Happy Birthday to MEEEEEE!!!! (This is the way my sister and I always start our birthday calls at midnight to each other.) We used to burst into each other’s rooms as soon as the clock ticked to 12 and jump on the other’s bed, but since we live two states apart these days, the midnight phone call is our new tradition. January is a month of reflection for me, first it’s the new year, then our wedding anniversary on the 10th, and then my birthday on the 29th. With each of these dates I try to take a little bit of time to take a personal inventory of the previous year and see what worked, what didn’t, and how I can take what I learned and make the next year even better. I have been wanting to share some of the more personal aspects of last year and determined this was a good moment for it. For those of you who don’t like suspense (like me) the ending is good even though the middle may seem a little scary.
26 for me was a ‘take it one day at a time’ type of year. It was filled with some incredible highs, but also some extremely trying lows. It is easy for me to give you the view from the mountain peaks and if you want that, here is the back of our Christmas card with the gist ☺
However, most of life is lived in that middle ground in between the summits and valleys. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to share the nitty gritty, but I feel like it’s important for us all to be intentional about transparency. This is me trusting in your grace as I begin to make strides towards sharing the lows and the unglamorous along with the parts of life I naturally want to celebrate with everyone.
The year of 26 taught me one lesson over, and over, and over again: I am not in control.
I have struggled with anxiety in waves since college when I was diagnosed with a thyroid disease called ‘Graves’. (Sounds cheerful, I know) I ended up having my thyroid removed via radiation not long after we nailed down the source of my extreme health swings. As a result of my *thyroid-less* life I have to take a carefully balanced medication every day called synthroid. If my synthroid balance gets thrown off my anxiety becomes exacerbated. Around my 26th birthday something was off and I was seriously struggling with anxiety. I lost a lot of my hair (another side effect of my medicine being out of wack) and had constant consuming, irrational fear. I am extremely type A and really like having control over every aspect over my life and the things that I love. The best way I can describe my anxiety is that my mind has a constant fixation and insists on exploring every worst-case scenario 24/7. As if knowing all the details will give me control over those circumstances. When anxiety is in full swing it affects every aspect of my life. Once something triggers the chemical imbalance it can take months for me climb out of that hole. So, the first few months of 26 were primarily focused on keeping my head above the hypothetical water. I am truly thankful that John and my family are not only very understanding but also help remind me to take every thought captive.
Right before my 26th birthday, I was at a routine doctor’s appointment and they discovered that I had two masses in my left breast. After an ultrasound, it was determined that I needed to see a specialist and that the masses were suspicious enough to merit a core biopsy. Thankfully one of my best friends is an OB/GYN resident and graciously answered a million questions during those scary weeks. Dr. Ashlee Nicole Tillery was nice enough to write a guest post on breast health for MHM that I will be sharing with y’all next week.
The day of my biopsy was one of the most trying of 2017. For those of you who don’t know how it works, you are awake through the entire process. They made two incisions in my breast and collected tissue samples. In the end, they placed metal markers in the masses so they could either know what to remove or know what they had biopsied for the future if they were benign. I was expecting it to be uncomfortable, but I wasn’t expecting the excruciating pain that I would experience after the anesthetic wore off.
As bad as the pain was it was nothing compared to waiting for the results. I remember when we got home John had to help me change into my pajamas because I could not bend over or reach over my head. It was a STRUGGLE but John was super understanding when I then completely fell apart in tears. He kept saying it was going to be ok, but all I could think was: what if this pain is only the beginning and I have breast cancer at 26? The only thing that got me through the next several days of waiting was my faith. Those days God really hammered in the fact that I am not in control, and that it is better that way. Thankfully, the results came back that the masses were benign and just to keep checking every six months.
Later in the summer, I finally felt like I was getting a grip on my anxiety and taking positive lifestyle changes. During this time, I started working out with a trainer. This was such a positive step for me because exercise is the number one thing that I have found to help with my anxiety. I have always been an active person, but when I moved back to small town Georgia I really struggled to find a place where I enjoyed working out and had accountability.
Despite the positive effects of increased exercise, I still wasn’t feeling great and started having excruciating stomach pains. It was to the point where I was up multiple hours a night doubled over in pain feeling like I was going to pass out at any second. My physician and I explored all kinds of gall bladder and intestinal problems. When nothing seemed to help, we started exploring different avenues including diet. The more research I did the more I found out about how much thyroid and other auto immune diseases are linked to gut health.
In the fall I went cold turkey on the AIP (auto immune protocol) healing diet. That means no Grains, legumes, dairy, nuts or seeds, eggs, nightshades, industrial seed oils, processed foods, alcohol, NSAIDS, or starches. Think whole30 and then some. The idea is to remove foods that could possibly be inflammatory to your body. After your gut has had time to heal, you begin to add them back systematically so that you can know which foods are inflammatory to you.
Within two weeks of being on AIP the results were astounding. I no longer had any stomach pain, my eczema completely cleared up, and I had more energy than I had had in years. After two months on strict AIP, I successfully reintroduced many foods and now have the knowledge that I am dairy, grain, and gluten intolerant. (Hence why I started doing things like making my own almond milk LOL)
As I look back on 26 and prepare to welcome 27, I am truly grateful for the fact that I am not in control and that 26 hammered that notion out of me. My commitment to 27 is to continue to choose daily to fill my mind with truth, to treat my body with respect, and cherish the fact that I have a Creator who loves me enough to walk with me through the valleys so I can appreciate the growth on the climb to summits.
If you would like more information about the AIP Healing Diet I recommend reading this book.