The entire year prior to this wedding from May 2012 to April 23, 2013 looked a lot like this: fatigue interrupted by life. On the outside, I kept up the facade of being a successful yoga studio owner. On the inside, I was dying. My mother, who has her own health challenges, flew to our small town in New York in June 2012 to help me do things I no longer was capable of doing, like folding laundry and taking my car to have new tires installed. She tried to be an advocate for me because I was too tired to be an advocate for myself. And that's the paradox of having an autoimmune disease. You need help and answers, something our acute medical care system is ill-equipped to handle, but you do not have the required strength for the search.
During what I call my Year of Illness, I was diagnosed with asthma, tuberculosis, and all sorts of other things I did not actually have. Not only did I have chronic fatigue and respiratory issues, I also had chronic warts on my feet. I saw my podiatrist so often that I was nearly the first person he told about his girlfriend's pregnancy, and I still was seeing him well after the baby's birth.
Teaching yoga and doing yoga made me feel worse. Something I had found helpful in 1999 during my first round with autoimmune disease, now was contributing to the problem. I'd teach and immediately go home for a one to three hour nap. Brian tells me it was very peaceful in our house during the Year of Illness. He, working from home, most days would come into the living room to find our dog napping in a chair and me napping on the couch.
I know so many of you have similar stories of not feeling well and yet no answers from the medical community. It's so frustrating to know you don't feel well but don't know why and don't know where to turn for help. It's so debilitating to lack the energy to advocate for yourself in a medical system that is not designed to handle autoimmune issues.
I went to see specialists and healers and acupuncturists, all with varying results. Acupuncture made me feel stable and Qigong gave me a temporary boost of energy. The pulmonologist from India, who I was certain would help me, gave me an inhaler and told me my problems had nothing to do with my diet. Finally, right after I was the sleeping bridesmaid, one of my yoga students told me about a nutritionist who had cured her Lupus through diet. I went to see her as soon I as could get an appointment.
As I walked into her office, she looked at me and said, "What do you have? Fibromyalgia? Celiac? Hashimoto's? You have some autoimmune disease." I told her my story and she said I had two clear choices. One was to keep searching for a medical practitioner to run even more tests than already had been performed in the hopes I would receive a clear answer. Two was to go on an elimination diet for a month and see what happened.
I chose number two. I eliminated all gluten, soy, dairy, alcohol, sugar, and many other inflammatory foods from my diet just to see what would happen. She said to keep a food diary, and come back in a month to discuss any changes. She was very clear that it would take a month or more to notice any difference.
I felt a little bit better in three days. I felt a whole lot better in two weeks. Within a month, Brian commented that it felt like he was getting his wife back.
Since that time, some things have changed about my diet. The one constant is no gluten. Celiac runs in my family on both sides. I have never tested positive for it. Yet, when I stopped eating gluten, my energy returned, and I no longer had any respiratory issues or warts.
I know a lot of people who have chronic allergies, unexplained joint pain, unyielding fatigue issues who are unwilling to even try giving up gluten. I wonder why. There is nothing to lose. If you give it up and you don't feel better, then you can have your wheat bread again. However, what would be possible for someone who gives up gluten and feels better? What would it feel like for someone who has been chronically ill to feel well for once? What would it feel like to give up that resistance?
If you don't feel well or like where your health is, do you know what you need to do? Are you resisting change? What would be possible for you if you made your health a priority?