Mistakes, Missteps, and Not Going It Alone.
I have been absent from the internet world for over a year now. There's little that I find less thrilling than reading the reasons why someone disappears from the blog world, so, in short: I felt unauthentic in what I was doing over at brittanylynnkriger.com and, frankly, uninspired. So I devoted myself to finding what would inspire me again, and I left my blog untouched.
Brief highlights reel of the "quest for inspiration":
- painted. Not great works, but I threw paint on canvases.
- cooked and tried new recipes.
- did yoga teacher training.
- built a new website.
- toyed with moving cross country again.
- decided to stay put.
- started a brand new career.
- developed and began selling my gluten free cornbread mix.
- was diagnosed with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea.
Out of all the soul searching: the beautiful vistas of Provence, the sunrise in Morocco, the painting, the journaling, the reading, the self study in yoga, etc... Out of all of those incredible experiences... the thing that has lit the spark again?
The danged Hypothalamic Amenorrhea diagnosis.
I guess that's the definition of a blessing in disguise?
Ain't it the best thing ever that it's usually the bumps in the road that inspire us to take action rather than the fun, footloose and fancy free things?
If you've been with me for a while and can remember way back to my high volume blogging days, you may recall: I'm a firm believer that health is a journey and not a destination.
As a certified health coach who is passionate about helping others heal themselves with food and lifestyle (which, by the way does not make me think that I'm equal to a doctor or a nutritionist), by default, my urge is to craft an image of excellent health, glowing skin, and carefree inner peace beauty....
But I'm on a path just like everyone else, and this is a wake up call for me that I have been coasting and riding on fumes for too long.
In other words, my hypothalamus (tee-tiny gland in the brain) has essentially shut down. My hypothalamus should be producing LH & FSH (luteinizing hormones and follicle stimulating hormones), but it, in an act of self preservation, has decided that shutting down operations for the time being is the best course of action for my bod. My hypothalamus hit the red button to STOP EVERYTHING.
Much like Paris is August, my hypothalamus has locked its doors for a little R&R beyond the city walls.
Honestly... This is not particularly shocking.
I have known something was amiss for a long while. My body has been talking to me and telling me something is wrong for several years now.
In short... I have not been honoring my body.
Phase one of my health journey started when I cut out gluten, dairy, and meat in an effort to reduce symptoms like chronic migraines, chronic fatigue, abdominal pain, and quarterly sinus infections. I chose to go solo on this journey, using myself as a test subject for all that I was learning in my health coach training program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
The symptoms I mentioned above cleared up. No more migraines. No more abdominal pain. No more sinus infections, and I was even able to throw away the allergy medicine I'd been taking daily for as long as I could remember.
But then, three years ago, one year after making that huge dietary change to vegetarianism with no alcohol, gluten, dairy, or soy, my Aunt Flow decided to stop visiting.
Do you hate the term Aunt Flow? If you do, this is your warning that I much prefer it to "period" or "menses" and will continue to use it.
You see, it would appear that Aunt Flow had grown quite accustomed to the Standard American Diet. I cut that monthly visitor off from her favorite foods, along with the rest of my body, cold turkey. While this dietary shift was a cure for many ills (and deviating from the Standard American Diet was a beautiful thing in many ways) it was executed poorly.
I essentially shocked the crap out of my system.
I didn't have a health coach, a doctor, or a nutritionist guiding me. I flew this extreme airplane trip solo; no navigator, co-pilot, or ground control to communicate with.
Without batting an eye, I bid a slightly tearful buh bye to the bread and the pasta. The Cheerios and the taqutios. The bottomless brunches (both the Eggs Benedict and the mimosas) and the late night nachos. The pizza and the ice cream occupied no more space in my belly.
There was no easing into it.
I didn't stick my toe in the water or ease my limbs in slowly. I ripped off my clothes and took a cannon ball into the deep end.
We could have a nice long conversation about the pros and cons of those two opposite sides of the coin, but ultimately neither is better than the other. They're just different.
My side of the coin, the cold turkey side, is in part what's brought me to this diagnosis.
At first, I felt amazing. The flood of these "real", whole, from the earth foods knocked my socks off! Like I said, the symptoms of which I complained cleared up, and I had an incredible amount of energy.
I felt like a mother-truckin' rock star.
But now, four years later? Hello, Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. It's nice to meet you. You explain so much. Like... why I've been so tired, uninspired, and lethargic. Why Aunt Flow is a distant memory. Why silent, un-noticeable, symptom free things are happening below the surface (i.e. the increased risk for osteoporosis despite the fact that I do tons of bone building activities and eat lots of calcium rich foods).
I'm going to call you Ha-HA, because to me it's ironic that your acronym is what I so often type in texts and messages to indicate the sound of laughter.
But now my hypothalamus is saying to me loud and clear: "who's laughing now???"
Well... I mean. I'm not.
I'm sure glad to have a diagnosis, which gives me an end game to craft a plan for... But there has not been much laughing.
The first thing my doctor said to me when I answered the phone with my lab results was, "Hi, Brittany. How ya doing?"
To which I responded... "Well... To be honest... I was doing pretty great today.... But now I'm a little nervous because, you see, you called me..." (She had indicated she would only call me directly if there was an issue.)
And let me take a minute to say: my doctor was LOVELY. Sometimes I get a little down on our medical system, but she has been great in explaining everything and allowing me to ask a million and one questions, as I am wont to do. I am grateful for a doctor who listens.
She also kept saying my name, which I found strangely comforting. Is that something they teach you in doctor school? "While delivering bad news, repeat the patient's name to excess, both to remind her of her humanity and to keep her grounded. Otherwise she may completely lose her head."
She then proceeded to mention things like:
- Estrogen levels on the floor.
- Menopausal level. (Just what every 30 year old woman wants to hear.)
- Want kids? Better head straight to a fertility specialist!
What ensued was a long conversation. She recommended taking birth control, something I am super not on board with (for me, personally; this is not a judgement or opinion of what is right for you or anyone else). She's worried about my bones. Osteoporosis. Soooo... Essentially, if I don't get my estrogen levels up, I face wibbly wobbly bones and a forever empty womb.
I expressed my concerns about the pill. About how I'd rather not jump right into medication. How I'd rather try changing my diet and my lifestyle, first.
Because, y'all, that's what The Soul Food Project is all about.
A quick google search was all I needed to do to find a multitude of women who had the same exact diagnosis and reaction. And it felt GREAT to not be special. To know that there are countless other women who have gone through the same conversation/flood of emotions. To know there are many women who have felt the way I do, right now.
Women diagnosed with ha-HA are typically type-A "canon ball into the deep end" ladies who have attempted to enforce control over their lives with food and exercise. Some have experienced eating disorders (which I've shared the struggles with body image and disordered eating I experienced in my mid-20s and will probably live with 'til the day my body is no longer my house) and some have not.
If you've read my little "about me" section, you know this describes my experience. If you haven't... trust me. It does. I identify with these women.
I take comfort in the fact that many of them healed themselves without taking any medication.
In six months I go back for more blood work to check out my levels. I fully intend to heal myself with a combination of the right foods in the right amounts, the right exercise in the right amounts, and overall conscious living. (You better believe I will be meditating on my hypothalamus working, functioning, and sending out those hormones!)
I'm sharing this stage of my journey because I know how much finding those other women on the Internet with ha-HA helped me. I'm not special or going through any particularly life-threatening diagnosis, but that does not mean it isn't valuable to share.
Especially since the last time I encountered a similar medical situation, I decided to go it alone. And now... well, now I see that was a less than wise choice. Hindsight. 20/20, man.
And before I go, for today, I'll be honest... At first I felt embarrassed. How can I help other people with their health if I myself took such a large misstep? Cue dramatic music: I almost wanted to call off The Soul Food Project.
I'll take this opportunity to quote one Mr. James Joyce:
Mistakes are the portals of discovery.
This is merely an opportunity to grow and learn more, and it would be cowardly to hide and pretend that everything is perfect sunshine, rainbows, and Leprechaun gold. I'm not perfect, and I don't expect anyone else to be.
Not to mention... The Internet is one hell of an accountability partner.
So, here we go. Engaging the next stage of this journey. I'll invite you along for the ride, continuing to share Soul Food with you in the form of: recipes, yoga, and what I learn.
Progress, not perfection. Expansion is followed by contraction. It would appear that I've been contracting for a long period of time. Spring is here, and it's time to GROW. <insert more metaphors/cliches that definitely apply right now.>
And I'll spare no expense or gory detail, just like Jurassic Park.