My Health Journey
Up until about 5 years ago I would have considered myself a completely healthy young adult. I knew my passion was in the theatre and all I could think of was getting out of high school as quick as possible so I could start my career in the theatrical arts. I decided to take courses through our local community college while in high school and graduated early, as getting to what I truly wanted to study was all I could think about. After graduating, I applied for the school of my dreams and got accepted. Nothing could bring me down. This is what I wanted. THIS is where I want to be.
Everything Was Right
About 2 months in to this conservatory I found myself completely unmotivated. I had extreme stomach pains, I wasn’t eating, and I didn’t want to get out of bed. Nothing made me more frustrated than not knowing WHY I was feeling this way. Everything was perfect for me. I was at my ideal school, I was cast in our first musical as a first year student, what on earth could be making me feel this way? My mom then finally asked me…”How many bad days are you having a month? How many days do you truly feel numb and don’t want to get out of bed?” I was at about 25. Way too many for having no reason. That was when I was officially diagnosed with depression.
After being put on medication to help manage, everything seemed to brighten up. I was feeling better…truly happy. School was amazing and I was busy busy busy, JUST how I like it. Turn the page to my second year and my health started declining again. This time all of it was skin related as well as random fainting spells. Those spells gave me two concussions and everything seemed to be declining in my system. Me, nor my doctors, knew this at the time, but I was suffering from dermatographia, a rare skin condition, and neurocardiogenic syncope.
Dermatographia and the Allergies
Dermatographia is a skin disorder known as “skin writing”. It is a rare condition where any scratch or touch of the skin leads to a welt, or hive, and doesn’t have a cure or reason for starting. I can write words on my skin and they will welt up and stay for a half hour to hour, depending. All I can say is it is the worst possible itching sensation under the skin, and there is no way to stop it.
So, let’s flash forward 2 full years…I am living in Chicago, doing what I love. I am working professionally and have a wonderful job. My dermatographia is getting worse and worse by the day and I have no Idea what it is or how to stop it. The doctors decide to put me on FOUR Zyrtec and TWO Zantac (this heartburn medication can actually help with food-based allergies) a day. This is to just keep my symptoms at bay. However, this didn’t do the trick. My body was full of welts, I started swelling around my eyes and face so a trip to MedStop was needed. I was put on steroids for over a month until I could return to California to seek an allergist.
After visiting the allergist and I was diagnosed with dermatographia. FINALLY got a diagnosis. Only about 5% of the entire world population has this disorder, which would explain why not many doctors were aware of it. A full allergy panel test was done and I found out I was allergic to wheat and olives/olive oil. I knew I was allergic to avocados because my breathing constricts, so I had to stay away from those, but now I have reintroduced them into my diet and am doing well!
Once I took away these allergens, although I didn’t notice a change with my skin, my gut and body felt INCREDIBLY different. I had never felt more energized, happy, or better overall but I definitely cheated a lot in the beginning…I mean, finding out all the bread you eat can’t be eaten? It’s a bit of a shock and I always thought “Hey, one cheat day couldn’t hurt!” But for me? It makes the biggest difference in the world. Having a mom that eats in a similar way absolutely helps. I can completely understand how people get sucked into eating a certain way because that’s how the family, or roommates, eat. Once I decided to be strict about what I can and can’t eat, everything has only be up from there.
The Next Chapter to Relief
In 2018 I was put on Xolair shots to keep my skin flareups limited. I receive them every 4 -6 weeks depending on how bad my skin is. These made a huge difference with my skin, plus the plant-based and allergy-free diet was putting me in a much better lifestyle. Flash forward to 2019 and I had another fainting spell, giving me my third massive concussion. I was hospitalized for 3 days, as they couldn’t figure out why my blood pressure was so low and I kept going in and out of consciousness. $70,000 of tests later, being scared into thinking I had a brain aneurysm (which I didn’t thankfully), and passing all the seizure tests, I left the hospital with no answers.
6 months later, I had seen a neurologist and cardiologist, passing all tests they could throw at me UNTIL the Tilt Table. This test you are strapped onto a table for 15 minutes, then the table tilts to a 70′ angle. Sure enough, although rare, I fainted! I remember all the nurses being so excited they got to use the “emergency” lever to bring me back down. Until now, I had never fainted with having any symptoms. I never felt light-headed, never got cold sweats or tunnel vision, I would just be walking then end up on the floor. I finally had felt what these symptoms were like and now I did. The positive test gave me the diagnosis of neurocardiogenic syncope and I was told to monitor my anxiety and stressors and to LISTEN to my body. My body will tell me the signs, I just need to be aware.
Switching to plant-based living I have learned to listen to my body for signs of allergic reactions or sensitivities. I have needed to have a new awareness for everything I’m eating. Getting diagnosed with NCS makes me be aware of what stressors and anxiety can do to our bodies, as well. I never knew I would be so in tune with myself until seeing where I am now. I am so happy to be doing this site with my mom because I truly want people to know that living plant-based or allergy-friendly isn’t just about the food we are eating. It’s about feeling like our best selves, treating our bodies how they deserve to be treated, listening to what our bodies need and enjoying and loving all beings on this earth, no matter how big or small. I am so happy to be here, on this side of it all, and can’t wait to share all of the recipes and tips that we have come to learn or create! The journey can seem challenging, but we are here to make it easier.