This post has been a very, very long time in coming, friends.
I've wanted to share this story with you for about a year now, but it just never felt right. I was in the middle of the struggle for what felt like forever and the words wouldn't come the way I wanted them to.
I wanted to open up to you, hoping that maybe you would be encouraged by my journey, but it felt too raw and too real and I didn't want to expose those deep, dark places for fear of...
I don't even know what. Maybe judgement? Maybe the truth that, yes, I wrestle with my own demons too and now everyone knows it. Maybe just the plain and simple fact that depression can affect anyone, even Christians.
But then I had to remind myself of something. The Little Homeplace is a place for the real and the raw. It's a place for true, real-life stories, struggles, and victories. Mine and yours.
Here there is no room for judgement or condemnation.
There is only room for grace, encouragement, and the hope we have in Christ our triumphant Savior.
This is a safe place. This is a home place. I am welcome here. And you, every bit of you, is welcome here as well, friend.
With that being said (to you and to myself), I know that now is the time for me to share my journey with you. So grab a cup of coffee and let's get down to it.
**Warning & Disclaimer: This post contains a fair amount of "girl talk". If you are a man, read at your own risk. Also, I am not a doctor and I am in no way qualified to give you medical advice. I am only speaking from my personal experience. If you are concerned about your own health, I encourage you to reach out to your doctor. Or, better yet, find a doctor in your area that practices natural medicine and make an appointment.**
It's hard to tell where exactly this struggle started for me, but the first thing I remember being concerned about was my period. From the time I'd gone through puberty when I was about thirteen, things had never been "regular". Sometimes I would have a period every other month, and sometimes I would go for four to eight months without anything at all.
At first I didn't really care, I mean what teenage girl wants to have a period every month? I sure didn't.
But after a few years went by and nothing had changed, my mom and I decided it would be wise to see a doctor. So, I went to my pediatrician and she put me on the hormonal birth control pill. It was clear that I had some sort of hormone imbalance and her plan was to "regulate" my hormones with the pill for six months, then wean me off of them and my body should start having a normal cycle.
To make a long story short, that didn't work. We tried this process several times and each time I would have a very consistent (almost to the hour) period while taking the pill, but as soon as I stopped, it would disappear almost completely.
By the time I got married at nineteen, I decided to make things easier on myself and just stay on the pill indefinitely. I wanted to have a predictable period and we weren't planning on having a baby right away so I thought it was the perfect solution.
At this time in my life, everything was pretty wonderful. I was newly married to the man of my dreams, we were renting a cute little house on the edge of town, we both had full-time jobs, and we were surrounded by friends and family.
It was during this time that I first started learning about healthy eating and natural living. My full-time job was working as an administrative assistant at an awesome company called Homegrown Organic Farms (check out their website and inspiring mission here). Not only did I gain tons of useful business experience at that job, but I was also able to see (and taste!) first-hand the benefits of organic produce and farming practices.
As a result, I began to discover that I had a passion for healthy eating. My mother-in-law shares this passion and we would (and still do) talk for hours about nourishing the body with food, new recipes we wanted to try, herbal remedies, and the best ways to cook root vegetables. She has been a source of much wisdom and encouragement throughout this process, and I am so thankful for her.
About ten months after we were married, God called us to move to Idaho. I won't get into all the details of that decision right now, we'll save that story for another time, but I will tell you that it was a difficult adjustment for me (you can read more about my thoughts on that here).
A few months went by and I just couldn't seem to get out the post-move funk. I spent the majority of my time feeling sorry for myself, wishing I was back in California, or being angry at myself, God, and my husband for getting me out of my comfort zone.
When summer came, things seemed to get a little better. We were starting to settle in, we made a few friends, and we were talking about getting a dog. And that's when it hit me.
When baby fever hits, it hits hard. I'm sure all you gals can relate.
Anyway, the baby bug definitely hadn't bitten Ryan. We talked about it, but he just wasn't ready. Looking back, I can very clearly see God's guidance during that time, and how my husband was much more sensitive to it than I was.
Thinking about babies got me thinking about my cycle again. I knew something wasn't quite right in that department, and, to be completely honest, I had a gut feeling that taking artificial hormones in the form of a pill was doing more harm to my body than good. I started researching like a mad woman. I read anything and everything I could about hormonal birth control, how it works, and what the risks are. (If you're curious too, read this article.)
When I realized what I had been doing to my body, I knew I had to stop immediately. I also knew that there had to be some other way, a natural way, to avoid pregnancy. That's when I found this book: "Taking Charge of Your Fertility". If you are a woman, you NEED to read this book. I'm not exaggerating when I say that it changed my life. Not only did I find a completely natural, reliable form of birth control (which can also be used as a method of pregnancy achievement if that's your goal), I found the key to unlocking the mysteries of my body. I was no longer worried or disgusted by it's natural processes. Everything finally made sense in a beautiful way.
I could go on and on about that book, but you should really just read it for yourself.
As soon as I finished the book (it was August 2015), I stopped taking the pill and started charting my temperature and paying attention to my body. During those first few weeks I did a lot of research on what foods help to balance hormones, what foods I should avoid, and what herbal supplements might help. I decided to clean up my diet and focus on getting whole, nourishing foods into my body and hopefully my body would sort itself out in a few months and everything would be great.
Well, five months went by and nothing happened. I hadn't had any sort of a period, my temperature was all over the chart, and I was feeling tired and depressed most of the time.
When December rolled around I knew it was time to get some expert advice, and this time I wanted advice from someone who wanted to help me heal my body as naturally as possible.
I was able to find a naturopath in my area so I made an appointment right away. I gave her all the details of what had been going on and we did quite a few blood tests to see if we could get some answers. Through that we discovered that all my hormone levels were in the low range, and that I was severely anemic. It explained why my body refused to have a period, and why I felt so exhausted all the time. I immediately got started on a supplement regime and felt encouraged. I finally had some answers and I was finally heading towards the solution.
The year that followed (2016) was probably the most difficult year of my entire life.
After a few months of faithfully eating a nutrient dense diet and taking my supplements, my period sill hadn't returned. My doctor suggested using progesterone, which finally got my cycle started, but it was sporadic at best. We tweaked the dosage to try to help my body regulate itself, but that never seemed to work out very well.
Instead of feeling better and more balanced, I began to feel worse and worse. I would wake up every morning feeling exhausted. I was grumpy all the time (my poor husband). I lacked the motivation to get things done around the house. Doing things I normally enjoyed felt like a waste of time and energy. I could hardly keep my eyes open by six o'clock in the evening. My digestive system was a wreck. I felt stressed out, overwhelmed, and depressed every single day. I knew I was a completely different person than I used to be, but I couldn't actually remember how it felt to be normal - to have energy and be joyful. I was miserable.
Then, in March or April, my in-laws came to visit and my mother-in-law brought me a book called "Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome". I read it in a day and was amazed. I had never heard of adrenal fatigue before, but what the book described was me to a T. Again, I could talk for hours about what adrenal fatigue is, how it affects you, and what causes it, but the author of this book describes it much better than I can. If you want to know more, it is definitely worth the two dollars for a used copy on Amazon.
In the book, the author gave many helpful suggestions for recovering from adrenal fatigue, but rest and time were the most important. Both of those were things I had been neglecting (or avoiding). Yes, I hadn't been doing much of anything during those months, but I hadn't been letting my body truly rest either. I was impatient with it. Any time of "rest", either intentional or because I mentally just couldn't make myself do anything, would only leave me feeling guilty and stressed.
From then on I have been making a conscious effort to listen to my body, respect it, and give it the rest it needs (without feeling guilty about it). God created our human bodies with the miraculous ability to heal themselves, but we need to pay attention to them. When we have a fever, that's our body's way of protecting us and killing a virus. When we feel pain or things don't work the way they're supposed to, that's our body's way of communicating to us that something is wrong. We spend so much time and money drugging our bodies to cover up the symptoms instead of listening to them and giving them what they need for the healing process. And that's exactly what I had been doing.
The rest of 2016 felt a lot like riding a roller coaster. Some days were good, some days were awful, some days were just "meh". By the time summer hit, I had been on all the supplements and eating clean for over six months and I still wasn't seeing much improvement. I was feeling very discouraged. I was twenty two years old - I shouldn't be feeling like an old woman just yet! I wanted my life back. I wanted to be that energetic, joyful, motivated person I used to be.
Out of desperation, I had a another visit with my doctor, ran a few more tests, and discovered that the levels of acid in my stomach were almost nonexistent. That meant that, no matter what I did to nourish my body through food and supplements, it was almost incapable of digesting and absorbing the vitamins and nutrients it needed. I was very surprised to find that out, but it finally all made sense.
Since that discovery, things have steadily been getting better and better. I have seen HUGE improvements in my menstrual cycle, my mood, my digestion, my energy, and even my outlook on life. I feel more and more like my "old self" every day.
Things still aren't perfect, I still have rough days and weeks, but the good days now far outnumber the bad and, for a while there, I wasn't sure I was ever going to experience that again.
When I first started on this journey, I was looking for a quick fix. I had no intentions of giving my body an entire year or more to heal. I thought I was the one in control, that I knew how to remedy the problem.
I sure was wrong.
When I first started on this journey, I didn't realize how much I was going to learn. About my body, about nutrition, about myself, about my relationships with others, and about God and his plan for my life. Trials like this, the ones that involve physical pain and difficulty, have a way of dredging up all kinds of ugly things in your heart and soul. Things like pride, selfishness, self-pity, and even bitterness.
For me, this struggle stripped away everything in my life that I was proud of: a clean home, my desire and ability to care for my husband, my desire and ability to be an encouragement to others, an unwavering walk with God, a fit, healthy body.
I went from feeling like I had it all together, to realizing that I was absolutely helpless and hopeless on my own. I was at my worst, the truth of who I am was bared before myself, before my husband, before my family and dear friends, and before my holy God.
But isn't that God's purpose in all of life's hard things?
To come to a place of ultimate humility and surrender, a place where the dross and the ugly just seem to overflow out of your heart, is a hard thing, yes. But that's the only place God can refine you, strengthen you, and draw you even further into intimacy with Him. It's where relationships deepen and faith grows.
Maybe you have felt this way too, friend. Maybe you're in the thick of it right this very moment. Either way, know that you are not in this fight alone. The Lord is carrying you. I am rooting for you.
It won't be like this forever, even though it might feel like it. God has created your body in a beautiful, intricate, purposeful way. You are not an accident even though you may be flawed. Those imperfections are what God is using to mold you into the person he desires you to be.
And one more thing, friend. Remember this:
He will be faithful to renew your strength.
The realization that you can't do it on your own, that you figuratively and physically don't have the strength to make it, is not a bad thing.
It's the best thing.
How else can you begin to rely completely on the love, mercy, and grace of your Savior?
**Stay tuned for part 2, coming next week, on why being healthy is vital to fulfilling your God-given role as a homemaker, and some practical tips on how to get there.**