A perfect storm was brewing in my personal and work lives…there are no coincidences… The short story: I was quite ill, although I never let on about it because I felt it would leave me too vulnerable. I don’t fear that any longer. The happy ending: I am achieving better health every day. Want to know more? Read on…
After nearly 20 years of constant intense work – weekends, holidays, and 7-day-a-week/12 to 14+hour days of constant business operations – I needed some time for myself, so I took the time I needed without having to explain or answer to anyone about where I was and what I was doing. I purposely fell off the earth and separated myself from my business world, mostly because I am aware that I have a difficult time saying ‘no’ when people ask for my help/talents (like most of us women!) and also because I knew I didn’t have it in me to give any of my time or energy to anyone. I had to stop, listen to my heart, give to myself instead of others and redefine my purpose…I needed time to just be. My health was suffering because of constant work, stress and other physical problems that I couldn’t get relief from – I felt like I was falling apart, but I also felt that I had to keep going, but my “going” wasn’t going so good and the journey seemed to turn into a struggle. I had no idea what was happening within me, because I never took time to stop, listen, be or be aware…until last year.
I am so fortunate that Karen supports me in all my endeavors, including my needing to take time to productively reflect, regroup, focus on myself, care for my health, determine my personal and professional priorities then decide how I could make a shift in my life and in my work that would reflect the desires and needs I had newly identified. Finally, I feel renewed with physical, mental and emotional health, feel that I have a clear purpose and a determined focus. I am so excited to be moving in a new direction with my photography AND with my health.
Since the winter of 2007, I had been struggling with health issues that kept building one on top of the other: a back injury in 2007, then knee surgery in 2008. Then came 2009, 2010 and 2011 and 2012…more health issues and another knee surgery. I barely blogged anything – a big no-no in the world of self-promotion and marketing – I just didn’t have it in me. I was constantly exhausted . It was all I could do to photograph weddings, process the thousands of images from them, meet my obligations to my clients, hang on for dear life and keep-on-keepin’-on to get through the days! Each day was a tremendous struggle with another health issue that brought constant symptoms of head fog, sinus/ear infections, exhaustion, impending vertigo, eye migraines, nystagmus, actual multiple vertigo episodes, anxiety and fear (from the actual vertigo) and more exhaustion heaped on top of it. I know that work stress contributed to my physical health, but it all compounded in a daily struggle, especially when I couldn’t muster any insight into how to move through and beyond what I was experiencing. Day-after-day it was the same thing. I sought medical care from my MDs and ENT specialists, repeated Chiropractic care, and nothing or no one seemed to help me. It is hellish to not be well, not get any relief from not feeling well, and not know if you would ever be well again.
I was at my highest level of frustration in all aspects of my life and just before Christmas 2011 I had had another vertigo episode that left me spent in all ways. But the Universal Source heard my pleas, and finally sent me the help I needed! A true Christmas gift! …there are no coincidences, believe me. Even when you fight knowledge, if it’s supposed to come to you in the form you need it to come to you so you can have full understanding and then learn to believe, it will come, and I can attest to it!
I was at a Christmas party given by Elizabeth and John Craig, of Craig Photography, where a wonderful bunch of photographer friends had gathered to enjoy a relaxing holiday evening together. I was in day two of recovering from my horrible vertigo episode, not feeling well at all and was recounting my experience with a wonderful friend and fellow photographer, Beth Kukucka when another photographer I had just met at the party, Joey Kennedy, overheard our conversation and said, “Hey! My dad can help you with that! He helped me overcome the same problem!” It turns out that Joey’s father is a Naturopath and a Nutritionist – just what I needed. You never know where, and from whom the gifts you need are going to come…this was one of those moments…and I couldn’t be more grateful! I began 2012 with an appointment to see Lawrence McClain of McClain’s Nutritional Strategies in Mars, PA who promptly encouraged me to re-think my approach to nutrition, and set me down the path to health!
We definitely are what we eat. I thought I was eating healthily, however, Mr. McClain educated me to my need to commit to significant changes in my diet combined with a few alternative supplements (mostly potent probiotics) and vitamins, which he assured me would help me resolve my debilitating vertigo and move me towards better health. He was spot on. The first week of eating differently and taking the supplements I felt a dramatic physical change for the better, but it’s just now, one year later that I would say I’m feeling about 85% stasis towards full health and I continue to improve daily. I am thrilled. Although I still need a decent amount of rest and still tire fairly easily, my energy levels are considerably higher, I’ve only had one minor vertigo episode (after four days of “cheating” over a holiday weekend), my head is clear!!!!, my focus is better, my nystagmus (dancing eyes) has all but resolved, I no longer have a consistent full feeling in my ears, I haven’t had a sinus infection or any other virus, which indicates my immune function is improving. I am feeling better and better with each day.
What was wrong with me? Sugar was my enemy. I am not diabetic, my body just couldn’t process all the sugar found in our normal Americanized diet. Here’s what made me right and moved me towards health…I don’t eat any white sugar or white flour – in fact, I eat no grains at all. Yep, you heard correctly; this Italian bread-lovin’ girl eats no bread at all…for a year now! I might have an occasional small amount of brown rice (probably 7 times last year, if that), but mostly I eat no grains at all. I use honey – raw honey is the best (makes me want to keep bees) as a sweetener in baking, I use almond meal/flour to bake my own breads and crackers, I eat tons of fruit, vegetables and many different kinds of small beans (not the large beans, because they have too much starch which converts to sugar), and although I’d like to be totally vegetarian, I’m not there just yet, but I’m working on it! I still do eat fish (wild caught), and organic grass-fed/free range meats, but less often than I used to. Call it a gluten allergy, or a sensitivity to processed flours/foods, or a combination, but it was slowly killing me and making me/my life miserable. Regaining health and realizing what was making me ill has been a wonderful motivator to continue down the path I am on. I’ve still a way to go…but I am on the path, and that is all I need follow!
My go-to recipes have been found at Elana’s Pantry – without, I probably would have not had the success I’ve had – and the many resources Elana indicates on her site.
Elana’s gluten free recipes have literally saved my life; no joke. I have her cookbook and follow her almond baking/cooking recipes daily, except I use honey instead of agave where possible; just my preference. I drink coconut or almond milk – I’ve never cared for milk, even as a child, so these “milks” are perfect for me and actually are higher in calcium than dairy milk. I have a smoothie daily for breakfast with fruit, flax oil + golden flax meal, raw vegetarian protein powder and almond butter…I eat a ton of almond butter and bake with a ton of unsweetened coconut! When I want something sweet, I just bake something from Elana’s book or list of recipes on her website – guilt-free and healthy goodies! I use olive, coconut and grapeseed oils for cooking. All that stuff they told you about coconut and tropical oils? Untruths, all of it; pure popycock. Educate yourself, and you’ll understand what the FDA has done to our diet, it’s a damned shame. I do eat cheese, but it’s always the low moisture types: parm + cheddar mostly. My bad cholesterol has never been lower, and my good cholesterol has never been higher! My triglicerides are super low and my bloodsugar is perfect – no more spikes high or low as if I were starving after having just eaten. It’s unbelievable how well conscious eating has worked for me, and I’ve lost 30 pounds – a bonus from eating delicious and healthy food, NOT because of dieting.
So, if you’ve wondered where I have been, or if I was doing photography, now you know. I was acquiring renewed health, purpose and spirit. I’ve still a way to go for optimal health, but I’ve every confidence I’ll get there. Maybe one more year and I’ll be 100%! I’ve taken a break from the rigors of the wedding and portrait photography world, because I had to, and now I’m only photographing a select few weddings – 3 to 5 per year only. That’s all I want to do, because in all of the reflection I’ve had time to do this past year, I’ve discovered something just as important as good physical health…
…but that will have to wait for the next journal entry. This one is already too long! ;- )
Namaste, Joanne Bartone Photographer