Life has a way of doling out unexpected circumstances for all of us. They arrive in many different forms, often compounding one another—among them disabilities, job layoffs, financial challenges, relationship matters, and many others. Health issues often bring them all at once, along with all the adjustments required in new roles as a caregiver, guardian, sole provider, single parent or all of the above.
In my own life, until I experienced the super tsunami in 2004, there were certainly always hurdles to overcome, but fairly manageable. Before then, by using the same strategies I wrote about and presented to audiences for creating a life filled with purpose and daily jolts of joy, wonderful things kept manifesting by walking that tried and true path focused on intentions to create positive outcomes, harmonious connections and embrace optimism, among other core beliefs.
I had long resonated with these beliefs “walking my talk” for bringing my heart’s desires into reality. I fully expected it all to keep on flowing and couldn’t foresee how they would truly be put to the test in my early 50’s. However, the Universe had totally different plans and sent a tidal wave of uninvited circumstances, undoubtedly to test my coping skills, core beliefs and values, and to open my eyes to new realities.
In 2004, life in the harmonious zone spun me in directions never, ever imagined, and I tried my best to keep my footing while weathering a tidal wave of unexpected changes. My husband of 27 years became suddenly and mysteriously ill at 59 with a neurological condition conventional medicine couldn’t explain, which transformed him into a stranger, setting me on a long quest of discovery. Mainstream medicine didn’t recognize all of his symptoms were related to chronic inflammation impacting both his body and brain. Gone were all his beloved traits and calm demeanor. I didn’t know how to handle all the bizarre, behavioral changes that both frightened and confused me, without answers from doctors as to the cause of them all or how to handle them.
A year later, that quest finally led to a doctor, Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, a leader in biotoxin illness, who though his functional medicine evaluation, identified Rick with an autoimmune disorder, toxic encephalopathy, a result of chronic inflammation for those genetically susceptible. His therapies provided relief, helping Rick return to an improved quality of life, but that became dependent over the years on the open-mindedness of some of his treating conventional practitioners. Some refused to follow my requests for treatment, or accept the biotoxic diagnosis, and treated him solely with medications for psychiatric conditions which never really resolved his brain issues, and later learned they were actually detrimental to him.
While I was in the midst of adjusting to my role as caregiver for my husband, my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer and I became her caregiver, too. It soon became obvious she was suffering full-blown, cognitive decline around the same time I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. So, my head and heart were spinning in so many directions and I was frazzled, frustrated and chronically stressed in dealing with it all.
It was only what I eventually learned about the roots of Rick’s maladies that I realized through genetic testing that both had a similar predisposition (and testing revealed so did our daughters and myself!), estimated to affect 25% of the population making us all poor detoxifiers and especially vulnerable to biotoxic exposures, from mold, insect bites and other agents.
Mom and Rick suffered a wide range of symptoms from their long-term, biotoxic exposure, causing chronic inflammation and autoimmune issues, which were never properly evaluated nor treated by mainstream medicine. Fortunately, this would be discovered through functional medicine, and only due to a synchronistic connection.
Both would die years later from all the complications of their bodies gone haywire, suffering the consequences from our conventional healthcare system not yet prepared to properly evaluate or treat estimated millions of cases related to root causes of toxicity, genetics, nutritional deficiencies, imbalances, and other agents flaring inflammation.
Through this 12-year journey, I learned about caregiver exhaustion, of being on call constantly to handle the unpredictable . . . of witnessing torment and feeling helpless to offer relief. . . letting go of countless expectations. . . feeling guilty whenever I felt impatient, the continuing need to shift priorities in my then, very messy, disorderly life, among countless other lessons. Indeed, it was a regular reminder that resisting what was couldn’t change a thing and just made it worse. Life became overwhelming at times, requiring a total redirection of my energy, focus and priorities.
At times, I was both angry, frustrated and admittedly selfish. With all the doctor and hospital visits, countless trips to pharmacies for medications that didn’t have much effect, on-call for all needs, especially when inflammation was flaring so much pain and brains doing things never imagined, and sorting out endless stacks of paperwork and bills, I no longer had much time to do much of anything I enjoyed which I had long taken for granted. Writing, among them which always served to feed my soul from digging down for the truths within.
Instead of writing about ideas to include in my presentations, books or blog, most of my writing was in the form of regular emails to doctors about new or continuing symptoms I observed in my husband. I hoped these might serve as clues as to what had robbed him of his personality, his brain, his health, and our relationship because I was desperate for answers. I lived in a perpetually crazy world and I was losing myself in the process.
One of the biggest challenges was keeping my own sanity when two loved ones had lost theirs, and dealing with all the chaos that often swirled about threatening to steal my peace during big chunks of time. What ultimately did make a difference was remembering self-care—to dig down in the midst of all the angst, to the beliefs I had long ago taken to heart—the same ones I had shared during my presentations, my sanity savers for the heart and soul which echoed right to my core, and I needed to hold fast to them, more than ever.
I survived these periods of desperation and despair, sometimes moment-by-moment, by remembering to focus on the right thoughts to offer resilience and strength instead of those mental companions invited to my “pity parties,” which would only spiral down and zap my much needed energy to sustain myself and everything else required during this uncharted journey.
In the midst of this unwelcome siege of my heart and soul, I missed so much from my former life, especially of feeling truly happy. I knew happiness was an inside job, so if my life was to improve, which I desperately longed for, I had to take responsibility. I knew the right thoughts were lifesavers, and consciously had to remember to shift them, time and time again, to the ones that would serve me best. This was not easy when just about every day the unexpected arrived and had to adapt to that ever-changing rhythm.
I accepted help from others, my life savers, a network of friends, acquaintances and even strangers, who volunteered to take on tasks in service. They lifted my spirits and lightened the heaviness of my heart. I began carving out slivers of time doing the things that I loved to do in spite of all the concerns that were never entirely chased away. I hosted gatherings to celebrate life, even as messy as mine was, but it was my life nonetheless, and being surrounded by those who lifted my heart and fed my soul. I re-discovered joy in the process and was forever grateful for all the support that carried me through the darkest times of my life.
For twelve years, a roller coaster ride whipped around lots of emotion, twisting and turning my heart and my hope, sometimes rising up with optimism and other times, free falling down, then circling back again to hope—this was indeed life in perfection, messy, raw and real.
As with most of life’s challenges, we usually can’t see the reasons why we’re having to experience them, yet in retrospect, they often reveal a most vital and significant purpose. So it is with the discoveries uncovered through my own journey—of the lessons learned not only for the heart, but other perspectives regarding health, wellness and well-being vital to all of us and why I’m re-launching my blog. It’s a needed story now, to support the mounting cases of inflamed bodies and brains which are its casualties.
Through this confusing, harrowing journey, my eyes were opened to today’s scary realities now impacting all ages. Those suffering from similar mysterious ailments may soon be spared being misdiagnosed, thanks to recent research uncovering root causes related to many of today’s maladies, along with therapies offering hope. With mainstream medicine’s adaptation of this research which has become part of the growing science of functional medicine, more patients will be able to circumvent the prospect of the heartbreaking, tumultuous journey of neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune disorders, brain issues and others connected to these same root causes.
With content of this blog focused in support of wellness and well-being, posts will also include perspectives on navigating the elusive states of harmony and happiness amidst the challenges of our own respective journeys. Its purpose is to awaken readers to the potential for transforming health and wellness destinies grounded in hope, and the possibilities offered from those perspectives.