I’m doing something today that already has me feeling very exposed and vulnerable. It’s weird to share your truth on the internet with lots of people you don’t know, some that you do know, and lots in between.
My hope is that by sharing a little bit more about myself and my journey, I can illuminate for another woman the unbelievable healing powers that lie within her right this very second. If even one woman reads this and feels hope, empowerment, or the tiniest tingle of her own intuition leading her back to herself, then it was worth it.
Thank you for being here with me today.
In 2014, I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome).
I was coming off the heels of a very stressful time in my life. 2013 was a lot of things for me that included a move back in with my parents, leaving a job that I loved, and getting back on my feet after an emotionally traumatic experience that left me in a pretty constant state of fight or flight. In case you were wondering, constant stress does wonders for your hormones, btw 😉
Early 2014, I began to notice that I would often go 40+ days between periods, and I was having some mid-cycle spotting. I was also in a new relationship at the time and was feeling all kinds of unease about bleeding all over my new boo. I went to my OB and we did some bloodwork and I received a transvaginal ultrasound. Lo and behold – my perfect little almond shaped ovaries were enlarged and had the classic pearl-necklace shaped follicles lining the perimeter of the ovary, one indication of PCOS. That coupled with my lab work which revealed elevated androgens plus my symptoms (anovulatory cycles, cystic acne, months between actual periods) all painted the PCOS picture.
(Side note: for any woman who thinks she may have PCOS, it’s a bit of a nuanced diagnosis. An ultrasound alone is not enough. You need to obtain bloodwork (estradiol, progesterone, LH, FSH, testosterone, AMH, prolactin), and you need to evaluate your symptoms. And also there are several different types of PCOS. Check out this article here by Dr. Lara Briden. It’s definitely not a black and white diagnosis. This makes it a very fun condition to have lol. )
My doctor gave me a few options. They were:
go back on the birth control pill (to “regulate” my cycle) (and further suppress ovulation…)
take the medications metformin (to help with blood sugar irregularities often seen in women with PCOS) and spironolactone (to help with the androgen excess)
and pursue assisted reproductive technology (ART) like IUI and IVF when the time came to get pregnant since I probably would need help with that due to the fact that I’m not ovulating
This conversation left me feeling very helpless and very broken. I totally took on the feeling of “my body had failed me”. I had so many questions – was this genetic? Was this fixable? How serious is this? Am I going to be on pills forever? (I’m so young …) What does this mean for the future? And something about my only “options” being pharmaceuticals did NOT resonate with me.
(( I also realized many years later that I had a lot of anger as a result of this conversation that I wasn’t fully aware of when this was all transpiring; a testament to time’s true healing powers. About a year ago, I realized that I was angry that the pill, meds, and ART were my only options. I was angry that she had suggested my body was broken and that this was just the hand I was dealt. I was very angry that this was the BEST that western medicine had to offer me. I have since spent lots of time unpacking this anger, allowing it to process and move through me, in order to heal myself from this experience. Underneath all the anger is a deep gratitude for that conversation with that doctor in Long Beach because that moment started a revolution in me that is now my life. And I could not be more grateful for that. Ahhhhh the process of healing. Not linear. Not easy. Not always pretty. But very necessary for true healing to occur. ))
(((okay, back to the show 😉 )))
So I went home with this new life-changing information, and I decided that I was going to think about my path forward before committing to any of her recommendations.
Synchronicity would have it that one day very soon after the diagnosis, I would be in my kitchen putting together a lovely dinner for my bae, and I would be listening to a new podcast that The Wellness Mama was hosting, and her guest for that day happened to be none other than the gorgeous, sexy, brilliant queen Alisa Vitti of FloLiving. This moment changed my life forever. I damn near dropped the casserole dish with my veggies and pot roast when I heard her story.
She, too, had been diagnosed with PCOS many years before. Her options were pharmaceutical too. And she said NOPE. This is not good enough. So she set out to heal herself naturally. And guess what, friends? SHE DID. SHE FUCKING DID. She put her own PCOS into remission, all of her symptoms disappeared, her periods and ovulation were restored, and she had preserved her own fertility and went on to successfully conceive a baby girl after only a few tries. It all started with Alisa, and I will forever be grateful for her groundbreaking work in the field of women’s health and hormones. Alisa – if you’re reading this, I love you and I think of you all the time even though we have never met. You are a pioneer and you are changing lives everywhere. THANK YOU.
From there, I eagerly took on many of the FloLiving protocols – eating within 90 minutes of waking, syncing my workouts with the phases of my menstrual cycle, getting a handle on stress, prioritizing self care, etc. From 2014-2016, I pretty much had regular periods. I bled about every 28-32 days, but like clockwork, in the summertime my period would mysteriously go missing. From like Memorial Day til Labor Day … it would just go away! For 2 years!
It probably had something to do with the fact that summertime means lots of BBQs, parties, cocktails, sangria, evening duffy rides, day-drinking, the works. And it doesn’t take a hormone expert to realize that these things aren’t the most hormone supportive … Sooo was it clockwork that my period just happened to disappear from June thru September, OR was it the divine wisdom of my body trying to tell me that “hmmm…. maybe it’s NOT such a great idea to just throw all your progress out the window just because it’s summer and that scavenger hunt through Newport Beach is happening and Bar Golf though and the spicy margs are calling……” ???
(Stage Coach, 2014)
(Newport Beach, 2014)
((For my keen observer – it’s the latter 😉😉)
Period things were moving along fine and beautiful in 2017, and then in summer 2018, my dad was diagnosed with aggressive stage 5 monocytic predominant Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
And when I say aggressive, I mean his white blood cell count tripled in 2 days aggressive and 90% of his blood on diagnosis was cancer cells. This was one of the most stressful and anxiety-ridden times of my entire life.
My modus operandi during that time was:::
sleep on a hospital couch (they are really nice now, btw, I’m just used to a Casper mattress)
sleep great (lol) on account of the Alaris pumps beeping constantly
night shift nurses doing their assessments (again, not complaining, RNs of Rush 14th floor – I love you all)
wake up around 0630
drink coffee on an empty stomach
pep talk and pump up Dad and the fam
learn the language of chemotherapy and allogenic stem cell transplants and 5-year survival rates of AML + deal with my own very palpable emotional stress centering around the prospect of losing my dad
eat an Au Bon Pain asiago cheese bagel with spicy jalapeno cream cheese bagel around 2pm
shower at my sister’s house
have some wine with sissy and bro in law
eat bougie ramen for dinner
head back to Rush to sleep on the tiny couch again.
After receiving the nuclear holocaust of chemotherapy all summer, on September 5, 2018, Dad received a stem cell transplant from a beautiful stranger in Iowa, who just so happened to be in the Be The Match database, and who just so happened to be a perfect 14/14 point HLA match for my dad.
I am beyond words grateful to say that Dad is living his best life today in Bourbonnais, Illinois gardening, biking, cooking, lounging by the pool, being a wonderful husband to my mama bear, being Papa to my sweet nephew Waylon and sweet niece Kali, and continues to be one of the most loved constants in mine and my sissy’s life.
To our donor, thank you for giving my dad another shot at this wild and beautiful life. Thank you for allowing me to have another 3 years with him. Thank you will never be enough. I love you with my whole heart.
(I’m not crying, you’re crying)
((Also check out Be The Match and consider becoming a donor. You never know who’s life you may end up saving))
(( okay, back to the show 😊 ))
Between August and December 2018, I had one period.
I hopped on over to my OB’s office (different OB than the one earlier) for another ultrasound and another batch of labs and sure enough, my right ovary looked perfectly PCOS-ish, and my labs were a hot mess express again. I definitely cried in the doctor’s office and she met me with such love and compassion and I will always be grateful to her for holding space for me that day.
Drew and I had just started to talk about pulling the goalies so we could start our family. Full disclosure – our goalies were condoms. I was absolutely done with hormonal birth control and had been completely off of it since 2014.
I was feeling like I was back at square one again. I mean I knew that I wasn’t totally back at square one, since I knew what to do to get my hormones back on track, but I did feel a little defeated. Again, a healing journey is not linear. I was very much still learning to find grace for myself.
So while we did start our baby making journey in January 2019, I was not ovulating every month.
2019 progressed. My periods had smoothed out to 30-33ish days, and as the year drew to a close, we still were not pregnant.
I had grown to honestly rejoice a little (I’m not dramatic at all, am I?! haha) whenever my period would come. I embraced it as this beautiful expression of my gorgeous female body – the fact that I was a healthy woman, having a healthy period after a gloriously healthy follicular and ovulatory and luteal phase, experiencing the most natural thing in the world in a woman’s life. My period was very much a gift to me. Can you imagine if all women viewed their menstrual cycles like this? How much more love and peace and joy would there be in the world?!
Well, at this point in my life, every time my period would come I was met with PROFOUND sadness, frustration, and the all-encompassing, infuriatingly infinitesimal yet deeper than deep question “why” would haunt me until the bleeding stopped, and I could move on to a new cycle where hopefully a new egg would release and hopefully meet sperm and hopefully fertilize and hopefully implant in my uterus and hopefully make me and Drew Boo parents.
Lets also talk about those horrible LH strips. Everyone asks me if I used them. The answer is yes I used them. And I fucking hated them. They were a complete mind-fuck for me, and they were more of a libido buzzkill than getting a pap smear or awaiting the results of a biopsy.
I would see the surge, get all excited because YAY WE SAW THE SURGE LETS GET BUSY ALREADY OMG FERTILIZE ME BABY, aaannnnndddddd then the pressure would hit us both annnnndddddd then we just couldn’t get it together aaaannnnnddddd before you knew it the window was closed and we were both just irritated, frustrated, and feeling bad about how we handled the situation. Then we found ourselves on the hamster wheel of apologizing to each other for how we got irritated, frustrated and how we handled the situation.
(Pro tip: this kind of stress isn’t great for baby making. This is a play by play of how NOT to be successful at conceiving a baby. Are you taking notes? 😉 )
I would dwell (brood is more like it, tbh) on the fact that none of my tried and true healthy girl hormone habits, that I had spent so many years cultivating, were helping me get pregnant. I would get SO down about it, SO angry at myself when I slipped up, SO frustrated that it wasn’t happening yet, SO discouraged, SO defeated, and pretty much cycle through these emotions until I just couldn’t stand myself anymore.
(Self-pity is a party for one, and I was the guest of honor)
((Also this type of fretting and obsessing over actually having real feelings and physical emotions is not a healthy thing to do, either.))
I did this for a long time.
And I was getting very tired of it. Enough was enough.
In summer of 2020, I decided to recruit the help of a functional nutritionist. I was still hormonally imbalanced and it was clear that I needed some outside help. I said yes because when I listened to her webinar and learned what she was all about, I knew it was the key. I knew that we would get to the bottom of what was ailing my hormones. It was a subtle yet very confident knowing. It didn’t matter to me how expensive it was, honestly. I knew before it was over that my answer was yes.
It was and is to this day the greatest investment I have ever made in my health. I will never not encourage anybody to invest in their health. Yes, even if you have to charge it now and pay it back later. Your health is your greatest wealth. And no one will ever care about your health more than you do.
Throughout my time with her, we discovered that I was suffering from severe adrenal fatigue. So severe, that the cortisol on my Dutch test barely registered. She was so impressed upon seeing the results of my Dutch that she was a little blown away at how tanked my adrenals were. I was beyond just regular old adrenal fatigue where you have super high cortisol levels at inappropriate times throughout the day. I pretty much had NONE. They were beyond burnt out. They were so sad.
—> Super quick lesson on the adrenals – they are where your stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine are produced, as well as other hormones like DHEA and aldosterone. The adrenals are the main players in how your body adapts and responds to stress. Their job is to keep you alive when you are in danger. They are the reason that your body can just run away from the axe murderer even when you haven’t eaten in many hours. When you are in a constant state of fight or flight, your adrenals can’t keep up with the demand anymore, so they eventually burn out <—
Guess what. When they body is in fight or flight, it cannot rest and digest.
Guess what is able to happen when you spend time in rest and digest?
DING DING DING DING DING
The answer to the million dollar question everyone: why am I not getting pregnant?
BECAUSE MY BODY IS LITERALLY PRIORITIZING SURVIVAL OVER PROCREATION
Aca Excuse Me?! Lightbulbs. Going off everywhere. The lights on my barely existent motherboard lit up and it was the aha moment of all aha moments.
How did my adrenals become such sad little shadows of my adrenal glands of yore?
Let me venture a guess …
Not getting enough sleep in high school
Not eating a nutrient dense diet in high school
Not learning boundaries in high school
Pressure from a young age to be good at stuff and bring home good grades
The all-nighters in college
The coffee starting freshman year of college
5 hour energies + Rockstar Energy Drinks + Starbucks Double Shots in college
Swing shifting days to nights (this is GREAT for the body)
(just kidding, it’s very bad for the body)
Stress in a nursing job where people are critically ill and sometimes die
Dating dipshits and dealing with all the fun of dating dipshits
Dating some nice guys and the emotional sadness when relationships end
Hormonal birth control
Running and HIIT workouts
Sicker patients + more stressful work environments + more night shift + more people dying
Memorial Day – Labor Day partying and BBQs + all the spicy margs
Emotional family drama and more trauma
Traumatic friend breakups
Internalizing the emotional trauma from dad’s said cancer
Coffee on an empty stomach
Not eating food for 7+ hours and only drinking coffee
Eating food that is carbs, gluten, and processed garbage
Wanting a baby
Not being able to make a baby when you want a baby
Getting mad at yourself and your partner when you’re not getting the baby you want when you want it
Internalizing more anger and sadness and trauma and just not dealing with it
More baby making stress
Cross country moves
Bikram yoga 6 times a week
More stressful jobs with people dying (only now they are young people with bolts and monitors in their swollen brains and even turning the lights on makes their brain swell to dangerous levels…)
Deaths in the family
It wasn’t hard to put the pieces together that my entire life was one gigantic cortisol depleting, adrenal gland frying, hormonal shit storm waiting to happen.
ALL OF THIS.
THIS is why my little adrenal glands had tuckered out.
Why they decided that it was just too much for them to keep up with my crazy rollercoaster of a life.
Why they decided that the most beneficial thing for me and my survival was to do just that – merely help me survive, and devote every remaining ounce of their energy to helping me SURVIVE, and DIVERT every little bit of said energy away from non essentials like baby making and healthy ovulation.
(Pro tip: the ability to make a baby is NOT essential to your survival. Yes its imperative for the survival of humanity through procreation haha, but on an individual level, it is not essential for your survival as a human. What IS essential for your survival as a human is a beating heart and a thinking mind and strong capable muscles that carry you away from threats. But pregnancy? Not so much)
I didn’t experience stress outwardly like many people do.
I didn’t gain weight
I didn’t lose my hair
I didn’t lose sleep
I didn’t break out
I didn’t become irritable or cranky
I didn’t have anxiety
I didn’t have heart palpitations
I didn’t stress eat chips and cookies
No … I buried my stress internally.
I buried it so deep that it shut down my normal bodily processes like healthy menstruation, healthy ovulation, healthy energy levels, healthy cellular functioning, healthy hormone levels, and healthy metabolic responses in my body.
So now that we had an idea of what was the likely culprit of all my issues, my big focus was on restoring my adrenal function.
I did that through supplements like adrenal glandulars (yep, the ground up adrenal glands of a cow), high quality sea salt, magnesium, vitamin C, protein at every meal, and adaptogens like rhodiola, passionflower, and licorice root.
I started to manage my stress
I adapted my workouts so that I didn’t further tax my adrenals
I started to get outside for morning sun/morning walks daily
I began a daily meditation practice
I incorporated breathwork
I got back in to see a therapist
I adopted a daily self-care practice
And last but absolutely not least and actually the most important piece of the puzzle:
I FINALLY STARTED TO PRIORITIZE MY HEALTH
Stress management moved the needle of my health more than anything. More than dietary fine tuning and meal plans and more appropriate workouts. Much more than all that.
I had no idea how much my internalized stress had impacted my hormonal health. Do you guys know what compound interest is? It’s very sexy for your bank account. It is exactly the opposite of sexy when its compounding in reverse AGAINST your adrenal health. I had no idea that the compound interest of all my stress from all those years was the exact reason I was struggling so much with my hormonal imbalances.
As my nutritionist so lovingly said to me at the beginning of our time together:
THIS LEVEL OF ADRENAL FATIGUE DIDN’T HAPPEN OVERNIGHT
AND IT CERTAINLY WILL NOT GET FIXED OVERNIGHT
It likely wouldn’t be months or even a year until I was where I wanted to be. I appreciated her honesty with me and accepted this fully as I committed to myself to move forward in light of this newfound knowledge.
We started working together on August 10, 2020. I up-leveled my health in a massive way in August 2020. I got to the root cause of my issues. I was in it for the long haul, because there is no quick fix when it comes to healing naturally.
I have ovulated every single month since August 2020.
My periods have improved every single month since August 2020.
My cystic jawline acne is a thing of the past, and my skin is more beautiful than its ever been.
In January 2021, I received a new batch of labs and another transvaginal US that revealed the following:
TWO PERFECTLY HEALTHY, NORMAL-SIZED, GORGEOUS LITTLE OVARIES
MY LABS WERE PRISTINE:NO EXCESS ANDROGENS. NO ABNORMAL INSULIN. METABOLIC MARKERS ALL GLOWING.
AND MY HORMONES WERE ALL IN THE OPTIMAL RANGE FOR FUNCTIONAL NUTRITION
In February 2021, my Drew and I decided that we were going to adopt a child. We were so happy to finally be on the road to becoming parents to a sweet little angel boo. It was such a wonderful time, basking in that knowing with him. I will cherish those feelings forever.
On February 19, 2021, we received the call that we would officially be accepted to our agency’s list of prospective parents for the month of March. Hallelujah! A baby to love forever is soon going to be coming to us!!
Also on February 19, 2021, we conceived.
We found out we were expecting our baby on March 12, 2021.
We sadly miscarried in late April 2021, about 10.5 weeks into my pregnancy. It was a very sad time for us, and I will luminate our miscarriage story in another post on another day.
This was very much a personal tragedy of its own kind. But in the midst of this deep sadness, something powerful occurred to me.
WE. GOT. PREGNANT.
Naturally. In our home. In our bed. In a moment of yummy, delicious, gorgeous, palpable love and not underneath the fluorescent lights of a surgical suite. NATURALLY. OHMYGOD WHAT?!
One of my dear friends who went through her own fertility challenges told me that she and her husband were having so much sex, they were honestly a little bit like “are we doing it wrong? Does it go somewhere else?!” LOL.
I so get that. We had a little bit of that too. Well, friends, it turns out, we WERE doing it right this whole time lol! It DOES go there! Freshman year health class, GOT IT 😉 😉 😉
I got pregnant.
I REALLY GOT PREGNANT!!!
MY BODY CAME BACK INTO BALANCE IN SUCH A WAY WHERE IT FELT SAFE TO GET PREGNANT
MY BODY MOVED FROM MERE SURVIVAL TO FULL ON THRIVE-AL
(… not a word but it seemed like it worked in the moment haha)
MY BODY TOOK THE FOOT OFF THE GAS, SETTLED INTO CRUISE CONTROL, AND FINALLY ALLOWED IN THE ENERGY OF BABY MAKING
The fact that this even happened in the first place is an absolute MIRACLE.
I have not yet fully healed my adrenals.
It will likely be a couple of years until I am where I would like to be. And I work to heal them daily.
I exercise with my adrenals in mind
I deep breathe with my adrenals in mind
I decompress at the end of the day with my adrenals in mind
I say no to social events sometimes with my adrenals in mind
I set up boundaries with certain people with my adrenals in mind
I set boundaries around energy depleting/draining events/people/circumstances
I prioritize my sleep hygiene and my morning walks and my consumption of dramatic/traumatic stuff with my adrenals in mind
It was a shift at first, but now it is commonplace.
The needle has moved. My body is responding to the reduction in stress. So much so that I can actually FEEL what stress feels like in my body. Before it was just my natural state of being. It just rolled right off me. I wore this like a badge of flipping honor, you guys.
BUT NOW I SEE THAT THAT PERPETUAL STATE OF UNRELENTING STRESS WAS SO NOT SERVING ME
OR MY HORMONES
OR MY EMOTIONAL HEALTH
OR MY MENTAL HEALTH
OR MY BABY MAKING ABILITIES
Now I actually feel stress in my body when it happens.
I feel the sweats
The fluttering heart
The increase in respiratory rate
The subtle pressure in my heart chakra and solar plexus
The flippant thoughts and worries
The changes in appetite
The changes in sleep
I FEEL THE STRESS.
It was a little bit like the scene in The Holiday where Cameron Diaz at the end is finally able to cry and she starts to shriek in excitement in the back of the cab that she can cry! I’m literally the crazy chick who does a little happy dance whenever she feels stress. #noshame.
This is such a huge accomplishment that it honestly deserves a little celebration!
This is how I got to where I am today.
It all started with learning I had a little thing called PCOS and a doctor telling me there was jack I could do about it outside of pharmaceuticals.
This experience with PCOS, healing myself, putting PCOS into remission, invoking the powers of food, herbs, medicinal plants, supplements, whole food supplements, stress management, detoxification, optimizing my gut health, opening my pathways of elimination, learning about how to sync my life with my period – THIS.
THIS is why I am so passionate about women’s hormones.
THIS is why I created the Hormone Healing Secrets.
THIS is why I get up in the morning and write about this and share it with strangers on the internet.
BECAUSE I AM LIVING PROOF THAT HEALING IS POSSIBLE
I truly believe it happened for me because I believed that it could. I believed in myself enough to give it a try.
And damnit if I wasn’t going to try.
I am SO glad I didn’t listen to that doctor in Long Beach. Yes, maybe my issues would have been fixed quickly, but maybe not! And maybe not without side effects. And maybe not without the collateral of outsourcing my power for the next indefinite period of my life (yet again).
I would have missed out on the literal opportunity of a lifetime to HEAL the unhealable. To FIX the unfixable. To BECOME this person I am today. To CREATE an opportunity in myself — my physical, emotional, and spiritual body — to see what magic I am capable of.
Nobody is perfect. Least of all me. No healing journey is linear. There is no “right way” to heal your hormones. There is no magic bullet or quick fix or exact protocol or perfect meal plan.
There is only you and your desire to get well.
The rest will follow.
When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
FROM NOW UNTIL FOREVER, I WILL BE TEACHING WOMEN ABOUT THEIR POWER AND THE DIVINE WISDOM IN THEIR BODIES
IT’S AN HONOR TO BE IN THIS SPACE AND TO BE PART OF THE REVOLUTION OF HEALING OUR HORMONES AND COMING HOME TO OURSELVES
Wherever you are in your healing journey, know that you are not alone.
Know that you are loved.
Know that you are seen.
Know that you are heard.
Know that your symptoms and your experiences matter.
Know that you have a magic in you, a wisdom in you, a knowing in you that wants to guide you back to your best, healthiest, happiest, most vibrant version of yourself.
No one can take that away from you.
I hope this story helped you feel less alone. This is my love letter to every woman out there suffering from a hormonal imbalance, a diagnosis, and a verbal contract with a doctor who doesn’t believe in the innate ability of the body to heal outside of the western paradigm.
(( Please understand that this is not a post to undermine those who wish to undergo IVF/IUI/ART of some kind, and this is not a post passing judgment on any woman who has undergone IVF/IUI in order to grow her family. Throughout my hormone healing journey, I was never ready for or open to ART. I’m not 100% open to it now. This is simply where I am in my life. Perhaps those feelings will change if we aren’t able to conceive naturally again. I share this though to highlight my experience, my emotions and feelings that arose during this experience, and expand upon my desire to conceive my child naturally. For any feelings hurt, I offer you my regrets and love ))
I am here to support you! Let me know how I can be of service to you on your hormone healing journey.
Yours In Abundant Health,