My health journey has had many highs and lows. In my twenties and thirties I was extremely active and full of energy. I managed health clubs and a yoga studio and I took full advantage of the perks. I trained in pilates, yoga, boxing, spinning, swimming and weight lifting. All of that training was really good for my health, but nothing compared to my love for capoeira and Brazilian dance. To say I was obsessed is an understatement. I remember people asking me "Where do you get all of that energy?" Adrenaline is a powerful rush and if my body was tired, I didn't notice it. Also, dancing is such a release for me. It's very liberating and therapeutic. It would have been wonderful if I had discovered it early in life. I certainly needed a creative outlet and an escape from a dysfunctional childhood. Perhaps I could have released my trauma instead of storing it. This is what drove me to mentor youth. In 2000, my partner and I founded a non-profit organization where we taught dance and capoeira to inner-city youth and adults. Our mission was to promote cultural awareness, build self-esteem, uplift the community and inspire others to make healthy lifestyle choices. It was such a beautiful experience to witness people being transformed in the same way the arts had transformed me. For ten years my husband and I worked side by side, mentoring people and creating a safe space for self-expression. On the surface I was living a dream, but beneath it my partner and I battled with our own personal demons including anger issues and depression. Our relationship was tumultuous to say the least. We struggled to keep our marriage together yet it eventually fell apart. It was absolutely heartbreaking to walk away from my marriage and the community that I worked so hard to build. I decided to move back to California to start a new life as a single mom. I was filled with sadness, despair, anger, fear, shame and guilt and I hid from the world, focusing all of my energy on my kids. The solitude was such a gift as it gave me time to reflect, heal and figure out what was next. I spent a lot of time in nature at the beach or hiking through the mountain, relying heavily on prayer, meditation, my mom's love and a life coach. Being coached allowed me to open my heart again and shift my energy back to joy, optimism and hope. It wasn't long before I found my true calling to coach others.
I enrolled in a holistic healing school where I studied nutrition, various healing modalities and life coaching. The program gave me a bird's eye view of my own baggage and the support allowed me to be authentically seen and heard for the first time in my life. I was completely raw and vulnerable and I discovered that allowing yourself to be vulnerable is where you find your true strength. It was such a transformative experience and I developed a lot of skills for healing, which got put to the test when I became very ill.
In 2014 I started having joint pain in my shoulders, wrists, fingers and ankles. I was training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at the time and I assumed the pain was related to the sport. However, even after I stopped training, the pain didn't go away so I decided to get tested for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease, which was already on my radar because my mom has RA. I had spent years researching the disease, desperate for answers. All of my research pointed to two common factors: stress (which can be managed) and poor gut health (which can be restored).
I did in fact have RA and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I kid you not when I say that I had pain and inflammation in every single joint in my body, even my jaw. The pain was so unbearable, it literally knocked me off my feet and I eventually became bedridden. I began to understand what drove people to treat the symptoms. It was crazy how fast my health declined. One day I was living an active life and the next I could barely walk. I felt like a prisoner in a foreign body that no longer served me in the way that I wanted to be served. It was the lowest point in my life and needless to say, I became very depressed. I spent many days pondering: Who am I now that I can't move, now that I can't dance? What will I become? How did I get here? My thoughts terrified me and there were times when I felt like I just couldn't go on. I have never been convinced that all diseases are genetic. There are so many factors that affect our health, such as lifestyle habits, environment and trauma. I certainly experienced lots of trauma throughout my life and as a result I battled with PTSD, anxiety and depression. To top it off I had a sugar addiction, I overworked my body and didn't know how to relax. I had accumulated a lifetime of stress and toxins in my body until they finally erupted.
I recall the grim visit with a Rheumatologist who told me that I would be on medication for the rest of my life. She also said, “I wish I could tell you that you can change your diet and be healed, but I’d be lying to you.” This kind of response bothers me. We should never underestimate the power we have to heal ourselves. Our bodies are intelligent, amazing and incredibly resilient. They actually tell us what they need, we've just forgotten how to listen. If we only treat the symptoms of dis-ease we silence the cues that tell us what needs to be healed. Instead we end up with this false sense that we are healthy, when often times we are not. I'm more interested in focusing on the root cause of what makes us sick in the first place because that is where you will find the answers to truly heal. So, I walked out of the doctor's office and did exactly what she said I couldn’t, I restored my health naturally. I tackled my health issues from every angle, nurturing my gut and emotional health, creating healthy habits to help me manage stress and giving myself plenty of rest, compassion and love. Slowly but surely, I began to heal. A defining moment for me was on Mother's Day when I was walking to the park with my daughters. I was feeling pretty good and I said, "I think today is the day. I'm going to try to run." My youngest daughter shouted "Go mommy! You can do it!" Then I sprinted down the sidewalk and just like that, I went from victim to warrior! The best part of all is that my daughters were there every step of the way. They saw me fall only to rise again. They witnessed how I unlocked my power to heal my body naturally. Today, I live a well-balanced, active life doing the things I love again. I am grateful for all of the obstacles I've had to overcome because they have made me the person I am today. I have a great deal of understanding, appreciation, compassion and a strong desire to help empower others with the gift of optimal health.
ARE YOU READY TO GIVE YOURSELF THE GIFT OF OPTIMAL HEALTH?