Storytime

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When dealing with a long-term health struggle, it’s nice to hear (or read) stories of someone who has dealt with something similar, right?

Well.  It’s story time. 

Food allergies and the Walmart Bathroom

I have struggled with food allergies since I was a toddler and food sensitivities since at least high school.  Honestly, the food sensitivities weren’t on my radar until well into my post-graduate medical training, approximately ten years after high school, because up until then I was still eating dairy (my primary allergy) like everything was normal. 

Definitely not “normal”.

My diet changed a lot after I finally got frustrated with always doing my grocery shopping at Walmart or Target.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with grocery shopping at Walmart or Target, but I was doing it so I could easily buy replacement underwear if I had a bathroom mishap. 

Yup.  My gut was so reactive and so spastic it would give me a 60-second warning for the bathroom.  And I didn’t always make it. 

Looking back, it took me a lot longer to get fed up with the situation and decide I could (and needed to) change it than it should have.  Regardless, my diet changed (no dairy) and I eventually saw a nutritionist who helped me confirm my food allergies, identify food sensitivities (IgG testing) and then add supplements to heal irritable bowel syndrome.  (Keep in mind this was early 2000’s – before the first iPhone was out – the internet wasn’t quite what it is today.)  Even though my diet was a little sideways with all of the exclusions, my gut was happy, I lost weight, I was sleeping better and life felt more “normal”.

Story done, right?!  Happy Ending Achieved.

From Happy and Excited to Angry and Apathetic

Until around 2009 when I excitedly and eagerly moved myself and my big black standard poodle, Samson, to South Carolina.  It was a new job, a new home, a new city and state.  I was used to moving around the country, but this was a stressful move.  And I noticed my gut got more reactive.  Again.  Didn’t have to shop at Walmart, but things were still really unpredictable.

I went back to all of the things I knew to do from my first attempt to heal my gut and it helped…but not like it did the first time.  There was something different. 

But I was in a new place and a new job and busy!  I put it all down to stress (not an inappropriate assumption) and just kept living…and pushing.

Then came a huge stressor at work.  Several months of high stress, fear, uncertainty.  Prime Survival Mode.  After several months, things calmed down and resumed a relative normal but I was not the same. 

Yes, we all change with traumatic experiences in life but this was more than that – I was suddenly the negative, pessimistic, argumentative one on the team.  Sleep was horrible.  I was emotionally very reactive – easily crying and angry but apathetic.  I started avoiding people more than my usual introverted tendencies.  My gut was out of control and I put on a lot of weight. 

How do you fix what you can’t describe?

During the next six years I did a lot to try and fix how I felt.  New supplements.  Left my job for a new position.  Tried spending more time with friends.  Tried spending less time with friends.  Tightened up my diet - repeatedly.  Saw a counselor.  Saw a couple different doctors.  Physical therapy.  Started an antidepressant.  Took time off with my dog.  Prayed a lot.  Left that new position for another job.  Slept every moment I could. 

And while that helped some…I still didn’t feel like me.  I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what was wrong, but there was definitely something wrong.  The girl I knew myself to be was gone.  Since some of my symptoms were gut-related and I already knew I had food allergies and food sensitivities, I assumed it was all related to food even though it didn’t really make sense. 

Besides, how do you ask for help with something you can’t describe?  

An answer out of the blue

Doctors are typically nerdy folks.  We like tests - a black and white answer on a sheet of paper.  As I was learning about different specialty tests to use in my integrative medicine clinic, I decided to see what my results looked like. 

And something showed up.  Completely unexpected.  Something I had never considered and no one had ever mentioned.  Mold.  While I am only at the beginning of a fairly long road with mold treatment, I have already seen a huge impact in my energy, gut, sleep, mood, pain and food sensitivities. My food allergies are still there, of course, but my reactivity is less.  Is my journey complete?  Absolutely not.  But I finally recognize the woman I see in the mirror - I feel like I'm back.  

The moral of the story

Why am I sharing my story?  Because, just like you, I just want to feel like me again but it has been so hard because I couldn’t put into clinical words what I was feeling.  Translation?  I couldn’t tell a doctor what was going on in language that would make sense to him or her.  (And that's coming from a doctor!)

I hear the same thing from so many of my patients and clients - no one will listen and the only way they can describe how they feel is "horrible", "miserable", and "exhausted".  I hear you and, oh, how I feel you. 

Please know you are not alone. 

Keep asking questions.

Become your best advocate and look for a partner in this journey.  

And, please, don’t give up.  It may be hard to find, but there is something causing your symptoms.

Are you stuck trying to figure out your food sensitivity puzzle?  If you’re up for it, share with me your biggest struggle right now – either post it as a comment here or email it to me directly at melissa@melissaoverman.com.  I’ll send on some ideas and encouragement to help keep you searching for your solution.  In fact, if you'd like my new free resource all bout how to Solve Food Sensitivities with Self-Care, click here.  We’re in this fight together…


Tags

food sensitivities, mold, self-advocate, self-care, stress


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