My Story: Body

My Story Body

This is a post that I am very passionate about writing and excited to share with you all. Many of you may know that I have struggled with my fair share of physical health ailments throughout the years if you follow my Instagram page. Well, I want to take it back further into my life here and go into much more detail regarding the story of my body, the challenges that I have faced, and ways that I have made immense progress in my healing.

Where to even begin?

I honestly think that I have been “sick” for a lot longer than I realized. The main health issues that I remember having from a very young age were digestive issues; I had struggled with those for as long as I can remember. As I have learned now in my Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (FNTP) training, proper digestion is SO important and is crucial for our overall health. Studies have shown that impaired digestion can lead to MANY chronic health conditions, and can also have very negative impacts on your mental health. The gut-brain connection is so real, and more and more research is coming out about this. I am convinced that one of the reasons that I spent much of my life filled with so much anxiety and bouts of depression was due to my gut issues that started so early in my life. I do believe that the two are very connected and go hand-in-hand. If you are constantly anxious or stressed, your body is in a “sympathetic” state, meaning that it will have a very difficult time calming down and properly digesting your food. And the other way around: if you have gut issues then it can potentially lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and potentially other mental health issues. To this day I will always wonder what caused my anxiety and depression as well as my gut issues…did one cause the other? Sort of a, “Was it the chicken or the egg?” situation. Who knows. But what I DO know is that it is crucial to address BOTH the mental and physical health in the process of overall healing. This is why I am so passionate about holistic healing.

About mid-way through high school, I began to learn more about health (AKA started exercising for the first time ever and also stopped eating processed food for almost every meal, lol). Unfortunately, my efforts at “health” got a bit out of control during this time period. I am naturally a perfectionistic, type-A person, and I liked to be the “best” at everything that I tried to do. I had been feeling out of control in my life in many ways throughout high school, and the types/amounts of food I consumed, as well as how I exercised, were two things that I knew I could control. This spiraled quickly into an eating disorder. I would under-eat and over-exercise; I lost lots of weight and was way below a healthy weight for my body and my age. Thank goodness I got help when I got to college. I saw multiple therapists that educated me on eating disorders and helped me overcome mine, as well as work on developing positive body image for myself. This is where my true passion for both nutrition and mental health blossomed; I saw the HUGE connection between the two, and how they are truly intertwined. I learned about intuitive eating, intuitive movement, and how to live your life from a place of self-respect rather than self-criticism. I am so passionate about helping clients heal from eating disorders and develop positive body image through therapy, due to the struggles that I have overcome in my own life.

Anyways…after all that I have learned over the years about the human body, I know that the years I spent restricting my calories and over-exercising wreaked havoc on my body. The eating disorder behaviors, along with my long-term use of prescription medications (I was on antidepressants and prescription birth control for years), led to a variety of health issues. All of this in addition to the impaired digestion that I was already experiencing even before the eating disorder or the prescription medications…it was a recipe for disaster for my body.

Getting off of Birth Control

The more intense health issues started to “appear” when I got off of my birth control in 2016 and off of my antidepressants in 2017. I say “appear” because I believe that they had been there for many years and I had just been unaware of them. Both of these medications kind of numbed my body and my mind in a way, so I was not as sensitive to physical sensations in my body. But once I got off of them…I felt everything.

When I got off of my birth control in 2016, I didn’t get my period for months. I had been on the pill for 8 years, so the gynecologist told me that sometimes it can take a while for your cycle to start back up… but I felt like something was wrong. Five months went by and still no period; I went to the doctor for a full check-up. They ran some tests, diagnosed me with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), and told me that I would need to take a synthetic progesterone pill every 3 months in order to induce my period. They said I could do that OR just get back on birth control; but that was literally just a “band-aid” and wouldn’t actually fix the underlying issue. I asked how PCOS develops and if it was something that could be reversed. They did not really have a good reason for me in regards to why it develops… they said that sometimes women just get it for no good reason. They also were vague in regards to my second question, and told me that it “could” go away on its own. They gave me no further guidance in terms of actually healing this condition; simply told me that I had to take a pill every 3 months in order to manage it. I wouldn’t settle for that answer, so I sought out help elsewhere. I started seeing an acupuncturist for the first time. They helped me to become aware that there were many more things going on in my body that needed support and healing. I was cold all the time, bruising easily, and felt weak and fatigued often. I worked with them very closely, and thank GOODNESS I did, because we made great progress. I was able to use a natural progesterone cream instead of a synthetic pill in order to get my period every month. They also helped me with other pain I was experiencing in my body, helped strengthen my body and I no longer was bruising all the time, and it helped A LOT with my anxiety.

Mysterious Symptoms

Fast forward to 2017 when I decided to get off of my antidepressants and began experiencing more health issues. It started with intense headaches and jaw pain (I have had TMJ since I was a young teenager). I experienced withdrawal symptoms from the medication that led to feelings of dizziness, heightened anxiety, rapid heartbeat, and fatigue. I knew that coming off of strong medications that I had been on for a decade were going to bring about some withdrawal symptoms, and I toughed it out. I was also working with a psychiatrist that had told me to be prepared for this. Luckily these symptoms passed in about two months. But my anxiety was heightened because I was not used to FEELING so many sensations in my body…it freaked me out a little bit. Everything felt intensified. I am so lucky that I was taking a yoga teacher training during this time, because it helped me SO much emotionally. I was able to channel all of my anxiety, frustrations, and fears that came from medication withdrawal into my yoga practice and release a lot of that negative energy. But then near the end of my yoga teacher training in the summer of 2017, a few months after I had gotten off of my antidepressants, something strange
happened…

My right shoulder began to REALLY hurt. I initially thought I must have done something during yoga to injure it…but the pain lasted for weeks. And as the weeks went on, the pain got worse and worse. I could barely get dressed in the morning without crying, the pain was so bad. I went to the doctor and got an x-ray; it came back completely normal. I went to physical therapy for weeks and saw no improvement. If anything, the pain was growing as each day went by. And then…the pain began to spread. What started out as just pain in my right shoulder transitioned into pain in my left knee, right wrist, ribcage, and neck. I felt like every movement I made was making the pain worse or creating pain in a new area of my body. I got so many x-rays, MRIs, and tests done and the doctors could not find anything “wrong” with me. One of them thought I may have an autoimmune disorder or fibromyalgia. Each day as the pain grew, so did my anxiety. I dreaded going to work in fear that the pain would be too much. I ended up going on medical leave from my job for 6 weeks because I just couldn’t do it anymore. I was so scared and had no idea what was going on with my body, I felt like I was losing my mind. I had tried acupuncture, chiropractor, physical therapy, and seen multiple doctors for my pain…and while some of these modalities offered temporary relief, none were actually getting rid of the problem.

Mind Body Connection

THIS is when I really started to learn about the mind-body connection. I was still in a place in my life where I was quite pessimistic, and very much had a “victim mentality”. I had spent most of my life believing that things were just happening TO me and that I had no control of the outcome. This pain epidemic truly caused me to change these ways of thinking. I read “You Can Heal Your Life” by Louise Hay, as well as her other book “Heal Your Body”. These books talked all about the ways that mental or emotional issues in our lives can manifest into physical symptoms. This author is huge on positive mantras, taking control of your life and your mindset, and putting you in the driver’s seat of your own life. This book helped me immensely. I worked through the exercises in the book while I was on medical leave. My anxiety began to lessen, and my pain was no longer unbearable. Then one day as I was scouring google about “chronic pain associated with no medical diagnosis”, I came across the teachings of Dr. John Sarno. Dr. Sarno has written multiple books about the psychological origins of chronic pain and helped thousands of people heal through his teachings. I immediately read his book “Healing Back Pain”, and saw AMAZING results within days. My pain had improved enough that I could go back to work. While I do feel that some of my pain was being caused by inflammation in my body due to stress and certain foods that my body is sensitive to (which I did not learn about until I had some testing done much later)…I believe that a lot of it was psychological and psycho-somatic. For anyone struggling with chronic pain, I highly recommend reading his books. He gave me my livelihood back. I truly do not know where I would be today if I had not found his work. This all might sound a little “woo woo”, but there is actually lots of research behind the mind-body connection and the ways that physical pain and chronic health conditions can very much be connected to emotional pain and/or unresolved trauma. “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk is also an amazing book about the mind-body connection and the ways that we carry psychological trauma in our bodies; it explains this phenomenon very well.

Things were improving! And though things weren’t perfect and my body wasn’t necessarily thriving, I was definitely surviving better than I had been. But I didn’t want to just spend my life surviving…I wanted to keep healing and continue to strive towards optimal health, both physically and mentally. Though my pain had gone away for the most part and I had worked on improving some things in acupuncture, I still had a laundry list of health issues. Continued digestive problems, low energy despite how much sleep I got, still feeling cold when no one else around me was, weird random joint pain, headaches, and not getting my period on my own (without the help of natural progesterone). But the problem was, I didn’t really know if I COULD fix these problems…I had seen so many western doctors about these ailments and nobody really could tell me how to FIX them, just how to manage them. I had SO many blood tests done to try and figure out where all of these symptoms were coming from, and everything came back “normal”. I was feeling a little beaten down, but still hopeful.

Finding My Nutritional Therapy Practitioner

Then in 2018, I found my Nutritional Therapy Practitioner Eleni on Instagram (S/O @keepyourkefi , you are AMAZING!). I read through her website and found that she helps women with pretty much ALL of the symptoms I had been continuing to experience! I couldn’t even believe it. It felt like fate that I just randomly found her page online and it was such a perfect fit for what I needed. We worked together on and off for about a year, and in that time I continued to see more and more progress. I began getting my period NATURALLY (*without the help of ANY types of supplements or drugs!*) for the first time since getting off of birth control 2.5 years prior! My headaches went away, I no longer felt cold all the time, my digestion improved a ton, my joint pain disappeared, my energy levels improved, my anxiety continued to decrease, and my moods stabilized. I was completely sold on this whole Nutritional Therapy thing. Working with Eleni ignited a fire in me and showed me that true natural healing IS possible, and you CAN heal chronic health conditions rather than just “manage” them, as all of the other prior doctors had instructed me to do. Oh, and I re-tested for the prior PCOS diagnosis I had been given…it’s gone. I was able to reverse it naturally through dietary and lifestyle changes, and I no longer have it. 🙂

Of course I am not perfect and there is still some healing to be done. I have heard that for every year you were sick, it takes about a month of a healing protocol. Well, given that I was “sick” for the majority of my life (starting with my digestive issues at a young age), it makes sense that I am not completely “cured” after a couple of years of healing. But the amount of progress that I have made through natural forms of healing is TRULY phenomenal and I know that my body is just going to continue to get stronger and better as time goes on. And I am SO excited.

Becoming a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner

As mentioned earlier, this healing journey inspired me to become a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner of my own in order to help others. I want nothing more than to be able to show others that healing IS possible, and to instill hope and encourage others to not give up…despite what some doctors may have told you.

Now I am not a medical doctor, and everyone’s body and physical story is different. Please do not take this post as medical advice, and do consult your doctor to rule out any serious medical conditions. But one thing that I can tell you with certainty is to NEVER give up. There is always a new route to try that you may not have tried yet when it comes to holistic healing. I did not believe any doctors that told me that I simply had to just deal with my symptoms and that they couldn’t be fixed…I left their office and immediately found other practitioners that actually wanted to help me get to the root cause of my symptoms and address them. And thank goodness I didn’t give up, because otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am today.

I know this post was LONG but I felt compelled to share this story in hopes to show others what our bodies are capable of. Healing is possible, and there are plenty of practitioners out there that truly WANT to help you. I will forever be grateful for all of the healers that I have met along my journey and that have helped me get to where I am today. Thank you, thank you, thank you…<3

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About the Author

Sarah Lawley, FNTP
Sarah Lawley, FNTP

Hi, my name is Sarah and I am a holistic nutritionist in San Diego who serves clients online an worldwide. It is my passion to help you reclaim your health! I am a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (FNTP), Restorative Wellness Practitioner (RWP), and Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT). I spent years struggling with my own physical and mental health issues. Digestive troubles, hormonal imbalances, anxiety, PMS, PCOS, chronic pain, brain fog, mood swings, headaches…you name it, I’ve had it! After years of going to doctor after doctor and nobody really being able to help me heal these problems for good, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I truly never imagined that I could feel this good, and I have Nutritional Therapy to thank for that.

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