I am a survivor.
I was a victim of sexual and emotional abuse as a child, which left me suffering from severe anxiety for most of my life. I have struggled with many health issues including a 15-year battle with an autoimmune thyroid disease. I have experienced the debilitating symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal on and off for nearly a decade when reducing my medication. I have also gone through severe adrenal fatigue and continue to manage chronic pain due to two previous spinal disc injuries.
Despite all of this, I am the happiest and healthiest I have ever been in my almost 30 years.
I was abused as a young child, and that left me with panic attacks and severe anxiety as a teen and into adulthood. It also left me with abandonment issues, trust issues and an inability to regulate my emotions. All of which caused me a lot of pain.
At 13 years old I was put on antidepressants in an attempt to reduce my anxiety, as I had no other strategies at the time. My doctors told me that I would be on this medication for life. Even at that young age, it was enough to cause me to think that I was broken on the inside.
At 16 years old, I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disease that caused my body to attack my thyroid gland. I was put on heart medication to reduce my risk of a heart attack and immunosuppressant’s to reduce my overactive immune response. I became very ill with this and as a result was not able to finish my final year of school.
At age 22, I had radioactive iodine treatment to destroy my thyroid gland as my body was struggling to function after six years with the disease. Afterward, I was left with no thyroid function at all, giving me a new condition called Hypothyroid Disease requiring lifelong medication to mimic what I had lost.
I spent the majority of my 20’s weaning off my antidepressants and trying to manage my thyroid disease and anxiety levels.
My poor health has been a big theme in my life. My story is not one of victimhood though, but of hope, determination, and triumph.
I went through the medical system for a decade, relying on the information given to me by professionals. I never seemed to get the answers or help that I was looking for to feel well again. My health was declining despite many doctors telling me that I was ‘normal’ and I constantly felt deflated and knocked down by this. It was a constant battle. I did not look well, and I certainly did not feel well. I was simply just surviving and had hit rock bottom.
Not getting the answers that I needed to feel healthy or well made me start to do my own research, particularly thyroid health and antidepressant withdrawal. I discovered just how vital the thyroid gland was to my health and just how many processes in my body relied on its amazing hormones to make me feel well and have energy. I was kept in a hypothyroid state by medication, with terrible symptoms, for nearly seven years that saw my body start to fail.
This was the start of a turning point in my health journey. I didn’t just want to survive anymore, but instead wanted to feel well again.
I became my own health advocate. My failing health, lack of answers and continuous setbacks gave me the fuel I needed to persist in striving for optimal health in all areas of my life. My naturally inquisitive nature and my perseverance helped to further propel me in the direction I needed to go in to start to heal.
I spent many years researching all that I could, which gave me the ability and power to change the direction that my health was going on. With my new knowledge, I was able to plan and prepare for the things my body was going through, setting myself up for success.
I started seeing a psychologist who helped me to understand how my early trauma had affected my mind and body. I also started to listen to what my anxiety was telling me. These two things allowed me to start healing and I started by rebuilding the very core of what made me ‘Me’.
I also became aware that my medical issues all shared a common link. I found a wonderful naturopath who supported my newfound love of holistic health and together we started to address the root cause of my illness and anxiety rather than mask it or treat the symptoms. Slowly my health started to improve.
I believe that the body has an extraordinary ability to heal itself if we listen to it and support it.
My journey back to optimal health has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life but also one of the most rewarding.
I had to learn to put me first, to say ‘no’ to people and to set boundaries in my life. I removed toxic people from my life who dulled my light. I went back to basics and changed my lifestyle, nutrition and mindset. I now live by my core values and am able to feel gratitude. I don’t punish myself anymore, but instead choose to nourish myself. I let my body guide me in what is good for me and what isn’t.
My next reduction of antidepressants will see me off the medication that I was put on almost 17 years ago. I’m thrilled that this chapter is closing so that a great new one can begin as I turn 30.
My gift was my pain and my drive came from my pain. I used it to build the life I needed to finally start healing. I didn’t need fixing because I was never broken.
I am proof that you can become a survivor after abuse. I am proof that you are not held hostage by your medication, I am proof that you can thrive without a thyroid gland and I am proof that you can push past all of the roadblocks in your life to get to where you need to be to start healing and achieving great things in your life.