• Monique

2021 My One Word Year in Review, Listening to My Health Messages, and Becoming a Wise Woman Advocate

Updated: Jan 1


Well, friends, my One Word really put me to the challenge this year.

(My 2021 One Word is “Self-Compassion”)


My “Self-Compassion Radar” was on overdrive in 2021 and each month seemed to have another issue to dive into and practice self-compassion.


I have definitely been through my share of battling through the darklands of my being.

I have earned some Stripes, Medals, and a Superhero Cape through all of this to document my bravery, courage, and vulnerability.


I had to stop myself whenever my Inner Critic would pop up and reframe, “Why is this happening TO me?” to “Why is this happening FOR me?”


Through the difficult issues I’ve dealt with this year, the lessons would eventually come back reminding me to cultivate self-care and re-igniting passion through my self-compassion.


The first part of 2021 was heart-breaking for my family and I.

We lost four loved ones in a span of two months.


I struggled to find balance between grieving my loved ones and performing my roles as a mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and business owner / mental health counselor.


I felt torn in several directions giving everyone attention, care, my time.


I didn’t allow for any days off.

I kept doing my usual routine thinking that, although I was acknowledging my feelings of grief, it was enough.


It wasn’t enough.


I became depleted…and, guilty.

And angry.


And, I didn't know it.


When you have all three of those ingredients it makes the perfect recipe for a shit-storm of mind-body-soul dysregulation.


Self-Compassion has no chance to survive.


Another Self-Compassion test comes when you begin to feel like your body is failing you.


From November 2020 to February 2021 I had terrible inflammation on my scalp.

It hurt to touch my hair, to comb it.

It felt like pins and needles.


It also didn’t help that a few months before my hair was falling out in clumps due to a medication I was taking.


The hair on the right side of my head was so thin that you could see my scalp.


It finally started growing back after I discontinued the medication and then the scalp inflammation started up.


I was tested for all of the autoimmune disorders from my amazing Integrative Doctor to figure this out.

But everything came back normal.


I stopped dyeing my hair and used only water-soluble organic hair products.

Eventually, the inflammation subsided.


But, it left me feeling upset, insecure, and self-conscious with my three inch gray roots blazing against my dark hair.


I wasn’t ready to go gray, but my body was reacting to something.

My body was making the choice for me to stop dyeing my hair and I had no say in it.

And I was scared that my hair was going to fall out again and that the inflammation would come back.


I had to find a way to accept this new look.

(Thankfully, L’Oreal Root Spray helped get me through)


Until one day I just didn’t care that half of my hair was gray.

I finally reached acceptance and found a wonderful community of Silver Haired Women to relate to.


It was liberating.

And, my hair was growing back thicker.

And, self-compassion reigned!


Then, out of the blue, other health issues began emerging.


I began having sharp pains near my bladder and in my abdomen.


From March to current, I was suffering from chronic abdominal pain.

Most days I looked like I was pregnant.

(I also gained 15 pounds in three short months)

Most days it hurt to move.

Most days it hurt to sit, stand, and walk.

Most days I just felt crappy and forced a smile.


My General Doctor did an ultrasound and discovered 1) that I had an ovarian cyst that ruptured and 2) that I have Pelvic Congestion Disorder.


These are pelvic varicose veins that are deep in the pelvis that have malfunctioned.

It is a Vascular Disorder that needs special diagnosing and treatment but is, thankfully, not life threatening.

BTW, men can have this too.


It is also a disorder that isn’t understood well by the medical community in the United States.


However, I have found an amazing clinic in London, England “The Whitely Clinic” where this is all they study.

Dr. Mark Whitely, the founder of the clinic and published author, actually took the time to email me back explaining Pelvic Congestion and their procedures.

He also warned me that as a woman, many doctors would want to do a hysterectomy as a treatment for Pelvic Congestion (it is not).

He warned me that a hysterectomy with Pelvic Congestion is a last, last resort and only IF medically necessary.


In the meantime, I am interviewing Interventional Radiologists (these are the doctors who perform the vein embolization for this disorder) here in the States and weighing my options.


London, England is definitely not off the table.


My Gynecologist (who I do not see anymore) laughed and called this disorder, “bullshit,” and gave me anti-depressants to help with my bloated, tender abdomen when all my further ultrasound tests came back normal. He also wanted to give me a hysterectomy (which I refused)…and then later on said that I wasn’t a candidate!


What?!


The Gyne also laughed when I brought up the fact that I’m 48 years old and could be deeper into Perimenopause.


I was having more anxiety, sleep problems, bad PMS, sudden weight gain, digestive issues, and some hot flashes. He insisted that because I’m still having my cycles that it wasn’t possible.


Now that’s bullshit.

You can be in Perimenopause and still have monthly cycles.

My new gynecologist (who specializes in peri-and menopausal women) confirmed this.


I refused the anti-depressants…and ran away from the confused, hysterectomy knife-weidling doctor.


I saw a Urogynecologist who was amazing.

She listened to me, discussed perimenopause, concluded that Pelvic Congestion Disorder is real, and encouraged me to see a Physical Therapist for Pelvic Dysfunction Disorder (this can help with Pelvic Congestion pain).


My PT was equally amazing!

After three months, my pelvic pain began to subside.


I was able to do yoga again.

I was able to sleep without my heating pad.

I didn’t get physically fatigued so easily.


But, I was still very tired.

And, I was still very bloated, digestively-compromised, pregnant-looking, uncomfortable, and 15 pounds heavier.


I had extensive thyroid testing done.

(again.)

It was fine.


I had extensive autoimmune testing done.

(again.)

It was fine.


My insulin was fine.


I had a colonoscopy.

It was fine.


I had stool testing done.

(again.)

It was fine.


I felt dismayed that my body was failing me and I had no say in it.

Again.


I didn’t recognize my body anymore.


It was swollen.

My shape was different.

I was feeling self-conscious.

I had to buy new clothes…

…bigger clothes—top & bottom.


Finally, a few weeks ago, my GP ordered a CT Scan to get to the bottom of everything.


Everything was normal, except they found that my gallbladder had some very mild thickening.

This may be the culprit contributing to my digestive woes.

But I met with a well-known surgeon and, after researching my CT scan extensively, he didn't feel this was the issue.


Talk about feeling defeated.

Talk about anger, sadness, and definitely no self-compassion.


Another dead-end of this maze of feeling unwell.


I visited with my amazing Integrative Doctor.


Again.


His news wasn't as good as I had hoped.


Blood work came back with "Reactivated Epstein Barr Virus."


My body was now inflamed with a virus that remained dormant in my system until now.


A virus that is focusing on my digestive system and causing fatigue, depression, and systemic inflammation


(thankfully, these are the only symptoms I'm experiencing...I don't have a fever, rash, heartaches, sore throat/tonsils, swollen lymph nodes, or an enlarged spleen that this virus is responsible for).


A virus that 9 out of 10 people carry.

A virus that has no cure

The "kissing disease"

Mono


And, a fucking scary virus that can cause autoimmune diseases, thyroid issues, lymphoma, leukemia, and nasal/throat cancers.


With the stress of loved ones passing away, taking a medication that I reacted to, having an emotionally demanding job, my hormones changing...this was the perfect shit-storm of triggers that reactivated this virus.


(If you are very fatigued, have mystery symptoms the don't add up, and all tests for thyroid, autoimmune, Covid, etc come back "normal" or "negative," please have your integrative physician do a blood test for Epstein Barr. I would specifically ask for the positive/negative VCA/IgM antibodies test and the EBV Early Antigen D (IgG) test.)


His advice?


REST...

(very challenging for a Type A personality)


...and I'm taking lots of homeopathic anti-virals.



I'm slowly building my Self-Compassion muscle back up just as I'm resting to build my strength back up.


Allowing my Self-Compassion to help me during this time opened my eyes to a new path, a new chapter, a new respect, in my mid-life.


There were many days where I was feeling defeated by my health and feeling broken (& sometimes still do as I recover), but my Self-Compassion wouldn’t let me give up.


I advocated for myself.

I stopped going to Doctors who didn’t reflect my values.

I listened to my Intuition.

I took time off and reduced my working hours.

I do gentle yoga almost everyday.

I continue to rest.

I said, “No.”


My Self-Compassion helped remind me that I also don’t have to go it alone.

I also don’t have be SuperWoman.


Although I have my Stripes, Medals, and Superhero Cape from going through all of this, I can hang them up and use them as reminders to what my mind-body-soul ultimately needs.



For 2022, I’m leaning toward my One Word being “Passion.”


It’s part of my “self-comPASSION.”


And, as I rest and recover, I begin to have hope.

I begin to have a reclaimed sense of my purpose, my passion to help others.


To become an Advocate for women in mid-life.


An advocate to help women who are experiencing mystery illnesses, changing hormones, mid-life physical changes, mid-life mental health issues...


A Wise Woman Advocate.


Let's start listening to our bodies and become advocates for ourselves and others.


Let's reignite our "PASSION."



I also wanted to thank all of the medical professionals who have been so amazing to me during my journey and who I continue to work with:


Christine Sutton, PA-C

Dr. Kelly Jirschele, Urogynecologist

Lisa Furto, Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist

Dr. Elaine Biester, Gynecologist (my new gyne!)

Dr. Clinton Sexton, Functional Medicine, DC

Lisa Sexton, Bowen Master, BCTMB

Dr. Barbara Griffin, Naturopath, NMD, CNC

Debra Koopmann, LCSW


These are the professionals who have women’s backs and support our health and healing.

These are the professionals who clearly love what they do and it shows.

These are the professionals who embody PASSION.


They are the Wise Woman Advocates.

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