My Wellness Journey
When I was in college I was known for my hair. Yes, you read that right. I wore my hair in a left side part with the heftier part dyed black and the other blonde **think chic Cruella Devil**. I defined myself and was proud of the independence embodied by my hair and style.
When I finally decided to do away with the two-tone, I was graduating from college and totally lost on what I was doing with my life. I was applying to law school, had a 9-5 job that I hated, no boyfriend, an apartment in the suburbs of Nashville that I despised having to drive out to, and a yearning to be a part of the vibrant Nashville night life….every night of the week…like including Tuesdays and Wednesdays…when I had work the next day….
To paint a picture - I’d be out in a bar in East Nashville until 2:30 am, crash at my best friend’s apartment and roll myself into work at 9 am the next morning haven not eaten anything substantial or drank anything of value in almost 12 hours. Yikes.
One spring evening in 2017 I was applying a hair mask (the two-toned hair had been turned light brown, then brunette, then dirty blonde, then blonde, then back to brunette…it needed some serious hair mask love) when I noticed I was using less product than I normally did. One deep comb through my hair made this young woman’s worst fear a reality. My hair had started falling out.
It didn’t take long for me to get into a dermatologist’s office to figure out what was going on with me. After being prescribed multiple hair vitamins and special densifying hair products, the horrors deepened day after day as I watched strands of hair float from my scalp and land in a path that seemed to follow me wherever I went.
Little did I know, this was just the beginning.
Here’s a little before:
And the after:
Come early summer 2017, I began noticing a dull itching sensation that began at my hairline and made it’s way down my back. As the summer kept on and I prepared to start law school at Belmont University, the itching developed into rashes and the rashes began to become very painful.
By the time I started law school, I was getting burning, itching rashes all over my head and down my neck. I had bumps covering my scalp and inflamed hair follicles across the nape of my neck, all while having about half the hair on my head that I had the year previous.
It was the stuff of nightmares.
I was going to allergists, dermatologists and specialty skin doctors who were pumping me with steroids (orally, topically and directly injected) but it was hurting me way more than helping me. I would start feeling the pain on the nape of my neck, apply a topical steroid and feel instantaneous relief that would morph into the lulling pain I was used to.
Undoubtedly, I know that people go through way worse than I did, and I knew that at the time. Nevertheless, I was terrified that I had something really really wrong with me.
So after going to dermatologists and allergists, I finally had a rheumatologist conduct an ANA test (an antinuclear antibodies test). Just as a little background, your immune system normally makes antibodies to help you fight infection. In contrast, antinuclear antibodies often attack your body's own tissues. This means that, in most cases, testing positive for ANA means that your immune system has begun an attack on your own healthy tissues thus creating an autoimmune reaction. ANA tests are used to help detect autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
So fast forward to December of 2017. I had the blood test done and waited for the results. Meanwhile, I was studying for my final exams from my first semester of law school. I was in particularly agonizing pain (looking back, probably the worst pain I had ever been in during this time) the night before my last exam and decided to give my mother a call. We shared a cry together and she repeated over and over that as soon as I finished my last exam, I would come back home to Chicago and get this shit DEALT with. I asked her what there was to do and (after a long pause on the phone) she told me I had tested positive for ANA and was going to begin treatment as soon as I got home.
And there I was. The night before my law school exam, with the news that I was being treated for lupus.
Like any normal person, I got really mad at first.
“Why does this have to happen to me?”
“Why would my body betray me like this?”
Until suddenly, I felt this immense sense of calm wash over my body. It was as though God planted a seed of trust in me, and I finally let it grow. I mean I have always believed in God and believed everything in life will work out and be ok, but this was different. This was a powerful peacefulness. One I had never felt before.
It was this deep down, earth altering peacefulness that was somehow able to penetrate the agonizing pain spreading from the top of my head down my neck.
What’s interesting is that whenever I tell my story, this is the part where people go “wow, see I thought you were going to say you had this immense sense of peace wash over you and suddenly the pain started to subside.” But no, this came as I was experiencing the worst scalp pain I had had. The difference, in this moment, was that I felt in control of how I reacted to the pain. I felt the physical pain but didn’t double down on it with emotional pain (fear, anger, nervousness) as well.
I accepted my current state. I accepted the fact there was not going to be an immediate solution. And, I accepted the role I would have in the war I was raging with my very own body.
My role was not to understand why this was happening to me. Instead, it was to accept that I was unable to tackle this by myself and to trust the many healing forces surrounding me. If this is my journey, so be it. Thy will be done. In the months that followed, I came to realize that the single moment of clarity I experienced during my lowest moment marked the turning point of my life. From this moment, hope sprung eternal, and, since then, it has motivated me along my emotional, spiritual and physical wellness journey.
So what happened after the diagnosis? RESEARCH. Boring, tedious, confusing research. I was put on different immunosuppressants for about a month, but the real healing came from a tremendous lifestyle change that has (I am so proud to say) rendered my autoimmune reactions and issues almost completely gone. But it did not happen over night, in fact it has been about 20 months since that original diagnosis and every day I am learning about and searching for things that will keep my body in perfect harmony.
Today, I am dairy-free and almost entirely gluten free (the occasional Miller Lite is just too good to pass up sometimes). I consume an organic, whole food diet and am always looking to add new superfoods and recipes to the mix. I believe in the power of holistic life changes because they have not only helped treat my autoimmune issues, but also cure chronic digestion, headache and migraine issues as well. This is the space where I will come to share what I’ve tried, what I’ve loved, what’s not for me, and what I still want to learn. This is my safe space and I hope it can become yours as well. If you are on a wellness journey, email me/drop a comment/leave a DM and tell me your story. There’s strength and healing in community.