myself back up from the ground to be the person that I came here to be, and to do the things that I am meant to do.  And for that, I am very grateful.  It’s like the story of myself was broken down, and when I got back to re-writing it, I relocated some of the positive aspects of myself, but released a lot of the negative parts.  I believe had that not happened, I would have likely been carrying some of those negative parts of my story around with me for a lifetime.  I see now that I was ready to finally question and work through the self-limiting beliefs and the story that I had held about myself for so long.

My human mind has worked hard to come to terms with the way things happened, and I am still working to forgive, so that I can be free.  I see myself as a willing participant in a marriage that I chose for myself.  That being said, I learned some lessons the hard way.  I questioned everything I did, said, and felt, and I allowed myself to completely lose my sense of self.  And the situation, with us living so far from any family members, was very isolating.

I have forgiven lots of people in my life, and have also been forgiven lots of times.  And I know the relief that comes with forgiveness.  The act of letting go of what happened moves you beyond suffering, so that you can go on and live your life.  I am very aware of the feeling of stuck energy in my body when I’m holding onto the feelings of resentment.  I know that to end my mental suffering, I must FULLY forgive people.  So what is the process of releasing that?  How do I move past the abstract thought of forgiveness and actually forgive?  A big part of it for me is remembering that we are all humans doing our best in the life that we have been given.  I do not claim that I was a perfect spouse.  I had baggage with triggers that were getting activated regularly, and I was not mindful of them during that time.  I realize now that a lot of the time, we all walk around with our baggage getting triggered, and we think that it’s all happening because of one person, or one situation, when in fact, we are likely dealing with feelings, emotions, and beliefs that we picked up during childhood, or even from our ancestors.  A marriage is bringing two people with all of that baggage together, and if neither person is even aware of their baggage, it can be a disaster.  When I look at my ex as a whole, I can see the story of his life and all that he has been through, and I can see how he came to be, and I feel compassion towards him.  I know that we were both doing our best in the marriage even if our best was less than either of us believed we needed at the time.  I also recognize that if it wasn’t for him, I would not have my amazing son.  I highly recommend doing this practice in your own life.  That’s a big part of the work I’ve done to get me to a place of true self-love.  I look at the whole picture of myself, from my birth to the present, and I am reminded of all that I have experienced in this life, and how far I’ve come.  Think of a person that you’re having a difficult time forgiving (even yourself), and do a quick overview of their (your) life in your mind’s eye.  (this requires that you know the person pretty well, otherwise you can just trust that everyone you meet has been through a lot to get them to the person that they are now).  Can you see how the pieces might fit together?  Can you view them with compassion as a fellow human being doing their best in this life?  Can you step back and stop taking things personally, so that you can see that no one’s actions or words have anything to do with you, but everything to do with them?  I know sometimes the things we have to forgive are absolutely horrific, so in that case, can you forgive solely out of kindness to yourself, for your own healing?  To free yourself?

We all have similar baggage and triggers, but we can react to those triggers in very different ways, which is why relationships can be so complicated.  It takes a certain level of mindfulness to navigate through the triggers and subsequent reactions that come out during a relationship.  It also takes mutual forgiveness to get through those times, and come back together.  I am extremely grateful that I have experienced first-hand how drastically mindfulness can positively impact a relationship.  When two people can be triggered and react, yet come back together and talk about what happened, and are able to see that their individual reactions had nothing to do with the other person, it is a beautiful, beautiful thing.  And it allows for self-awareness, individual growth, and compassion to blossom in such an amazing way within the relationship.

As I was out walking today, I actually asked my guides out loud for help and support so that I can finally forgive.  I told them that I was having a really hard time with it, but that I am ready.  So as I switched gears and headed to another spot, I was just enjoying my surroundings and the weather, not really thinking of anything in particular when I came upon this little sign that someone hung on the bridge that read “Forgive others.”  And I just started laughing.  There really are NO coincidences in life!  I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried!  As my friend, Erin, likes to say, nicely done, Universe!  Nicely done!

 

FullSizeRender (3)

 

While my health problems did have physical causes, I believe that the disease I experienced stemmed from the fact that I had stopped listening to my intuition. Eventually, when you live in a state of mental and emotional stress for so long, the toxicity will manifest in your physical body.  If you don’t listen to your intuition, your gut, your heart, and take care of yourself first and remove yourself from negative situations, the Universe will step in and make you physically ill to get you out of them. That’s how the Universe works:  we get small warnings, then bigger warnings, and then it eventually knocks us on our asses!  So, it is important that we learn to pay attention to the small warnings, or better yet, learn to follow our intuition more closely and trust it.  When we follow our intuition and live in the flow, we will find that we no longer need to experience the big tests, like a complete loss of our health, and that our lives become easier and more fluid.

I had to almost die, so that I would finally start giving myself the love, attention, and care that I always deserved from myself.  But you don’t have to wait until you get to that point.  We have all heard that chronic stress is bad for our health.  Well, after getting sick, I would physically feel the effects of stress on my body.  I noticed that stress caused flares of the pericarditis.  So, naturally, I started limiting the stress in my life.  I began to stop sweating the small stuff, because none of it was worth my health.  Knowing that my body couldn’t handle the stress of my marriage AND the stress of being a new nurse, I finally worked up the courage to get myself out of the marriage.  Once I started following my intuition again, I immediately became healthier without changing any other part of my health regimen.  And over time, with regular use, my intuition has only gotten stronger and stronger.

We must all work to forgive the people in our lives who have hurt us, because we are the ones who suffer, not them.  We must recognize that holding onto negativity or resentment creates stress in our own bodies which will eventually bring about pain and disease.  And we must forgive regardless of if we ever get an apology or not, because it’s really about us and our own healing at this point, not them.  Remembering that I have made mistakes and have hurt people in this life helps me respond to others from a place of empathy and compassion when they hurt me.  Regardless of what we think about some people in our lives, they, like us,  are on this Earth for a reason, and they are in our lives for a reason.  And they are experiencing their own set of struggles in this life.  Again, the message comes back to self-love.  Love yourself enough so that you are able to move on and forgive others.  More self-love = more love for others = what the world needs right now.

Sending you all so much love!

Michael Franti “Let It Go”

If you enjoyed this post, please like it and share it!

Looking for the Map: Part 2 of My Health Journey

So, between November 2009 and June of 2012, I lived with bouts of recurring pericarditis still without knowing the cause.  With everything I did, I worried that I would have another flare.  A flare basically meant lots of chest pain, bed rest (because it seemed to decrease the amount of time a flare lasted), and another subsequent increase in my dose of steroids.  I limited my physical activity during this time, which meant that I wasn’t spending much time outdoors.  And time outside in nature is what soothes me and my soul the most.  As you can imagine, I wasn’t feeling very good overall during this time.  I noticed apparent patterns like my symptoms seemed to get worse around the time of my period, and I seemed to always have flares of chest pain on my birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  To the point that a friend once suggested that maybe I go to bed before Thanksgiving and not wake up until after Christmas.  I would tell my doctors, but they were unable to make a connection with any of it.

During my son’s naps, I would take time to research pericarditis.  I found an online support forum for people with pericarditis where I was able to connect to others who were also dealing with this strange illness.  I was anxious to find some answers, or at least other people who could relate to what I was going through.  I even went on to be the “leader” of the pericarditis forum for a while, welcoming new people into the group and sharing my own story.  I continue to keep in touch with a few of the women from that group.  At one point, I sought the help of an acupuncturist who would do weekly treatments and send me home with herbal Chinese teas to drink.

During the Fall of 2011, I came across a doctor in my area who had successfully treated someone with pericarditis using IV hydrogen peroxide therapy.  By that time, I was almost to the 2 year mark since my pericardial window, and had been seeing my cardiologist, a rheumatologist, and a had gotten a second opinion from a cardiologist at Stanford.  I was still on daily prednisone, still suffering with the side effects of it, and desperately trying to get off of it because of the known long-term negative side effects. I was also injecting myself with Methotrexate daily in hopes that it would help me get off the prednisone.   No one had any answers for me.  I was desperate for answers and was willing to try anything to get my health back.  I began my IV hydrogen peroxide treatments in September of 2011. I forget how many times a week I would go at the beginning, but I do know that there were some weeks in there once I was successfully off the prednisone that I went 3 times a week when I was sick and at risk of flaring.  Mind you, the office where I went was a 45 minute drive away from my home, and I would generally be there for 2 hours for each treatment, which meant that the whole ordeal of driving and sitting there getting treatment took about 4 hours total.  And I was fitting these sessions in around being a Mom and full-time nursing student.  I once saw a movie where one of the characters was going for chemotherapy and would pull up a black, leather recliner in a room next to the other people there receiving their chemo.  That’s exactly what it was like with the hydrogen peroxide treatments.  A group of people all sitting around in recliners hooked up to IV drips.  The idea behind why hydrogen peroxide can be beneficial is that it adds a large amount of oxygen to the blood stream, and things like bacteria, viruses, and fungi generally do poorly in high oxygen environments.  So even though this doctor couldn’t be sure what was causing my pericarditis, the idea was to oxygenate my system so that the possible culprit would be killed off.  Well, this worked great in that I was able to get off of the prednisone fairly quickly.  Initially, I would chat with the other people there amazed to hear their success stories with a myriad of different IV treatments for various illnesses.  IV hydrogen peroxide does wonders for people with circulation issues related to diabetes for example.  I’d share my story and my seeming success with this new treatment. Later, I would sit and study for class, or sleep during my treatments.  Over time, it became tiring to talk and share my story.  I found myself becoming more and more exhausted all the time, and I would usually sleep through my treatments.  I also noticed that my memory surrounding my exams in nursing school seemed to be declining.  At some point, in a conversation with another patient about primary care doctors, I was told to go to a Nurse Practitioner here in town. My doctors attempted to explain away my severe fatigue (and think even more tired than new parents) by saying that it was because I had a young toddler and was in nursing school, but I knew that it was somehow related to my health. I even questioned if maybe I was experiencing adrenal fatigue, but it fell on deaf ears.  At this time, feeling generally unheard by my other local providers, I sought out the help of the holistic chiropractor in Oregon who had helped me when I bruised the bones in my feet in a fall (see We Are Never Alone) citing extreme fatigue as my most problematic symptom.  She listened to me and agreed that I could be experiencing adrenal fatigue and she had me do a saliva test to find out.  Sure enough, the tests came back definitive for adrenal fatigue and she started me on a natural supplement right away.  I noticed some improvement, but I generally noticed that I seemed to be feeling worse all the time. Between September 2011 and June of 2012, I had a total of 55 IV hydrogen peroxide treatments, multiple infrared sauna treatments, and IV vitamin C and IV DMSO treatments.

When I finally made an appointment (June 2012) with the Nurse Practitioner I had received a rave review about, I really felt like I was just going so that she could meet me and hear my health story, with the hope that she could be a sort of overseer for me of all things medical.  I had a lot of specialists involved on my case, but did not yet have a primary care provider that I could trust to keep track of everything as it was happening. During my first appointment in June 2012, upon telling her my experience with pericarditis and the ensuing loss of my health, she began asking me questions.  I should say that there had been a time for me while living in Oregon where I got lucky to have health insurance through a job after at least 5 years without it.  I had a kind of running list of all of the questions I wanted to ask a doctor during that time about small things related to my health that I had noticed.  My ex-husband once reminded me that I would sometimes see natural remedies for things at the food co-op in Oregon and wonder if they would help me.  He just thought that I was a hypochondriac.  My point is that some minute symptoms may have appeared prior to November 2009.  But back to my appointment…after maybe 5 to 10 minutes of asking me questions and examining me, the Nurse Practitioner told me that I should be tested for Lyme Disease.  I explained to her that I had been tested for Lyme Disease during my second hospitalization in February of 2010, and had been told that the test was negative.  She explained to me that the tests for Lyme weren’t very sensitive and that because of that, diagnosing Lyme was supposed to be based more on clinical findings than the tests.  SEE LYME DISEASE SYMPTOM CHECKLIST HERE  She also explained that because ticks carry more than just Lyme Disease that it was very possible that I was also experiencing symptoms related to other co-infections I likely had.  She gave me a test kit for the Igenex Lab Inc. (IGENEX WEBSITE) here in California that has developed one of the most sensitive tests for Lyme disease in the world, and suggested that I make an appointment with a Lyme Specialist in the Bay area.  I left that appointment completely stunned.  Could she have figured it all out so quickly? Could my almost 3 years of health problems be explained by Lyme Disease and other tick-borne illnesses?  Did this Nurse Practitioner just solve the mystery that several specialists could not?

I went home and dug out my lab results from February 2011 that I had because I had a copy of my chart made when I went to Stanford for the second opinion.  I found out that on my old Lyme test, I did have one band present, band 41. (Understanding Bands on a Western Blot Test) I began to fervently research Lyme Disease.  I found the Lyme Disease symptom checklist and was amazed with the number of symptoms I could check off on the list!  I began to get excited that I might actually have some answers!  And I had a lot of hope that this meant that I would finally get proper treatment!

If you recall from other posts, for my first career, I had spent the better part of 10 years traveling the country as a wildlife and fisheries field biologist, so I definitely had plenty of exposure to ticks in the wild areas where I lived and worked.  I have lived in 1. West Virginia 2. Florida 3. South Carolina 4. North Carolina 5. Maryland 6. Alaska 7. Utah 8. Oregon 9. New Mexico 10. California.  I also worked and/or spent time in 1. Ohio 2. Pennsylvania 3. Georgia 4. Arizona 5. Washington.  I never had a bull’s-eye rash often associated with Lyme Disease. And I only recall having one tick for sure while working in Washington. But the nymph form of ticks can be very very small, like the size of the period at the end of this sentence, so they are easily missed.

You may be wondering why I needed to see a Lyme Specialist rather than just being treated by my Nurse Practitioner.  Well, there is a lot of controversy surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme Disease.  There are two trains of thought about appropriate treatment for Lyme.  One group includes the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), insurance companies, and most doctors who believe that Lyme can be easily treated with a short course of antibiotics. They explain away persistent symptoms post-treatment by saying that the problem is then either psychosomatic (all in the person’s mind) or an autoimmune response.  The other side includes the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS), Lyme literate doctors who have a specialization in Lyme Disease, and lymedisease.org that believe that Lyme Disease is resistant to treatment and that longer courses of antibiotic therapy is needed to successfully treat Lyme.  They explain that there is a such thing as chronic Lyme Disease that persists after treatment, especially when Lyme goes undiagnosed and therefore untreated in individuals.  Most doctors aren’t really trained to recognize Lyme, let alone treat it.  Lyme has so many different disguises and an extremely wide-range of symptoms.  In the United States, the health insurance companies have a lot of say on the kind of treatment doctors can provide to their patients with Lyme Disease.  Doctors who have given their patients long-term antibiotics for Lyme have had their licenses threatened and in some cases taken away. So the Lyme literate doctors as a rule don’t accept insurance, and instead require patients to pay out-of-pocket for their services, because they have found the most success in treating people with long-term antibiotics, and insurance companies would limit them.  If you want to learn more about this controversy, I HIGHLY recommend that you watch the documentary “Under Our Skin”.  It used to be available on Hulu or Netflix, but I found it for rent on YouTube for $3.99 here: WATCH Under Our Skin

In a very round about way, I ended up having my first appointment with my first Lyme Disease Specialist in Los Angeles in July 2012 before flying to Colorado to visit family.  Prior to my visit, I was asked to provide my medical records and was asked to fill out extensive paperwork detailing my symptoms, and was also required to write a one-page paper outlining my health concerns.  As soon as the specialist entered the room, she told me that she definitely thought that I did indeed have Lyme Disease as well as at least Bartonella (Cat Scratch Fever), because of the involvement of my heart.  She surprised me by saying that it would be better if I had AIDS, because it was easier to treat than what I likely had.  At that time she began to mentally prepare me to get either a PICC line or Mediport for IV medication delivery in the future, because of my heart and brain involvement.  She thought that the IV hydrogen peroxide treatments likely helped reduce some of my bacterial load, and said that I was likely beginning to feel worse, because when Lyme is killed off, it emits neurotoxins into the body which can start accumulating in the brain if you’re not taking any kind of supplement to bind to the toxins as they are released.  She believed that this is why I felt so exhausted all of the time and why I was having issues with my memory. She filled out the paperwork for the Igenex Lab Inc. test kit and decided to test me for a whole host of infections at this time. Igenex does not accept insurance, so you have to pay out-of-pocket for their testing unless you have Medicare, or your health insurance covers out of network labs, which mine did not at the time.  Luckily, I was able to apply for and receive assistance from the Lyme Test Access Program (Lyme-TAP) for my extensive testing.

At this first appointment, I received an IM injection of an antibiotic, a multitude of supplements, and the direction that I should completely eliminate gluten, sugar, and dairy from my diet.  I was educated on the Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction, and was told various things that I could do to reduce the symptoms and detox my body during treatment.  I was given a prescription for an antibiotic (Rifampin) to start once I was home from vacation.  We continued onto Colorado to visit with family, with a suitcase full of pills, liquids, and powders.  Finally, I had some answers, and I felt like I was making progress towards getting some semblance of my health back.

Matisyahu “Step Out Into the Light” Video

…to be continued…

If you enjoyed this post, or any of my others, please like and share them! Thank you!

If you or someone you know has experienced Lyme Disease first-hand, and you have questions or comments to share, please do.  I always try my best to help other people who are also on a journey with Lyme Disease. I have included a lot of very helpful Lyme-related links throughout this post.  Please click on them if you want to learn more!

 

Lost: Part 1 of My Health Journey

I had my son when I was 29, almost 30.  I was not a nurse at that time.  I had been a wildlife and fisheries field biologist for most of 10 years, and had lived and worked in 10 different states.  I was working in Sequoia National Park doing a little bit of everything for various departments before my son was born.  When my son was six months old, I came down with something.  I got sick.  A cold or something, I wasn’t sure. I noticed that I was getting short of breath walking up the steep hill to our mailbox, and on an 8 mile hike in Sequoia National Park, I had to stop to take a break to breathe, which wasn’t normal for me.  The night after the 8 mile hike, I was having pain in my chest when I was swallowing my food, and ended up with a fever.  I felt so awful that I would have likely gone to the hospital that night was it not a 45 minute drive away and night-time which meant my baby was finally asleep.  I remember not wanting to wake him up. I was breastfeeding, and in the few weeks of feeling ill, he started wanting to eat as often as a newborn, and I was completely exhausted.  He was eating almost every hour.  I slept that night and woke up drenched in sweat and feeling better, my fever had broken.  But then, in the following days, I began to run a fever of 102, so I decided to go to the local clinic in town.  The Physician’s Assistant there asked if my heart rate was normally high. I remember telling her that the symptoms seemed to get worse when I hiked, and she asked what I was doing hiking when I was sick.  She thought I had pneumonia.  She gave me a z-pack and an order for a chest x-ray should I start to feel worse.  I took the antibiotic daily, but was not really feeling better, and was still running fevers, so I called the clinic to ask about coming in again.  They told me to finish the whole round of antibiotics and to wait and see how I felt then.

I never ended up calling the office back.  On November 27, 2009, Thanksgiving Day, I woke up exhausted.  I remember being awake for a little while and being hungry, but being so tired that once I had fed my son, I went back to bed with him for a nap.  My now ex-husband was home from work for the holiday.  At one point, I woke up feeling nauseous.  My son was sleeping in my bed, and I remember carefully placing the pillows so that he would not roll out of bed when I got up to go throw up.  And instead of going to the bathroom connected to the master bedroom because I didn’t want to wake him up, I headed out of the bedroom towards the second bathroom.  I remember my husband was sitting in the living room as I walked by.  I told him that I felt like I was going to throw up.  I started feeling dizzy and so I started grabbing out for the walls as I walked.  The next thing I knew, I woke up lying on my back on the living room floor.  My husband was yelling “Jammie! Jammie!” at the top of his lungs.  He was on the phone telling the 911 operator that I was awake.  Apparently, I had passed out.  My husband told me that my eyes rolled back and that I looked dead. He was about to start CPR when I woke up.  After an hour of waiting and lying on the floor, an ambulance came and they placed a neck brace on me and got me on a gurney and into the ambulance for a 45 minute ride to the hospital.  Once I was there, I learned that because of flu season, my husband was not allowed to come into the hospital with our son, so I sat in the ER room alone, waiting for answers.  A chest x-ray and lab work later, a doctor came in telling me that my heart appeared enlarged and that it was a condition that sometimes happened to women after having a child.  It later changed to me having fluid around my heart.  I relayed this info via phone to my husband outside the hospital. Mind you, neither one of us is from California and we had zero family members around. The people we did know locally we had just met about 1.5 years prior when we moved to California from Oregon.  I remember not really knowing what the information about my heart meant.  There was talk of removing the fluid.  I waited in the ER all day with no food or water until they got me a room on 3W, the step down ICU, because they wanted to make sure that I was monitored closely.

At this time, I did not yet have a primary doctor in the area.  After all, I was generally healthy and seldom even went to the doctor.  Somehow, they eventually allowed my husband and son in the hospital to be with me.  We were told that I was going to have the fluid around my heart removed with a procedure calling a pericardial window, and they would also get a biopsy of my pericardium.  They believed that I had pericarditis, inflammation of the lining of my heart.  That night, I passed out 3 more times.  I would get nauseous and then my vision would get blurry.  And I would get so scared, because I knew I was going to pass out.  I’d yell for my nurse and she’d come running in.  I’d wake up with 20 people in my hospital room, and once, I had an ambu bag on my face helping to oxygenate me.  The crash cart (the one used during code blues) lived at the foot of my bed.  Initially, I was still getting up to use the bathroom with assistance, but I would cough and cough.  I had a splitting headache from not eating anything all day, and I remember the beeps of alarms going off all night because my heart rate was high.  By the time they needed me to shower with the soap to prep me for surgery in the morning, I was too weak and told them I couldn’t get up anymore, so they gave me a bed bath.  I was having cardiac tamponade because of the fluid, my heart was not pumping like it should. My heart was starting to fail.  After breastfeeding my son exclusively for 7 months, my husband had to go to the store and buy formula and bottles and hope that he’d take it that night, which luckily he did.  My nurse called the surgeon repeatedly because I kept passing out. And I remember my nurse telling me that she felt bad for my husband because she said that when I passed out, I did it for a minute or more at a time, and that I looked dead. She said it was scary.  Luckily, rather than waiting for 6 am, the surgeon finally came in at 3 am to perform the pericardial window.

I woke up in immense pain after surgery, because they had not wanted to give me a lot of medications that would affect them determining what was going on with me.  They had removed 400 mL of fluid from around my heart, yet the surgeon was not convinced that this would cause me to have so many problems.  For those of you in healthcare, my sedrate and CRP values were through the roof.  I believe my CRP was in the 200’s.  CRP is a lab test to measure inflammation in the body.  To this day, when I run into my cardiologist in the hospital, he comments on how high my sedrate and CRP were. (And gives me a hug…I ended up with the sweetest cardiologist in town!)  And fellow health care professionals reading this, PLEASE be sure to medicate your patients BEFORE you remove their chest tubes!  The pain was excruciating when it was removed and I screamed loudly several times.  And I have learned that I have a pretty high tolerance for pain.  I swear I harbor some PTSD from having that gigantic hose removed from my chest.

I spent 6 days in the hospital.  I was told that they had not seen any signs of cancer, and that they thought I had idiopathic pericarditis which was a fancy way for the doctors to say that they had no idea what caused my pericarditis.  I went home on prednisone and colchicine to decrease the inflammation.  They said that I had a 10% chance of the pericarditis coming back.  At the time, that sounded great to me, after all, the cardiologist didn’t say I had a 90% chance!  So I went home and started to get back to life.  I even went cross-country skiing in the Giant Forest 4 weeks after my surgery. I was feeling great and was so glad to be alive.  I felt like I was given a new lease on life!

I had always considered becoming a nurse, but this time in the hospital gave me a big push in that direction.  My son was a huge motivating factor in me going back to school, because I wanted more stability and more time off to spend with him.  Even in the hospital as I was recovering from surgery, I remember asking some of my nurses about nursing school and their experience.  As soon as I got out of the hospital, I applied to the local community college, and began emailing the other people in the Park who I knew had started nursing school to ask their advice for getting into the two prerequisite courses I needed for the nursing program.  In the 6 weeks after being released from the hospital, we moved into town, and I started my Microbiology and Physiology classes.  I was healing OK and seeing my cardiologist regularly as he monitored my labs and my medications.  I sometimes biked with my son to my appointments, and we were always the youngest people in the waiting room. During one of the first times that he tried to wean me off the prednisone, I had a flare of pericarditis return, and I began throwing up.  I was so afraid that I would need to have surgery and another chest tube.  I ended up back in the hospital again with a smaller amount of fluid around my heart.  I waited for an echocardiogram to be done so that we would know the doctor’s intended plan of care.  During that stay, they tested me for more things like Valley Fever and Lyme Disease and had an infectious disease doctor consult on my case.  They pumped me full of steroids and even gave me some IV antibiotics.  But still, no answers came.  I was told that all of the tests were negative.  My sedrate and CRP were once again elevated, but not as high as they had been.  After several days, and me begging to be released so that I could get back to my baby and my classes, I was once again discharged from the hospital on prednisone and colchicine.

After this recurrence that landed me in the hospital, I got wise, and stopped going to the hospital for my chest pain.  Instead, my cardiologist would have me increase my prednisone back to 40 mg per day, and then we’d work to wean me off again. In the end, I was decreasing my daily doses by 0.5 to 1 mg per day over a week’s time!  The process was excruciating.  I’d get to 7 mg and have a flare and have to start back at 40 mg a day again.  This cycle continued this way for YEARS. I was referred to a rheumatologist who also had difficulty weaning me off the steroids, and attempted to add daily doses of injectable methotrexate to the mix.  I was taking medications for medications because of the side effects.

During this time, I was exhausted all of the time.  I remember, at times, choosing sleep over studying for big exams.  But, I held my own, and continued being the best Mom I could while also attending nursing school.  I worked to remain positive and hopeful that I would get answers, and eventually, my health back.  The steroids lent themselves to a weight gain of 40+ pounds over my usual weight, the typical moon-shaped face, and hump on my upper back, not to mention insomnia, and irritability.  I remember feeling like I was trapped in a body that was completely unfamiliar to me.  I had spent the better part of 10 years hiking, backpacking, and camping for work, and now here I was, afraid to exert myself physically for fear of triggering a flare of the chest pain.  Strangely, I was living my life pretty normally aside from my personal health struggles, and the people I met during that time had never known me to look any different.  So, I fell into the category of people who look fine and healthy to strangers, yet are facing major health challenges every day.  I have never been one to complain, and I was determined to become a nurse so that I could help other people who found themselves sick in the hospital, so many of my classmates didn’t even know of my health struggles.

During nursing school, I kept up with all of the other students.  I arranged my schedule around classes and clinicals, caring for my son and getting him to daycare, along with frequent doctor’s appointments.  In the summers between semesters, I was home alone much of the time caring for my son and juggling my appointments, the upkeep of a house and two large dogs while my ex-husband went on extended work trips to the back country.  I look back sometimes and am completely amazed at myself!  We humans are capable of handling so much, so very much.

It was my son who gave me the strength to move forward every day.  Every day, I pushed myself to get out of bed for him.  He motivated me to get us out of the house and go on adventures as much as possible. During this time, I struggled with grief for my lost health and also depression, but I never spent my days in bed crying, because my son needed me.  Thank goodness he needed me, because as it turns out, I REALLY needed him.  As humans, we all have a strong will to live.  We hear about it in stories of people in life and death situations.  My son multiplied my will to live and thrive in this life by infinity.  And for him, I am forever grateful.  My son is my sunshine.

Matisyahu “Sunshine”

…to be continued…

If you enjoyed this post, or any of my others, please feel free to like and share them! Thank you!