Sunday, April 3, 2016

What becoming a nurse means to me: Healing myself from Chronic Pain (my journey)

--> Two and a half weeks ago, I passed my NCLEX, and am officially a registered nurse. A week ago, I got hired as a nurse at a large hospital in the NYC area, and my first day is tomorrow. WAHOO! If any of you have become nurses, you know the process it takes to get there and how much of a RELIEF it is!
But becoming a nurse means so much more to me than most of you may know, and I wanted to share a little of my story, in the hopes that maybe it could inspire someone some day. Or, at least give you hope that no matter what is going on, you CAN change your life and yourself for the better.
My story starts in 2009. I was an elite Olympic-style weightlifter, and was one of the top in the nation in my weightclass. I was a junior level weightlifter, but at one meet in 2009, I qualified for every single national meet, as a junior AND a senior level lifter. I was good, and on my way to competing in the World Championships.
At that particular meet (it was only my 2nd meet ever) I did great. I hit a clean and jerk PR of 76kg (I was a 58kg weightlifter), and a PR total. Afterwards, I got a squat in and hit a PR backsquat of 100kg. I was on a roll.
The next day I woke up with horrible spasms in my right shoulder. Something was SERIOUSLY wrong and I was in a lot of pain. I was really afraid that I hurt it, and sought out a massage therapist to help me get the knots out. I went to the massage therapist, and they worked on it – but it got worse after the massage.
I was completely defined by my weightlifting and I wa fearing that this was going to put me out of the process for qualifying for Worlds. I was horribly angry and mad and depressed. So I kept training.
1 week of chronic pain and tightness in my shoulder blade turned into one month. Then 2 months. Then 3 months.
In September of 2009 I transferred universities and started at Seattle University. One night, I had trouble sleeping – and it was like a switch was flipped in my body. As one friend puts it, as she had something similar happen to her, “it was like my nervous system broke.” I completely stopped sleeping and my health just deteriorated. I had to withdraw from school that semester. I had horrible insomnia every night for apparently no reason, and the pain in my shoulder and upper back was still there, and not getting any better.
So, naturally, I found other ways to abuse my body through exercise.
In 2010, at the start of the year, I found a sleep doctor and was able to start sleeping again with the help of medications. But nothing was healing my chronic shoulder pain. At the time, I was lying to myself each and every day by living a life in an eating disorder. I had lived in that reality since high school, always maintaining my health, but not really – my thoughts were sick, my approach to exercise and food was completely unhealthy, and, worst of all, the things I told myself no person should ever hear. But that was my reality, and I was “comfortable” in it. My shoulder pain became the new normal, and I found ways to train hard around it, but still prayed it would get better.
Then, in June, I was backsquatting 90kg for reps one day, and I felt something pop in my low back. I knew immediately it was bad, and I stopped lifting.
After that, my right low back, psoas, and upper quad were in excruciating tightness. Shoulder + lower back pain. Luckily, there was no disc involvement, but now I had a new problem that turned chronic. And through the summer, the back and hip pain continued to stay. So what had started out as only shoulder pain had now become two separate issues – two chronic pain issues that were not getting better, and no one could tell me what was wrong.
SIDE NOTE: the summer of 2010 was when the “SVU Saga” began – something that plays into the story, but is meant for another time.
In the fall of 2010, my eating disorder AND my chronic pain got progressively (extremely) worse. My life and my health really deteriorated in 2010, and at the tail end of 2010, my serious boyfriend at the time broke up with me which pushed me over the edge; I received treatment for my eating disorder at the start of 2011 for 90 days.
What I didn't know was how that break up was going to affect my state of being. I thought of myself as a horrible person, unloveable, day in and day out. I thought that having my food and exercise strictly controlled by someone outside of me was going to help heal my body, because I was forced to finally rest it completely. But to my confusion, my chronic pain got worse.
When I was receiving treatment, what started as unilateral shoulder pain turned into bilateral. Soon, my entire upper back was hot, tender, tight, and filled with trigger points to the point where I couldn’t even be touched.
I started school again in March of 2011, and, although I had a new lease on life, my chronic pain got progressively – no, exponentially – worse. It got to the point where I could not even carry a backpack on my shoulders, I was in so much pain. Throughout 2011, I continued to decline. Once an active weightlifter, I had to completely stop working out. The only exercise I got was walking – that was all I could do. I couldn’t move my neck from side to side – to cross the street I had to pivot from my hips to make sure no cars were coming. I couldn’t raise my arms more than a few degrees from my sides. I was in constant irretractable pain. I could barely make it through the day. In the summer, it got worse to the point where I couldn’t even stand to hold my head up when I was standing up, my neck muscles hurt so badly. I needed to constantly sit with support. I lost all social life, all semblance of happiness. Each day was a struggle to get through. I constantly used tiger balm to sooth the pain for a few seconds, but used it so much that my skin on my neck started blistering. My scalenes were some of the worst tightness/pain, and my entire neck broke out in a rash from all the tiger balm.
I was set to graduate school in 2012, and I made a silent pact with myself; if I was not better by graduation, I was going to take my life. I couldn't bear to live my life like this, and I truly feared – and believed – that this was going to be the rest of my life. And it wasn’t living. My Olympic dreams were completely shattered, but even things I previously took for granted – pursuing a nursing career, getting married, having a family – seemed like dream at this point. I didn’t know if I could do it. Every muscle from my low back to my neck and even my jaw felt like it was on fire – hot, tight, spasm-y pain that never let up. it was exhausting.
I exhausted every practitioner imaginable. In the summer of 2011, I went to see a shoulder doctor in Bellevue, WA. At that appointment, he told me, “Well, I think you’re in pain because you’re depressed. You should try to go on antidepressants.”
At that moment, I completely lost faith in Western medicine.
After that, I started looking for alternative treatments. I traveled to New Jersey in the summer of 2011 to a chiropractor that sounded like he could help. In addition, I saw a posture specialist in Washington, D.C. After that trip, I felt like it helped a little. But then it went right back to the way it was.
After a subsequent trip to the posture specialist, who was back in Oregon, and an unfortunate trauma that occurred there (a sexual assault), I gave up on that. I continued to look, and my pain continued to plague me.
In September of 2011, I found a physical therapist in NY that sounded like he could help. It was the first truly mind-body technique I had been willing to try. I had never believed in the mind-body connection my entire life, but what this guy presented was definitely more in the realm of mind-body than anything else (it was called Associative Awareness Technique). In October of 2011, I flew out to NYC to get help from this physical therapist. It was a week of treatments for about 4 hours a day and it was definitely unlike anything I’d experienced before. By the end of the trip, I was feeling a little better. (This trip, SVU saga continued).
I went back to Seattle, but my progress didn’t improve. I went BACK to NYC in December of 2011 to see the same PT again, but I was stalled. My pain would always come back.
While in NYC, I realized I couldn’t keep traveling back and forth. I began looking for alternative treatments closer to home. While there, I found a physical therapist in Colorado named Rick Stockwell. I began communicating with him; he also did a similar technique to the PT in NYC, but he added some other methods as well. He also had overcome a chronic condition and really started to give me hope that I could maybe overcome my chronic pain one day.
Within the next month, it was decided I was going to go to Colorado for 10 days during my spring break. Rick also often worked alongside a life coach, Melaney Sreenan. The two of them teamed up and essentially put me through a true boot camp when I was there. I was getting my body physically and emotionally “beat up” essentially for 4-6 hours a day. And this was a true step into the mind-body realm that I had never entered before. I very slowly started to become aware of my own thougths and beliefs, and realized my beliefs about my chronic pain were very deep-seeded (why wouldn’t they be, right?). I also became aware that some of the relationships I had in my life at that time were truly toxic (but I learned the hard way and didn’t let go of them until something truly awful happened). Rick utilized AAT on me, but also something called Primal Reflex Release Technique (PRRT) and, the real game changer, TREs – trauma releasing exercises. I believe that the PRRT and the TREs is what truly initiated my turn around (physically). In addition, I was introduced to meditation by something called the Amygdala retraining program. All of these things, combined with Melaney’s intense coaching sessions, helped me begin to overcome my physical pain, and release some stored up trauma (from my assault and other traumas I had experienced) that I had never dealt with.
By the end of the trip, by some miracle I could run up the stairs. THAT was amazing for me! When I went back to Seattle, my progress was extremely up and down. I filled my day so much with exercises – which involved some short meditations as well as some other mind-body activities. But my schedule was so packed with that work, that it became STRESSFUL. My body would improve, rebel, improve, rebel. However, I was totally aware of the small miracles that occurred – the first time I dribbled a soccer ball around a field, I cried. I cried! In addition, I started doing yoga. I slowly began to work out again – I found that if I did any sort of lifting or intense physical exercise like sprinting (which I could do again!) I needed the yoga afterwards, or my body would rebel the next day, and I would be in pain.
But it was a constant battle. As soon as a pain would come up again, I would spiral back into my old mentality and become hopeless again.
And then, the REAL life changing moment came in the spring of 2012.
One day, Melaney told me, “Your body is fine. It’s your mind we have to work on.”
I didn’t understand what she was talking about (in hindsight, my negative self talk, my beliefs, and my toxic relationships … to name a few) …
She told me that day, “I want you to get this book: Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself. Read it cover to cover and start the meditaitons.”
I had no idea what she was talking about, by I did as I was told and got the book.
The book was written by a Dr. Joe Dispenza, someone I’d never heard of before. Melaney thought I would like his book, because it has a science-y feel to it, and most of his book discusses some aspects of quantum physics, quantum mechanics, and the science behind how our brains work. I began reading about how our thoughts influence the physical state of our body – for example, by thought alone, we can literally TALK our bodies into anxiety. Think about it – you’re feelin fine, but you have a test next week, you start analyzing worse case scenario, and all these thoughts come rushing to you and then BAM you’re having a breakdown (ok, this happened in nursing school a lot!).
Anyways, I liked the feel for it. But the meditations were completely different story.
Up until this point, I had never done more than a 15-20 min meditation. Once finished with this book, the meditation that accompanied this book was an HOUR AND 10 MINUTES. What????
I had NEVER believed in meditation and my mind was SO busy I could hardly keep up with my own thoughts, let alone expect my brain to quiet down enough to actually sit through a meditation.
But, I started doing them.
I didn’t really get them (ok, to beginners – they are quite weird and different!), but I did them anyways.
When I was about halfway through the book, I decided to look at Dr. Joe’s bio at the back of this book. Who was this guy anyways?
I was shocked when I read that he was a chiropractor in WASHINGTON STATE. What?! The coincidence of that! And, even better, he was still practicing. I told Melaney, and she said to go see him. I was about to leave for Colorado for a month, but decided to drive the one and a half hours to see Dr. Joe before I left.
Around that time, I was having a horrible flare up of my chronic pain (the “flare ups” as I called them happened about once a month at that point, or once every 3 weeks – progress, but still not where I wanted to be). Today, it’s pretty funny to hear Dr. Joe imitate me the first day I walked into the clinic, but it was pretty accurate. I was a mess walking in there, negative, and still believed that no one could help me. I remember thinking, “Oh, yeah, he’s just a chiropractor, and he’s only gonna spend 15 minutes with me, how the hell is that going to help me?” I even texted that to Melaney. Talk about negative!
When I went to Colorado, I saw Melaney and Rick semi-regularly throughout the trip. I made some more progress, and continued to do Dr. Joe’s meditations.
However, at the time, I was still indulging in some extremely toxic relationships, and the turmoil that these put me through easily threw me out of balance.
When I went back to seattle, right before school started, I had a massive flare up that sent me to the ER because I couldn’t move my neck.
After school started, I started seeing Dr. Joe on a regular basis. Melaney had told me, ‘He just has a really good energy, he’ll be good for you.’ Ok, sure, whatever!
But slowly, as the weeks moved on and I saw him more, his energy started to wear off on me. I got what she meant. I realized I couldn’t really leave that place without being in a good mood – it was impossible!
I continued to do the meditations, but my body was still kind of physically stuck. I was SO MUCH better than I was a year ago – worlds different, really – but there was that constant fear that the pain was going to come back. I LIVED in that fear (I didn’t know it at the time), and most people wouldn’t blame me. I did yoga, did a little lifting, but would always injure myself and get set back. And, the other thing I noticed, was that if my body felt ok, another pattern popped up – usually my sleep. Even with sleeping medications, I would have “flare ups” where I would completely stop sleeping. And then my body would hurt again, and my sleep would be ok. It was as if my body was bouncing back and forth between patterns. Hmm…
In January 2013, my entire life changed within 1 night. Most of you know this story, so I won’t go into it right now. But my life as I knew it was shattered, as I had to cope with this trauma I wasn’t capable of coping with. The week after, I was diagnosed with an “incurable” disease and for the first time in my life, I truly wanted to die. I never thought anyone would love me again.
My physical body took a backseat as I tried to cope – alone – with this trauma that had occurred. I stopped sleeping, I developed PTSD and I could hardly function. I was a complete mess. Honestly, I don’t remember a lot of this time; I definitely stopped doing the meditations during this time, and could only live in the trauma, each and every day.
2013 had a turn around, or so I thought at the time, when I went to the JHF gala (SVU saga, part 3). But I never imagined that 2013 could get any worse. Yet my day to day life was spent living in the trauma I had experienced, and I didn’t even realize it at the time.
However, I had one saving grace: finally, a year after reading Joe’s book and sorta doing the meditations, I FINALLY was going to my first ever Progressive Workshop in June of 2013! I had absolutely no idea what to expect, but I shelled out the money and went to the workshop.
It was the absolute best thing I could’ve done for myself at that time. On July 5th, I had a very, very stressful meeting I had to survive – prior to that, I could hardly function. I couldn't sleep, I was throwing up, I could barely work because my anxiety was so bad. After this workshop, I started to ENJOY doing my meditations – imagine that! But, more importantly, that week leading up to that meeting (with the NYPD), I was absolutely present. I had no fear, no anxiety. I didn’t LET myself feel that fear until the day of the event.
Many of you know what that weekend led to, and the ensuing issues that arose. After that weekend, I was overcome by my trauma and PTSD again. I stopped meditating; well, I didn’t, but I was just going through the motions, I wasn’t really putting any effort into it. And my body paid the price. I ended up with an injury that lingered and lingered and lingered. I had more events happen, and my PTSD and sleep got worse. I almost lost my job. The events completely took over my life – for those of you who know that story and saw me during that time, you know what it was like. It wasn’t pretty. I had trauma after trauma occur during this time and I could barely keep my head above water. I lived in a lie – showing up every day to work, smiling, happy to the world around me, when inside I felt like I was dying.
But I didn’t give up. And, I remember so clearly, one day I was in Dr. Joe’s office, and I hadn’t said a word, but after he had adjusted me he sat down and looked me in the eye and said, “Izzy, you have a strong, healthy body. A wonderful man is going to come a long one day and sweep you off your feet and love you for all eternity. You have a beautiful life ahead of you. Just don’t try too hard to be happy!”
I was a little baffled at that, and wasn’t sure I truly believed it, but took it to heart and filed it away.
The tail end of 2013 was probably one of the worst months of my life. The culmination of 3 awful traumas occurred within weeks of each other in November and my life, soul, and spirit truly fell apart. I crumbled. For the second time in this process, I truly wanted to die. Everything that I had believed in, had faith in, and meant to me had fallen away. I was left with an empty soul and heart, which for me was one of the worst times of my entire life (but now, I realized, needed to happen in order to create the life I have today).
After a few weeks of this, I’d had enough. I told myself I was done with the drama and the trauma, and I pulled myself together. One week later, I got asked out by 5 different (good) men, one of which is the love of my life. When I saw Joe and told him, he said to me, “you made the conscious decision to no longer be this person you were, and you freed up energy and made room for him.” Something like that! That didn’t make sense to me until later.
My life slowly started to change. I was accepted into LIU’s nursing program, and in January I went to New York to start nursing school.
Moving to NYC was tough. The trauma that occurred there still ruled me, and my PTSD was easily triggered. The thoughts I had of myself and what happened ruled my life, day in and day out. It was a rough adjustment. I didn’t give up, though. And, I had miracles startin to happen. One of the most amazing things I accomplished during this time was that I started lifting again. Not just here and there – REALLY lifting! I was snatching and clean and jerking, and really training. I cleaned 65kg, 10kg off my best EVER. When I stopped and thought about it, I couldn’t even fathom how far I had come – 2 years before that, running around with a soccer ball was an accomplishment. Wow!
In February, one night before I was supposed to travel to Arizona for Dr. Joe’s Advanced Workshop, I did a snatch and felt something tug in my shoulder. I knew it was bad as soon as I set the weight down.
All of the negative emotions I’d felt with my chronic pain rushed back as I dealt with the pain of a strained rotator cuff. I did NOT want this to happen right before I was travling, yet it did.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that injury – and many subsequent other ones – was a sign loud and clear to my body.
I was frustrated, but I went to this workshop with an open mind.
The 5 days in Carefree, AZ completely changed my life forever.
For the first time in my life I REALLY meditated. Sometimes, 6 hours a day. And not only that – I went deep within myself and connected to something far beyond my comprehension and anything that I had experienced before. In one meditation, I experienced a profound emotional healing (if you are interested in hearing this, feel free to message me) and have been changed ever since.
I was surrounded by more love that weekend than I’d ever seen before. The people surrounding me were some of the kindest, most genuine people I have ever met. That workshop still stands out as one of the best experiences of my life.
At the end of the workshop, I had my brain mapped by Dr. Jeffrey Fannin. In that meditation, I truly FELT my future was at my fingertips. For the first time since my chronic pain started, I had true hope that this did NOT have to be my reality. I heard stories of people who had overcome incredible obstacles, healed themselves of genetic conditions, and created amazing futures. I NEVER would have believed any of this if I hadn’t heard it for myself, out of these peoples’ mouths. Hell, prior to this even reading these stories I didn’t truly believe it. But once I heard it from these people themselves – and I’m still friends with many of them today – I was filled with such hope for my future. I was a changed person.
Except, going back to NYC, I let my environment overtake me again. I went back to the same thought patterns, the same anxieties, the same fears. I was meditating, but still not really putting my heart and soul into it. I was only half doing the work, but expecting full results. Wasn’t happening.
My physical healing was kind of at a standstill again. In May of 2014, I got into NYU’s accelerated nursing program – a dream I’d had for years – and came home for the summer before starting my NEW nursing journey at the place I’d always dreamed of going. The year before, I had not applied to accelerated nursing programs because I wasn’t sure if I could handle it – I thought I could MAYBE handle it with my body (which was HUGE), but my emotional health was still not 100% after the year that I’d had, and I was worrie about the stress afeting my health. But I had taken a leap of faith and applied, and got in. A MIRACLE transformation from where I had been 3 years before!
The day I got home, the injury I’d had the previous summer recurred. So now I was dealing with a strained shoulder AND an injured low back. And, like my usual patterns, I let the negativity get the best of me, let the old fears pop up.
However, I lived my life the best I could, and Robbie and I had the most amazing summer of our lives – the longest time we’ve spent in person together. I remembered Dr. Joe’s words to me a year before and couldn’t help but smile. It was a constant battle between fighting the fears that my body would never be healed, and being happy and present. I was still meditating, but still not fully with my heart in it. Subconsciously, I didn’t truly believe that this work would work for me (which I didn’t realize until recently). But I kept pushing forward.
And then, just like that, I started nursing school in September of 2014.
Now, if any of you had been through nursing school, you know how challenging it is. After the firs week, I was terrified – how on earth was I going to be able to meditate, change my body and my life without the stress of nursing school getting me down and destroying my progress?
In a fateful scheduling incident, there was ONE weekend out of the entire semester where I did not have a test or midterm to study for, and that happened to be the week of Dr. Joe’s first ever Advanced Follow Up in Seattle. A few days before I was supposed to leave, there was some chaos – I had lost my wallet on the subway, which included all modes of transportation AND my drivers license. I could not travel without my drivers license, and because my bank was based in Seattle, I had no money. Long story short, my parents had to overnight my passport to me in order to travel home. Because of that, I had to miss my pathophysiology class to wait for my passport to arrive at my apartment. Because of that, I was able to listen to Dr. Joe’s teleclass that day, and  was actually allowed to ask a question on the live call (coincidence? Nope!). I told him that with my nursing schedule, I felt I was constantly living in a state of fight or flight – some days I was up at 5, at clinical all day, came home, studied, and then went to bed. How could I possibly change my life under all this stress, when I hardly had the time to eat meals, let alone meditate?
Dr. Joe started his answer off with, “Since I’ve known you, you have made great strides in this work, and you are in a field that is going to help a lot of people one day.” I definitely started crying at that, as I realized I truly had come such a long way. And, he gave me a tool – even just concentrating on your breath for 20 minutes a day, anything to bring you back into the present moment, would help. I took that to heart, as I got ready for the crazy flight back to seattle.
The advanced follow up was a game changer. At the time, I didn’t realize it – I was distracted, because at the end of the following week I had to start studying for my pathophysiology exam, I had a ton of work to do etc etc, not to mention I got to see Robbie … so I was distracted. But I was surrounded by the people who meant the most to me, and I soaked up that love and experienced the workshp the best I could. Meditating at 4 am … going to 6 pm … it was nuts! No sleep, but no problem.
I left Seattle with my heart completely open. I felt so changed. And, as soon as I got back to NYC I was greeted with an awesome Mind Movie manifestation! Wow, this stuff works!
I really felt like I was getting this work, and it was finally settling in.
However, in January of 2015, my life took a completely different turn than I was expecting, all because of a phone call from the NY Daily News at 9pm one night in Seattle.
In a flash, my sense of calm, composure, and faith in my self was shattered. My previous trauma – which I had told myself I had moved on from – was completely thrust back into the open. I broke. I tried to maintain myself, but my PTSD skyrocketed and I could hardly function. I remember being curled in a ball in my bed, and Robbie couldn’t even touch me. He felt completely helpless.
I went back to school to start my second semester of nursing school, and I was actually glad to start because I thought it would give me a distraction from what had just occurred. But I was wrong. That pleasant distraction lasted about a week, and all those old emotions popped up again. My body broke. I stopped sleeping, even with medications. I remember taking a pharmacology class on no sleep because I had been up all night with anxiety
I tried my best to maintain myself on my own, but I realized I needed more help. Actually, help came to me through a series of beautiful events at NYU and I was led to an amazing advocate and social worker that has completely changed my life.
For the next 9 months, my life was school, crisis, school, crisis, let’s do something badass but stressful, repeat. February, I made the decision to do something that may impact the rest of my life, and has subsequently generated numerous public newsarticles about my life. This trauma and this situation became my LIFE, yet again. I didn’t know it at the time, but I became my trauma. I was a victim all over again. I was a victim to the system, I was angry, I was sad. I felt everything I did when it happened 2 years prior. But this was different, because it was public. It was new. It was mainstream. The entire advocate world in NYC new my story, even if they didn’t know my name. how could I even wrap my head around that?
I became my trauma. Every thought of every day revolved around this point in my life. I was living a lie – I appeared put together, nearly a 4.0 student, but I was dying inside. I had no idea how I was going to survive all this. And I felt horribly guilty, because I felt I brought it on myself since I had made the choice to pursue this. But I wanted justice, and this was my way. But, traumas and dramas kept happening, just one after the other, almost more than I could wrap my head around. And I identified with those. I had to tell professors because my PTSD stability was so unpredictable. i told most of my professors, except for one during my third semester. I had leeway, even though I never had to use it. But my trauma continued to be who I was, even if I didn’t know it.
I kept meditating and creating my life, but there was a huge gap between who I thought I was, and who I truly was being. Yet, there were still blessings in my life. I not only had an amazing advocate on my side, an unwaveringly supportive boyfriend, but in a beautiful twist of fate, one of the most amazing and incredible people showed up in my life – a professor who I had actually been terrified of first semester, but who I had again (now third semester). In a series of events, I ended up in his office one day, in tears, and ended up opening up to him, and it was the best decision I made in nursing school (even though I had been terrified of him during first semester). Even though I was living in this trauma every single day, he carried me through. Without judgment, he listened to every single part of my story, let me cry and cry and cry when no one else would listen, and was there for me, completely unwaveringly and without judgment, for the rest of my schooling. I am eternally grateful, because I would not have survived this time of my life (and managed to get almost a 4.0) without this person. And even though that is a time in my life I want to move on from, the gratitude and love and appreciation for the kindness and compassion he showed to me will always stay with me, and I will be forever grateful.
Despite the traumas, my dreams seemed to be coming to reality – I went to another Advanced Follow-up Workshop and sat in tears listening to a beautiful woman tell her story how she used this work to help in her healing journey for overcoming ovarian cancer and heard other amazing stories. I graduated nursing school – an event that had me in tears after everything that had happened. The moment that my special professor pinned me was one of the happiest moments of my life – I had survived SO much and never let it beat me.
I went to south Africa for a month and had the time of my life. Yet when I was there, I was constantly plagued by old traumas and self doubts – about myself, my physical condition, my old eating disorder, everything. It all came up at once, when my crazy schooling had settled down. What was going on?
I got a huge wake up call the week I got back from South Africa.
The day after I got back from my trip, I was set to volunteer at Dr. Joe’s advanced workshop. I was SO excited, as this was the first workshop Robbie and I were doing together, and I KNEW it was going to be amazing. I was so exhausted I knew I would be able to slip into a meditative state pretty quickly.
Well, an unexpected whiplash injury (don’t even ask!) disrupted my plans for a “perfect” event.
Probably more so than any other time I had done this work, I sat in this workshop angry. I was in SO much pain that standing up in the morning made me nearly pass out. I was so so so angry that I almost walked out of the workshop. I couldn’t get comfortable since I was in so much pain and definitely couldn’t concentrate in my meditations.
Sunday, our last meditation, I nearly walked out. But I didn’t. I stayed, and I heard an amazing woman’s story – she had been a nurse for 23 years, and when working in the ICU a patient had fallen on her and crushed her spine. She also had had SVT for a number of years (supraventricular tachycardia) and had had horrible chronic back pain for 10.
I listened to her tell her story about using Joe’s work to heal herself of her back pain. In October, she had completely stopped ALL medications, even her meds for SVT. Prior to that, she was taking about 25 medications a day, could hardly even unload the dishwasher, and would go to work and come back and cry in agony.
I was mesmerized by her story and was drawn to her; even though I had overcome the majority of my own pain, I could relate so much. I cried listening to her story, as I had almost missed it since I had nearly walked out.
I found her aftewards, and we talked. Ironically, she knew who I was! We kept in contact.
The following week, my major wake up call came. I saw Dr. Joe, and he said something to me that was a true wake up call – “we need to talk about what you’re attracting in your life.” He sat me down and talked to me straight up. He told me how I was presenting to the world, how I was living in this trauma I had experienced, and what that was doing to me. For the first time in a long time, I really listened to what he said. And not only that, I took what he said, and really examined it.
I went through a few really tough weeks of self reflection. And I noticed some astounding things.
Nearly every thought that went through my head was negative. Whether it was about my body, about my life, about my trauma, it was negative.
The biggest thing I realized, thought, was that, on a deep, subconsious level, I did not believe that Dr. Joe’s work was going to work for me. Even the countless people I’ve talked to – friends who had healed themselves of genetic bone disorders, cancer, chronic pain – I had this deep, deep unconscious belief that I was the exception. That it worked for everyone but me. When I voiced this in the office, I started to cry. It was a huge, huge realization I had.
I started realizing that I could not tell myself the things on a daily basis that I was and expect to lead a fulfilling life. My eating disorder thoughts/hatred of my body, fear of my old chronic pain, and the traumas that I had were continuing to dominate my thoughts. Even though I had beaten the odds with everything, these thoughts were still there. And THAT was what was holding me back.
This happened only a month ago. And since then, I have made leaps and bounds. Not all physically, mostly mentally. They have been subtle, and most people don't even realize it. But people have noticed. Of course, Robbie knows why. Not everyone does. But now, my challenge isn’t healing my body completely. That’s just a byproduct. My challenge is changing my belief system that my body will never be functional, that there will always be pain, that I have to rely on outside sources to “Fix” myself (BIGGEST challenge right now); changing the thoughts I have about my body on a daily basis, body image issues. THAT is what I have to work on now. The byproduct of that is healing. Look at my nurse friend – look at what she had done. If she could COMPLETELY overcome herself, her pain, and her past, I could too. I had done an incredible job – I had overcome myself and my past enough to create a beautiful life for myself. But something was holding me back. Something was keeping me from reaching my full potential, especially in my physical healing. I talked to a friend, who, when I talked to him, was in tears because he could see my potential so clearly yet I couldn’t. this was the message I kept hearing over and over again, and I realized it was time to do something.
So what have I been doing?
Constantly monitoring my thoughts. I have been meditating on changing my thoughts nonstop. I focus soley on my future. I watch my mind movie (when I remember to!). I try to catch my negative thoughts before they become a whole thought. But most importantly, I have the utmost KNOWING that my body is WHOLE and HEALTHY right NOW. That’s a belief that can be challenging sometimes, but it’s the only way. Especially now, when im truly trying to overcome my pain and heal myself without any outside help (chiropractors and PTs), it’s a challenge every single day. But I get up and I do it. I catch fears that pop into my head, and attempt to change them. I see myself lifting heavy weights, doing backbends, doing gymnastics. To even be able to think about doing these things again is a true miracle, considering where my life was  5 years ago. But it’s the next level for me – and I want to get to that level. To not fear the unpredictability of my body (one day it’s fine, one day my old chronic back pain is back, etc), to not fear relationships in my life, to not fear the future, to LOVE the unknown and KNOW that it only holds the most BEAUTIFUL things for me is what I strive for each and every day. Today has been one of those days when I’m in pain, and I’m fighting the old thoughts. But I keep crossing that river, no matter what.
It’s challenging. This past week, there seems to be a pattern a day I work on. One day it’s my physical pain. Another day it’s my eating disorder thoughts (self-hatred is extremely tough to fight!). another day it’s old trauma coming up. But I’m still fighting. Even this morning, I texted someone and said I was having a hard day. For no reason. It was just old feelings coming up, old memories, old patterns.
So ask yourself this – what limiting thoughts and beliefs do YOU tell yourself on a daily basis? What subconscious personality program are you running? For me, it was being a victim – of my trauma, of my physical pain, of my past. I was a slave to my past traumas, all of them. And I was viewing my future based on the lens of my past – mainly, not truly believing I would ever be physically healthy. Im still on sleeping medications – that’s another thing I want to accomplish, as well.
There’s lots of work to be done. But as Dr. Joe recently said in a teleclass, the work is never done. You get to one level, and it’s time to pursue the next level.
We are all human. We are all searching for certain things. Some of us are searching for bodily healing (like me). Some are searching for a connection to the divine (which I have done too, and wow is that awesome!). Some want to create certain things in their future. All are a part of Dr. Joe’s work, and other work as well (I just use his because his is what I’ve concentrated on the most and had the most success with).
The key is to NEVER GIVE UP.
I recently listened to a podcast called “Mechanic to Millionaire” and the guy said this: “As long as you are still breathing, and your heart is still beating, there is hope.”
I nearly lost that hope a few years ago. I gained it back, thanks to Dr. Joe and this work, and the amazing beings that have entered my life along the way.
This has been my journey. I can say I no longer have chronic pain. WOW!!!!! THAT  right there is a miracle. I do say that I have old PATTERNS pop up – and that’s true. Old pain patterns, old thought patterns, old relationship patterns that were the result of trauma (and I apologize to those who have been on the receiving end of those, which are laden with fear and stress!). but they’re patterns. Patterns can be broken. And the first step in this process is knowledge, because knowledge is power. And now that I know that’s what I need to break, I can do it. Sometimes I lose sight of it – thank you doesn’t do enough justice to Robbie, Emily V., and Ken C., who have talked me out of my head countlessly the past few weeks.
Im still a work in progress. I may still get depressed. I may say horrible things about my body to myself. I may have pain, and I may have a lot of it sometimes. I may have fear that someone I care about is going to turn on me. But those are becoming less and less.
So if you hear me say, “my shoulder hurts,” or, “I’m worried about my back today” -- That’s so much more than a shouder hurting. It’s years of fear of chronic pain returning. It’s fear that I will not achieve the goals I want to in life (I have some lofty ones!). But really, it means that I am letting my past overtake me in that moment. So if you hear me say that, I just ask you to have that perspective – the, “don’t worry, it’ll heal” isn’t what fixes it. It’s a “remember you are a new person now, this will change and this is not permanent.” Pain means something different to me than most people, and few people understand that, and I hope this enlightens some people. It’s, “Are you believing in your future more than your past?” Because if I am fearing that pain, or the old sleepnessness, or the old trauma then I am living in my past more than my future, and  I need a reminder to snap out of it.
This is my story. I am work in progress. But holy SH!T have I come a long way! From living a life constantly filled with self-hatred, acquiring horrible chronic pain, losing all physical fitness to the pain, unable to even carry a handbag or turn my neck … to today, graduating nursing school, starting a job, doing handstands, squats, yoga. I’m a miracle. Even if I forget that some times, I am a walking miracle. I can’t tell you how many times doctors told me, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you and I don’t know if you’re going to get better.” But I DID. And, even with the trauma on top of all of it, I never let it stop me.
So, as I start my new journey as a nurse, I am humbled about where I have come from. Where I was, what I went through, and where I am now. I used to constantly search ffor things outside of myself to make me happy, using SVU and other things to qualify my happiness. Now I spend my time meditating, and working to better myself. I meditate 1-4 hours a day, something I never thought I would do. But most importantly, this is a message to anyone who reads this: there IS hope. Whether you’re suffering from PTSD, chronic pain, or other health issues THERE IS HOPE. I never imagined I would be where I am today, and I have to remember that because it truly is miraculous! So please – NEVER give up. seriously – coming from where I have come from, and talking to countless others who have overcome incredibly serious conditions, has inspired and moved me beyond words. You just have to believe – no, you have to KNOW – that your body is capable of healing and changing. And you have to FEEL it.
I would not be here today without some amazing people that have been placed in my life at important times. My family, thank you for financially supporting me in this healing, I know it’s been difficult.
My HNA teachers – no words. You carried me through one of the hardest times of my life in 2010, and I survived because of you. Thank you.
My friends and professors at Seattle U, you supported me in my initiating this change and through my sexual assaults. Thank you.
To those of you who picked me up randomly during 2013 – Autumn, Connor, Kieresten, Elyse, Ashley and anyone else – thank you. You gave me little snippets of light during the worst year of my life.
To all of the people I’ve met through these Dr. Joe workshops and the facebook group – you have moved me and inspired me beyond words, and have encouraged me to keep fighting. The love I feel from you is always with me. Especially Emily and Ken, you two have been such lights in my life the past month, I feel like I’ve known you too forever! Thank you.

Robbie – you deserve so much more than my words can express. You have not only supported me in this journey, but entered into it during a difficult time, when most people would’ve run away. Yet you stayed, learned and loved me and supported me across this river of change, and also initiated your own journey. Thank you.

And lastly, Joe -- words cannot express how much I love you. You have guided me, nurtured me, mentored me, in person and from the field, and have made me the young woman I am today. I love you beyond all time and space, forever and always.

And to anyone reading this – thank you for reading this, supporting me in my journey. And remember – THERE IS HOPE.