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April 23, 2017
My health journey began in 2012, when I fainted twice in the middle of the night. What followed included more symptoms than I can list here (over 50). It felt as if my bodily systems were shutting down, and I had no control over any of it. Some of the symptoms included nausea and vomiting, vertigo, lightheadedness, tachycardia (racing heart), breathlessness, chest pain, and weight loss. With the symptoms I was experiencing constantly, I became bedridden and debilitated. I saw several doctors and specialists, and was diagnosed with POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), an often debilitating form of dysautonomia (dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system - you know, everything that is supposed to work without you thinking about it).
I was put on medications, some of which failed completely, and a couple that helped to a small degree. I still was debilitated and having daily symptoms which severely limited and shaped my life. I kept pursuing a cure/remission/whatever, and saw specialists in many fields: Cardiologists, Gastroenterologists, Neurologists and an Epileptologist, OB’s, ENT’s, Rheumatologists, Endocrinologists, a Geneticist, Dermatologists, plus several Primary Care Doctors and 3 E.R. doctors. I gave over 100 vials of blood (since 2013), was subjected to more tests than most people can imagine, including one week of dysautonomia testing, another week-long hospitalized E.E.G. (which included sleep deprivation) to check further into possible seizure activity, as well as a couple month-long EKG’s (heart monitoring). I kept thinking, naively, that if they could just find what it was, they could give me a pill and “cure” it. At this time, I was in no way inclined toward natural or holistic medicine, and was very much entrenched in the traditional medical system.
After being poked and prodded for nearly a year, there were no underlying causes that could be found -- “just” POTS. I did get a diagnosis of “moderate” Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, however, the geneticist agreed that it was likely not severe enough to explain the multitude of symptoms, and encouraged me to keep pursuing the true underlying cause.
I went on my way, living life to the best of my ability. Over time, and after tons of rest, diet, and lifestyle changes, I regained a bit of strength, and some of the more severe symptoms dissipated. I was still far from being a normal person, and had near-constant symptoms despite some level of recovery.
During those years, I never lost hope that I would eventually find the root cause and beat this thing. I never submitted to the idea that “this is just how my life is going to be now.” I never, ever agreed to that.
In 2015, I started the ketogenic diet. I did wonderfully the first 6 months. I even wrote a keto-based blog that I still maintain - https://theketowolf.com/. I decided that I was doing so well that I would wean off my SSRI. However, I weaned too quickly, and this caused all hell to break loose (again). I crashed, hard. It was my worst crash yet. Bedridden again, 50+ symptoms, another E.R. visit with no issues that they could find besides my blood pressure spiking to 190/110, and no idea why. With a shrug, I was told, “Just POTS. Eat more salt,” and they proceeded to send me home.
During this time, which I now refer to as “the Crash of 2015,” I saw a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) that I had just found prior. I had one more test that had not yet been run (properly): testing for Lyme disease. She told me Lyme was unlikely in Arkansas, however, she agreed to sign off on the test. The result came back positive. And there I had the answer I had been looking for, the underlying cause. However, this information had to go on the back burner for now. I was way too weak to begin killing pathogens, and was simply in "survival mode." I didn't know what symptoms would appear at any given minute. At that point, I didn't count time in days or weeks like most people, but rather in minutes and hours.
Regarding what was going on with my body during that crash, my mom nailed it. She said, “It really sounds like adrenals.” I had done adrenal testing in 2013 via a quasi-Functional Medicine Dr., as well as several endocrinologists, and everything came back “in range,” and I was told the results were normal. Therefore, I had always dismissed my symptoms as being unrelated to adrenals, stating, "but I've had that tested."
My then-ND retired right after I got the positive Lyme results. Therefore, I spent a large amount of time "going it alone," endlessly searching facebook groups, mainly the Adrenal Fatigue (AF) group. Most medical doctors do not recognize adrenal fatigue. They only recognize adrenal insufficiency. They think, apparently, that one day your adrenals are working fine, and the next day they stop. My opinion is this is not a logical thought process. It makes no sense.
I began reading hundreds of articles about adrenal fatigue, and also noticing the plethora of strange symptoms everyone in the AF group displayed, which matched my own (and also matched the majority of those in the POTS groups). I began realizing that one of the main issues causing my symptoms really was adrenal dysfunction, all along. I learned how to proper read an adrenal cortisol saliva test, and realized that my old tests, despite being "in range," still showed major dysfunction. I began supporting the adrenals as my #1 focus. This requires specific nutrients, herbs, and more rest and time than you can quantify.
I began delving deeper into the natural health community. I knew I had a positive Lyme test, but I also knew my body was not yet strong enough to deal with any die off or detox symptoms. So, I focused on rebuilding my body as much as possible during this time. I focused on supporting adrenals, liver, gut, hormones, and balancing needed minerals, vitamins, and nutrients. I also found a great ND two hours away, and began seeing him. One of the ways his care has benefited me the most is via acupressure and bodywork. I was not a big believer in these modalities until I tried them.
After a year and a half of rest and rebuilding, I was finally ready to begin actively treating Lyme. There are basically two routes to treating Lyme: antibiotics, or natural therapies - such as herbs and other less recognized treatments. I chose to go the herbal route. I knew about the negative side effects of antibiotics, and did not want to have to “undo” any side effects or damage they caused while killing the bugs. I decided that, even if herbals took longer, I wanted to always be moving in a forward direction toward complete healing.
I began researching the Cowden and Buhner herbal protocols. I chose to give Buhner a try, as it was more customizable. I began the Lyme protocol and noticed some improvements. I had a negative test for the Lyme co-infections Bartonella, Babesia, and Ehrlichia, but I also knew the inaccuracies of testing these bugs, and decided to add Bartonella & Babesia protocols to my routine, “just in case.”
That’s when I really started seeing major improvements. My main symptom at that point was unrelenting fatigue. Once I added the Bart & Babs protocols, the fatigue began lifting (these critters infect red blood cells, which supply oxygen to the body, so this makes sense). So, it was obvious to me that I did indeed have one or both of these infections, despite my previously negative test result. I then decided to try a new and emerging Lyme & co-infections test. With this test, I got my confirmation: positive for Lyme (2 strains), Bartonella, Babesia, as well as Ehrlichia (whew! No wonder I had such a hard time!). I then added the Buhner Ehrlichia protocol to my regimin and saw another layer of improvement.
Where I am now: I am over halfway through the Buhner protocol suggested treatment timeline of one year. I only have 2 symptoms remaining from my initial 50+: mild to moderate fatigue that is improving slowly but surely, and vestibular imbalance, which I am working on, and trust will eventually disappear. My POTS symptoms have almost totally resolved, and most days I would not meet the POTS diagnostic criteria at all (a heart rate increase of over 30 beats per minute within 10 minutes of going from laying to standing, and/or a standing heart rate of 120+ bpm).
Throughout this time, I have learned an incredible amount regarding healing and the how the body works. I have also found my calling: I am currently studying to become a Naturopathic Doctor myself, and will start working to help others find their root causes and begin their journey toward optimal health.
I know what it feels like to be unable to walk into the next room without almost fainting, to have to eat every hour to try to prevent fainting, to wake up in the middle of the night and first thing in the morning with a severe adrenaline rush and tachycardia. To not be able to stand up to shower and barely be able to bathe yourself at all. To have to create a daily checklist for my supplements, because I could not remember which supplement I JUST opened and dispensed. To barely be able to eat due to intense nausea. To worry because I was losing 2 pounds a day, despite getting what should be enough food into my body in order to maintain weight. To not be able to drive, grocery shop, see friends, go to movies (too overstimulating for my sensitive nervous system!), or go outside (75 degrees would be way too hot), not be able to think clearly enough to find words or string together an intelligent sentence. To be over 30 years old, and have your mom take you to all of your doctor appointments. And when you have to go to the doctor, simply getting ready for the appointment totally wearing you out before even leaving the house, and wondering just how on earth you are going to make it the next two or more hours. To not be able to go up one small flight of stairs. To have to nap twice a day, despite getting 12 hours of sleep every night. I know what it feels like to be completely overwhelmed, because 30+ practitioners couldn’t help you with any of this.
I don’t describe any of this to elicit a pity response. I hate pity. I go through these details in order to show how much I have been through, how far I have come, and that healing is absolutely possible. I fully believe the body wants to be healthy.
I am currently approaching 90% recovery. And I know that when I reach the other side of this, I will feel the best I’ve ever felt in my life. Not just normal, but optimal. And for that, I am beyond thankful for the journey.
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