When I first began exploring the cause of my gut pain, things had gotten so bad and I was in so much discomfort that I was having trouble walking. I truly felt as though my world was crumbling down around me. I’d searched for weeks and months for an answer to my pain, was led to believe that I was “crazy” or “mental” because doctors could find nothing “substantially wrong” and I was left questioning everything I thought I knew about myself.
Every bite of food that passed my lips was associated with pain, stress, and anxiety.
I felt alone, incredibly confused, and scared - for my life. My paranoia and insecurities had me thinking that everyone I passed as I went about my day-to-day was looking at how skinny I’d become. It was the hardest time and experience of my life thus far.
After months of research and relentlessly trying to find out what was “wrong with me”, learning that my gut issues were a combination of not only SIBO, but candida, leaky gut, adrenal fatigue, and a laundry list of other ailments, my first reaction was honestly to crawl into a ball in the corner of my studio, hold myself tightly, and weep away everything that was going on in my life.
I felt like I was living in my own personal nightmare.
Once I knew what I was dealing with, and had my official “diagnosis”, similar to many SIBO sufferers, I was at a complete loss of where to turn. My internet research was full of conflicting information and misguidance, and sometimes after five hours of endlessly reading through blog posts and forums, I’d feel more confused than when I’d started.
Through a local naturopath, I found a nutritionist nearby to where I live in San Diego and relied on her to help guide me through the healing process.
Needless to say, when I first laid eyes on my food guide and protocol, I burst into tears. Aside from wondering what the hell I’d be able to make with my meager ingredients list, I remember thinking, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this?”
As many of you can probably sympathize, I was experiencing so many mixed feelings and emotions. I was in pain. I was overwhelmed. I was lost. I was lonely. I was scared. I was angry. I was disconnected. I was confused.
But after a few days of feeling sorry for myself, I buckled down and began my journey. One bite at a time. One meal at a time. One day at a time. One week at a time. Time, it seemed, was at a stand still as I struggled just to get out of bed in the mornings.
Those first few initial days turned into weeks, which then turned into months, and as I started making slow and steady progress on my health, I was let go from my “dream job".
It was the first time I’d ever been fired, and it stung (so much so, that I may have even forgotten about my stomach pain momentarily). I remember sitting across the conference room table from my manager, who was going into great detail about why they were letting me go (performance issues, even though I knew it was because of my health, as I’d never once been spoken to about performance).
As his voice grew more distant, as if I was sitting 1,000 miles away faintly hearing the drone of his speech, I sat there, blankly staring at him. It was as if the one thing I had left to hang on to was being taken away from me, too. I loved my job, I loved the people I worked with, and I loved taking ownership of all the work I’d accomplished for the company. I couldn’t help feeling bitter as silent tears fell down my cheeks that last day as I packed up my desk into a box and was escorted from the building.
That night, as my husband held me in his arms, I wept for all the unfairness I had been dealt.
The pain and the misery. My limited foods list and daily (disgusting) tasting smoothies. The loneliness and isolation from having to turn down restaurant gatherings and bar parties. The sting of being fired from a job I’d loved. The disappointment from feeling as though SIBO was destroying my life - a life I thought I loved.
But they always say, hindsight is 20-20, and not even a week had passed from being let go from my position when a calming peace started to come over me.
It was that same feeling you have after breaking up with a bad relationship or cutting a negative person out of your life. A relief of some sorts, and I felt like I was finally able to breathe.
You see, not even a week later, I was able to look back and see that I’d been abused at my old job. Not literally, of course. But I recognized that I had been over-worked and under-appreciated. I’d sacrificed my own happiness for my manager’s. And in reflecting back, I realized that after being told multiple times that I “didn’t look happy enough” because of the pain I was in, I proceeded to walk around the office with a fake smile plastered on my face. With each day that passed, I became increasingly grateful for the blessing I’d been given - I was so thankful I’d been fired.
As I began to focus on my health 100% (after all, what else was I supposed to do, I was funemployed), I began recognizing some unhealthy habits in my own life that seemed to be negatively impacting my stomach issues.
I began exploring the more mental/emotional piece of SIBO and explored therapy, Reiki, and even hypnotism to get to the bottom of my issues. The more I started learning about myself, the more I recognized and became aware of some very negative habits I’d been practicing for a very long time.
I realized that deep down inside I was unhappy. I didn’t feel fulfilled. I was overworked, overstressed, and overwhelmed.
I began to see that my mindset was completely off. As someone who had been proud of the fact that I always saw the positive in a situation, I’d been looking at my pain and stomach issues in a totally negative way.
I was enveloped in the “why me” mentality, and had been obsessively wondering what I could have done to “deserve this”. The deeper I dug down into myself, my soul, and my mind, the more I started learning. Through this self-discovery, I was faced with a very dramatic realization - Was I actually happy like I thought I was?
Reflecting on this new question that I was now asking myself, I recognized patterns in my life leading up to the moment of ultimate sickness. I had always experienced gut issues and that “shit your pants” type of feeling, especially as a kid when I was caught doing something I wasn’t supposed to or getting into trouble.
I began to recognize that my prior job hadn’t been all that I’d cracked it up to be. And I realized that as my last job had gotten more stressful in the months leading up to my getting fired, the more stress and work I had on my plate, the more pain I was in. I remembered the day that I realized I’d been terribly ill every single Monday morning, literally doubled over in pain as I got ready for work. Coincidence? I think not.
Like many others who have experienced SIBO, my entire life seemed to change as I addressed my gut issues - and not necessarily in a bad way.
As I began to learn more about my stomach, I, in turn, began to learn more about myself.
As I experimented with foods and recipes, I started to learn so much about the food industry and how to eat healthy, balanced meals. As I struggled to manage the pain, I discovered amazing tools like meditation and self-reflection.
Through my SIBO - pain, struggle, confusion, aggravation, and loneliness, I was given the ultimate gift. I began to love myself, truly appreciate my body, and be grateful for the incredibly difficult journey I had been given. I began to wake every morning with a sense of gratitude instead of feeling like a victim. I committed to the change - both internally and externally, health-wise and mentally, and it transformed me.
On one of my darkest days, upon opening Instagram, I was greeted by an amazing blessing - a quote that I’ve read thousands of times since,
“Life is unpredictable, it changes with the seasons. Even your coldest winter, happens for the best of reasons. And though it feels eternal, like all you’ll ever do is freeze. I promise spring is coming, and with it, brand new leaves."
Through my process in dealing with SIBO, I’ve been able to learn so much - I’m still being taught daily lessons. I think the biggest realization for me, and one that I hope you discover too, is that all of this is part of the journey. Each day we wake up, we are given the ultimate gift of life - and the fact that we’re even breathing is a ridiculous miracle.
For so long, I was focused on the “cure” or how to get “better”. Yet, I still don’t have those answers. But instead, I have a better understanding of myself, my body, and my mindset.
I have a great grasp on how I manage my symptoms, and I can feel confident knowing what foods do or don’t bother me. Since my initial diagnosis of SIBO, I have healed and relapsed. As I’m writing this today, I still have issues and am currently battling candida hoping my SIBO doesn’t creep back for a visit too.
I know firsthand that SIBO is not an easy journey. There were days I’d sit on my balcony wondering what it would feel like to jump off. There were days I didn’t want to keep going, plugging along through the pain. And there were days I had doubts and didn’t think I’d make it.
But one thing that I can say for sure is that I’m grateful.
I’m grateful for the lessons I learned about myself and others around me. I’m grateful for the deep and beautiful love that I now have for my skinny little body. I’m grateful for my relationships, my family, my cat, and my loving husband because I know without them, I wouldn’t have made it through. I’m grateful for truly learning what it means to live with chronic pain and being faced with illness, because I was given the gift of understanding and possessing empathy.
I am grateful for being fired, as it gave me the opportunity to focus solely on my health and wellbeing. I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn about food and healthy lifestyle and eating. I’m grateful to have discovered my love for yoga, self-care, and meditation. I’m grateful for the friends and connections I’ve made through SIBO - I’ve been blessed to connect with hundreds of others suffering all around the globe. I’m grateful for the strength I know I have, and my mindset shift mid-journey, as I’m continually reminded that I am strong and unstoppable.
I’m grateful for my SIBO.
Always remember - You are worth it. You were chosen for this journey only because you are strong enough to get through it. And you are on a path to greatness.