Years ago, I began the journey to improve my immune system and the process changed my life. Here, in this space, I will lay out my healing story. I will share what it felt like, what was involved, and how I feel now.
My health journey is not a bragging point or a point of superiority. More than anything, it feels like an obligation to share my story with the world.
My account is unlike many others because many of us never learned that our lifestyle impacts our immunity. Some of us feel hopeless or powerless when it comes to our health. I, too, used to feel this way. Because of this, I remained passive with my health and lifestyle, and failed to understand the actual weight and power of my choices.
My account is similar to many others, too. Everything shared here is not unique to me or special to me. It is research and listening to myself and to the world for guidance, along with the decision to make profound changes in my life.
I feel called to share my journey with you because now is an excellent time to nourish one’s health, and I hope this will serve someone. Additionally, it’s always an excellent time to connect with the self, to create a healthier life, an easier life, a life with more energy.
If this inner work has called to you, I hope this story can be a reminder of what is possible. This post is not medical advice. Everything I share here is not to be a replacement for seeking medical advice. What we have here is a story that offers hope and perspective.
WHAT INSPIRED MY JOURNEY TO IMPROVE MY IMMUNITY?
When I left home at 18, I found myself constantly sick. What do I mean by sick? For me, this mostly meant lots of colds, cases of flu, lots of respiratory inflammation, and burnout. I was stuck in bed a lot over several years. As I’m sure you can imagine, this was incredibly frustrating. I felt like I was racing the clock until the next time I would be sick and end up back in bed.
For me, It seemed normal to get sick. For a long time, I didn’t question it. It just felt like life as I knew it. For many years I was always in survival mode: fight or flight. I was always running to the next thing, to the next job. I was always running from fear, from my triggers, from toxic relationships. My life as I knew it was kind of like swimming in an undertow: an ongoing attempt to make it out alive and to keep my head above water. My immunity was a reflection of this. Because I was in survival mode, I didn’t have the mental or emotional capacity to consider my immunity and lifestyle; I was always just trying to make it! Or at least that is how I felt.
SO, WHERE AND WHEN DID I BEGIN?
When I reached my mid-twenties, I grew sick and tired of feeling this way. I don’t remember the breaking point, but I do remember wondering, “Is there any way to boost my immunity?”
Through the years, before this moment of curiosity, I had observed “miraculous” healing that was, to my knowledge, not mainstream. Some examples of this are the use of diet to improve asthma and allergy symptoms, a regular yoga practice to heal physical pain, etc. I consider these moments of exposure to the unique (at least in the context of ordinary life in the midwest, United States) to be tiny planted seeds for future reference. These phenomenons, these planted seeds, slowly germinated and grew until a moment like this when I needed those flowers of inspiration when addressing my immunity.
RESEARCH WAS A GOOD PLACE FOR ME TO START
When I was a child, I developed an interest in making tinctures. I considered this an art project and science experiment to spend time creating these tiny vessels of healing. I never really commited to consuming the final product, but I had fun in the process. Regardless, my past included time in my parents’ basement building these concoctions. With this history in mind, what stuck out to me most when surfing the web for solutions, was a recipe I found for fire cider. It’s not a tincture, but it’s a hands-on project made from plants and through a steeping process. The blog with the Fire Cider recipe had claimed to help boost immunity. I decided to try it. Why the hell not? Plus, it was a somewhat familiar venture.
ONE SMALL STEP RESULTED IN A MULTITUDE OF DISCOVERIES
You can read my journey with Fire Cider here. Essentially, this recipe was one discovery that opened me up to change my lifestyle. Of course, this didn’t happen overnight. It began with reading about the ingredients and the benefits of said ingredients, and the power of food in nourishing our body and organs. (This planted another seed).
I did research here and there and slowly retained information on the power of plants and simple, whole ingredients. (Our Earth is abundant and offers so much to us).
I made the fire cider which opened me up to spending time in the kitchen and connecting more deeply to cooking my meals. Time spent in the kitchen led me to realize that cooking is a moving meditation that can offer us peace, joy, presence, and calm.
Moving meditation helped me to developed a new self-awareness. Over time, this awareness permeated my life, and my world began to change.
Self-awareness helped me see my life and actions more clearly, especially concerning how I felt. My research on lifestyle helped me to learn of the importance of sleep, minimizing alcohol consumption, managing stress levels, committing to regular exercise and nourishing foods. My newfound awareness helped me to pay closer attention to my choices. How was my sleep, my alcohol consumption, my stress?
Self-Awareness was tremendous for me and my growth. If I couldn’t see myself and life clearly, how would I know what changes could benefit my health?
The more I got to know myself, and pay attention to my life, the better I could connect the dots between my choices and actions and how I was feeling in my body, mind, and soul.
The big thing I discovered is that my lifestyle was affecting my immune system. My immune system was a reflection of my lifestyle.
From here, it was a slow and steady process to make minor changes here and there to the best of my ability. My life was (or at least felt)wildly chaotic, and it did feel like I had so much to change to achieve balance. I felt overwhelmed by the tasks at hand. I did my best.
MOVING ON AND MOVING UP
More than anything else, I noticed the potential I saw for my health and life. Though I still got colds and the flu, I got sick less frequently. Hey, this was a massive improvement for me. Simply becoming aware of my need for consistent sleep, reduced alcohol consumption, and nourishing foods made space for growth. Little by little, I healed. Little by little, I saw that there was room for growth; I noticed that my immunity was not random; I was creating it.
MORE EXAMPLES OF ROOM FOR HEALING
Once I moved out of a state of helplessness and hopelessness and saw that my choices greatly affected my health, I began to see potential solutions everywhere. At one point, I was walking around the farmers market and saw a book on the table at one of the booths. It caught my eye. I glanced through it and noticed that it contained a fire cider recipe. Okay, I was in the right place.
I also noticed that the farmer was selling stinging nettle that she (and the book) claimed can help the lungs heal from respiratory inflammation. I bought some because of my history of respiratory inflammation. Yes, when I inevitably went through another moment of respiratory distress, the stinging nettle did help, and quicker than I ever could have imagined, too. Earth, you have done it again!
I share this little story because it was another moment that revealed to me the potential of the human body. There is guidance everywhere if we pay attention.
MY HEALING HAPPENED OVER TIME. (IT IS A JOURNEY, MY FRIEND)
Years passed, and my health, immunity, and lifestyle continued to ebb and flow. I vacillated between lots of healthy exploration as well as lots of binge drinking and poor sleep hygiene. There were also periods when I participated in toxic relationships that resulted in chronic stress. As it goes, I went halfway there to “health: then ran back to my comfort zone, which included unhealthy behaviors.
There was definitely some fear in completely changing my life, even if it would drastically improve my well-being. It can be hard to leave old lifestyles and communities behind, even if these choices and spaces are “unhealthy” and weighing us down. I was scared of letting go of the life I knew so well, even if it hurt me.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
I hadn’t fully committed to a consistently healthy lifestyle, even after noticing improvements and making changes. Eventually, my body started to tell me that enough was enough. It gave me clues that my lifestyle would ultimately hurt me. It showed me this through a few avenues:
1-I was struggling to keep food down, especially alcohol and animal products. What I mean by this is that food was making my nauseous and my body responded to this by causing me to puke. This did, at times, include vegetables.
2-My body felt like it was on fire: the left side of my body from my neck to my belly, burned and itched internally. I could see nothing on the skin’s exterior. The burning and itching was coming from within. It appeared to follow my lymph system.
3-(Only) my left breast was growing, and it hurt. I still have stretch marks as evidence of this phase of my life.
LOOKING TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD FOR WISDOM AND GUIDANCE
I was in and out of the doctor. I found no answers at these appointments. Still, I remained persistent with looking for answers because I knew no other option. This was until one day, a friend of a friend, shared two things with me.
1-This Book “When The Body Says No”
2- This wisdom: If anyone were to diagnose me with anything at all, I should not take that information as my destiny. Allow the information to flow through and out of me.
I had no idea what she was talking about, but it was the most guidance I had received up until this point, so I explored what she offered. I began by reading the book, and it changed my life. Dr. Gabor Mate discusses the connection between stress and disease, which I had never deeply explored. This book helped me see the value of managing my stress and my life.
From here, I went online and explored these conversations around stress and disease. I found stories of phenomenal healing. I had not been diagnosed with anything, but I knew this information would greatly serve me because my life was shouting at me to change.
The time had come for me to go all in on my health. I had seen endless evidence of lifestyle choices healing me and helping me along through the years, but I never gave it my all. Now was the time.
I DUG DEEPER.
I chose to do this work and to dig deeper. It was a choice that came out of what felt like a necessity, but still, it was a choice. There was no requirement to make these changes.
I BEGAN WITH STORIES
I listened to more stories than I could ever count. There are books and stories online of people doing phenomenal things with their health and lifestyle. Of course, it is important to use one’s discretion, but this is where I began.
My intuition, my understanding of myself, and the information I was digesting became my guides. I know my family history, where I struggled, and where I needed to do some work. For instance, exercise had never been a problem for me. I regularly move with ease and joy, but stress and lack of boundaries have always been prevalent in my life, along with poor diet and alcohol consumption. These were areas of focus for me.
For me, my high stress levels also included emotions I was carrying around in my body for years, including resentment, anger, bitterness, low self-worth. There was also the repression of my expression, my voice, my dreams. I silenced my true self to make other people comfortable. I was not living my truth, and all of this turned into stress in my body.
This healing journey asked me to be honest with myself so that I could heal and feel well again. How could I recover if I couldn’t admit to the ways I was living. How could I make changes if I wasn’t willing to look at my life through an honest lens? There was no longer an opportunity to deny anything.
LISTENING TO MY INNER GUIDE
Deep down, I knew what I needed to do to improve my health. I always knew. I needed to focus on myself and my life, my whole life.
It was (and is) so important to get quiet and still, and to give myself space to hear my inner guide. There are so many distractions in the world, quiet moments can help us to hear ourselves.
One of the first places I began was taking a look at the food, alcohol and caffeine I was consuming. I had mostly considered myself a “healthy” eater, but when I looked at my daily consumption, this wasn’t true. My diet was filled with fast food, lots of animal products, processed foods, caffeine and alcohol. I decided to minimize my consumption of animal products and focused on eating mostly plants, while minimizing alcohol and caffeine because this is what felt right for me.
Through diet and some cleanses (drinking juice, coffee enemas and Qi Gong), I purged my body and mind of physical distractions. This gave me space to see more clearly.
Then I looked at my sleep habits. Was I getting enough sleep? Was it quality sleep? I addressed this.
Then I looked at the boundaries in my life, physically, emotionally, energetically. Where was I allowing others to walk all over me or take advantage of my time? Where was I disrespecting my own time and energy? Setting healthy boundaries is a learned skill that many of us can benefit from practicing. Boundaries have served my health in great ways.
My visits to the local tavern stopped.
My breath became a tool to bring peace, calm and self-awareness.
For a while, and to the best of my ability, I turned off loud music, tv, social media. It felt good to create an environment that was quiet, healing, and offered me space to hear listen to myself.
SPIRITUALITY BECAME ESSENTIAL FOR ME
For the first time in my life, I stepped into prayer, and I explored spirituality in a vulnerable way. Initially, I was uncomfortable with this because it required surrendering and trusting something greater than myself. This was hard for me, but as I incorporated more and more healthy practices in my life, and my physical pain in my body was beginning to go away, I began to see divine connections everywhere. These connections made it easier to step into this unknown.
Spirituality makes the most sense to me when I study nature and the ways in which nature and I mirror one another, so I went this route. I found peace, purpose, and joy in this part of the journey. Trusting something greater than myself has changed my life. This isn’t to say that I believe in a big, powerful man in the sky, not that there is anything wrong with this, but rather that all things are connected, guidance is everywhere, and I am a part of something bigger. This has helped me to heal and thrive.
EMOTIONS CAME INTO PLAY
Then I got into meditation, and I made time to sit with the emotions I had been holding onto for so long. These quiet moments in a corner of my home served to connect me with my breath and to release anger, resentment and hatred that I had been holding onto in my heart space for years (and years). My heart started to open up, to feel more tender, and my breast slowly ceased to ache.
Something that surprised me, that greatly served me, was the invitation of forgiveness into my heart and life. As I mentioned, there was a lot I had been holding onto, some of it for more than half of my lifetime. Forgiveness served as a major gift to myself and the release of tension and bitterness from my body. Yes, I even forgave men who had raped me and hit me. .
Love became an emotion I grew more familiar with. The high vibration of love is powerful and healing and available to us at any given moment.
A few months into this endeavor, I hired a life coach who helped me develop my emotional intelligence, and to discern emotions and feelings, and work on mastering myself. She also helped me step into my life and dreams to live more freely and allow my mind and body to flow.
My healing journey took time. It wasn’t always easy or without resistance, but I knew that it was time to step into these unknowns.
Everything I am explaining here was not glamorous. The process was quiet and still and often in solitude. There were tears and fears as well as discomfort. And also, it was miraculous and divine.
I COULDN’T HAVE DONE THIS ALONE
My journey was not a solo venture, though I spent a lot of time in solitude. I found a community that understood what I was going through, both in-person and virtually. Thank goodness for the internet, where folks share their stories and are more than willing to connect. I spent time at a yoga studio where I felt safe to explore my body and health, and where it as ok to cry.
Finding people, resources, and spaces that stood behind me and my journey was crucial. On my path, I discovered that choosing health can leave some people feeling upset, even folks in your social circle. When we set boundaries, change our diet, quit going to bars, speak of spirituality for the first time, minimize our consumption, spend more time in solitude, or whatever else, some people will have opinions that tell you you’re wrong or selfish.Some people will feel left behind. Some people will feel insecure or scared of the changes you’re exploring.
What I learned from this is that some people feel safe when things remain the same. A person’s reaction to your new health journey is a reflection of where they are on their journey and in their life. This is not a judgment, but rather what I have observed. We can respect where everyone is at on their path, while continuing on in the direction of our health and healing. The world’s discomfort with our decision to step into our healthiest life is not an indicator of doing anything wrong. For these reasons, it was essential for me to stay connected to people who “get it”, even if it was through Youtube or Facebook groups.
THERE WERE MOMENTS OF FEAR AND DOUBT
The journey was sometimes scary for me and filled with moments of doubt.
So much of my identity revolved around my lifestyle, including drinking alcohol, participating in dramatic relationships, sacrificing sleep, and lacking boundaries. When I made these changes, I felt like I was losing a big part of myself. At times I felt like I was dying, and I was. The old me was dying, so the new me could go from here. I changed so much about my daily life that my identity changed.
Eventually, and not long after my journey began, my body stopped burning, my breast found relief, and I could keep food down easily.
YES, THERE WERE SACRIFICES
Yes, I made sacrifices in the name of health. There were many things I didn’t want to give up, even if they were harming my health: hanging out at bars, toxic lovers, fast food, sacrificing sleep. I felt unwell, but it seemed easier to stick with what I knew than to step into the unknown, or so I thought. In actuality, it was harming me. It was just a matter of time before it fully caught up with me.
THE JOURNEY CONTINUES
The journey is ongoing. My health and wellness require active, daily engagement. All of this work and self-exploration wasn’t about spending a moment in time addressing my health only to return to old habits. The inner work was and is about moving forward into new habits and ways of thinking.
I put in a lot of work in the beginning to make significant changes, and now it has balanced out. I’m not as strict with myself as I was when I initially purged my life of toxicity and distractions. Still, I do remain conscious of my habits and my whole life to the best of my ability. I will never go back to the life I once lived, full of toxic consumption and relationships and disrespect for my health and time. How could I? I know too much about my health and freedom now.
HOW DO I KNOW THAT MY IMMUNITY IMPROVED? WHAT IS MY EVIDENCE?
Finally, I arrive here at the end of this story, which is just a new beginning. The journey began years ago, with searching for ways to improve my immunity. Then, somewhere along the way, the goal changed. My focus was directed towards simply feeling well in my body and relieving myself of discomfort. I couldn’t have known that it would bring me back to my original goal. I had forgotten about my immunity, and now, here I am, and I have never felt healthier, more grounded, or freer. It has been several years since I have come down with a cold, the flu, or respiratory inflammation. Burnout is no longer a part of my life. My lungs expand with ease. I no longer find myself stuck in bed.
Additionally, the pain and itching in my body and my breast completely went away.
This process helped me to learn that my body is constantly communicating with me. My body tells me when it’s time to pay attention or to make some adjustments. It does this through fatigue, irritability, pain, or discomfort, as well as pleasure, joy, ease. It is up to me to figure out what it’s telling me or find some resource to help me figure it out. Then, it’s up to me to step into the necessary change.
HOW DO I FEEL NOW?
I feel strong, grounded, healthy and taller, even in my cells. My mind, body, and soul are interconnected and work in flow to communicate and serve me. I feel well and capable of anything. My confidence, self-trust and intuition have strengthened greatly and I love myself for going on this journey and showing up for my life in this way.
WHAT DID I GAIN ASIDE FROM JUST A STRONGER IMMUNE SYSTEM?
I gained more than I could have imagined possible. Earlier, I mentioned what I had sacrificed on this journey because I sacrificed many (old) comforts of mine. Still, in return, I gained so much more. I gained solid, trusting friendships, healthy boundaries, self-respect and confidence, connection to my mind, body, and soul—awareness of my body’s ability to communicate with me. I gained new dreams, stronger intuition, and a deeper understanding of health. My life is vastly different, and I am eternally grateful.
HOW IS THIS RELEVANT NOW?
I know that there is a lot of fear that is going around in regards to health. When I speak with people who went through this process, or one that is similar, fear seems less prevalent because we have learned that our lifestyle hugely impacts our immune system and our community. I know that there are factors that can be out of our control to some extent: the environment, our home lives, or anything else, but the more we can do to support ourselves, the better we are. It is not all or nothing journey. There is a gray area, and this includes our health. Our health journey doesn’t have to be perfect. Our body and life is forgiving.
WHERE DO YOU BEGIN?
You begin wherever feels right to you.
I cannot tell you what to do or where to begin exactly. Your life is your guidance, and it’s full of clues. You know what is best. I am not telling anyone to avoid going to the doctor, or to do this journey on your own, or to change your diet, or anything like that. But our life gives us clues, and we get to pay attention and listen to the guidance it is offering us.
Start where and when it feels right to do so.
Any small change is actually grand.
We all begin somewhere.
Wherever you are, I wish you the best. You can do amazing things.