Have you ever experienced a weird sensation in your body and questioned whether or not it’s real? Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that what you’re feeling is all in your head. Or maybe you’ve experienced an “actual” symptom that’s lasted for several weeks and after doing a lot of research on your own you think perhaps you’ve found a potential cause, and when you finally go to the doctor to get a professional to confirm what you may have found they tell you “That can’t possibly be the cause”. End of story. Or maybe they simply tell you that your now chronic ailment has no cause and the only course of action is pain/symptom management. If any of these situations resonate with you, I’m here to tell you that if you feel it in your body, then it is real. That is one of the most powerful messages I have ever heard and I think it’s something that needs to be shared and repeated and respected more. Now, my story is not one of many years of illness or chronic, poor health, but it is one of trials and tribulations, of intuition and accepting to follow the signs,  and of the gradual coming into of one’s life purpose.


I am fortunate to say that I’ve always led a relatively healthy life. When I was a child and teenager I was very active. I always participated in at least 2 sports – soccer and gymnastics, and later on track and field, and my mom always made sure to cook our meals for us (even if we had to eat them in the car while traveling from one practice to another). I’ve never had any serious health issues except for when I got mono (for the first time) when I was 20, and I’ve always felt myself to be a very intuitive person. I had dreams when I was younger of finding my lost retainer behind my bed and when I woke up in the morning it was in the spot where I saw it in my dream. When every single one of my grandparents passed away I had dreams where I met with them and they told me they were okay, or that they loved me, or that they were proud of me. They were always filled with overwhelming feelings of recognition and love. Most recently and most profoundly, after my grandmother with whom I had a very close relationship with passed away when I was 27 years old, I believe that her spirit visited me in the grocery store a couple of weeks after she passed. She used a host body of course, but the overwhelming feeling I got after speaking with this unknown woman left me in tears in the produce aisle. I am not new to or opposed to the idea of spirit or that something, some energy greater than us is moving in the universe. When I was younger I used to question it and even doubt it, but with time I’ve realized that there are just some things that one can experience that are too real to be denied, but too intangible to be explained by science.


I mentioned that my story was one of trials and tribulations, and without getting into too much detail right now, it’s worth mentioning that my early 20’s was a period of heartbreak. Due to various factors this was a very defining time in my life. For several years it was categorized by confusion, suffering (self chosen), and desperation. I had no choice but to grow and break through generational relationship patterns. Now, when I think back on this time I am so grateful to have found my way through all of those dark, seemingly hopeless days. If it weren’t for all of the self realization, tears, and acceptance I would 100% not be where I am today. Emotional growth aside, let’s fast forward to the fall of 2018 and this is when my first real struggle with overall health started to set in. 

I had just arrived to my new home in southern Spain; a place I had dreamed about living in for many years. A new country, a new city, a new beginning. It was nothing like I imagined it would be, and I would be lying if I said this wasn’t the most difficult period of my life to date. Everything was a challenge: buying groceries, taking the bus, using the washing machine, the weird eating schedule, a work schedule that was constantly changing. I cried a lot. I felt unsafe and I felt wildly insecure. Looking back on that time now I wish I had listened to my body. I wish I had been more gentle and patient with myself. Instead, I was frustrated and angry; I was exhausted all the time, I was struggling to adjust to my new schedule, I wanted to make friends and to have a support system but I was too insecure and tired to make the effort to go out. I started to get a recurring cold accompanied by laryngitis every couple of weeks. I chalked it up to working with kids, using public transportation, and being in a new place where my body wasn’t used to the microbes yet. Despite those early warning signs I kept pushing myself. I kept comparing my current physical and emotional state to my previous physical and emotional state while I was living in New York. In New York I was calm and relaxed and I did yoga and I took care of my dog; I worked in a laboratory and made a good living; I had friends and family and a great support system. In Spain I had nothing. I was depressed. And eventually, my mono made a resurgence.

Early one morning at 3 am, I decided I needed to go urgent care (my third trip in a six week period). My throat was so sore that I could barely swallow, and I certainly couldn’t sleep. The doctor saw me within 10 minutes of arriving and after asking a couple of questions (NONE about my health history) determined that I had tonsilitis, prescribed me an antibiotic and a steroid to help with the swelling of my tonsils, and sent me on my way. Now, what this doctor didn’t know, and what I very painfully found out, was that if you prescribe antibiotics to an individual with an active EBV infection (Epstein Barr Virus, which causes mono) they will 98% of the time develop a terrible rash all over their entire body. When the rash started I immediately went back to urgent care. Again I was in and out in 20 minutes. They gave me a strong steroid shot in the ass and told me to stop taking the antibiotic and sent me on my way. When I mentioned that this type of reaction was common in someone with EBV they paid almost no attention. All I could do was wait for it to pass. I was angry and I was frustrated. I was disappointed with myself and felt deceived by my body. How could this have happened? I’ve always been someone who took care of her body, someone who had a semi-normal body image, someone who considered herself to be strong both physically and mentally. Every day that I woke up with the rash I felt myself get angry with my body all over again. Why couldn’t it heal itself? Why was my body betraying me? It’s important to note that with all of the new changes I was experiencing during this time, my diet also did a 180. I was eating crap I NEVER would have eaten in NY – grilled nutella sandwiches for breakfast, pasta with bacon at least once per week and pasta in general almost every day, and very few vegetables. Luckily, the mono reinfection happened during a time where there were lots of holidays and time off of work. I tried to rest as much as I could but I still felt guilty that I couldn’t perform in my job to the best of my abilities. Slowly but surely the rash disappeared and I healed up enough to be able to go on a holiday trip I had planned. (Although I’m sure my body would’ve been happier if I had just stayed in my apartment instead of traveling around Europe for 2 weeks, but, hindsight is 20-20.) 


I rang in the new year in Salzburg, Austria and made a promise to myself that I was going to be kinder to myself in 2019; that I was going to be more patient and gentle; that I was going to love myself and my body and all of the hard work it was doing to try to heal me. I was going to start feeding it good, nutritious food and I was going to get back into exercising. If I wanted my body to heal, I needed to change my mindset and believe in my body.

As I was focusing on all of this; myself, my mental health, physical health, and emotional health, I decided that I was ready to start dating. It was at the end of February, 1 week before my family came to visit me, that I met the person the universe had destined me for. After years of challenges, heartbreak, spiritual growth, and now physical growth, I was finally ready to meet my person. And it is because of him and his unconditional love and acceptance and support that I have the courage to write this, and that I’ve had the courage to explore and fall in love with this new passion I’ve found in herbalism and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Not only is it because of this constant source of hope and inspiration, but also because of the “negative” experiences I’ve had with doctors here in Spain.

I have come to expect the imminent response I know I am going to receive when I visit a doctor in Spain. Not once has a doctor ever shaken my hand or introduced him or herself to me. Halfway through the consult or exam I am usually the one to confirm their identity to make sure I’m at the right appointment. Not once has a doctor ever asked me about my medical history. Personally, I can’t even fathom meeting with a new patient, let alone from another country, and not asking them the most basic questions about their RECENT health history. Fortunately, and unfortunately, all of these experiences have made me truly realize what our healthcare system has turned into. It has become an entity that cares more about reducing patient wait times than properly caring for and listening to the people seeking their help. It has turned into a place where people go for acute infections or for highly specialized medical procedures. Chronic care with a practitioner you trust and have developed a mutually open and honest relationship with doesn’t seem to exist (in my personal experience). I know that in some places some people have found really great doctors, and I generally don’t like to use such strong absolutes as to say that something doesn’t exist. I’ve been researching and learning about so many amazing individuals who share the same views as me about healthcare and are stepping into and living their path by trying to make the system better and to help us become healthier, more awakened individuals. This is what I hope to someday be able to do for somebody. 


I believe that in our ever transforming, ever modernizing lives, especially during this inconceivable year that is 2020, the path forward in healthcare will be a blending of the traditional with the modern. I believe that this year has awakened people on a much deeper level and we are seeing things more clearly: negative thought patterns, negative relationship patterns, negative health patterns, societal paradigms that are no longer serving us. People are genuinely looking for a way to heal as a whole. We are tired of putting bandaids on bullet wounds. TCM teaches us that our internal world is a reflection of our external world, and I think many people would agree that our external world is going through a lot of radical changes at the moment. As if it were being completely shaken up and jostled around and shaken up some more until the pieces finally start settling in their new, more purposeful location. Not all of the current pieces are going to fit into the new model, but every once in a while you have to do a really good clean out and get rid of the things that no longer serve you, right? When the external pieces start to settle, the internal pieces will start to settle and heal too. Or maybe it’s the internal that also reflects back on the external…maybe once we start to heal on the inside we can start to heal the world on the outside. How comforting is it to know that we have the WHOLE UNIVERSE on our side giving us exactly what we need to help us continue growing and evolving?