Does any of this sound familiar to you:
It’s all in your head
All your lab tests are normal
You are on all the medications we have for your conditions so you will just have to learn to live with it
You just need to lose some weight and exercise more
This is what my doctors were telling me for years. Guess what? They were wrong!
My first memory of any significant health problem occurred when I was around 10 years old. I remember I was in the bathroom using the toilet. When I went to get up from the toilet, I couldn’t. My legs wouldn’t work! I had to call for my mom to get me. She had to carry me because I couldn’t walk. My parents took me to the hospital for tests. By the end of that day, I was able to walk down the hall of the hospital with my dad’s help. I wasn’t told what had happened to me. Years later I discovered that the doctor at that hospital had evaluated me for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, which was negative. The doctor concluded that I had suffered from hysterical paralysis – this was the official diagnosis in my medical chart & what the doctor told my parents,
Hysterical Paralysis – loss of motor function in arms or legs after a traumatic event.
I thought, what could the 10 year old me possibly have to be hysterical about? What traumatic event? My parents never talked to me about it and life went on as if nothing had happened to me.
As an adult, I was still having trouble with my legs despite all my physical interventions, so I decided to create my life timeline and see if I could gain some insight. I began with the year I was born and wrote down all the significant events I could remember. I pulled together medical records, old journals and photo albums to jog my memory about what happened and when. This exercise proved to be extremely helpful. Looking over my timeline, I realized that the hysterical paralysis event occurred in the same year my youngest brother was born. I was now the oldest of five children. It was also at a time when my father was unemployed. I think on some level, my young self took on this stress and worry and buckled under the weight of it. Looking across my timeline I could see this same physical reaction to stress as if that one event set the stage for all future events. As I got older, I had many issues with unexplained leg pains, numbness, balance issues and one other extreme event of hysterical paralysis during graduate school. Eventually I would be diagnosed with restless leg syndrome and fibromyalgia. Sadly, this was just the beginning of my health challenges.
As a teenager, I started getting headaches and would have constant neck and back pain. My parents started taking me to see a chiropractor when I was around 13 years old. By 19 years old, I was seeing the chiropractor weekly, sometimes twice a week, for almost constant headaches and neck pain. I remember one time I received a treatment and felt immediately better but the act of getting into the car to go home caused the pain to return as if I had never received the treatment, which was so frustrating and such a waste of money. During high school, I also struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. My parents dismissed it as typical teen angst and, I guess, so did I. Once again, we never talked about it and life went on as if everything was fine.
The headaches continued & became so frequent that I was sent to see a neurologist who found nothing & offered no options.
Despite my daily pain, I continued to work and go to school. At 21 years old, I got married and continued to work and go to college. A year later, I started developing pain in my right shoulder and elbow. A year after that, I had the most excruciating abdominal pain I’d ever experienced and could not get off the couch. My husband took me to a gastroenterologist who diagnosed me with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). I was told that there was no treatment for the IBS so I would just have to learn to live to live with it. I was prescribed Prevacid for the GERD. I remained on Prevacid for 12 years on the advice of my doctor. Prevacid should only have been prescribed for a maximum of 12 WEEKS not 12 YEARS! I had to go to Naturopathic medical school to learn that!
I continued to see a chiropractor regularly for my headaches and pain, yet my pain worsened. When I was creating my timeline, I found my medical records from my chiropractor and read her chart notes on me. In one of the notes, she wrote,
“Mrs. Dooley’s condition continues to be recalcitrant and exacerbated by stress.”
In case you were wondering, recalcitrant means obstinately uncooperative, basically stuck and not getting better. She wrote that and yet at the end of our sessions she would always say, “see you next week!” At some point, shouldn’t she have sat me down and said these treatments are not helping you so we should consider these other options? but she did not and I did not know to ask. I just kept going to see her to manage my pain because I didn’t know what else to do.
The constant pain was wearing on me
It was all I could do to push through and go to work and school. Thankfully, my husband was very supportive and determined. He started doing his own research and made appointments for me with various specialists. Some of these specialists had 3-6 month waiting lists, so it took a long time to get in to see them. When I FINALLY saw them I was told, in a matter of minutes, either that they couldn’t help me, or that I just needed to lose weight and exercise or that this was all in my head and I was making it up because someone my age doesn’t have these kinds of problems. The doctor who told me I just needed to lose weight and exercise made me so angry that I wanted to punch him! Of course I didn’t. First of all, I wasn’t over weight and second of all I told him that even doing a small amount of exercise could cause a flare that would land me in bed for two weeks. Going to the doctor had become an extremely emotional process for me and I didn’t want to keep going, but my husband persisted.
Fibromyalgia diagnosis at 25
Eventually I was seen by a rheumatologist who diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. She told me there was no cure, so I would have to take a cocktail of pharmaceuticals and just learn to live with it. I was 25 years old and devastated. I remember laying in bed during the day, in pain, my husband was at work and I was missing school, just looking out my bedroom window and thinking this is my life, I am a disabled person, and I just cried. The depression really set in and I remember spending many days alone with my dog just crying.
My husband, on the other hand, refused to accept this life sentence for me. He started researching anything and everything to do with fibromyalgia. The year was 1998 and very little was known about the condition. In conventional medicine, fibromyalgia was up there with hysterical paralysis – you know, all in your head. My husband happened to come across the pain free diet plan. It provided a list of acceptable foods and supplements, so we started with that. My husband continued to search for a cure. If he read that a certain supplement helped with fibromyalgia then he got it for me. At one point, I was taking so many pills that he had to make special shelving in the cabinet just so I could see everything! We were really on our own here and just winging it. I did start to feel better or at least good enough to finish my Bachelor degrees in botany and chemistry, move across the country and start graduate school.
My health took a turn for the worse.
The fibromyalgia pain became more severe, especially in my neck. I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and treated with a series of cortisone injections into my neck which were very painful and only temporarily improved the pain. I also developed neuromas in my feet and got shots for that too, also not that helpful.
I started experiencing more frequent bouts of extreme fatigue, where I would get up in the morning feeling like it’s going to be a good day, take a shower and then end up right back in bed because I didn’t have the energy or strength to even lift my arm to comb my hair.
Chronic fatigue syndrome diagnosis
I continued the diet and all the supplements. I was managing, but some days were rough. My boss was not sympathetic or supportive. Two years later I developed a herniated disc and mild bony changes in my neck and mild degenerative disease in my low back. The leg pain had worsened to the point were I could not sit in a chair for any length of time. I started to experience sciatica pain more frequently. I was also in and out of counseling for depression.
By the time I was 33 years old my pain was constant and normal for me. I carried the following diagnoses: GERD, IBS, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, restless leg syndrome, sciatica, insomnia, migraines, headaches, brain fog and degenerative joint disease – 11 in total.
I had neuromas in my feet. I had an anal fissure that required a horrific surgery that I wanted to avoid. I struggled on and off with depression and had a few episodes of anxiety and panic attacks. I struggled with gas and bloating, often looking many months pregnant. I had also become very sensitive to chemicals and fragrances so I couldn’t go to places like the mall, for example, without experiencing more pain and getting a terrible headache.
I was on several prescription medications including Prevacid, Elavil, Flexeril, Neurontin, Ambien, and several over-the-counter medications including Excedrin, Advil and Mucinex. I wore expensive orthotics in my shoes, a night guard every night to protect my teeth from grinding, and a variety of special, expensive pillows in an attempt to relieve my neck pain so I could sleep. I couldn’t exercise without more pain and fatigue. Even walking was difficult. I couldn’t walk from the car to the store without the help of my husband. I couldn’t sit for longer than 10 minutes without needing to lie down.
Terrible brain fog
I was having difficulty finding words. I had to pretend I was fine just to get through the day because if anyone asked me how I was I would have broke down sobbing. According to my doctors, all my blood work was normal. Doctors would read my chart and tell me, well you have fibromyalgia and you are on all the medications we have for that, so why are you here? Obviously I was just wasting their time.
Depressed, hopeless & defeated by conventional medicine
Fortunately, my husband took the lead once again and continued looking for answers. In his search, he came across a Naturopathic doctor who specialized in chronic pain and with that appointment my life changed forever.
Naturopathic Medicine saved me
Words can not convey the gratitude I feel for having found Naturopathic medicine. Even though I didn’t always feel it at the time, I knew deep down that pain and suffering were not my destiny, that I could be cured of these incurable conditions. The Naturopathic doctors agreed and they had the solutions I was looking for.
My healing with Naturopathic medicine took time, effort and an investment because insurance didn’t cover alternative medicine visits or therapies, but it was worth every penny.
I am happy to report that I no longer have any of those diseases or conditions that I had when I was 33 years old. I never required that horrible surgery to repair an anal fissure. Recent x-rays of my neck show no herniated disc and no degenerative disc disease. X-rays of my low back show only slight degeneration now. I am off all prescription medications and take very few supplements. I no longer wear orthotics or a night guard and my pillow is a regular pillow. I can now go on walks and even hike without pain. I can now do yard work without being bedridden for days. I can now sit for hours at a time if needed.
I am now living FREE of Pain and FULL of Energy!
What I love about Naturopathic medicine is that it is inherently individualized and patient-centered, so my treatments were specific to me not to my diseases. Naturopathic medicine also encourages a multi-faceted treatment approach in order to heal the whole person – body, mind and spirit, so I finally had options and lots of them!
My care went beyond pills and went deeper than just treating symptoms. Furthermore, the philosophy guiding the practice of Naturopathic medicine creates space for love and compassion in healing.
I finally felt heard and supported by a doctor.
I finally had some understanding of what was going on in my body.
I finally had effective tools to help myself.
For a long time, even after becoming a physician, I could not share my entire story, this story, because I felt embarrassed, ashamed and full of guilt. I blamed myself for being weak and lazy. I blamed myself for making bad choices which caused my illness. I had also experienced so much judgement and criticism when I was sick that to be vulnerable and let people in was just too painful. I just wanted to be normal and be like everyone else, but I wasn’t and that was hard to accept so I hid it.
I have continued to work on myself, physically and emotionally, going deeper and deeper to clear past traumas and strengthen my body. The shame and guilt has turned into love and compassion for myself. I now see my story differently and can let others, like you, in.
I share my story as proof that you have the ability to cure the incurable.
I share my story in hopes of inspiring you, in hopes of dispelling any limiting beliefs you may have around your own ability to heal.
I share my story because so many are suffering with pain, fatigue and mental illness and it doesn’t have to be this way.
I want you to know that there is hope, there are options & health can be restored naturally.
My purpose and passion, is to be the kind of doctor that I wish I had when I was sick. A doctor who listens to you attentively and respectfully. A doctor who understands and empathizes with what you are going through. A doctor who takes the time to think about your story and create a strategy that’s unique to you with plenty of options. A doctor who partners with you to advocate for your success, because not everyone has a husband or partner like mine.
Say ‘Yes’ to You
If you feel yourself resonating with my story, then I encourage you to make a commitment to healing today by saying YES to YOU.
Say ‘yes’, then download my free workbook here:
I created this workbook to take you through the same process I used to gain awareness about myself and transform my life.
Once you’ve completed the workbook, schedule a Discovery call with me. During this session, we will review your workbook and talk about your observations and vision for your health, we will discover where the roadblocks are and what support you need. Finally, we will discuss the ways we can work together to achieve your vision of health and transform your life.
Thank you so much for listening to my story.
Please feel free to share my story and my workbook with anyone you know who may be suffering and struggling to find solutions for a healthier life.