I am so thrilled that my friend Kathie Pagliaro offered to be a guest contributor in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month. Like I always say, there is no one size fits all for mental health. Kathie and I met almost 4 years ago at a leaders retreat for our company, and we instantly connected (we even had the same Rosie the Riveter costume idea)! She has 3 kids: Grace (12), Jackson (7), and Vivi Lee (1).
She shares her story in hope that others who struggle – despite being on medication – can be empowered to search for other forms of healing and recovery.
When I think back to May of 2014, my life seems like a blur. Although, I was married to my high school sweetheart, a mama of two precious kiddos and working as a first grade teacher (my dream job), my life was a mess. And I don’t mean the “you’ve got two week old McDonald’s cups and old mail in your floorboard of your car” mess (although I had that too). I mean an actual miserable mess. A life full of anger, anxiety, fear, sadness, sickness and exhaustion.
In order for you to see the whole picture let’s back up…
Around the age of 22 I began having periods of anxiety. I was in my first year teaching, while also planning our wedding. I thought it was just normal stress stuff so I brushed it off and moved on. Four years later, after the birth of our first daughter I began having major mood swings. I would be crying and angry one minute and full of joy the next. I struggled like this for months until one day felt so depressed and hopeless I considered suicide. Even now, writing those words makes me cry because it was such very dark place. I felt my sweet little family deserved something better than me… that this world would be better off without me in it. Thankfully, God gave me the strength to speak up to a dear friend that morning, and she encouraged me to seek help. I found myself in my doctor’s office crying to him about my situation. He told me it was most likely postpartum depression and if I would just take this antidepressant, within a few moths I would probably be fine and be able to come off of it. At the time I wasn’t on any prescription medication, but I went home with that pill bottle – and a lot of hope.
Unfortunately, the meds didn’t do much for the symptoms of depression and I began experiencing unwanted side effects. So I called back to the doctor’s office, only to have them inform me that it could be a bit of a dance trying to find the right dosage and right prescription. Little did I know how long this dance would last… 8 years to be exact.
After a few different dosages and different pills, we finally settled on one that seemed to have the least amount of side effects with the best results.
As time ticked away our lives got busier. I was a working mama with a toddler in tow and I began feeling anxiety on a daily basis. Over a period of just a few short months I went from anxious thoughts to full blown panic attacks. I couldn’t explain why I felt that way, I just knew there were times I was literally terrified to leave my house. Terrified to make a decision about anything at all. And I would be paralyzed with fear.
In the spring of 2009, for no apparent reason, I had a 6 hour panic attack that ended with my husband and I in a late night emergency therapy session with a counselor. She advised me to return to my doctor to see if there was any way he could help, along with the recommendation to have some intense therapy to try and find out why I was having such anxiety. So back to the doc I went. My doctor felt like the issues I was having were outside of his realm of care and so I was referred to a psychiatrist. Upon a 30 minute meeting with him, I was diagnosed with a panic disorder and given daily meds for anxiety, along with an increased dose of antidepressant.
This new RX also came with side effects, but I felt like I had no choice but to take the meds so that I could live a somewhat normal life. The panic attacks got a little better but the depression and anxiety were always there. Never really gone, like a fog hovering just above the horizon. Most days I could see enough to get through the day but still felt that ever-present heaviness.
I also began having other health problems on top of the anxiety and depression during this time. I had struggled for years with seasonal allergies and hormonal migraines, but now I had joint pain, daily headaches, chronic sinus infections, horrible acid reflux, insomnia, and extreme fatigue. In the fall of 2010 I suffered a miscarriage and the depression and anxiety ramped up again, and there were more doctor’s visits and more prescriptions. I was barely keeping my head above water most days.
In 2012, we were blessed with the birth of our sweet boy, but the health problems just kept coming. And now the anxiety was at an all-time high trying to manage life with two kiddos, being a working mom and wife along with ALL THE THINGS.
So that brings us back to May of 2014. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and was desperate for an answer. At this point I was on 5 prescription medications and 3 over the counter pills a day. I was eating everything in sight, 40 pounds overweight and living on coffee, cokes and peanut M&Ms. I saw an acquaintance of mine posting on Facebook about taking some supplements that were giving her energy. Well, I would’ve consumed motor oil if I thought it would have given me energy! So I called her right then and ordered the combo she recommended.
Listen folks, I want to stop right now to say this is NOT a product commercial.
This is a TESTIMONY of how I focused on balancing my body and restoring my health at the root, and doing that gave me life back. At the time I placed that order, I had NO CLUE what balanced blood sugar or gut health even were. I didn’t think I had a leaky gut, because I had never even heard that term! But as the first few days passed of getting my blood sugar under control and restoring my gut flora to better health, I began to feel better. I felt happier, less moody and surprise surprise – my clothes were fitting better. After just a few weeks of addressing the root causes of my health issues, I began to feel remarkably better. I started to wean off of my OTC meds and then eventually over the next 5 months with my doctor’s approval, off ALL MY MEDS.
This is not just a story of getting healthy. It’s a story of restoration. I restored my health, mental and physical, by looking at the root causes of why I was sick. As I began to heal my body through nutrition and supplements, every single health problem I had began to clear up.
In the summer of 2017 we had the unexpected blessing of third little one. Vivian has been the perfect addition to our family. Although being pregnant at almost 40 and transitioning from two kids to three has not been easy, I feel like it would have been impossible if I was not as healthy as I am!
Now with 3 kiddos in tow, I am a healthy, whole, completely nourished person. And now I have the privilege of helping others learn that getting to the root issues of their health problems is the key to lasting mental and physical health. A holistic approach to health saved my life and I’ll never stop sharing about that. I pray that my story will help someone know that there is hope. If you are suffering with any illness, and the traditional ways aren’t working, I encourage you to look at alternatives. There is so much that can be done to regain our health through our nutrition, strong relationships, physical activity and supplements.
We don’t have to live sick and tired. There is a better way.