Recently, my friend George Bryant (whom you know as The Civilized Caveman) wrote a profoundly vulnerable post called 26 Things You May Not Know About Me. I admired him deeply for writing it and showing his strong soul. Inspired by George, I want to share some things with you.
1. I’m 22.
2. I was a really healthy kid until a period of trauma at age 11. Up to that point, I didn’t expect chronic health challenges to be a part of my future.
3. I never expected a blog to be in my future, but – since middle school – I dreamt of being a writer.
4. Growing up, I continually received the message – both verbally and non-verbally – to be less sensitive. As I child, I thought something was wrong with me due to my heightened sensitivity to everything and everyone around me.
5. I learned about the term empath when I was 18. It refers to a person who physically and/or energetically experiences other people’s emotions. Suddenly, I had an explanation for otherwise unexplainable experiences in my life.
6. Both reading and writing stories and poems has gotten me through the most difficult and most joyful periods in my life. The artistry of words on paper allows me to process experiences and emotions.
7. I know my emotional and environmental sensitivity predisposed me to health challenges, but I believe it also led me to explore writing – including writing Empowered Sustenance – as a processing and coping mechanism.
8. I’ve experienced both sides of the spectrum of restrictive eating. At one end, it led me into a spiral of toxic control when I struggled with anorexia at a young age. At the other end, it saved me from an impending surgery and a lifetime of medication.
9. I call myself a recovering health perfectionist. I have learned that it is not healthy for me to live with a linear image in my mind of a straight path that takes me from point A (unhealthy) – to point B (healthy).
10. At 14, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. After a week of passing bloody stools up to 20 times a day, I was hospitalized for two weeks. I didn’t fully process the diagnosis for months after, and I didn’t consider what it would mean to my future.
11. During one of my worst flare-ups, I spent a month nearly bed-ridden and wasn’t able to leave the house for about a month and a half. This was the summer before I was headed to college.
12. When I was 16, I wrote a gluten free cookbook for kids, got my hands on a current edition of The Writers Market, and sent query letters to 10 publishers. I was declined, but believed book writing would somehow be in my future.
13. I began at what I thought was my dream college while on steroids for the colitis, which made the transition even more difficult due to the emotionality, mood swings, and embarrassing physical side effects of the steroids (such as a swollen face).
14. I stayed at this college for one semester. I tried desperately to hide my health challenges. No one knew that my periods had stopped and I had blood in my stool daily.
15. Too weak to continue school, I returned home. A physician once again put me on the dreaded steroids and told me that the next step would likely be a surgery to remove part of my colon.
16. I religiously followed a gluten free diet for years, at the recommendation of a naturopath. Because that didn’t improve my colitis, I nearly gave up hope on addressing my health through nutrition. I came across a copy of Breaking The Vicious Cycle three years ago and began the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, feeling apathetic about it. My acute symptoms disappeared within three days and, within 6 months, I decided to quit my meds and use nutrition to manage the colitis.
17. I began blogging because I was still gaining strength after my most recent colitis flare, and was unable to resume school or activities outside of my home. I felt isolated in my experience and wanted to connect with people facing similar health challenges. Blogging provided a platform for this connection.
18. By 21, I had self-published three books and received contract offers from various publishers.
19. I just finished my Junior year at the holistic college Bastyr University studying Health Psychology. In April of this year, I suddenly realized that I am compelled to change my education path. I am grateful for every minute I’ve spent on the Bastyr campus and for the incredible friends and mentors I’ve met here, but I do not have a passion to learn traditional psychology.
20. This year, I learned that I am not able to be a full-time student and manage Empowered Sustenance. I have a history of blinding myself to the health consequences of chronic stress with chronic stress, and I made that mistake again this year. Blogging and being a full-time student was too much for me and did impede my healing, so I’ve lightened my school load (taking less credits at a time, over a longer period of time).
I have new learning adventures in store and I’m looking forward to sharing them with you. This year, I’m planning to train in herbalism, train in kinesiology, and pursue my passion for creative writing through writer’s workshops.
Thank you for being a part of my journey, and thank you for allowing me to share my journey with you!
Thanks for sharing your story! I too share many of the same characteristics from being ultra sensitive, biting off more than I can chew, a health perfectionist and I also battle chronic illness from Celiac, Raynaud’s and super sensitive intestines at this point. I have followed you for years and now that I am on my own path of education to follow my passions to help others heal with food and lifestyle changes—-I’m a bit older as I homeschooled both of my kids through high school due to their battles with Celiac and Leaky Gut and now they are actually healthy!—I continue to follow your journey with awe and fascination. Good luck!
Your story is beautiful and inspiring, and I am truly happy for you that you have overcome the worst of your trials. I hope you have a wonderful journey and future awaiting you, and I admire your patience and determination. You’re a wonderful writer, and I wish you all the best for your writing career.
Lauren, I’m so thankful for you and this site! I’ve been reading and following along for about a year while I’ve been working on getting to the bottom of my own health challenges. I always look to your site as one of the most helpful ones when I have a question. Wishing you continued progress!
So impressed…you have turned your challenges into a blessing by helping yourself and others. Great work!
Although I’m sad to hear you’ve had some recent struggles balancing college and health, it’s nice to know I’m not alone! Also a recovering perfectionist, I often berate myself for not being perfect in diet OR for altering career goals in order to put health first. It’s hard to temper that nagging voice, but knowing I’m not the only person who faces that is comforting! Definitely hard to change unhealthy mental mantras.
Side note, I’ve been reading your blog for years and enjoy these personal insight posts. =)
Dr. Deborah @ PeriodCrampsRelief.com
I’ve been lurking around your blog for quite some time, but rarely comment. But what a powerful post.
To echo other comments, I can’t believe you’re only 22! You write with the wisdom of the ages.
Besides the UC, the 2 other things I learned about you today (3 – I’m an HSP too) are that you live in Seattle and attend Bastyr. I’m a Bastyr grad myself (ND, 2008) and have lived here in Seattle most of my life. I hope our paths cross one day.
Many blessings to you,
TarynKaeWilson @ WoolyMossRoots
Thanks for sharing Lauren! Heightened sensitivity… I can completely relate to that. 🙂 And also, not having life go as planned, but being grateful for it because it brought me closer to my real passions and purpose. I love your blog!
Please tell us about your necklace! What is it and where is it from?