The Power of an Honest Conversation

Sara’s Story

Many of you know a little of my story and how I chose to become a Wellness Coach, however, I don’t often share the full story.  Our stories do matter and I hope that sharing mine in greater detail will help you understand my struggle but also my success. The lessons I have learned over the past eight years are truly the reason why I want to inspire others to a greater level of wellness.

Before getting into it, my hope is that you see through out how all of this happened and continues to happen only by God’s never-ending grace.  So much has happened in my life that can only be attributed to our Father in Heaven. I am so grateful for His grace so freely extended each and every day.

For years, our family was dealing with my two chronic health conditions which were chronic migraine and also chronic constipation.  Yes, that’s right, I am going there, because if you have ever suffered from constipation, you know that it is not fun at all. The migraines began first when I was 18 years old.  At that time, they would occur infrequently, but as I got older they became more of a problem. My triggers were extreme weather changes, blood loss, certain foods and stress. At their worst, I was having up to 3-4 migraines per month and at times would have to be treated in the ER to help get through it.  Migraines are hereditary in my family so I truly thought this was just life and I would learn to deal with it as best I could. Before making changes (which I will talk about later) I was on five different migraine medications.

The chronic constipation came along with all of this as well.  I think it was from 2008-2011 that this problem was also at it’s worst and really affected my daily life as well.  I tried EVERYTHING to remedy this problem. Our children were about ages 7 and 10 at this time and I knew it was bad when we were in Wal-Mart and they came to me with a new constipation product that they had seen a commercial for on TV.  They were insistent that I try it! I laughed so hard, but really thought it was sad that even they knew how uncomfortable I was and wanted to help me feel better.

Between the migraines and chronic constipation, I will tell you that I never really felt good!!  No energy, lots of pain and lots of different remedies to try to live a pain-free life. From about 2004-2010 our family met our very high deductible because of my health issues alone.  We figured our out of pocket cost was about $35,000.00 over that time frame. I was seeing a Gastroenterologist as well as a Neurologist at Mayo just to try to find some sort of relief. Some of the GI tests I had to endure were pretty terrible and it was even worse that we could never find a reason for these issues.

So, this is the part that is probably hardest for me to talk about, but I feel it is necessary so that you may better understand why my wellness is so important to me.  The mental side of this was something I tried very hard to keep to myself. My husband knew but I tried so hard to just “get through” life and do the best I could for my family.  When I was out of commission because of a migraine, it made me mad but it also made me very sad. I could not be a part of whatever everybody else was doing that day and I would have to find help for the kids because I literally could not move.  There really is not a way to explain the severe pain of a migraine, but most of the time I had severe vomiting with them as well. Usually it would take two days after the fact to just feel somewhat normal. All of the time this was going on, my gut was still a mess as well.  So even on a migraine free day, I still had a pretty steady sense of being uncomfortable. I know my family would tell you that I did not let them down, but I truly felt like I was not fully present either. I prayed and prayed for a very long time to find out what was happening.  I longed for an active, pain-free life. Believe me, I know it could have been much worse that this, but it really was getting exhausting and depressing to not find relief. A doctor even decided to do a pelvic exploratory surgery but was not able to find anything obvious. Tests, more tests, medicine and surgery were all just dragging me down in so many ways.

Then one day, I made a random trip to the grocery store at a time of day that I would have normally not been there.  I was at work and we needed something so I went into town to pick it up. As I was getting ready to check out, I ran into my friend Becky.  Becky knew enough about me to know that I was having some health issues and she knew of my recent pelvic surgery. She asked me how I was doing and of course I gave the Minnesota nice answer:  I’m good, how about you? She looked me square in the eyes and said how are you really doing? This doesn’t happen often but I knew she saw right through me so I took the chance to say that things weren’t so great but I was trying my best to make it better.  She then asked if she could share some information with me and I of course said yes. Becky proceeded to tell me about a Naturopathic Doctor (N.D.) in St. Paul who is really helpful with chronic conditions and gave me her information. When I made it back to work, I was telling my husband about my conversation with Becky and his response was “why not, what have you got to lose?”  Neither my husband or myself had any clue what Naturopathic Medicine was but we were both willing to check it out. As this story continues, you will see why I ask myself often, what if I wouldn’t have been honest with Becky, what if she chose not to tell me about Dr. Helen, what if………the list goes on. However, I am eternally grateful for Becky and her willingness to share something with me even if she wasn’t sure I would give it a try.

The N.D. that I went to initially was Dr. Helen Healy.  Dr. Helen is an amazing woman with so much knowledge and she genuinely wants to help her patients feel better.  Dr. Helen was the first person to really encourage me to change my diet, add a few supplements and start to get some regular exercise.  For the sake of the length of this article, I could go on forever about Dr. Helen, but if you want to know more, please feel free to contact me.  I will say though that she is the first person who taught me how food really does affect how we feel. Food matters more than we know and choosing not to eat certain foods and more of other foods can really change our lives.  We are all different in our dietary needs, but for me it was initially gluten. Later in my journey through another wonderful N.D. by the name of Dr. Ariel Barkheim, I found out that sugar was also a huge inflammatory for my gut.  Both of these wonderful N.D.’s work toward getting to the root of the cause of illness, not just treating symptoms. If you are from Albert Lea, we are lucky enough to Have Dr. Ariel practicing right here in our community.

My first appointment with Dr. Helen was in January of 2011.  Over the course of 12-16 weeks, three appointments, more amazing encouragement and education and roughly the cost of about $1000.00 I was migraine free, constipation issues greatly decreased, and I was eating better than I ever knew I was capable of.  Exercise was also a steady part of my routine. The math is pretty easy to figure out. The cost savings were remarkable and the results of such greatly improved health were more than I could have ever asked for!! This was nothing more than a miracle of relief for me.  One of the most exciting things for me was going to my doctor for an annual check-up and when the nurse reviewed my medication list, I could say I was no longer taking any of my medications. This was victory for me and it surprised her as well.

For the rest of 2011, I focused on feeling better, getting rid of old habits and really working on new habits.  There was something inside of me that was really wanting to do something to help others learn that wellness really is not as hard as it seems and the rewards are much greater than a few sacrifices.  Again, in an act of support, my husband was all for it when I decided to go back to school to complete my Bachelor’s in Food and Nutrition. Not only was he supportive but he was always there to remind me why I was doing this, EVERY TIME I WANTED TO QUIT!!  You should feel sorry for him, he had a hard job, but he never waivered in his support. Being in school was hard, very hard and challenged me in ways I was never prepared for. Again, by God’s grace alone he gave me the most supportive family and also put many people in my life to help me along the way as well.  Whether it was support from a friend, my advisor at school, other professors, every time I felt ready to throw in the towel, someone was there to encourage me. At times, I don’t even think they knew how much it meant to me, but I remember each and every one. Never be afraid to share a word of encouragement, it might just be enough to carry the person you are sharing it with for a very long time.

After graduation, I worked in the weight loss industry and also did telephonic health coaching for an insurance company.  Both of these experiences were really amazing and it led me to my next step of becoming a certified health and wellness coach.   

If you have read up to this point, you can see that I did struggle much and absolutely understand how hard it is to change habits.  However, I also understand the benefits of making changes, and my passion in life is to help you find your full potential for wellness.  We are all so much more capable of taking better care of ourselves than we could ever imagine. Come see me if you are ready to make a few small changes that could really lead to great success with your overall wellness!

I will end with my most favorite quote.  Right before I started school, our church was holding a leadership conference and Brene Brown was one of the speakers.  I don’t remember all of what she said, but the following quote stood out to me like someone was shouting it in my ear. This quote can be applied to anything in life.  At that moment, it helped me get over the fear of being in school again. During other moments it has helped me stick to better health habits, other times it has helped me step outside of my comfort zone, when I would have rather stayed right where I was.  These words are such a great reminder to be brave and allow yourself to get out of your comfort zone and be challenged.

“You can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you cannot have both”.    -Brene Brown