In the past year, my health has become so much more stable than it has been in the past five years or more. Many people have asked me, how did I do it? Well, the truth is, I didn’t do it alone. I worked hard and gathered an incredible team to help me make the best choices, and teach me ways to take better care of my health and chronic illnesses in a holistic way. Up until that point, I had been mostly managing pain, managing symptoms, and just trying to be well enough to get to my job and be my best for everyone else who depends on me. Over the course of the break I took last year to focus on my overall wellness, I learned the great value of having a supportive team. When most of us think of wellness, we think of our doctors. And if you’re a little more forward thinking, or were not raised on Western medicine, you may have an acupuncturist, chiropractor, or a masseuse on your team. But as we’ve discussed in our previous articles, there’s also another layer – our mental wellness and focusing on our dreams.
Coaches can be a great addition to your team, and I myself work with an ADHD coach who has taught me so much about the way my brain works. And that has lessened the stress that caused my autoimmune flare ups. I can’t say that it’s going to happen for everyone, but I will say it was a missing link in my puzzle. Also, working with the incredible Dr. Amen has helped me tremendously, as he was very consistent in my life and very proactive in every decision I made. He has met with me regularly since I called him that one night while he was watching Game of Thrones, and I was unsure if I was going to make it to the next day. Then there’s the Medical Medium, Anthony William, who has been my friend but has also been helping me with his incredible advice. He showed me which recipes and protocols from his books that I should follow, and helped me to realized that it was Epstein Barr syndrome that was wreaking havoc on my system. Then I have a person who works with me on my physical activity, my trainer, Michelle Lovitt. She also helps me manage the muscle tightness that comes along with my fibromyalgia, lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, scoliosis, and spinal stenosis.
What’s important when you’re dealing with health or mystery illness, even if it’s just getting older, is to find the answers that make sense for you and give you lasting results. I thought that if you have an autoimmune condition, you go to a rheumatologist. You do everything they say, and that’s it. Then you go to a pain doctor and do everything they say. And then you go to the orthopedic surgeon and you get their advice. The truth is, it’s a combination of both and it takes an incredible amount of energy, focus, and note taking to come back from a mystery illness. This could even be long haul COVID or whatever you want to call it. Health has a lot to do with your own energy blueprint. I think it’s fascinating to approach my own health that way. And because of that new approach, my homeostasis in a much better place now. I’m eternally grateful for that and to all the people that are a part of my team.
So if you’re struggling with chronic or mystery illnesses, I suggest gathering a team. You need the support. You need their information, you need their years of studying, so that they can help you find the answers that work specifically for you. But they also need you to be proactive. You are the leader of the team, not the doctors. My wish for everyone is to have a life that feels good, and a life that is fulfilling. If you’re in constant pain, feel incredible lethargy, can’t focus, can’t sleep, are having unexplained panic attacks, or are so overwhelmed that you can’t keep your job, it’s time to start building your wellness team.
Here’s a list of my own personal wellness team, the types of people on it, and what I go to them for:
Rheumatologist – A rheumatologist is “an internist or pediatrician who received further training in the diagnosis (detection), and treatment of diseases that affect the muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons” (rheumatology.org). My rheumatologist helps me with my autoimmune conditions and he is the one who orders the blood tests to help me diagnose what is going on.
Functional Medicine Doctor – “Functional medicine doctors use specialized training and techniques to find the root causes of complex illnesses. They may investigate multiple factors causing a condition, or they may look into multiple conditions causing one symptom” (webmd.com). My functional medicine Doctor helps me think about my body as a whole, and what could be causing some of the symptoms, like Lyme Disease and other areas that the rheumatologist doesn’t cover.
Body Workers – Bodywork is “any therapeutic or personal development technique that involves working with the human body in a form involving manipulative therapy (like massage), breathwork, or energy medicine” (wikipedia.org). If you can afford to get some body work with a massage therapist, that is helpful to keep things moving. They can help alleviate pain and keep things flowing.
Pain Management Doctor – I believe in pain management. When you are in immense pain, it is difficult to be your own health advocate. In order to manage and heal from autoimmune issues, it takes a lot of work and concentration. I work with a pain management doctor, which is a specialist that “treats patients experiencing chronic, sometimes disabling, pain” (health.usnews.com).
Psychiatrist – Psychiatry “is the branch of medicine focused on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders” (psychiatry.org). I work with Dr. Daniel Amen, who has helped me immensely ( see our conversation here) by using brain imaging. Seeing what is going on with my brain helps me to understand how to approach my own mental health. We look at it as brain health, and if we make the brain healthy, the rest will follow.
ADHD Coach – I work with an ADHD coach who helps me keep my stress levels down so that I don’t overwhelm my body and cause a flare up. She helps me find solutions for some of the problems I struggle with in life. ADHD coaches “work collaboratively with their clients who have ADHD or ADHD-like symptoms to address specific needs and personal goals” (chadd.org).
Reiki Healer – I work with a lot of energy workers. For me, it helps. “Energy medicine aims to help the flow of energy and remove blocks in a similar way to acupuncture or acupressure. Reiki practitioners believe that improving the flow of energy around the body can enable relaxation, relieve pain, speed healing, and reduce other symptoms of illness” (medicalnewstoday.com). As a dancer I am tuned in to my body’s energy so these types of healers have been helpful. But it doesn’t work for everyone.
Acupuncturist – I work with an acupuncturist as well. I have used acupuncture my whole adult life to help with injuries and keep my system running well. Acupuncture is “a system of integrative medicine that involves pricking the skin or tissues with needles, used to alleviate pain and to treat various physical, mental, and emotional conditions” (Oxford Dictionary). If you don’t like needles, this may not be for you. If not, you could use acupressure as an alternative.
My friends and family – This is the support group that we all need. Having friends that will listen or understand that sometimes you need extra help is wonderful. The unconditional love of family and friends is so important. Make sure you let them know how grateful you are… and how much you appreciate them. It’s not easy for people to understand what it’s like to live with autoimmune disease or chronic illness.
Online support groups – Sometimes you just need people who understand what it’s like to have the illness or condition you have. They can help give honest feedback about medications and side effects, and how it feels emotionally to have certain conditions. I am a member of the Sjogrens Sisters group and a Lupus and Fibromyalgia group. I can discuss openly some questions I have and get responses from other people who have the same symptoms I have. I have found these groups to be very helpful. Just remember that they are not experts in the field, but they are people who live with it. So do not follow any advice unless you clear it with your own doctor as well.
It’s also important to note that finding a good doctor might take some trial and error. Be persistent. A doctor should be empathetic, a good listener, and willing to be collaborative. If you don’t feel comfortable with a doctor or feel that they are dismissing any of your symptoms, try someone else. You should not have to fight to prove to a medical professional that you are experiencing pain or discomfort. You deserve perfect wellness, and don’t settle for anything less!