This is in part a candid disclosure of how I came to be where I am now, how I decided to become an herbalist and also a bit of a love letter to my school: East West School of Herbology. Thanks to East West, I have learned about how I’ve come to be as I am now, with my imbalances and all. So, let’s start as close to the beginning of the start of my ills as possible:
As a kid, I suffered from a lot of repeat infections and rounds of antibiotics. I’d go through periods where I was totally healthy, then get sick and unable to get rid of it on my own. Sometime in middle school, I started getting migraine headaches. When I went to college, I was on no particular sleep pattern – staying up for days on end with all but two hours of sleep – and having a similar eating pattern as well. When I finished college, and got a job, things got better but I still suffered from migraines, and horrible PMS (that I had had at the onset of menses.) Let’s just say that I felt like I couldn’t catch a break with my health!
A couple years before moving to Brooklyn, I was the victim of a sexual assault. That was very difficult time to get through, and I’m not ashamed of what happened to me. I’m talking about it here because I think things like this have happened to far too many women who have remained silent on the issue, including myself, who then go on to have a variety of health issues later on in life (physical/psychiatric/emotional.) It is important to talk to someone about it, and get the help you need. You don’t have to remain silent on the issue.
A year or so later, I started dating my husband and we decided it was time to move in together. I moved from a pretty comfortable and convenient life, happily living alone with my cat, pretty easy all things considered though not carefree by any means, to Brooklyn. I also started a very new and very demanding job. It was a huge change! That’s the second thing that really messed me up – the complete life overhaul. The new job that I had was so different from what I went to school for (I have a Master’s in Teaching, and a BFA in Printmaking), I had felt like some sort of failure for 1. not being able to get a teaching job in a city where there was a “teacher shortage” with a very expensive Master’s degree and 2. not being able to make any progress with art galleries and my artwork. It took me a long time to realize that these things really did happen for a reason. I felt so lost with my career path, this feeling went on for years. (I still work that same job from when I moved to Brooklyn, and I adore my boss. I’ve learned a lot from this job and her, and am very grateful.)
In the midst of my feelings of career failure, I developed a terrible depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (a severe type of PMS), seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that was so bad I would consider dropping everything in my life and running away, and then I began having regular migraines that almost cost me my job. I became more and more despondent, saw my doctor, began taking Prozac, put on 20lbs then became both emotionally numb and ashamed for gaining 20lbs. I had relationships that were toxic to my well-being, the list goes on! In short, I was a mess.
I got so tired of feeling horrible, I went to my doctor asked what I could do to help that wasn’t pharmaceutically driven – the suggestion: get a light box or go on birth control pills. Thus, I got a light box (10,000 lux) for my SAD, started taking St. John’s Wort, stopped taking Prozac and slowly started to see some semblance of light. Thankfully, my diet has never been a huge issue, but I still ended up making some changes (limiting dairy, and limiting/avoiding spicy foods.)
I kept getting migraines despite my best efforts, and I still felt incredibly stuck. I just couldn’t figure it out.
A year and a few months after I stopped taking Prozac, I had popped over to East West’s website and saw that their new coursebooks were available and being offered at a nice rate. That was October 2011. It was the best decision I’ve made regarding my “life’s work.”
It wasn’t until February of 2012 that I really had a breakthrough. After doing some major cleaning in my life, I had an “a-hah” moment during my East West lesson reading. I learned that a good deal of my list of issues fell pretty well into the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) pattern of Liver Qi Stagnation. One of the biggest causes of Liver Qi Stagnation is emotion stuffing – wherein a person does not express themselves often enough. Since starting with an herbal formula, I’ve felt like I’m more me and less my problems.
I feel “lighter”, no longer stuck, like my depression has decided to leave the building or at least not rain on my parade every single day. I feel less better at that time of the month, I feel like I can do things and that things will unfold when they should unfold. I’ve even caught myself singing (in the shower, walking down the street, cleaning, you name it.) I can’t remember the last time I would randomly start singing. A nice bonus is that I’ve lost about 15 of the 20lbs I gained from being on Prozac – that’s not entirely due to the herbs, but a combination of herbs, diet, exercise and I think general well-being gains. I haven’t had a “stuck all day in bed” migraine in a year, huge compared to the once a month plus ones I was getting! I’m a work in progress, I still have problems – but my problems don’t seem so difficult anymore, certainly not as insurmountable. It’s taken a lot of work and time, it has been worth it.
That is why I became an herbalist. If I can pull myself out of a terrible “stuck” with the use of herbs, diet and lifestyle changes (as well as some deep internal work), you can choose to get back to health too. I want to help people feel their best, get better, and become happier with their lives and selves. I want to share these joys with you.