You wouldn’t have guessed that I could only stand for 20 minutes per day and that I couldn’t take showers without a shower chair and my mom’s help. I looked like a normal 19 year old girl, except when I was in my wheelchair. My blog made me out to be a healthy girl at this time, too. I was fashion blogging, which was basically the only possible way I could find to make money. Brands would send me clothes to feature, and I would. I’d do my makeup, put the outfit on, stand up for 5 minutes, and my mom would take my photos.
Let’s take it back a few years. In 2010, I found out I have Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. POTS basically meant that when I switched from a seated position to standing, my heart would be 30 beats faster than it was supposed to. This would cause extreme lightheadedness and even fainting. I had stomach issues, frequent headaches and extreme fatigue. I spent the majority of my time in bed and often missed months of high school. I ended up withdrawing for half of my junior year to start cyber school, which I hated.
Fibromyalgia (chronic widespread pain) came along when I was 19, living in New York. I studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology for a little while, but soon became so sick that I couldn’t leave my bed, or even walk. I wouldn’t wish pushing yourself around in a wheelchair in New York City on anyone. People just don’t give a fuck. They stay in their own lane. I dropped out and moved back to the Philly suburbs, where I grew up. It was like I was 3 years old again. My parents did everything for me.
Neither diagnosis came easy. I spent years not knowing what was wrong with me, and people thinking it was all in my head. In September 2015, I ended up spending an entire week at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota. I had tests from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. most days, which was exhausting. Later that week, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.
They recommended I go through the Mayo Pain Rehabilitation Program. I attended the 3-week PRC program at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Jacksonville, Florida, which forces all patients to taper off of any pain-related medication. I learned some things from the program, but it didn’t fix me.
I was on at least 20 different medications between the ages of 12 and 20. The doctors I’d see would put me on all kinds of shit, without hesitation. 99% of those drugs did nothing for me. One of them ended up helping enough with my pain for me to return to New York and go back to college. My turning point came when I was sitting in my apartment, thinking about the medications I was on. I was still in pain, always bloated, had very frequent headaches and my acne was out of control. In 2016, I was 30 pounds overweight from overeating and just eating so much shit – shake shack, processed food, dollar pizza, you name it. In November 2017, I decided to try a plant based diet. The weight came off easily. Within a week, I had no more headaches.
Since then, my health has improved dramatically. I became so interested in healthy eating and looking at health from a holistic standpoint that I enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where I became a certified health coach. There are a lot of things that helped me, including yoga, pilates and meditation.
What really lights me up is helping others with autoimmune conditions get their life back. You can do everything that you have ever dreamed of. You can find healing. I’m not vegan or “plant-based” anymore, but I found a balance that works for me.