Andi has overcome and continues to overcome debilitating health issues that don’t necessarily have a specific diagnosis. Knowing that something is wrong with your body, but not having the ability to call it by name is a major challenge, a challenge that she navigates while raising her two young boys.
Before we started a family, I worked full time and always seemed to have a hard time balancing stress and life. I switched gears to become a freelance designer and struggle with boundaries and allowing worry to get the best of me. It’s really something I’ve had to work on since I was a small child. Anxiety and stress take over both physically and emotionally almost on a daily basis. It’s exhausting. As an adult I’ve incorporated as many tools as I can to get a handle on things. It never occurred to me that the inability to control the stress in my life would eventually break me. But it did in a very unsuspecting way.
I got pregnant with my first child quickly and we were over the moon excited. I had a normal pregnancy and read every book imaginable on childbirth. I was determined, I was informed, I was going to succeed. Two weeks before my due date, my blood pressure started to rise and eventually got to the diagnosis of pre-eclampsia. We read the literature and listened to our doctors. We really felt that we needed to induce. We felt that it was the best choice for us. After 36 hours of non-medicated labor I hadn’t progressed. At that point, we made the call. I was wheeled away for a c-section. I felt defeated. I felt like I had failed my child. I mourned the loss of the experience I was hoping for. Of course, we were beyond excited to have our first boy.
Two years later we were awaiting our second child. We had the same unexpected outcome. High blood pressure. Pre-eclampsia. C-section. This time was different, I felt prepared to engage in the decision making. It was therapeutic and a very good experience. After we brought our second child home is when my health started declining.
Three months postpartum, I found myself unable to get out of bed or off the couch. I had severe fatigue, my entire body was in pain, my teeth were becoming transparent and my thoughts were jumbled. I couldn’t take care of my family or even myself. I’ve never felt such a debilitating set of symptoms. I cried daily and was convinced I had some sort of terminal illness. I went to several doctors all with their own improper diagnosis of postpartum depression and the like. I knew that these didn’t fit. I knew there was something more. I kept searching and eventually found a doctor who saved me. I was diagnosed with malnourishment, leaky gut, and SIBO with the overlying understanding that stress was likely the cause of it all. I distinctly remember my doctor saying, ‘If you don’t learn how to breathe, you’re never going to be well’. Within three months of following a strict diet and taking supplements, I started to feel like I could function again.
‘If you don’t learn how to breathe, you’re never going to be well’
The stress of two pregnancies, two major surgeries and lack of sleep in such a short period of time contributed to my body’s inability to function properly. My stress hormones were at an all time high. Too much time in fight or flight will eventually break you, I’ve spend most of my life in that state. It was the lowest point I’ve experienced and continue to deal with it regularly. If I eat the wrong foods, take on too much work, or don’t get enough sleep it comes back. I have to be diligent. I have to take extra care with myself. I’m a wife, mother, and freelance designer. I’m constantly in the throws of a big project and meeting my family’s needs. The good news is… I’m learning. EVERY DAY. I go to yoga and make time for friends. I have a tattoo that reads BREATHE. I step away from work when I need to and shut it down completely when I need more.
Being present with my family is my main goal and to do that I need to feel well. It’s definitely a daily struggle. There are days when I don’t get out of my PJs and days when stress eats away at me. Some days, when all the cards align, I think… ‘man, I’m kicking ass at everything today.’ But I’m not perfect and I have no plans to be. I’m me… the version of myself that I need to be. I try to remind myself that it’s all about the journey and every day is a test of breathing, simplifying, and focusing on the things that matter while letting everything else fall away. It’s hard but I will persist. It’s worth it. I refuse to be on the sidelines of my life.
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