My Health Journey
Apologies in advance for the length of this post. Feel free to read the summary in the About me section instead. But many people have asked about my health journey and the only way to give the (almost) full picture of it is through this lengthy post. I also hope that it might be able to help others by showing them that they are not alone and that they too can recover from mysterious, chronic illnesses.
Affiliate disclosure: I recommend DNRS because it transformed my life and I believe without a doubt that it can do the same for others suffering from mysterious, chronic illnesses. I have affiliate partnerships so I may receive commission from your purchase. This helps to offset some of the costs of running this website at no additional cost to you.
Being diagnosed in 2015
After nine months of ill health in 2015, I was diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). During those nine months I also developed numerous food sensitivities and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). At my worst, I reached a point where I could eat nothing but 8 different fruits and vegetables and would crawl out of bed at about noon most days with hardly any energy to do or think about anything. I started reacting to so many things (to the point of almost losing consciousness at times) that I became housebound apart from a really enjoyable daily walk by the sea.
In case you’ve never heard of it (I never had before my diagnosis), this is the best definition I found: "MCS is a chronic physical illness which can affect anyone at any stage of life. Sufferers have severe reactions to chemicals in everyday products, medicines and foods, and can have debilitating electro-sensitivities. Those who are worst affected become housebound unable to communicate with friends and family.” (MCS-Aware charity).
I have now recovered fully. I no longer react to chemicals or foods and I am energetic every day, can go wherever I want and can eat whatever I want. It would be a lie to say that I always knew this day would come. While I never lost hope of recovery completely, when one attempt after another failed I started to resign myself to the idea that I would need to learn to adapt to this condition in the best way possible, but that my life would never be the same again. This notion changed when I started following Annie Hopper’s dynamic neural retraining system (DNRS) programme (more details about my experience with the programme here or you may visit the DNRS website here).
Through the programme, I learned that my ailments were due to limbic system impairment: the malfunctioning of a complex set of structures in the brain. The programme involves neuroplasticity-based therapy for limbic system rehabilitation. I would not have understood that sentence before starting the programme, but basically it promises to give you the opportunity to retrain your brain and get your life back if you are suffering from certain chronic health conditions. It is said to be a viable treatment option for conditions like food sensitivities, MCS, CFS, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, anxiety and others. Through the programme I learned that these conditions are regarded as a type of brain injury and that with the right knowledge and practice, it is possible to change the brain and recover fully.
The start of it all
Looking back, now that I understand what a limbic system impairment is, I believe I had suffered from a mild form of it since I was a young teenager, possibly after contracting glandular fever. Prior to glandular fever, I was a very healthy and active child and teenager. Though I’m not quite sure, I think it was after glandular fever that I started experiencing episodes of extreme fatigue and other unexplained symptoms. But on the whole I led a normal, active and definitely very happy life, just with these occasional interruptions where for no particular reason I would be too tired to do what I wished to do, at times even very basic things.
Hitting rock bottom
My symptoms worsened greatly starting around 12 years ago to the point where I even lost consciousness on some occasions. About six years ago I hit rock bottom and had developed chronic fatigue syndrome with several other debilitating symptoms on occasion, including slurred speech, loss of muscular control, loss of consciousness, sudden extreme fatigue, panic attacks, paranoia, nausea, mood swings, muscular weakness and extreme pain. And in the long term: general fatigue, lethargy, irritability, low mood and anxiety. There were days when I hardly recognised myself anymore.
Removing artificial sweeteners from my life
Doctors were as baffled as I was by my symptoms, especially since my blood test results were all normal. After trying extremely hard to find a pattern, I realised that my symptoms were worst if I ingested artificial sweeteners like aspartame, cut them out of my life and was mostly able to resume a normal life. It felt so good to be able to experience life fully again.
Ongoing symptoms and the final straw
However, some symptoms, like occasional brain fog and unexplained fatigue, mood swings etc, never quite disappeared. In February 2015, I suddenly started vomiting on average ten times a day and developed severe food sensitivities. By September I reached a point where I could only eat 8 specific fruits and vegetables and could only drink one type of water to stop the vomiting. At around this point I developed chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), became housebound, could no longer work and hardly had the energy to function any more.
Watching my life slip away from me
As a newly-wed and former national team triathlete who had always loved my life: enjoying time with my husband, meeting family and friends, training and racing, working hard and so on, this new existence was hard to accept. I went to numerous helpful doctors, but was not given many answers that could provide relief.
I was eventually seen by an allergist in the UK, Dr Michael Radcliffe, who referred me to Marianne Williams, a dietitian, who was instrumental in helping me to reintroduce a range of foods. I was lucky that Dr Radcliffe was extremely supportive and diagnosed the MCS as I know that many people go undiagnosed for a very long time. Both Dr Radcliffe and Marianne Williams played a huge role in my journey towards recovery and I will always be extremely grateful. However, when I asked for help in actually dealing with the MCS, they too did not have many answers, as MCS is generally very poorly understood.
At this point, I felt that my life was slipping away from me. I was able to do less and less things, could not meet many people unless they went to extreme measures to avoid all fragrances and could no longer even sleep in our bed anymore as I was reacting to the fire retardant chemicals in our mattress. But with a new diagnosis, I was adamant to research as much as I could about it and hoped to be able to find a treatment option.
Most websites I came across seemed to suggest that the only answer is to avoid contact with the problematic chemicals completely, which of course makes functioning in society impossible, since the chemicals are used in all sorts of everyday items like laundry powder, soap etc.
My experience with the dynamic neural retraining programme
When I first came across the DNRS website and read its promises that you can recover completely, I must admit that I was convinced it was too good to be true and did not actually consider trying it initially. I was so busy researching safe alternatives and trying to survive from day to day but having more and more disabling reactions that I did not research the DNRS programme further at this point. But through my general research I eventually came across several people who recommended it and at one point felt that I had hit rock bottom so had nothing to lose and should give it a try.
Still, I approached the program with a high level of scepticism. In the past, some people had suggested that my symptoms were merely “in my mind” while I knew that what I was experiencing was very real, so I was hesitant to try anything which focused so much on the brain. Before starting the DVDs I started reading ‘Wired for Healing’, a book written by Annie Hopper, founder of the DNRS programme. Looking back, just by starting to understand the Limbic System trauma loop mechanism, my condition was already improving, even before starting the DVDs.
So although I was sceptical, this background knowledge led me to approach the DVDs with an open mind and I ended up being blown away by the programme. Everything made so much sense and everything Annie Hopper said about her own experience resonated with me greatly. I instantly made a commitment never to miss a minute of practice and also to change my routine. I also started trying to identify the things which were keeping me in the trauma loop in an effort to overcome them.
My level of recovery
Within weeks of starting the programme my life had already been transformed. I started getting up early every morning full of energy and full of plans for the day, whereas before I would crawl out of bed often as late as noon or 1pm with no energy to do anything.
Within five months of starting DNRS I got to go to three weddings, went out to eat numerous times and even went to Italy! In Italy, I could eat anything I wanted, including ice cream, a slice of pizza and some bread - things I wouldn't even have dreamt of looking at prior to starting DNRS.
I am now working full-time again, whereas before starting DNRS, there were some weeks when I couldn’t manage more than 6 hours of work and even those were a huge struggle. I have also started running regularly again, which before I would have thought was impossible. I even got to complete a 5 km race six months after starting DNRS.
I am so much happier and able to look to the future positively again and plan things with my husband, family and friends. Every night I go to bed convinced that I will be able to get up in the morning and get things done, rather than wondering whether I will be able to get up at all. I can walk through life like I used to and that feels so amazing.
A second chance at life
It’s so exciting to feel alive again – to feel that I am living rather than just merely surviving. It is truly a blessing to be given a second chance at life as I now have a much deeper sense of appreciation and gratitude for all the small but essential things.
DNRS has given me my life back and I would encourage anyone suffering from mysterious or chronic illnesses/conditions which are usually poorly understood to look into DNRS and see whether you might benefit from it. Your symptoms might be the sign of a limbic system impairment. And if so, I would completely recommend that you give DNRS a try. Not everyone improves as quickly as I did with the programme, but DNRS has a very high success rate among people who commit to their practice as recommended.
If I could help other people to overcome what I know to be such a devastating and debilitating impairment, it would make me feel that every step of my difficult journey was worthwhile.
Please join me
So I invite you to join me on my journey. And I hope to be able to help you live a happier life through the things I learned as I recovered and rediscovered my zest for life. To make sure you don’t miss my newest posts, you can subscribe via e-mail. It’s quick, easy, and you can unsubscribe at any time. It would make my day if you share your journey with me and the Road to Zest community and let us know how things are going for you. You can also contact me via e-mail or follow me on Facebook.