The beginning of my 'gut destruction' and consequent auto-immune disease began when I compressed the discs between 2 vertebra in my spine snowboarding. It was 1996, I was 22 and pretty much lived on anti-inflammatories for the next 15 years. In those years I snowboarded as much as possible, travelled extensively, collecting numerous gut-inhabiting parasites in both Mexico and Laos, and partied too much. After meeting my husband in 2001 whilst living in Switzerland, I set up a business importing the street fashion brand WeSC into New Zealand from Sweden, which triggered a back and forth to Sweden from NZ twice a year and then just to make things a little more complicated, in 2005 I fell pregnant. Not one to let anything slow me down I just kept going, I had just finished working as a snowboard event manager in Europe, co-produced a snowboard film and was running my business which was growing at the rate of knots.
When Suki was born in 2006 she had certain allergies and eczema but was very robust and a very funny high energy child so I wasn’t too concerned. I kept travelling (with her attached), working, packing orders covered in chemicals, and boom I got knocked up again. Still I kept going at the pace I had always set, flying back and forth with Suki to Europe whilst internally growing Oscar, the allergy super bomb.
When he was born, 22 months after Suki, he was quite literally allergic to the world. Remarkably, he was the happiest little man, unless he was dealing with intense stomach pain or itchy skin, and then he screamed loud enough to make my husband deaf in one ear. He would start screaming most nights from around 10pm and was inconsolable until around 4am when we would all fall into a coma, until Suki woke at 6am. I was referred to 2 specialists in NZ who told me to resign myself to a life of allergies with him and gave me huge tubes of steroid cream to rub all over his itchy wee body and endless bottles of anti-histamine. Until this time I had always dabbled in ‘alternative’ health, but in reality antibiotics were my failsafe whenever I fell ill so I could get back to snowboarding/work/travelling/parties/LIFE.
3 months after he was born the Global Financial Crisis hit. My business almost died due to the fact that 6 shops went bankrupt, owing me money and having ordered stock via me, in the space of a month. In hindsight it would have been wiser to have gone bankrupt, but I’m not a ‘quitter’ (my perception then) so I just kept working, whenever the kids napped, instead of resting, I worked, and I worked and I worked. As well as continuing to run the distribution business I opened my own shop to clear the stock, and for the next 4 years I moved my pop up shop around Auckland to help grow my customer base.
At the same time my husband was away for almost half the year working so I was always juggling work/kids/life and relied heavily on the help of my parents with the kids. In hindsight I think I actually could have died without their support.
When Oscar was 1 and Suki was almost 3 we took our annual trip to Europe to visit all of Ed’s family, by the end of the 4 weeks, there I was, on my knees. I had contracted Swine Flu and got one of my many never ending sinus infections. But it was nothing yet another hefty dose of antibiotics and steroids couldn't fix and I got back to work. At the same time a friend recommended a homeopath for Oscar in the UK and she put him onto a cocktail of herbs and minerals as well as a homeopathic remedy which really started to have an effect. She also gave me nutrition advise for him which I followed, and my little walking talking itch became a happy healthy little 15 month old.
So things were starting to look up, but wait the worst is yet to come. It was now my turn to crash, hard. In April 2011, after a year of chronic sinus infections, migraines, falling asleep after eating, eczema on my face and hands, food allergies, insomnia, and nightime anxiety I broke. I hadn't realised that not only had I been battling Glandular Fever for the past year, but the parasites I'd contracted while traveling were taking over my gut. In my usual style I just kept going, jumping from antibiotics to steroids, living on panadol and migraine tablets. I now had post-viral Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and had developed so many severe food allergies I was terrified to eat. I used to go into a deep coma after I ate anything that my body didn't like. Once I barely made the drive home with the kids in the car before I went under, not even making it to my bedroom before I was gone.
I couldn't get out of bed and my husband was still traveling. I moved in with my parents so they could become 2nd parents to the kids. By this time I was seeing an acupuncturist, kinesiologist, neurolink practitioner, homeopath, naturopath, bowen practitioner and gyrotonics coach, all of whom helped me feel better short term. Kind of like a natural version of panadol. I would feel better for short periods of time, run around like a mad woman trying to keep up with my life, and then crash again. Everything I read, everyone I spoke to told me that CFS syndrome was incurable as it was an Auto-Immune disease. I was determined that I was not going to live my life like this and never gave up on finding a cure. I finally understood that my health lay in my hands. Not a doctors, my hands. Little by little I grew to to understand that I needed to change my whole life, not just what I ate. I started restorative yoga religiously. In my previous life I never used to do sirvasana (the lie down bit at the end) but now I was doing a whole class of lying down. I learned to breath properly. I started living on smoothies for 2 meals a day whilst my gut healed. And I researched and read and never gave up. A good friend, my guru, and fellow Health Coach, Abby Soares, recommended I try the GAPS diet. In March 2015 I started it and although the first month was very difficult and I felt worse than I had in months, I kept on it and combined with a new way of looking at life, at a slower pace, I healed myself.
It is an ongoing journey, healing from years of gut abuse takes a long time. But I now have enough energy to walk my children to school (we live on a mountain), practice and teach yoga, snowboard with 20-somethings, cook good food, coach clients back to health and have enough smarts to know I need to put my feet up at least once a day. When I fall ill, I lie down and rest, I have baths, I gobble herbs, I drink hot drinks, I let my body fight it so that when I recover, I am stronger for the next bug that comes my way.
Although many times in the depths of my illness I often questioned why this was happening to me, I now understand that my experience (and consequent training) has given me so much knowledge to share and help heal other people with auto-immune diseases who have found themselves in a cul de sac of recovery.