My hives: how I healed and why I'm thankful they existed
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in my cute little Manhattan apartment, fresh out of college, proud of the new job I just landed, and ready to take on the world. Then one morning I woke up and my life changed.
My back and legs were itching so hard and were covered in little red bumps. I felt like I was going to cry because the itch was unbearable -and there was no amount of scratching that would make it better (duh, we've all had mosquito bites and know how well scratching goes...)
This was the first time I ever felt the full power of my hives.
They were intense and overpowering for the following 3 years -to the point where even my behavior changed for the worse.
But today I know that without them I wouldn't have found my mediation practice or my love for healthy and nutritious foods; and I also know that they now serve as an internal alarm that warns against substances and chemicals that don't serve my body.
So I'm grateful they exist.
I guess it was both a blessing and a curse to know that I take after my mom, who had dealt with her hives for the past 20 years or so.
A blessing because I knew not to panic.
A curse because I knew what was in store for me: a lifetime of minty, calming lotions, antihistamines, corticosteroid shots, and the feeling that I do not have control over my body.
I knew I couldn't trust any allergist or general practitioner, since my mom had gone to so many and was met with the same 'nothing's wrong with you' every single time.
And I guess I was right not to: after going to 5 allergists and them telling me I wasn't allergic to anything, I stopped trying to figure out what was causing my hives. And I admit I never really, scientifically pinpointed exactly what it was that caused me to break out in the first place. But I always had my suspicions.
I noticed that "bad" foods were a trigger: anything high in high-fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, additives, food coloring, chemicals.
To this day one of my worst episodes ever was after I had a red and green Sour Patch 'flavored' icee -you can imagine all the sh*t that was in it... And I will never, ever, ever again touch one of those things.
And the fact that no allergist was asking me about my diet started to become a red flag to me.
As time went by I gradually increased my anti-histamine intake (aka allergy pills, which were the only 'solution' to my apparently incurable condition) until I reached a point where I was taking 3 every morning.
And around that time is when I decided this was no longer working for me.
I decided I was going to cure myself.
Pure and simple: enough was enough.
And, bonus point, by doing this I was also going to help cure my mother. My why was pretty damn strong.
Here's the thing though: my story is one like so many others out there. I'm not trying to diminish the importance of what happened, because at the time this upended my life and actually set the course for the path that led me to where I am today. But the answer to my medical mystery was food and a lifestyle change.
Before I decided to change my life, I was eating and living like I had absolutely no care for my body. Takeout and fast food was the norm; candy, Nutella, and ice-cream replaced entire meals; parties and the favors that came with them were a weekly thing (like a '3 times a week' type thing); and my life was in general lived on auto-pilot. Honestly, even remembering most of these things is hard for me -blame it on the weed and on the lack of presence that were a huge part of my life back then.
So I changed some things up (and this process took a while because most of the time I didn't really know what I was doing):
I ditched the bad food and started learning how to cook. At first the only thing I was capable of making was some grilled chicken and roasted broccoli but hey, it was a start. This doesn't mean I never ate bad again: the process of completely ditching my trigger foods and replacing them with whole foods -think foods that grow in trees, bushes, in the ground -took me a few years to master;
I toned it down with the partying -although it was very hard to leave that behind since all of my friends were part of that scene. So this took me about a year to leave it all behind;
I started working out -poorly at first, focusing on heavy weights that left me with a bad back, which I'm constantly working to fix;
and I began to meditate -had no clue what I was doing but every day I would sit down and just be still for 3 minutes. Yup, only 3.
As gradual as these changes were, they were slowly building upon each other and helping me move in the right direction.
Going to the gym was making me eat healthy, and vice versa.
Meditating made me realize that I had a purpose in life, which was completely antithetical to the party scene I had been in -and that made me want to leave that life behind that much faster.
And about 2 years ago I started to see the payoff: I went from 3 daily pills, to 2, to 1, to 0.
I began to feel more energized and excited about my days -me, the groggiest and most miserable morning person ever!
I began to understand what it's like to have normal digestion, and to realize that what I had been experiencing until that moment (days on days of constipation, tummy aches, random diarheea) was nowhere near normal.
And I began to live my life intentionally and mindfully, being aware of what my body is telling me, what I'm feeling emotionally (and what to do with those emotions), and what my life goals are.
This was my journey. It had to be that way or I would never have arrived to this wonderful place where I am today -a place where I love every part of myself, where I'm sincerely happy and joyful every single day, and where I am truly excited for what the future holds.
I realize now that my hives were a blessing. Even nowadays if I eat something 'bad' I get a bit itchy -but it's nowhere near how bad it used to be. I see this as my little alarm system, and I'm pretty damn happy it's there -or who knows how many Nutella jars would fall into my lap (I'm still human, and Nutella is still freaking delicious, ok?).
I sometimes think that I regret having woken up so late: I was 26 when I changed my life; that while I'm grateful for all of the things this experience taught me, I can't help but wonder where I would have been had I changed my life earlier.
Would I have been a full-time entrepreneur by now, with a thriving business?
Would I have been much, much closer to the woman I wish to become?
Would I have felt stronger, more confident, more empowered?
Would I have had kids by now?
These questions have no answers -and honestly I don't even think I want to know what those answers are. I'm happy now, and I know that my life would have been different had things not gone the way the did. Different how? I don't know. But I'm also not particularly curious to find out.
There is, however, one big takeaway from this seemingly fleeting regret:
I know for sure that in my lifetime I want to help as many young women as I can so that they never ask those questions of themselves, ever.
And right now I'm talking to you directly:
You, who are still in your 20s and have a lifetime in front of you.
You, who deep down knows that you're meant for greateness and not mediocrity.
You, who knows that your lifestyle is detrimental to your health, but aren't sure what to do to change it.
You, who would be able to step into your full womanhood and potential if you health was aligned with your spirit.
I want to help YOU figure out how to navigate that journey, that path to healing -to Swellness.
I can only do this by approaching your life, your healing, and your lifestyle in a holistic way; by understanding that your life life is as complex as you are, and by looking at everything that makes you, you.
Because the transformation I went through wasn't the effect of just one change, in one area. It was the result of a complete lifestyle change -one that I am endlessly grateful for, and which I wouldn't trade for the world.