At 15, I lost my ability to walk normally down the school hallways. My mom had to cut up my food for me because I couldn’t grip silverware. I lost my ability to close my hands into fists, and at night I had to wear these god awful arm/hand braces to keep my fingers from completely curling into my palms. The severity of arthritis progressed rapidly. Having grown up active, and then playing high level volleyball in high school, I was in shock, terrified, and overwhelmed with depression.
I had a hard time processing what was happening to me, and why it was happening. I remember laying on my mom’s bed, my head in her lap, she stroking my hair as I cried, and pleading to her, “why me?” She said, “I don’t know why honey, but I do know that one day you will know, and it will all make sense.” What she said to me at the time made me angry, because it gave me no resolution.
Over a decade ago, I didn’t know whether that was actually true or not. In the past years as I’ve continued my own health journey, and continued to connect more to myself, I’ve continued to help women in their own health and happiness. And it has become more clear to me that this is my why. This is truly why I got sick to begin with, to have this gift of a relationship with myself and to guide women into transforming their own.
This hasn’t been the only time in my life where I’ve had that same question. Wondered the reasons for life experiences, and every single time I remember that it’s not about having the answers in the moment. It’s about living your life in a way that allows you to make sense of them later, and that comes from the relationship within.
Steve Jobs gave this famous speech called connecting the dots, and what he talks about is the great part of life that we all seem to forget. We all want to know why something is happening to us right now, when the reality is that we can’t connect the dots to make sense of our life until we’re able to look back on it and reflect.
It’s like connecting the dots on a map, or drawing a picture, you have to wait for those big moments in life to happen, and to happen again or appear in a different way to actually be able to say “Oh my gosh, now it all makes sense, I was lead here, through that experience.”
And then we can look at our lives as this big journey where one thing explains another, and in total it makes us who we are. This requires patience, it requires learning who you are and understanding where you’re right now, without worrying too much where you’re going to go. You’ll get there, and when you do it will all make sense.
In that vein, I’ve been waiting to share a part of my story until it felt like the right time. Until I had enough time to process, collect information, tune into myself and really understand where I was in my life and be patient with the “why” of things happening.
I am on month 4 of a Lyme disease protocol treatment.
When I was diagnosed it was a flood of emotions. I hadn’t been searching for a diagnosis of any kind per say. I was exploring why I was reacting to certain things, why I seemed to have certain pains that I’d not before, or that were there before but came back on only subtly. This diagnosis was so vastly different from my initial one 12 years ago.
It came more from curiosity and less from desperation. It shocked me, mostly because I was actually suspecting that I may have originally been exposed to mold and had mold biotoxin illness, but also because there’s a possibility that I was actually misdiagnosed 12 years ago. This of course, is only speculation right now.
It’s a lot to absorb. I decided to trust myself that I would know how to move forward in the ways that served me and my health, whether that was treatments, approaches or how I handled sharing publicly. I realized that what I needed was to be supported by myself, my family and my friends as my highest importance. It’s important to me that I make my own choices, my own judgment calls based on my intuition, this is how I stay connected and true to who I am.
I am SO grateful for this diagnosis.
On one hand, there’s a very real possibility for me to truly fully be free of illness, instead of managing one that is in remission with a lurking possibility of a flare. On the other hand, what I have experienced to date with treatment has allowed me some of the most deep, intimate and tremendous growing experiences with myself. More than I could have imagined. This time around in a healing process I already know myself so much better. I am far more equipped and aside from that, I am really in line with what I need, what I don’t, and how to take care of myself through this process.
The ironic, and possibly hard thing to relay over a single blog post is that at the same time I received this diagnosis, I am also the healthiest I have been in literal years.
It’s hard imagine if you saw me now, but I am off 7 medications with little to no pain day to day. I used to take 7-10 NSAIDS a day (not including the other medications I was on at maximum doses to help manage arthritic pain. Currently my body is responding incredibly well to the Lyme treatments. My Lyme doctor, who sees patients worldwide, is convinced that I am not more sick or in more pain than I am at this point because of all the healing I have already done to date. Which is why it’s so important to remember that health is not linear, and that there are always improvements to be made, but the effort that goes in, we do see the benefits of those.
What I have learned so far, in recovering to full health, in specific to Lyme, has been invaluable. The knowledge I now possess that I didn’t have before is incredible. The deeper understanding of my body has allowed me to access new parts of myself that I didn’t know were untapped. While all of those things are intensely true and real for me, I realized, they were not the “why” of this illness.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to my friend who right now is in the middle of some major healing, to the point where he’s been laying in bed for literal months. This isn’t his first rodeo. It’s far from the first time he’s spent months in bed, but as we were talking he said to me, “Ya know, I’ve been trying to figure out what the lesson is this time, why it is that yet something else is going on with me. And I’ve been struggling with feeling frustrated about it, and at the same time not feeling inspiring to other people on how I am dealing with it.”
His words resonated so deeply within me. Not only figuring out the why, which as we just discussed, can only be seen in retrospect, most of the time. But not feeling you’re inspiring people.
Ooph that is rough, right? The weight of feeling responsible for other peoples’ inspiration, motivation and change is huge.
When I got this diagnosed I made the conscious choice to not share until I knew it actually felt right to me. Sharing without processing, sharing without connecting to myself, sharing mindlessly, essentially was not on the agenda for me, it just wasn’t an option.
I am not looking to be another person you follow on social media who’s healing from an illness and doing it amazingly. If you look back on my Instagram posts from 4 years ago I highlight this by showing you all the serious unpleasant parts of healing.
I didn’t share immediately because it matters more to me that I actually connect to myself, instead of trying to look for outside validation. I think it’s great to be inspired by other people, I could list off so many that I am inspired by. And you may be inspired by me, but what I don’t really want you looking to me for inspiration, I want you looking within yourself, because that’s what I did. It matters more, that you see me finding inspiration within myself, to know that you can do the EXACT same. That is your own power, and not mine, but in witnessing others journeys’ we often discover the power within ourselves.
Sure, I have lots of insight on treatments now. If you have Lyme (or RA, Ankylosing Spondylitis, IBS, Hypothyroidism) I can tell you what supplements to take, what foods to eat for optimal health, how to move to support your body healing, etc. That stuff is valuable, sure, and yet what I realize, what I know in my heart, with the most clarity I have ever had – it is not my purpose to tell you what will work to eradicate illness from your body. Because all of our body’s are different, unique universes.
It is, however, my mission to help you understand how to support yourself, find yourself, believe in yourself, nourish yourself, connect with yourself, and love yourself through it.
I fully believe that everything we experience during our time here on Earth is here to teach us a lesson, and not in some kind of punishment way, but a lesson so that we may actually learn, and go forth and teach others what we’ve learned. So that we can make each other better for ourselves.
Everything makes sense when we look back and connect the dots. I could have shared with you, the day I got my diagnosis. I could have shared with you when I started treatments. But that wouldn’t have served me. And the thing I knew is, it wouldn’t have served you either.
What makes sense to me now, that didn’t feel as clear then, is that the only way I serve you better in the work that I am meant to do, is by connecting more to myself. By making myself the biggest priority, that is how I am serving you. That is how I learn, how I master what I teach.
Having this diagnosis is literally what led and guided me to create what I have been dreaming of creating for years. To create a program and platform for women to learn to eat better, connect better and move better, together. To have resources, community, understanding, and information during the journey of life, which at different points will give us a big ‘ol dot that we aren’t sure how to deal with.
Soul Power is what I wish I would have had when I was first sick and diagnosed at 15. I can’t imagine how different life would be for me if I had had the kind of support that will exist in Soul Power.
Then again, I wasn’t meant to. Because it was meant for me to be challenged in ways that would bring me closer to myself, to master the relationship with myself, so much so that I could teach other women how to love themselves deeply and support them through some of the most trying (and happy) times in their lives.
Right now, I am standing (dancing!) at my desk while I write this. I am full of purpose, truth and peace. I know this is exactly what is meant to be. I feel immensely grateful that I am charged with this gift to help women come more fully into themselves and to be actually living their healthiest life, because that’s what I am doing, and I don’t plan to go it alone.
I’d love to share the details of Soul Power with you. Enrollment ends at midnight today. See here for details.
I received my diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis in May of my freshman year of high school, after six grueling months of no answers, loss of mobility, and dozens of dead-end doctors appointments.
Two weeks after receiving my diagnosis I went to my doctor at the Pediatric Rheumatology department at D.C.’s Children Hospital to adjust my treatment. My doctor took a conservative approach at first starting with sulfasalazine and it wasn’t helping in the slightest. My mobility was severely declining, and something had to change. It’s that day that I started Enbrel. If you didn’t know, Enbrel is given by injection, which meant before leaving the hospital I had to learn to give myself a shot. I was old enough to be able to do it myself, and also wouldn’t always have my mom around to do it. It was the beginning of my medication journey, that would start with an injection at the hospital and two every week for the next couple of months.
It was in that moment of giving myself a shot, I realized, that I was the only person who could do this for myself. I was the only person who could give me any relief. It was this great act of self-love that I’ve not fully acknowledged before. This huge action of love that would take me to the next level of myself healing.
My doctor came in after it was over, sat down next to me and asked how I was feeling. I’d been tearing up a bit, emotionally overcome with giving myself a shot, and I just shrugged my shoulders. She then, asked me a question that has stayed with me for the rest of my life. “Kari, would you be willing to speak to some residents at the hospital who are studying this disease? Your experience is really valuable and I’d love for them to learn what this is like for you.”
“No, I can’t do that.” I replied, completely in shock. I could barely hold it together talking to my mom about what was happening to me, let alone a room of strangers. How was I supposed to explain my experience when I didn’t even understand it yet?
Last weekend I took a last minute trip down to Portland from Seattle. A friend of mine from college just moved there and I was due for a little getaway exploration. The months of January and February have been full to the brim for me with work, and other personal life engagements. I knew I was reaching a point where I just needed to be away from the possibility of working, because truly, with my work I never really “leave the office” or “log off”. I have to make that a distinct and intentional choice and during busier periods that is increasingly harder to do especially since I love everything that I do!
So getting away just came at an opportune time. I needed the time to reconnect with my friend but also to just be. I needed to feel the sideways rain drizzling on my face as we walked along Cannon Beach. I needed to be immersed in the joy of seeing the haystacks for the first time. I needed to relish in the glory of a spectacular rainbow, being in the right place at the right time. To let me mind solely focus on how to get across the water canals that made sand pools along the beach and to contemplate how these giant haystacks are created out in the water. I needed to let my spirit be free and not thinking of anything outside of BEING.
Life is such a funny thing. Maybe it’s the interconnections of the social sphere’s maybe divine intervention and purpose, but the world seems so small when we think about how we are brought together. I’ve never met Dominique Stratton, but when she reached out about contributing to Soul Power, and I immediately read her blog, I knew that her story was one of power and relatability. One that only she can share. Little did I know, that she actually is the sister of a woman I went to high school with! I had no idea, until I saw her sister share a totally “bragging rights” post about Dominque’s blog, a mental life. I couldn’t believe it. What a small world. I know that her vulnerability and REAL talk about depression and mental illness is going to have you all shaking your heads in agreement and uttering, “hell yes”. But I’ll let her do the rest of the talking :)
6.8% of U.S. women, less than the age of 34, have high blood pressure; a statistic that I never imagined that I would be a part of at the ripe age of 28. Happily married, in the throws of a master’s degree program (nearly finished), and less than a week into basking in the emotional sunshine of newfound motherhood, I knew I was strong, but strength hadn’t reached its full potential in my life. It wasn’t until this year, that I’ve realized what strength truly encompasses. How beautiful it would be to grow as strong as an earthed tree, yet avoid all the tears and turmoil it took to get there; maybe in another life.
Part of why I love having Soul Power as a part of this site is because it provides the opportunity to further connect with one another as a community. I appreciate so much the depth at which people are willing to go with their writing, and personal anecdotes. Carrie Lewman, is a brave woman who writes over on her site carrielewman.com. I’ve come to know her virtually through her participation in my September Self-Care program a year ago. She took so much away from that experience, and continued to help herself in her journey to healing. It brings me so much joy to share with you her writing as a part of her process in understanding herself in dealing with loss and a deeper connection within.
My thoughts on death and loss have always been that grief is what you experience afterwards. That it is a stage you enter into. Actually grief is not something that happens to you, it is something you do afterwards. It is your reaction to loss or death. We have all heard of, and perhaps walked the many stages of grief; anger, denial, depression, acceptance, etc…, but no one ever speaks of the heartbreak. It is essentially the root of grief and where most people get stuck. Your heart has been broken as the result of loss and this loss does not always directly pertain to physical death. It can be the demise of a relationship, loss of a job, relocating, loss of innocence, and disappointment in life not turning out how you thought it would, just to name a few.
I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all likely experienced a time (multiples really) in our lives where we had to go through the process of grieving, dredging through discomfort and healing. In that time it can often feel lonely, scary and as though we lack a sense of direction of our true path to know what direction we are headed. This month’s Soul Power contributor goes deep into that space, otherwise known as the “hallway of hell”. This incredibly vulnerable space that we venture into hoping to come out whole again. It’s not only incredibly relatable, but her honesty permeates through her expression and reaches the core of our true selves, where we can find understanding. When I first met Heather Wellman I had no idea that she was a writer, nor did I know of her adventurous spirit and the strength of her inner desire to love people wholeheartedly. I not only admire her way with words (more on her blog and Instagram), but I am drawn to her insatiable desire to live her life despite fear, ambiguity and the time spent in the hallway. I am without proper words to do justice to how honored I am that she is sharing with you all in this space, so I will let her do the rest.
I rolled towards her, my hair falling forward, into my face, a few strands dancing in the space between our mouths. She reached up, sliding them behind my ear, clearing the path from her lips to my own. I moaned quietly as her fingertips swept back and forth over the soft skin of my inner thighs… And then my own hand abruptly met hers, holding it still, near my knee. I pulled back, and looked at her… “I can’t,” I said. “I feel like my dad can see us now, which I know sounds ridiculous but it’s true. It’s just weird for me. I need some more time.” My girlfriend stared back at me blankly for a few seconds, and then dropped her hand from my body back to our mattress…
We all vibrate on certain gradients of energy. The world is spinning and here we are, buoyant with the currents of electric charge all varying in grades of frequency. Like attracts like and we are pulled to one another by this charged beauty, almost unexplained yet completely understood. This is how I feel when I am reached by someone’s writing. They touch me in a way that’s goes beyond the surface and into much deeper crevices of my heart and soul. It’s not every day when this happens, but it is true that we attract into our lives what we put out. I believe wholeheartedly that my intention in sharing people’s stories has sent this massive shock wave out into the world charging these captivating people with the challenge of sharing themselves with the world. I first came across Mitch Hankins from Instinctual Wellbeing.(@mightymorphinmitch) via Instagram and I was initially drawn to his contagious sense of humor and as I continued following him connected and resonated so much with his life journey. The way he shares his meaning is one of the most beautiful expressions I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. As I read his contribution to Soul Power, I cried. I sat with his words, absorbed their energy and thought, “How lucky am I, to be moved by something so honest it’s nearly tangible.” I know you will feel the same, it’s truly an honor to share his words with you.
A Note From the Author:
This piece is about coming to terms with who you are, being happy with the person you see in the mirror, and seeing the beauty in your life no matter how chaotic it may seem at times.
So often (and rightfully so) we look to food and lifestyle to aid us in our healing, but in this, we miss another important piece of the puzzle, which is being able to look inwardly to cultivate a healthy relationship with yourself and your body, and accepting yourself and your story for what it is.
In being a transgender man who also deals with multiple autoimmune conditions, this has been something I have had to deal with first-hand, and in many ways it has been a far greater challenge than changing my diet or modifying my lifestyle ever was. However, although it has been challenging to embrace my own story, the light that it’s brought to my life has been far brighter and far more rewarding than anything I could have ever hoped for.
So this is a piece of that story. I hope that no matter what your circumstances are in life, that you can begin to dig deep and embrace your own story, and start to see your reflection as part of the whole, and as the wonderful mess that it is: beauty in the dissonance.
It’s such a pleasure to introduce you to Shannon Keating, this months contributor to Soul Power. I came to know this vibrant young woman about a year ago after we were paired together in this interview with Eileen Laird from Phoenix Helix. I got to hear her story first hand in how she battled an autoimmune condition and lifestyle changes while still in college. So much of her resilience and tenacity reminded me of my own but I applaud her immensely for committing to personal growth in ways her peers don’t yet understand, I know because I have been there. What I love about her piece is the ability she has to share conversationally about her experiences as though she is right there talking with you, and trust me, her genuine enthusiasm will radiate to your core.
I have always been highly inquisitive. My dad likes to tell a story about how he used to take me out in the running stroller when I was a toddler and throughout our trip I would babble away, question after question after question.
Every other sentence began with why.
I was all “why this?” and “why that?” Even to passing strangers: “Why are you out here to today?” “Why don’t you also have a kid in the stroller?” “Why are you wearing that outfit?”
He tells this story with a tone of endearment, but I know the truth. I’ve babysat my fair share of chronic why-er’s. That initial touch of amusement fades pretty darn fast when you realize no matter how many why’s, how’s, and but’s you answer, they just keep throwing them at you.
I met Tera Bucasas (terabucasas on Instagram) here in Seattle for the first time and absolutely fell in love with her energy, her laughter and her healing-centered mission. When she first told me about her program, Yoga For Healing, I connected immediately with her purpose. She has worked as a yoga instructor for many years but realized through her own body acceptance journey that her path to help others was more than solely a physical connection. You can find most of her writings on her blog, Real Fit Yoga and I recommend you start with one of my favorite posts, here. I get the privilege of not only calling this beautiful, strong woman my friend, but get to share a piece of her truth through Soul Power as this months featured writer.
Exercise is a privilege, not a punishment. That was something I learned the hard way. I never thought my body would turn on me so quickly. I had that smug belief that ‘it won’t happen to me.’ I was healthy, truly healthy, for the first time in my life. Or so I thought.
In my past I looked healthy on the outside, but I ate junk, drank too much, didn’t get good sleep, and although you may not have been able to tell it was affecting my insides. Eventually I turned things around. I became a nutritional therapy practitioner and a yoga instructor. I fueled myself with whole foods, I exercised, I got good sleep. I did all the things I was ‘supposed’ to do to be healthy. Then of course, I wanted to show people ‘the way’ to health. I had figured it out. My passion, my joy, my life was health and fitness.
Then, everything changed. Within a couple months, despite my healthy life, I had a body and a life that didn’t feel like my own. I was fatigued, severely depressed, I had anxiety, my body hurt, my blood sugar was high, my hormones were even more out of balance than before and none of it made sense. Oh and did I mention I started to gain weight?
Between the change in my mood, energy and body it felt like I had lost myself.