My Wellness Transition
Hi, my name is Kelly Robbins. I’m a gal who grew up in the town Kalamazoo, Michigan — yes, there really is a Kalamazoo!
The only girl in the family, I was raised with three brothers by parents who were both math teachers. Our home was filled with math discussions and number puzzles; boy, you had to be patient with the math lectures!
Luckily, we all managed to meet the expectations of our parents, and each one of us eventually pursued a career in math or in a field related thereto, such as computer science.
Life is really good
So, there I was married to my wonderful husband Jeff, my high school sweetheart and the statistician in the family. And I was blessed with two beautiful, bright, energetic, creative, amazing daughters; I couldn’t believe my luck!
One of my daughters loved to work with young kids and was an amazing nanny, while the other was an incredible nurse in a step-down unit at the University of Michigan Medical Center.
Like many people of my generation, I graduated high school and went off to college with big dreams of what I might do and who I might be. I got a dual Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Computer Science and landed my first job in computer programming.
I had lots of ambition and a desire to make my mark in the world of computing. I took new jobs to advance and, just when I felt I had learned all I could at one job, I’d move to the next (about every 3 years).
I still wanted more, so off to school I went to get a Master’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering so I could advance again. Through it all, I seemed to thrive on the constant bustle of our homework, school, leader of two girl scout troops, gymnastics/softball/field hockey/marching band events with the girls, softball league at work, hobbies like quilting/knitting/scrapbooking, water skiing/fireworks/sunbathing at Grandma and Grandpa’s lake house, and more. I felt I had it all – and I loved juggling it all!
Then, something happened
The company I worked for started a series of layoffs. A new round seemed to happen every 4-6 months, and the stress of this started to weigh on me. There was a lot of fear and apprehension in our household, as we depended on my income to maintain our lifestyle at the time.
Then, the announcement came that the company was filing for bankruptcy and restructuring. The Dot-Com Bubble, in general, was crashing. While looking for a more secure job to replace the one at the failing company, recruiters had no sympathy for my job search; I at least HAD a job, even if just barely.
I felt stuck and frustrated, just waiting for the worst to happen. Eventually, I did find another job but jumped from the frying pan and into the fire – the next job environment was in turmoil, lacked people and equipment to do the work at hand, and the leadership liked to pit employees against each other in an attempt to promote “productivity”.
Just plain quitting didn’t appear to be a “good” option since family expenditures still relied on my income. I felt trapped in a negative, high-pressure situation. Other family issues, conflict at work, long hours on the job (typically 70-hour weeks), and the kids’ many activities were beginning to feel overwhelming, out of control, and no longer fun. I was quickly losing the joy I had previously felt in life.
The stress compounds
Soon, I began to come home from work exhausted. Out of gas and emotionally drained, I would fall asleep for a few hours immediately after getting home. I would then get back up and struggle to do what I needed to do to finish work, cart the kids around, feed them, and do household chores.
I would then be up all hours of the night making up for the work I hadn’t gotten done during the day, or I would jump on my sewing machine to make quilts to stop the thinking; the thinking that was going on in my head and keeping me up when I should have been sleeping.
I started getting irritated at my oncall pager which would go off at two in the morning – with the expectation that I could get up and fix a downed computer system and actually have my wits about me! Then, I found myself angry at the pager, even throwing it against the wall in the hope it would smash into pieces and I would have an excuse to avoid my work.
I was getting short with my family. I didn’t have time to discuss our disagreements properly; I was exhausted and couldn’t think through issues clearly, existing as I was in a brain fog. Then, I started getting cold hands and feet all the time, fighting with my family over the thermostat setting as a result.
My hair became really dry and started falling out, clogging the shower drain at times. My nails became brittle, cracked and chipped. I was no longer interested in my hobbies and other fun interests; it was all too much like work, and I was exhausted all the time.
Eventually, I fell into depression. I didn’t have a clear reason for being depressed, but I would burst out crying, and felt a lot of sadness. I wanted to avoid everyone and hide away because my sadness was making me really negative, turning people away.
Nothing made sense any more; nothing was fun, and everything was going wrong.
Then, came the diagnosis
After a visit to the doctor’s, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. For the first time, I felt I had a possible explanation for my symptoms, and hoped that a magic pill would fix everything. The doctor prescribed the standard medication, Synthroid, which I would now need to take for the rest of my life, making everything A-OK again.
But everything wasn’t okay. The symptoms continued and I still felt tired despite blood work indicating that my thyroid hormone levels had returned to normal.
Based on a recommendation from a friend, I asked for a different prescription, Armour Thyroid, a natural thyroid desiccate. I had better results for a year or two but then fell into the tired symptoms again.
I saw several more doctors, and none of them could offer any solutions. All of the blood work and tests indicated that everything was “normal”, despite how I was feeling. I began losing faith in the medical profession and felt as if the life was literally being sucked out of me. I felt like I was very slowly dying; like one system after another in my body was slowly shutting down.
It was at this point that I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease, which is an autoimmune disease that attacks and slowly destroys the thyroid. I might feel good for a few days, then feel awful the next day, depending on how the autoimmune system was affecting my thyroid.
Despite all of this, the doctor told me that there was no different care to be given.
From bad to worse
Eventually, I was struggling just to get out of bed in the morning. I would wake up at maybe 9 am, head pounding as if I had a hangover, lacking energy as if I’d had a bad flu for a week. If I was lucky, I could get a few things done by late afternoon. If I was lucky.
I left the IT industry that I had worked so hard and diligently to advance in to take up a direct sales job. I knew this would enable me to work flexible hours or even NO hours if I couldn’t get up in the morning. I also knew I wouldn’t get fired if I didn’t get up!
But, my family was not impressed; they didn’t understand my sleeping, and it began to be interpreted as laziness. No one understood why I couldn’t just “get my act together”. I was no longer contributing to the family finances even though I was in a direct sales job, and I was not doing well in my career because I was sleeping so much.
I couldn’t understand why doctors didn’t know how to help me. Aren’t they supposed to have all the answers? And why didn’t my family and friends understand my struggle? Why didn’t they believe me and my symptoms? It hurt to be so misunderstood.
I felt like I was letting everyone down because I couldn’t be there for them. But I also felt that no one believed me. I was feeling very, very alone. How could I find someone to help me if no one believed there was something wrong with me? Would I really have to keep living this way for the rest of my life?
A glimmer of hope
Then, a girlfriend introduced me to a holistic practitioner who had “healed” her own thyroid cancer using natural methods. As a math/science person, I was skeptical, but I wanted to believe it was true! I literally told her that, “I’d eat worms if they would help me feel better!” I delayed seeing this holistic practitioner because her services weren’t covered by insurance, and I wasn’t making enough money to cover her fees. My husband, being a math and science professional his whole life, was skeptical and resisting this option, too.
There had to be a doctor who knew what to do! Would I dare spend the money on this person and risk losing it for no gain? On the other hand, would I dare NOT get her help, and risk passing over something that might actually work?
Where is the “pill”?
I eventually went to see this holistic practitioner. She relayed her own story and her own struggles with her thyroid. I felt like she was telling me my own story; that she “got” me. For the first time in a long time, I felt understood. She helped me to change how I looked things, such as food in the grocery store. She taught me about foods that nourish the thyroid and those that slow it down.
The changes she recommended were challenging. First, I had to remove gluten and dairy. Wow, that alone involves a lot of changes. The number of foods that I ate at the time with those two items in them made my head spin. This meant no bread, pasta, doughnuts, bagels, cookies, crackers, milk, pudding, sauces; “that’s crazy!”, I thought. But, she assured me that with my autoimmune issues, the gluten and dairy were destroying my thyroid.
Also, soy was blocking my thyroid hormone production. The “soy is healthy movement” has led to soy being found in many foods on the market, so this limited my food choices still further. I did some digging on the internet and found that there was some support for the ideas my new holistic practitioner was suggesting. So, I was willing to try them; heh, and she still wasn’t asking me to eat worms!
My holistic practitioner also used reflexology and message on certain points of my feet to encourage change and healing throughout my body. She performed cranial-sacral work to balance bones, nerves, fluids, and the connective tissues of the cranium and spinal area, thereby reducing my headaches and even menstrual cramps. She used NAET allergy elimination techniques to help me overcome allergies that had plagued me for a good portion of my life. She taught me about the meridians of the body and how, if one of them were blocked, certain organs could suffer and the body could exhibit symptoms.
Even more fascinating was the muscle testing to determine which of my systems were out of balance and what was the best method to bring that system in balance.
Critically, she also introduced me to the power of affirmation and positive thinking, and I was beginning to come out of my fog. I was beginning to feel better. I started having more “good days”, and I was seeing slow progress.
My holistic practitioner reassured me by telling me that, “Even though progress is slow, it was years leading up to your condition. It might take a few years to heal, but your body knows how to heal itself. You just need to support the process.”
Change isn’t always easy
Unfortunately, I had to make all these changes on my own and with a lot of roadblocks along the way. The science person in my husband was looking for proof that this was all going to work, but I couldn’t give it to him. I had no science to offer. But, I pushed forward trying to make the changes I need to make, despite feeling like a salmon swimming upstream. I felt very alone in my struggle to find health, but I HAD to try my practitioner’s ideas. She believed in my struggle, and she had been there too. She could tell me how I was feeling even before I spoke.
And, I cannot emphasize this enough: For the first time in a long time, I felt like someone understood what I was going through, and this alone brought a glimmer of hope that I might not have to stay this way forever.
The struggle to stay on track
While I was slowing gaining confidence that I could recover from my struggles, it wasn’t easy to keep going against the grain and sticking to the program.
I fell back into old habits — OFTEN! And I faced constant hurdles: How do I travel with my new diet? How do I keep fresh foods in the house all the time? How do I follow my new diet when I’m visiting others? How do I follow my diet when there are free cookies and doughnuts everywhere?
I kept trying, though. I kept making little changes that soon became new habits. I was gradually gaining confidence that I could make ALL the changes my holistic practitioner had suggested, and that I could become well again. I was beginning to come back to life and feel like I had a life to live again. This new person who had come into my life, this holistic practitioner, really WAS helping me to get my life back.
Soon, I was feeling well enough that I began to advance quickly in my direct sales job, and even earned a new car!
Still more to do
While I had only limited energy to work and make a living, I was able to manage my time on my own terms, taking breaks and naps, eating special food, and having downtime as required. Energy for chores around the home was still limited, as over-extending myself still risked the need for a few hours’ nap or even a couple of days in bed.
Exercise was still out of the question – it totally made me crash, and I would sleep for several days afterwards.
More help on the way!
Having made it to that stage of my journey to recovery, I next met a doctor with speciality in a new field called functional medicine. In an online video, he described 30 different ways that our thyroid could be struggling to work – 30! Most doctors treat one of the 30. He described symptoms that one might feel and related them to other organs and hormone systems in the body that might be under duress.
I felt another level of “being understood” as he described one problem after another that I was experiencing yet still had not resolved. His work also took me closer to the science and evidence that my husband wanted to see and hear.
Functional doctors are different
Traditional doctors use a set of “normal range” values for blood tests results to determine when your body is so out of balance, and you need drugs. But, there is a more narrow range of blood values, called a “functional normal range”, that describes when a person is suffering symptoms but is not sick enough to be prescribed medication.
Functional doctors identify, through blood work, the organs/systems in our body that are not performing optimally, and are operating outside their functional normal range. They also provide the nourishment and support needed to get these systems back to optimal health BEFORE drugs are needed and health declines so far that the problem is too difficult to rectify, and only can be “managed”.
The functional doctor also pointed out that with a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s Disease, or an autoimmune condition, there are tests to determine which foods trigger the autoimmune response (e.g., gluten and dairy, which trigger my body to attack my thyroid). And there is medical evidence to support this and to back up the treatments offered.
The greatest blessing in all of this, looking back, is that my first holistic practitioner started me down the right path. Without her, I wouldn’t have been able to get to this new point of health and hope.
Past trauma and emotions affect health
As I was discovering new methods of healing, I was also discovering my calling in life. It soon became apparent that I was a natural at life coaching. I signed up for a Neural Linguistic Programming (NLP) course to take this insight further.
During an intensive week of training and practising, I eliminated some serious trauma from my past and cleared some emotional pain I didn’t realize was stuck deep inside me. It was all very fascinating and liberating. But the real shock came when I visited my doctor, and blood tests showed that I was able to cut my medication in half! Did my work to heal past trauma and painful past emotions really have a positive impact on my health?
I learned another life coach technique, Advanced Clearing Energetics (ACE), and dealt with more pain from my past with a combination of NLP and energy work. Again, my health improved. I was sleeping better at night; sleeping less during the day; walking; my brain was working better; I was feeling happier. Things were definitely changing.
Taking the next step
Next, I entered the world of energy healing. What? Another method of healing I haven’t heard about? I learned about the chakra system of Eastern medicine and the ways in which each chakra relates to our health. I learned how blockages in our energy fields or auras can keep us from good health, and how to clear these blockages and move forward.
After working with many doctors, holistic practitioners, life coaches, and energy healers, I discovered that health is more than taking a pill or having surgery and getting better!
While surgery and medicine have a very important role to play in health, there are many more options such as nutrition, massage, detoxing, self-care, self-talk, message, trauma release, energy healing, and more!
Now, as I coach my clients, I help them to see the many options that are available which can help them create true healing for themselves.
I am not a doctor, but I am a guide who helps people with diseases and/or chronic health conditions become aware of the many choices they have available to them. As a health/life coach, I aim to facilitate the transformation people are seeking as they try to improve their health and their lives. I help individuals heal their past traumas, and release trapped emotions which prevent the body from doing what it does best: heal itself.