Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Georgia College & State University (now known as Georgia College)
Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from East Carolina University (Go Pirates!)
*I am certified and licensed in the state of Texas and North Carolina to practice OT.
In the years since I graduated and was licensed as an OT (in 2011), my primary experiences have been in the hospital and outpatient environments.
Within the hospital setting, I have worked with people recovering from trauma, surgery and complicated illnesses. My primary responsibilities were to support their return to typical daily activities.
Many of the people I served within the hospital setting had chronic illnesses that were limiting their ability to work, enjoy their family and engage in meaningful activities without reliance on others. While school prepared me to help in adapting the activities to make them easier to accomplish, it felt like for many of my patients I was offering shortcuts that were not encouraging their highest potential possible.
This frustration grew as I noticed a larger and larger percentage of what we in the medical community refer to as “revolving door patients” – those are the patients that will be released to their home because of medical stability but they return often enough that you remember their name.
I noticed some common threads among this population of very involved patients – their skin appeared unhealthy, their bodies seemed to take longer to heal than most, and they often had diabetes, heart disease or other issues related to circulation.
Beside my time in the hospital setting, I have also worked in an amazing outpatient center that serves all ages, but primarily caters to children.
My experiences there gave me exposure to see up close and personal how typical and atypical developmental patterns occur. And as most of the few adult clients we had were recovering from strokes or experiencing other types of neurological involvement, the experience gave me the opportunity to explore the role of the nervous system integrity in overall health and wellbeing.
All of these experiences have spurred me along in my own personal health journey as I saw first hand examples of people who felt trapped and betrayed by their bodies. My life’s work is dedicated to them – the ones who cringed as I helped to roll them over to help clean them up, the ones who learned to breath through the surgical pain as they were getting out of bed for the first time and those who gave me countless “I’m still here” smiles as they tried to get comfortable in the not-made-for-comfort hospital beds after I gently pushed them to fatigue.
Personal Growth Story
When I was younger, I remember going to the doctor several times with stomach aches and other vague symptoms and they told me over and over again that it was all in my head, they told me they didn’t know what was wrong with me, occasionally prescribed medicine which was not designed to address the set of symptoms I was experiencing. I struggled with fear because I was convinced I might be dying and no one seemed to know why. No one could give me answers or seemed to care enough to take me seriously. If the Dr couldn’t accurately diagnose me within the 10-20 minute session, there was no follow up and no offer of real hope to heal whatever it was that was causing all of my problems.
Thankfully I have learned that much of what I was experiencing was related to lifestyle choices including poor eating habits, poor exercise habits, and an overall poor understanding of stress management. But these realizations took me decades to piece together. I never had an actual diagnosable chronic illness but when you are sick repetitively for years on end you glean the perspective of a chronic illness patient.
I am so thankful now for my frustrations and fears all those years ago because it has fueled my desire to see other people with chronic diseases and long-standing dysfunction within their body experience the renewed functioning like I have. I don’t want you to take decades to feel better- I want to help you condense that time so that you can feel better sooner without as many rounds of trial and error as it has taken me.
From my personal experience, my own personal research, as well as reading lots of anecdotal stories, I am convinced that many of today’s chronic illnesses are truly lifestyle related. This means that all of them can be at the very least better managed and many even reversed following basic lifestyle interventions.
I have also learned that the lifestyle required to sustain health is not dreadful – it’s invigorating. Food used to be a source of such stress for me. I would know I shouldn’t eat a whole batch of brownies, but I just couldn’t stop. I would know french fries weren’t really a vegetable anymore but I craved them so bad. And a salad just wasn’t delicious. After changing some of my foods including how I think about the foods I eat I am able to not just enjoy food but enjoy it guilt-free because I choose to consume foods that are healthy and make me feel good and I have learned to prepare them in a way that is delicious and satisfying. I’m no longer a slave to sugar or carbs. I’m no longer in that cycle of dieting because I am consistently choosing foods that nourish and fuel my body. It’s not a chore to eat healthy anymore, it’s a privilege- and not one that has to be crazy expensive! My first step to changing my food patterns was to give up sugar.
Exercise remains a bit of a struggle for me, but as my eating has changed, so has my energy level. My days consist of chasing my own 2 toddlers around when I’m not working with the children at the outpatient clinic. I recall in grad school during my outpatient pediatric internship coming home and crashing because I just had no energy left. Now I am up and at it most days by about 5:30 or 6 and don’t crash until about 9 and have no problems keeping up with the kids. Movement has become a progressive importance in my life and I look forward to integrating more of it into my life over the next few years.
Stress management, including creating a pattern of rest for myself and the family, has been another lifestyle key to helping me overcome some of my vague symptoms. In the past I have struggled with anxiety and depression- it was never at a full blown clinical level where it impaired my ability to live but it kinda lingered over my life keeping me from engaging fully. This lifestyle adjustment often takes decades to fully realize because there are often very deep triggers we keep unveiling as we go through life and notice our reactions to everyday circumstance.
My goal for this blog is to help you and your family shortcut some of the wandering I went through to find renewed function in your own life. I hope that you will write to me one day and tell me how the information I share on here has had a positive impact on your life. My goal for this blog is to help over 1,000 people with chronic illness and recurring disease manage their symptoms and hopefully reverse their disease process so that they can live the life they choose to live, not the life they have to live.