“Maybe you’ve never seen it,
Maybe you’ve never been through it,
It’s the only way to understand it.”
– “Convalescent” from Dredg’s El Cielo album
I get it. I really get it. All the suffering, confusion, emotion, helplessness, and aloneness that comes with chronic illness. I’ve experienced it. I’m still moving through it.
My intention in writing this is to share my experience in hopes that I feel more connected to my world after a very isolating period of time. My intention also is to help anyone who might be in chronic illness and to help make that a shorter journey for them.
While my journey has been 9 months so far, I know that many people spend many years in chronic illness, so I feel fortunate that I am finding mega tools to support myself, even though I spent countless dollars, time, and energy trying to fix myself.
In January of this year, I had come off a year of really intense physical work – I had been a traveling masseuse with Zeel & Soothe. While it was a really fun job, I was exhausted. Lugging a massage table & supplies around, driving hours upon hours to go see clients around DFW, and overexerting myself in my massage work. So when an opportunity for a “desk job” came around, one that really aligned with me and my purpose, I was all in for it.
Yet the same pattern of overexertion continued in the desk job starting with Week 1 and I got sick after my 1st week at the new job. It was a weird sickness – I had no cough, no sore throat, no fever, but after I would eat, I felt pressure in my head, my lymph nodes would swell, I had drainage at the back of my throat, and just felt awful and lethargic. When I didn’t eat, I felt mostly okay, but still lethargic. I thought it was just a weird flu or head cold.
A couple of weeks later I was still sick, so I finally did a Covid test in which it was “negative”. I didn’t know what the heck was going on but just thought my body was having trouble healing because of all the physical demands I had been under and now the mental demands I was currently under.
At the beginning of February we had a humongous snowstorm in Dallas in which the power went out for 36 hours. Under my bundle of blankets, I remember thinking to myself, “Thank God I’m not sick anymore,” so there was at least a week or so where I wasn’t having any symptoms. That soon changed.
Throughout February, I started noticing my body just feeling “bad” – I couldn’t settle my nervous system down, I felt sluggish, and I would have intense symptoms after eating. I’d immediately feel “swimmy” in my head where I couldn’t focus on anything (no mental task whatsoever), I’d get this intense pressure in my brain, my lymph nodes would swell up, my stomach would bloat up and move super slow. I felt I wasn’t soaking up nutrients well. At some point in February I got shingles on my belly (first time ever). My symptoms were worse after eating any kind of bread or anything fried, but I noticed the symptoms no matter what I ate. I couldn’t eat a grain of rice, literally, or a piece of broccoli without my body freaking out.
- Initiation of Doctors, Tests, & Treatments – I started to get really concerned about my symptoms, so I began to think about who I might go see. I called my acupuncturist and explained my symptoms. She told me she wouldn’t work with me until I saw a doctor for blood testing & scans, so at this point I began to freak out and spiral into the doctor world, because I felt there might be something seriously physically wrong. I first visited an urgent clinic, and they really had no tools or advice to help me. All they could do was refer me to a comprehensive doctor.
- Comprehensive Medical Doctor – I was really hopeful about this doctor because they had access to all the fancy tests and maybe I would find some answers. Before I went to the appointment, I went through a bagel drive-thru and ate bagel and cream cheese right before my appointment. When I was sitting on the doctor’s table, I started having severe brain fog, dizziness, and a really strong emotional mood swing from eating the bagel. I tried to explain it to the doctor that after eating bread it was the worst and that “I couldn’t process reality”. I explained to her that the words on the screen in front of me weren’t making sense, that I couldn’t process them. I explained all of the brain pressure and fatigue and anxiety that I had been experiencing. She did mention a potential of it being “post-viral syndrome” but she didn’t give any other suggestions around it. She ordered an Auto-Immune Panel, a Brain MRI, and comprehensive blood work. Welp, all came back “normal”. No auto-immune issues, no brain issues, no thyroid disorder, no celiac disease, no diabetes, no elevated white blood cells, no anemia, no anything. All was freakin’ normal, and I say it with this tone because I was seeking answers, and no answers came. There was no follow-up at all from this doctor after delivering the last test result, and there was no direct-line to talk to someone at the actual office (wtf), so I moved on.
At the beginning of March I decided to take a week off work to see if I could recover. Welp, no that didn’t help one bit. My nervous system stayed in overdrive the whole week off, and while I felt a tiny bit more rested after a week of no work, the symptoms were still there. At the end of March things started to get even more intense – I was incredibly fatigued, I would have pressure in my head as if my brain was pushing against my skull, I developed rashes on several places on my face, and my nervous system was in a frenzy.
- Acupuncturist – After I got all the test results back my acupuncturist was willing to work with me. She is very well-informed on Eastern medicine and was previously a doctor in China. When she was working on my body, she told me that my stomach was “angry” and that it was a nutrition issue. She recommended that I start incorporating a protocol of drinking a glass of hot water mixed with salt and then another glass of hot water mixed with sugar before ANY meal, in addition to stomach massage daily. This all did seem to help, but I still felt there was something wrong and that I should seek out more help.
- Dentist & Endodontic – At the same time I was having all of these symptoms, I was also having really bad tooth pain when I chewed. Getting this looked at led me into a root canal procedure. I was really hoping that some sort of infection was causing the rest of my symptoms and that by getting treated by the dentist I could sort it all out. But, nope. After the root canal, the pain in my mouth got less, but it still hurt when I chewed, and after 2 rounds of antibiotics and 1 round of steroids, the dentist was kinda dumbfounded what to do next and cracked up the tooth pain to be a case of chronic inflammation that would go away in time. Neither the antibiotics or steroids did anything to resolve any of my other symptoms, so I ruled out a tooth infection being the cause.
- IV Doctor – I tried an unconventional doctor who I had seen for ozone treatments years ago. He recommended a series of glutathione IVs. Immediately as I received the first IV, I felt the brain fog lift. And after a few treatments, I thought I was healed. For a week or so I was able to return back to normal activities. I started on glutathione pills and was able to manage my symptoms quite a bit with these, but over time they started to be ineffective no matter how many I took. I even tried the IVs again but they didn’t help me at all the 2nd go around.
By April, I was having severe neurological issues – I would eat and my whole world would disorient, my brain would flood with pressurizing inflammation, my emotional system was off the rails and I would have mood swings from intense anger to severe depression and anxiety, and I had twitches under my left eye and in my left leg. Everything, and I mean everything, became so unbearable. I couldn’t rest because my nervous system was in overdrive, so nothing felt enjoyable or restful. Even when I wasn’t eating, I started to have brain fog in which it was hard to focus on the words on the computer screen – everything looked “swimmy” on the screen and my brain started to feel incapable.
- Emergency Room – One night I felt pressure in my head so much that I drove myself to the emergency room. They did blood tests and an ultrasound of my liver & gallbladder, all which came back “normal”.
- Colonic – A colonic was helpful for an emotional release and gentle detox beforehand, but I didn’t notice any improvement of my other symptoms.
- H Pylori Test – I bought a lab exam online and did a breath test at a local lab. It came back negative.
- Covid Antibody – I went to the CVS and got a covid antibody test, in which it came back negative.
- Chiropractor #1– I saw an upper cervical chiropractor for several sessions as I thought there might be a misalignment in my neck as I had done so much massage work that I was concerned I jacked up my nerves or something. While the treatments did help bring clarity of mind temporarily, they didn’t help with my overall symptoms.
- Hospital Doctor – I went to see a doctor at an official hospital with hopes they would have some other idea of what was going on – I had this image of them being even more advanced and having more answers. But nope, after hearing all of my symptoms, they wanted to put me on anxiety medication. At first, when I was listening to the doctor tell me all about Lexapro and saying, “Let’s try the anxiety medication and see what’s left after that,” I was beginning to sway towards that way but then my better judgment kicked in and I told her, “I know this is not an anxiety issue. I’ve been able to handle much more stress than I’ve been under. Anxiety is NOT the cause.” After I stated these things really strongly, it’s like she began to listen deeper. I told her I feared I had meningitis because of the brain pressure I was experiencing, she did a few more tests on me to confirm that I didn’t and then sent me on my way. I will say, in the end I felt heard, but she just didn’t have the plan of action to truly support me.
- Gynecologist – I was concerned there might be female-issues going on, so I saw a gyno to do an annual exam, STD testing, and all came back normal. Honestly, that was such a relief. I didn’t want this kind of thing to be the cause!
- Chiropractor #2 – At the end of April, I began seeing a 2nd chiropractor. She genuinely helped me so much. I had brought to her the idea that I possibly had released a dormant virus through the trigger work (type of massage work) I was self-performing in Dec & Jan on my neck. I told her I had mono in high school and wondered if the epstein-barr virus could have been reactivated. She said that it was possible that a virus could be reactivated from that kind of work and I felt so validated in that. Her adjustments drastically helped my digestion and my fatigue. Yet, I was still having pretty severe symptoms after eating.
By May, I quit my job because my mind literally couldn’t handle it anymore – every time I’d jump on a work call or try to type up anything, my brain could not process it. Also, my “divinity connection” felt completely disrupted. How I used to tune into information was no longer accessible – I couldn’t tune into my source to discern. My brain could not handle it. It could not handle information, period. And if I tried to do a mental task, I’d have even worse symptoms the next day. And my physicality was not up to par either – I signed up for a series of yoga classes thinking it could help, but each time I went to a class my body rose with so much irritation and even rage. I stopped classes and decided I should rest for all of May. So I rested, but things didn’t improve at all, in fact it got worse. I was blacking out when I stood up, and my body couldn’t handle being vertical for long. It got to the point where my body was so completely drained it was hard to get out of bed. I had POTS & chronic fatigue. I felt even more fatigued after doing any sort of physical movement. Even making myself food or putting the dishes up was an intense task. I was experiencing post-exertional malaise – mentally and physically. I was suffering and bed-ridden for most of May. There was a moment where I felt momentum to “heal myself” and began to do healing sessions on myself and create my own “elixirs” for healing. I did feel some emotional/spiritual improvement from that, but not enough to move me forward into any relief of the symptoms.
- Functional Medicine Doctor #1 – I saw a functional doctor who charged $495 for 1 hour (I had reached a place of desperation). She had no comfort or answers either, and wanted to carry out 3 tests at $500 a pop and run me through a hyperbaric oxygen package which would have cost me hundreds of dollars. I was freaking out about finances at this point and was running out of my savings, so I denied all the suggested tests & treatments.
- Gastroenterologist – This doctor took months to see (gastros apparently are busy doctors), but this was the first doctor that I felt truly listened to me explain all of my symptoms. Albeit, at this point, I had them written down with timeframes for what happens at exactly what time after I eat something. The doctor recommend an endoscopy, and he said if that was normal then we would consider “whole body healing.” I was hopeful about the endoscopy because I was sure that some kind of physical issue was happening within my belly. But nope. They put me under, stuck a camera down to my stomach & upper intestines and all was normal. They took a biopsy and all came back normal too – no candida, no cancer, no nothing. When I got out of the procedure, I was gaining consciousness again, and mostly from the fentanyl they gave me prior I felt like I was on truth serum – I was being very real. The doctor came in to the room and told me that everything was normal and recommended anti-anxiety medication as the next step. That was his idea of treating the whole body…ooookay. I told him very frankly that I’m intuitive with my body and that I ask if something is good for it or not and Lexapro was definitely not good for it. I left that appointment with no answers, and a couple of psychotherapist referrals. I was feeling so defeated that these doctors wanted to push anxiety medication down my throat and call it done. So so defeated. I briefly started to believe that maybe I was crazy and was creating this all within my mind, but yet again, my inner knowing knew this was not the case, and I trekked on.
- Ivermectin & Long Covid Treatments – I had researched “long covid” throughout my illness and I had came across several YouTube videos & Reddit threads that at the time had me convinced that I had it (even though tests denied I ever had covid). The way people would describe their experience is exactly what I was going through. So I carried out one of the recommended treatment protocols for long-covid (involving Ivermectin & a bunch of supplements). I ordered Ivermectin (for humans) through a nurse in Florida in which a pharmacy from Florida shipped it to me. (There was very little access to this in Texas). And I ordered hundreds of dollars worth of supplements based on this protocol in hopes that they would fix me. But nope, they did not. I had imagined the Ivermectin had helped me, but I’m really not sure. Nevertheless my symptoms still carried on after treatment. I had asked my body several times, “Is this long-covid?” and it would say “No” very strongly every time. When I asked my body what was going on, I DID get that it was a reactivation of the epstein-barr virus, so that stuck with me but I didn’t know what to do about it besides give it time to pass.
By June, I felt in a whirlwind of no answers, no solutions, no direction to go in to heal myself 100%. My body felt like toxic sludge. Many times I thought I didn’t want to live anymore because of the intense discomfort I was feeling – life was not worth living like this. I was realizing what a lack of a social network I really had, how little I had built relationships with others, because I felt utterly alone and didn’t have many people I felt comfortable in reaching out to. I really got to experience the isolation, aloneness, & desperation one can feel in chronic illness. Even though my family was supportive, they couldn’t truly understand what I was going through. No one could. All I could do was go one moment to the next, in the midst of constant anxiety & over-analyzing of my symptoms and what path to go into next. I got to a breaking point where I figured it was time to adjust my diet. Up to this point I refused to make any food changes because I believed whole-heartedly that food wasn’t the problem – I had been able to eat anything and everything for years and never had any (obvious) issue. And also the fact that I would cook some broccoli and have the exact same symptoms. I just didn’t think food was the culprit. But I was feeling so terrible at this point, I was willing to try a food shift. So I went on the Auto-Immune Protocol (even though auto-immunity was ruled out by a blood test I still decided it would be helpful). By limiting out foods, I was able to figure out why the rashes on my face were being triggered and also why I’d get pressure in my head – it was because of histamine. If I ate leftovers (histamine grows on leftovers), I’d get a histamine reaction. If I ate a cut onion that was sitting in the fridge for a day (histamine grows on cut produce), I’d get a histamine reaction. And so histamine became a “thing” and I started to throw away leftovers and throw away produce once I cut it. I also started on some anti-histamines which helped my rashes and my brain pressure symptoms. So this got me 1 step closer to understanding things, yet I still didn’t know why my body was reacting so strongly to histamine.
- Functional Medicine Doctor #2 – In early June I went to go see office space as I was led to start building Ascending Hearts Healing (!!!). Even though I wasn’t well enough to see clients yet, I wanted to get out of my house and feel hopeful about things again. I was drawn to an office space in central Dallas and scheduled an appt to go see it. Upon entering the building, I saw the name of a functional medicine clinic that my chiropractor had recommended to me. After a war with myself at the thought of going to another doctor, I thought it was synchronistic and decided to give them a call. The 1st doctor I talked to spoke with me on the phone for 30 minutes for FREE. And the listening skills and the comfort of the info he gave me brought so much hope. I felt for once I understood some of the innerworkings of what could be happening with my body. The thing about seeing these doctors is I had to wait and wait and wait for the test results to come back, and in that time there wasn’t much solace. And when the first test results came back normal, there were more tests to be done. I spent hundreds of dollars at this doctor to try and figure out what was wrong with me. I did find out 2 things – my candida levels were twice their normal levels & my body was unable to process fat well. The doctor recommended an anti-candida diet and gave me several supplements that did seem to help me, but in time I realized candida was just an effect, not the root cause of my symptoms.
- Fermented Product Cleanse – There was a big hype in my social circles around this fermented product cleanse, so I tried a 7-day intestinal cleanse + 1-day a liver cleanse (where you drink oil + lemon juice) and both of them just made me feel even more horrible.
- Polyvagal – I started researching “polyvagal theory” and signed up for a program that worked with the inner ear that used subtle sounds to stimulate the vagus nerve. This was the first relief to my nervous system that I had in months, it helped me to calm the fuck down. It truly was a gift.
- Meditation – I signed up for a meditation course which broadened my awareness of what a meditation practice could be. I started incorporating 20min breath meditations 2x per day, and that helped a lot with my anxious thoughts and obsession with how to get out of the suffering I was in.
- Naturopath – In March after my endoscopy, I had called a friend in Austin for support – I just needed someone to listen to me with compassion. When we got on the phone, one of the first things she said was, “How can I support you?” I can’t even tell you how relieving this response was. To have someone ASK me how they can support me and not just immediately throw out advice or diagnoses – it was such a bright cloud in my doom and gloom. Anyways, after listening to me with a lot of love and compassion, I asked for her advice, and she recommended a naturopath in Austin. I was really resistant to the idea of driving down to Austin, and said I would look for someone local. That local search ended up being unfruitful so in June I was able to get an appt with my friend’s Naturopath in Austin. It was nothing short of a miracle to see him. He really listened to me and understood what I was going through. He felt like such a calm, loving presence and I felt God working in him. When he told me that he was going to do a “nervous system reset” for me, I felt so completely relieved that someone saw exactly what I needed. And after some taps and eye movements and body movements, my nervous system was truly reset, and for about 20 minutes I felt what it was like to feel my vibrant Rachel self again – I briefly came out of my hopeless fatigue and into my talkative inquisitive wondrous self. It helped me to remember what it was like to feel normal again and to realize just how sick I had been. After the reset, he muscle tested me for supplements and said what was making me feel so sick was a staph infection (he said this had formed because of food poisoning), along with H Pylori (even though physical tests had negated that) which was causing low stomach acid. He gave me several rounds of protocols of supplements which really helped me to bring me out of the toxic sludge feeling I was in and into a foundation of stability. Yet, I was still having issues when I ate food.
By July, with diet changes, new supplements, and new histamine awareness, I was coming out of bed-ridden mode and starting to feel well enough to be up and about. I joined a group workout gym and I started building up my physical endurance again (in which I had to pace myself very slowly). The fatigue was improving, but I was still having brain fog and nervous system issues. And I became terrified of having a “bad day”. I was learning that the “safest” foods I could eat were meat and veggies. So I decided to go on an solely a meat & veggies diet. Again, I felt my symptoms improve, but I would still have intense reactions some days and not sure the cause was. And the histamine issue was especially frustrating – if I ate histamine-triggering foods (i.e. canned tomatoes) or left meat thawing in the fridge too long (builds histamine), I’d feel absolutely terrible. I was starting to walk on egg shells with food. It was this dance all through July of feeling good one moment, and feeling sick the next moment.
By August, I started to become so paranoid about what I was eating – my meat & veggies were still causing me issues, no matter how histamine-free or simple it was. And at this point in time, my body started to reject meat, and my body was asking for “all vegetables.” I thought, “How the heck am I going to eat only vegetables?! Only vegetables?!” About half-way through this vegetable week, I rebelled. I so desperately wanted to feel normal, I went to the movies and got a small popcorn. It was pure comfort food. The night of the popcorn at home in bed I had an extreme reaction with intense inflammation in my brain and nervous system. I was such in overdrive and in such in a fit of extreme anger and irritation that I cried out to God, “WHY HAVEN’T YOU HELPED ME?!!! WHY HAVEN’T YOU SENT ME HELP?!!! WHY WON’T YOU LET ME HEAL!!!!???” And immediately after that release of rage, God gave me the name, “Medical Medium.” I had seen a few mentions of Medical Medium here and there, but had not considered looking into it until God told me. And so I looked at the website and bought a book that called out to me called “Cleanse to Heal”. It was (quite literally) a God-send. It has taught me so much about the cause of my symptoms & so many truths. Finally, I had answers. It confirmed my intuition all along that the cause of this all was the re-emergence of the epstein-barr virus. I immediately went on one of the cleanses. It gave me some super awesome tools in order to eat the “all vegetables” diet that my body was asking for but also incorporating fruits too! I had been so paranoid about fruit because of the candida thing, but I started incorporating them again because I believed in the idea that fruit could help me heal. I learned that I really love bananas! And all kinds of fruit. I learned that I really love steamed potatoes, and even steamed green vegetables. I gained so much hope that I could feed my body what it was asking AND also make it yummy and fulfilling. I also decided to get off ALL of the supplements I was on and start fresh.
And here I am today, in September, after implementing several suggestions from Medical Medium literature. I can hear my body more, it’s clearer and its voice is stronger. I am incorporating so many healing fruits, veggies, & herbs and some really awesome supplements. I’m also learning to make it my own, in order to cut costs, but also because only my body & divinity knows what is truly right for me in any given moment. I am still healing, but I feel better than I have in these 9 months, and I KNOW continuing to listen to my body & following through will bring me to 100% healing. I can feel my body healing itself.
I can honestly say that I don’t regret having to have gone through this journey. Because in the end I am a healthier, happier self. All of this learning will last me a lifetime and beyond.
I don’t think I would have been able to start this new practice of Ascending Hearts Healing without this journey, at least not in this timeframe. My body was not clear enough. I was still in the midst of caffeine addiction and food addiction, unable to feel grounded in my body. And I had unhealthy overworking patterns playing out that were keeping me stuck.
Now, my body is clearer, more stable. I feel more present in myself, more motivated in my spirit to expand. I have been telling God that I want to be closer with him/her, and I know that more beauty is coming for me there. I also have made physical exercise and meditation a daily routine and that is adding some incredible momentum.
The Next Chapter
I’ve had the idea for Ascending Hearts Healing as a practice for awhile now, but one thing that I felt limited around was the fact that I didn’t understanding “physical illness” and felt I wouldn’t be able to help people with that. Now, I definitely can. Because I’ve been through it, I’ve traversed worlds of doctors and systems. And learned so much about how to navigate it all. I didn’t know how much of a “click” this was to me forming this practice.
And now I feel I can move on, I’m ready to hold space for healing and beyond. I’m ready for this practice.
How can I support you?