Mission Statement: to help my clients unleash their own courage, resilience, and wisdom to live their fullest lives possible.
Only my endlessly generous family, my dedicated best friends, and a handful of compassionate healers have made the journey even possible. The wisdom and compassion of my teachers - Rachel Burmeister, Gwen Garcelon, Katie Manning, Stephanie Light, and others - have pulled me out of my shadows and into the presence. The insights of authors like Pema Chodron, Brene Brown, and Eckhart Tolle have built up my arsenal of resilience and grit.
I believe that one of the greatest gifts we can give to the world is to heal our own pain.
I believe that our circumstances are not our fault, but we also have more power than we know.
I believe that our best is enough and we are intrinsically worthy of love and belonging.
I believe that making something good come out of something painful is our superpower.
Everything changed on that October day when I woke up in the hospital. My immune system had always been a bit vulnerable, but the horse accident sent my health into a tailspin. I tried my best to move on from my passion for horses and eventing, and I fought my way through the final year of high school with my new cognitive challenges. In college I watched my dreams slip steadily away, and my identity and self-worth get mixed up in the confusion. I’d been working towards vet school for as long as I could remember, but suddenly trying my best didn’t cut it anymore. I just couldn’t think clearly, and I craved sleep constantly. My family and I tried everything we could think of - neurologists and specialists and clinics across four states. Six years of failed treatments and negative test results later, I first heard the diagnosis chronic fatigue syndrome. “There is currently no treatment for your condition,” the doctor said as she shuffled me out the door.
I wasn’t ready to give up what I loved in life just because medical science was. I kept making appointments, kept researching, kept trying weird and unlikely things. Most treatments were dead ends, but some things helped, and a few gave me symptom relief for long, wonderful months. It wasn’t quite enough to bring me back to good health, but I was finding key pieces of my health puzzle - autoimmune triggers, hormones, neurofeedback, epstein barr, gut microbes, biotoxins. Along the way I've consistently found myself challenged not just by my health limitations but by relationships (mostly professional, some personal) with difficult and damaged people. In my teens and early twenties, my interpersonal struggles as a highly-sensitive, people-pleasing, rule-breaking, passion-driven human just created stress and turmoil, but eventually they led me to seek help with my patterns, shadows, and insecurities. Regular life coaching, therapy, and the many resources they pointed me towards have provided a lifeline over the last eight years to keep me moving forward and finding joy through all the ups and downs.
Unlike so many chronic illness patients, for many years my illness was manageable enough that I could work and stay fairly active. And for the most part, I could fake it well enough to appear relatively healthy to almost everyone around me. I worked as a vet tech in humane societies after college, then discovered agriculture and an exciting new way to combine my devotions to animal welfare and sustainability. For the first few years of my new career in farming I was able to hold things together, but gradually every year there were more weeks, then months, when I couldn’t quite keep up at work, and I couldn’t do anything outside of the workday but sleep. As the years went on those months kept getting a little longer. In 2013,the crash lasted 126 days. In 2014, my “episode” hit six months without reprieve, and I knew I needed to stop pretending that I was on the cusp of recovery. I packed up my goats and moved in with my parents, hopeful I could turn it all around with a little break from working. I scheduled more doctors appointments, hemorrhaged money on supplements, buckled down on an even more restrictive diet, meditated an hour or more a day, and read book after book about possible cures (physical, spiritual, & magic bullet alike).
Over the next two years I had ups and downs but never got more than 50% of my energy back. I thought for sure I’d found my cure half a dozen times. Finally, thanks to some combination of the Gupta Programme, auto-immune paleo diet, hormones, and neuroagility, I finally reached 50% and held it steady for several months while I started volunteering, working one morning a week, and rebuilding a little strength. I couldn’t exercise and I couldn’t farm, but I just couldn’t keep my life on hold any longer either. So on my 30th birthday, I packed up my two border collies and road-trip loving cat to make a long-time dream come true. I moved from Colorado to a small town in Western Montana to start a part time job building a community food hub.
Within three weeks of moving, my seemingly steady health went from 50% to 20%. That crash brought to life my worst fear about taking on new responsibilities with this unpredictable illness, and I was devastated. Desperate, I underwent yet another a arduous and expensive course of treatment with a biotoxin specialist, finding limited success but also - for the first time - legitimate lab work showing significant dysfunction in my inflammatory response, pituitary function, oxygen storage, and brain inflammation. I trialed a mold avoidance lifestyle under the doctor's orders, moving multiple times, cleaning like a maniac, and purging most of my possessions, receiving small benefits that didn't really compensate for all the sacrifices and stress. Finally after a full year's search for a safe home, I found myself unable to find a single rental or small house me for sale with low enough mold levels. My parents generously helped me purchase land and build a yurt, creating my very own sanctuary and the best quality of life I've experienced since the beginning of my illness. Through it all, I've been incredibly lucky to to hang on to my job with the University, thanks to the wonderfully understanding people I work for, and I've been able to feed my soul by continuing to care for my land and livestock.
In April of 2019, I was fortunate to become a patient at one of the top complex illness doctors in the country, and we have been pursuing dozens of experimental treatments for my autoimmune and mast cell dysfunction. Unfortunately, nothing is working on my stubbornly dysfunctional immune system so far. Realizing that my health trajectory makes an ongoing career in agriculture pretty unlikely, I began working on a second masters degree in counseling through Montana State University starting in 2019. I'm absolutely loving the rehabilitation and mental health curriculum, and I am really looking forward to being able to offer services as a Licensed Counselor (LCPC) in the near future. In the meantime, I'm expanding my understanding of illnesses and disabilities and am learning about a wide range of treatment modalities to add to my tool kit.
I'm not cured, and I don't have any silver bullets to offer other CFS/ME patients. But while we all fight for more research and better answers, maybe I can support you with ALL the rest of it. I would be honored to help you cope with all the loss, navigate the stigma, and find a little more happiness.