I was a 29-year-old career woman who had been burning the candle at both ends for as long as I can remember. I had a high-powered job that required weekly travel, both nationally and internationally, consulting for executive management teams in Fortune 500 companies that were in need of massive overhauls. Years of enduring high pressure and working late nights combined with constrained timelines began to eat away at my body, resulting in acute and recurring infections.
Prior to my corporate endeavors, my family heard from me so much, they joked about not being able to get things done, and my friends admired me, as I seemed to know everyone in town and made friends anywhere and everywhere I went.
As a busy consultant, life was very different. The phone calls home were few and far between and my friends didn’t bother calling me anymore. They knew I was essentially married to my job and inundated with work— keeping up with client demands while struggling to maintain my shining professional reputation.
The Ignored Signs
My stress levels were at an all-time high and sleepless nights were the rule, not the exception. As chronic fatigue symptoms set in, I began to take more of my ADHD medication in an attempt to regain the control that was slipping out of my hands.
My body began to give me signs, though, that it could not keep up. The high stress, stimulants, and inconsistent sleep patterns led me to begin taking sleep medications for the first time, which left me feeling groggy and in a fog the next day.
My type A personality demanded that I push through my symptoms for fear of appearing weak and the stress continued to take its toll. I had pneumonia twice in one year and began to develop other recurring infections. When my body finally forced me to take a short break, I ended up sleeping (with the exception of a couple of restroom breaks) an entire weekend. I also began to have sensitivities to chemicals, foods and other things, as well as odd rashes that I, determined to ignore my body’s signs, wrote off as a fluke.
As I continued panting away on the corporate leash, my muscle and joint pain began. First, I experienced wrist and hand pain. The pain was somewhat manageable in the beginning – a quick 10-minute massage at the local nail salon, stretching or trying other do-it-yourself remedies – got me through the day. Over time, though, the pain became so bad I had to take a day off work. Then it was two days, and then more. If I was able to take any time off on the weekends, I’d sleep nearly the entire weekend.
The Breaking Point
Something was seriously wrong. Then it happened…my body finally said NO MORE.
One day at work my hand became completely paralyzed and I could barely walk on one leg. After this, I became so fatigued and weak that I was unable to stand long enough to take showers and could not lift the glass of water from my bedside table.
I saw doctors in many different specialties and even made it to the prestigious Mayo Clinic. After conducting test after test, they concluded I had active Epstein Barr and enterovirus infections plus small fiber neuropathy, endocrine disorders, IBS, gastritis, fibromyalgia, and myalgic encephalomyelitis.
I was told my prognosis was bleak and was put on so many medications that I didn’t know if my worsening symptoms were a result of the disease or side effects from the medications.
Feeling worse than ever, I entered the Pain Management Program at the Mayo Clinic. The program initially gave me hope since I thought that being with others affected by similar illnesses would give me a sense of community. One of the programs rules, though, was that we were not to talk about our pain. Plus, I was so sick I was only able to complete 3 days of the 14-day program.
This was a dark time. My many diagnoses, my inability to complete the Mayo Clinic program, the absence of friend and family support, my inability to work and my increasing debt levels left me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually in despair.
Healing Practices Help
I sought out counseling to help cope with my physical deterioration and the many impacts it had on my life. Desperate to find a way out of the darkness, I established a wellness routine that included meditation (specifically chakra meditation), prayer and turning inwards for solutions.
Soon after incorporating these practices, I began to get in touch with myself and attract into my life remedies, people and solutions that proved to be healing along the way.
I began to understand that in order to get well, I had to strengthen my spirit through relaxation, compassion and devotional techniques. I improved my mental dialogue about illness and wellness.
Improving my nutrition by transitioning to primarily a plant-based, dairy & gluten free diet and, for the first time in my life, creating a balance between rest and activity, helped decrease my symptoms and bring my body closer to wellness again. Through this process, I developed a greater understanding of energy medicine and how it influences all aspects of life. I began to focus on healing my mind, body and spirit.
I spent lots of time reflecting, practicing mindfulness, identifying and changing behaviors and staying away from people who were no longer supporting me. I focused on being patient and compassionate towards my body.
I also found communities, programs and literature that encouraged and supported me – some of these included healthrising.org, cfsselfhelp.org, Gupta Amygdala Retraining, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Self Help Facebook group, Dialectical & Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (a form of CBT that focuses on living in the moment, some local communities including spiritual groups and an all-women’s group called STARS, Managing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Fibromyalgia by Bruce Campbell and Sleeping Beauty Wakes Up by Patt Lind-Kyle.
I nurtured my body by stretching, doing light yoga when possible, eating a clean diet with supplements (which differed depending on my most significant symptoms at any given time), and experimenting with chiropractic and acupuncture treatments. My spiritual work included regular energy treatments (chakra healing), daily meditation for at least 5 minutes a day, prayer (including utilizing healing angels as referenced by Anthony William in his book Medical Medium), practicing gratitude and journaling. I also sought out the advice of spiritual and wellness counselors.
CBD Oil and Low Dose Naltrexone Provide Further Boost
Most recently, my path has led me to CBD oil and low dose naltrexone (LDN). Through these remedies, I have experienced even more improvement. CBD oil has reduced my exercise intolerance, decreased nerve pain, reduced inflammation, increased my immunity, and helped with sleep.
I began with three drops twice a day. Every three days I added an additional drop to each administration, and I am currently taking 20 drops twice a day. I use 500 mg THC free CDB oil in the morning and 750 mg CBD oil at night. (You can purchase it at hempworx.com/kkollinger.)
LDN has significantly reduced my stomach and muscle/joint pain and resurrected my previously non-existent libido. I began with 1.5 mg, and after 14 days, I increased to 3 mg. I am now on 4.5 mg.
Through my path thus far, I’ve learned that choosing to see that there is a purpose behind the pain helps. Having faith over fear is very important as well, especially during those grim times that happened most frequently during the onset of disease. Through the initial stages of disease, I frequently experienced fear, especially as I experienced increasingly more loss in my life. Nevertheless, as I changed my perspective and realized fear not only feeds the illness but also blocks attracting what you want in life, I learned to trust.
Conjuring within you a sense of healing, even if you don’t feel this way, and doing whatever you can to feel happy (or at minimum, better than you are) in those hopeless moments puts forth healing momentum for me. Healing was never a straight line for me, nor is it one way. At times my health has fallen back.
As my health improved, though, I’ve been able to relax my diet and other practices. Healing doesn’t always require strict adherence to a plan because this is often confining and shame producing. As human beings we are constantly shifting and experiencing new things and our perspectives change. What may have been right for us and our bodies at one time may be totally different at a later point. I spend at least 30 minutes a day on mindfulness type practices.
Finally, as cliché as it sounds, when one door closed in my life, another one opened. My illness closed many doors for me including with friends and my job, but someone or something more suitable or fitting has always entered my life in its place.
Today – Not all the Way Back But Vastly Improved
Even though I still struggle significantly with my symptoms, I am now the best I’ve been in 8 years and am able to work part-time. On a scale of one to ten with ten being perfectly healthy, at my worst I was a one. Now I’m about a 6.5-7. The fatigue and other symptoms are significantly less, and I am even able to get in a workout on certain days without exacerbation of symptoms (this was unheard of until the last month).
I am currently working as a Chiropractic Assistant where I help others improve their health. I also do community outreach where I spread the message of taking a proactive approach to health. Additionally, I am a Reiki Master and Coach and am continually in pursuit of becoming the best version of myself.
Sparkle: When we look internally and become proactive in our health, we can get back in touch with who we are and what we are capable of. Life, even with its sometimes amazing vicissitudes, becomes a more welcomed adventure instead of, as it was for me for years, a never-ending battle.