What everyone wants to hear--who I am on paper....
I am a licensed clinical social worker, author, and competitive International Latin Ballroom Dancer who is passionate about the integration of social work, medical models, consumer care, and empowerment. As a University of California, Davis Regent's scholar alumna and recipient of CSU, Chico's MSW graduate student of 2006 award, my drive for academic excellence has enhanced my proficiency in the topics of autoimmune disease and trauma. My own struggles with autoimmune disease and trauma have resulted in decades of study in how to heal from the inside out on all dimensions-physical, emotional, and person-specific. I have a particular interest in alternative healing modalities. I am certified in NAET (Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Technique), Reiki, and Traditional Chinese medicine.
What I want people to know....
A mentor of mine told me years ago, you don't have to go through something personally in order to have empathy for others--you can still be a good social worker regardless. But to truly "get it"-- so much that you have a depth of understanding of another person that goes through your bones--"It doesn't hurt to have been there yourself." I believe this is true.
The most valuable training I have has been learned through my personal struggles with chronic illness and experience with numerous healing modalities. These experiences strengthened my expertise in the many layers of complexity involved in autoimmune disease. The mind-gut connection is a personal interest of mine: I have Crohn's disease, and my background as a clinical social worker draws my attention to the intimate relationship the gut and brain have with each other.
My passion to create this website and to share my story came from decades of hardships--all of which have brought me to this very moment in my life. Today I can embrace what I have learned from my struggles. This allows me to share with others ways to embark upon their own healing journeys.
We all have our stories. Stress is a part of everyone's life. My story isn't easier or harder than most--it is just MINE. In order to understand the evolution of my disease process, it was essential that I go back to the beginning of my life and understand events that influenced who I am today and undoubtedly had an impact on my immune system.
I was born and raised in a small rural community. An only child, I saw my parent's struggle with poverty and economic instability and eventually a divorce that added to existing hardship. I spent the rest of my life absent my biological father. Adversity was the norm-domestic violence, trauma and abuse, and survival comprised my childhood. I lived in a very high stress environment--so much that I didn't know how to function without feeling adrenaline surge through my veins like I was being chased by a tiger. This continued decades after I was truly "safe" from any emotional or physical harm. My body couldn't tell the difference. I lived in a state of fear.
Trauma caused me to develop beliefs about myself that weren't true, but were necessary for survival. I believed I was unworthy of love, incapable of happiness, not good enough at anything I did, and a burden.
I tried to cope with the unsafe environment of my childhood, but I was too young to have words or the maturity to express myself. My feelings were trapped in my body and it felt like I lived outside of my own body. This had terrible consequences for me: My mental health and emotional spirit suffered as I endured anorexia and piercing anxiety.
There is only one year of my life that has been free from illness. This was the first year of my life. After one year old, I dealt will illness every day. I had numerous infections, impacting every system of my body. In fact, as an adult, I went through my lifetime of records and was able to track each and every illness AND prescribed medication. By the time I reached my late teens, I had been prescribed hundreds of antibiotics. I didn't get any better, instead I worsened--I was diagnosed with too many labels to count. None of these labels helped me heal--in fact they made me more sick as I incorporated them into my identity. I became the labels and lost "me." None of the many physicians knew what to do except to give me more antibiotics and pain medication--The focus was to do anything to rid me of symptoms. As illness worsened, the diagnostics increased. As a last resort to find the origin of my problems, an exploratory procedure was ordered. This resulted in my illiac vein being cut in multiple places--I almost lost my life. But, this was not my life's path. I am alive today.
Aside from almost losing my life, there were many other losses in my life--these losses became messengers to me that something in my life was not ok. It was time for me to change. There were opportunities for me to view my life differently. I had choices and opportunities to embrace true healing-both my physical and emotional healing. They were both equally important.
There was no prescription or intervention that would come close to the healing power of relationships in my life. These relationships helped me connect to my body, my true nature, and my strength. With this, true healing became possible. These relationships were with me all throughout my life and they are the reason I am still here today! Despite struggles, there were nuggets of wisdom and hope around me--all I had to do was find a way to let them in. Not to mention, there were aspects of my childhood that built true resiliency within me: education, music, my mother's stability, elders, and pets. No matter how bad a situation, there are always blessings, even if one has to look real hard for them. I see this now.
After decades of being labeled, the devastation of medical mishaps, not feeling understood, too many antibiotics, and my attempts to overcome the side effects of childhood trauma, I thought I had two choices: Give up or Give in. I chose neither. I could no longer accept that physicians, who I was taught were the experts in my body, knew what was best for me. I also could not accept that science, statistics, and education could affirm without a doubt that I was never going to get well. I rid myself of the label "incurable." This required a lot of hope. Even more, it required a willingness to be open-minded. I had to challenge myself to look beyond what was in front of me and to employ the miracle of me and the wisdom of my body--the capacity of healing with this new mindset was endless. This single most important realization-- calling upon MYSELF as an expert in my own body--helped me find my own voice and to listen to the answers to my health struggles that existed only within me. My focus became to connect the dots of my life and to embrace integration of ALL parts of myself-environment, lifestyle, and experiences that contributed to a disease process raging in my body. All of me required attention, compassion, and help.
Healing is a lifelong journey. I will never be done with healing because as humans there is always more to do. There are many days I struggle with symptoms and flare-ups--some days are better than others. However, my days of feeling good exceed my days of not. I am able to participate in my life in ways I never imagined possible. I have to continuously prioritize the needs of my body without fail--because if I don't, it will remind me with symptoms. However, I am more confident than ever in what my body needs in order to be stable, and I am driven to always seek out new treatments that fit what I know about me. I know with certainty there is no one-size-fits all solution. Knowing this, I am more patient and able to be listen to what my body is asking of me. I am pleased to say that I have never taken any immunosuppressant drugs to treat the Crohn's disease or autoimmune conditions. I have never had any reparative surgeries or resections. I still have all of my organs intact. My emotional well-being is the best it has ever been, and my life is rich with healthy relationships and passions that contribute to the strength of my body.
Having an autoimmune disease has made me more aware of small blessings in my life and to note subtle improvements that over the course of my lifetime have been profound. I am not a statistic--I have created my own.
Beyond any labels and certainly beyond illness...