We all wear the scars of our past experiences, both within and on our minds and bodies. We own them as we are the result today of all that we have been exposed to, all that we have felt and all that what we have done.
Several months ago I was getting my first hydrotherapy session done at a holistic spa in Montreal and throughout the procedure the nurse was asking me simple questions about my health and past-basically my reasons for pursuing the internal cleansing of my digestive tract. Before I spoke a word, the nurse looked right at me with obvious sympathy and told me that she could tell from the torment in my eyes that I had lived a very full life and had been through a lot. It felt strange being analyzed by a complete stranger, and I could not help but feel the tears building up. I cannot explain why I felt so comfortable with this woman (perhaps because she was doing a very personal protocol on me) or perhaps it was simply the remaining desperation to seek comfort from someone, but I began to explain in detail for the first time to a complete stranger my health problems and how I felt responsible for my own poor health. I began divulging personal details about my history and all of the poor decisions I felt I had made that may had led me to my current sickly state. The rendition went on for the entire duration of my visit and the poor woman sat there transfixed with tears in her own eyes, listening patiently. At the end of my session, she came to me with a French book, called “les mots positives”, told me it was her daughters book and that she had put personal hand written notes and tips on how she overcame her own chronic illness in her youth with the help of positive words and thinking. I was deeply touched that this stranger had given me such a personal gift. I read the book and I returned it the following week.
The book was wonderful; however it was not it’s words that changed my life as much as the self- realization that occurred during my hour long rant. I realized as I was leaving that I had indeed lived “a lot”. I had grown up very quickly and had put my poor body through hell. This hydrotherapy session changed the way I viewed my sick body. I was no longer angry with myself or my body for being weak, I became suddenly immensely grateful with how strong I had been and how my body had survived such abuse. I realized that I was going to begin respecting my body in a way I had not done before.
I was fairly healthy as a child, but after a severe case of whooping cough, I suffered chronic bronchial weakness, resulting in repetitive allergies and recurrent bronchitis. I remember always being “sick with horrid allergies” at my mid-summer birthday and was always wheezing during the Christmas holidays. Years passed and inevitably childhood turned into teenage-hood. I had a very turbulent youth, I was your typical small-town insecure teenager trying to make her way in the world, believing she knew everything and really knowing nothing. The boredom of a small town left ample time for mischief. My family environment was strained, and in an attempt to remove myself from it, I threw myself into unhealthy relationships and bad habits.
One bad decision led to another and I found myself suddenly a heavy smoker, as well as an abusive drug and alcohol user. A year after I began smoking, I developed chronic asthma, likely due to my existing bronchial predisposition, which followed shortly by the beginning of years of numerous steroid inhalants to control the respiratory discomfort. I continued to smoke; I suffered recurrent respiratory ailments, often requiring hospital visits. I began taking the birth control pill to avoid unwanted pregnancy. My heavy drinking led the way to an irritated bladder and I was diagnosed with the first of many of UTI’s in my mid-teens. My drug use and excessive partying escalated also, resulting in a three week hospital visit with pneumonia and severe bacterial septicemia . I was sixteen.
My chances of survival were low and I was put on intravenous broad spectrum antibiotics and heavy painkillers for the entire duration of my stay. I can still remember the sound of my mother crying as the head of disease control (my doctor) told her that my survival rate was only 40%. Someone was definitely watching over me and I recovered, although not fully. The weeks of this antibiotic load and years of smoking, asthma pumps, birth control pills, drinking and drugs had wreaked havoc on my internal balance and I fell into a depression. I left the hospital with a band of ecstatic family members, all the while feeling as if all life and vitality had been sucked from my body. I felt like a zombie. I was unable to shake this continuous brain fog. Following my hospital stint, I quit doing drugs, yet suddenly developed chronic anxiety and panic attacks, sometimes dozens a day. I was in a state of burnout; I had developed chronic fatigue but was unable to relieve it as I was also suffering crippling insomnia. I went to doctors begging for sleeping pills, none of which worked. I do not remember the exact day it happened but I suddenly sank into a permanent state of apathy.
I had absolutely no “joie de vivre”. I felt overwhelmed by basic life choices and had a very low self-esteem. I could not shake the disabling fatigue and struggled for the basic energy to get through each day. I became addicted to coffee, drinking 8 or more cups a day. I depended on packs of cigarettes for a boost and increased my alcohol consumption to mask the depression. Poor dietary choices, the pill and lack of activity led the way to weight gain, further compounding my problems. I was in abusive, dysfunctional relationships that caused emotional turmoil. The late nights and heavy drinking left me lifeless and so I temporarily began using stimulant drugs again. UTI’s turned into kidney infections and asthma became pneumonia’s. One UTI turned into the next and I was always mildly “burning” as I called it. I became dubbed the “tiny bladder girl” due to my abnormally frequent trips to the bathroom. I just laughed it off, not paying much attention as it was more inconvenient and annoying than downright painful (at that time). I experimented with different dietary choices, and became a short-term vegan, followed by low carb, vegetarian and then took on a more Mediterranean approach, revolving my diet around fish and vegetables.
The summer I was 23, I had a series of dental procedures done. A childhood playground incident had left me with a broken tooth that through compromised immunity suddenly became a huge infection. That summer I had four fillings and three root canals done. My health continued to decline. Shortly after my dental work, I began to be fed up with feeling awful all the time. Out of sheer frustration, I finally decided to successfully quit smoking and all stimulants, including coffee. A few months after dropping the tobacco, my asthma disappeared. I no longer needed medication, but other than my improved respiratory condition, my health and energy was not improving and I had chronic digestive issues.
I cut down my alcohol intake in an attempt to feel better but shortly thereafter began developing horrible acne. My sudden acne prompted me to pursue dietary changes yet again, I began researching organic foods and chemical-free beauty products. A year of improved eating helped my mental state slightly, and I began to have a real interest in health and nutrition and began flirting with the idea of going back to school. Just prior to my first semester at Cegep, I began a host of bizarre, seemingly unrelated symptoms. I had debilitating heart palpitations, having hundreds a day, painful liver inflammation, uncontrollable tremors, repetitive ringing in my ears, feelings of dizziness and vertigo and an almost chronic abdominal discomfort. My anxiety returned, accompanied by many panic attacks and my UTI’s became savage. I took a short trip to Florida and unfortunately I fell ill with a severe UTI and was treated once again with oral antibiotics. Upon my return to Montreal, I decided to visit the clinic because I had finished my run of med’s but my painful urinary symptoms were still present. My doctor ran some tests and found nothing to indicate that I still had a UTI. I went home thinking it would just get better on its own. My symptoms increased until I was no longer able to function and I returned to see my doctor again in desperation. I will never forget that day. It was a day before my birthday. I was about to turn 25, and I was diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis.