My health challenges started when I was one month old – I was hospitalized with viral meningitis and received IV antibiotics for one week. After that, I suffered from colic as a baby. Throughout my childhood, I enjoyed a Texan diet of fried chicken, french fries, brisket, chicken and dumplings, meat loaf, biscuits and gravy, chicken soup, and sugary processed treats. My mother was a wonderful cook and baker; we spent many hours playing in the kitchen making southern dishes and special holiday treats. Much of my teenage years were plagued with many signs of illness, but we never fully connected the dots to diet and lifestyle. After a continuing decline in my health, I attempted suicide while a sophomore in school. This led to doctors prescribe a variety of pharmaceuticals in an attempt to solve whatever was wrong with me.
At the age of 18, I developed chronic migraines while living in Panama as an exchange student. I have a genetic predisposition for migraines. My paternal grandmother, father, and younger brother have migraines, as well as family on my mother’s side. Over the next 10 years, doctors tried every possible migraine medication on me, eventually resorting to Botox injections, which involved a series of injections in the face and neck. All of these options were a dead end. In fact, the various medications and treatments only made me worse. During this time, I juggled an abusive relationship, finished my BA in Journalism, and worked as a radio and television journalist and producer for National Public Radio.
At the age of 25, I again attempted to end my life. Our family has a history of suicide; tragically both my maternal grandmother and aunt took their own lives. There are some underlying issues in our family that beg for attention – perhaps genetic imbalances I was born with and then nurtured through poor life choices. Those imbalances showed up in various ways as I matured, eventually leading to an average of 25+ migraine days a month. My migraines consisted of severe pain radiating up one side of my body, often stemming from the neck area, and spreading over my jaw, up my temple, behind my eye and forehead. The pain left me unable to move, sensitive to light, smell, touch, sounds, and unable to eat or digest food properly due to nausea and gastroparesis. Migraines caused me to be in a constant state of “fight or flight” – they took days, sometimes weeks, to recover from, which was further complicated by the many medications I juggled. Slowly, I found myself no longer able to work or participate in daily activities. I spent years immobilized in bed and on the couch – my body traumatized by the cycle of chronic migraines.
Here’s an incomplete list of medications or treatments I have tried for migraine:
Imitrex, Hydrocodone, Toradol, Zofran, Xanax, Doxepin, Maxalt, Relpax, Amerge, Indocomethacin,
Pamelor, Topamax, Cymbalta, Depakote, Neurontin, Amitriptyline, Axert, Nortriptyline, Elavil, Vicodin, Frova, Inderal, Zonisamide,
Dihydroergotamine, and Botox.
Here’s an incomplete list of supplements I have tried for migraine:
Petadolex, Primrose oil, Migralief, Feverfew, Magnesium, Calcium, Progesterone, Adrenal support, Liver Gallbladder support, Paleo detox powder, COQ10, Vitamin B complex, Vitamin D, Digestive enzymes, Nature Throid, Methylguard, Amino d tox, Probiotics, Jade calm, Berberine, Antioxidant complex, Carnitine, Chromium, REM sleep, pancreatin, liver glands, Iodine, mineral sea salt, potassium, Acidoll, Selenium, Niacin, Vitamin C, and Castor oil packs.
My husband and I met a few months after the suicide attempt and he introduced me to a relationship with God, which has become an integral part of my healing. My background as an atheist made it a challenge for me to open up to the idea of God – and it took years for me to work through my baggage. I began to realize that my distaste for religion stemmed from a sensitivity to the hypocrisy I saw permeating religious culture, which was a distraction from the true message of Christ and a personal relationship with God. Spirituality has filled a hole in my heart and soul – a void that I spent most of my life trying to fill with toxic foods, substances, and relationships. It challenged the person that I had grown into – someone who had deep sadness over the brokenness and suffering of the world. suffering around me. This disharmony that I struggled with throughout my life has since been replaced with love, joy, compassion, & peace. Spiritual healing has helped me recover from the years I spent practicing self-hatred and self-sabotage. It led me to seek counseling in order to heal from the trauma of my past and my migraines. Exploring my spirituality also helped me focus on the body’s miraculous ability to repair and renew itself when given the correct tools to do so.
It wasn’t until I started researching holistic healing and nutrition in 2011 that I was able to start putting the puzzle pieces together regarding why I was sick. I decided to take a variety of tests – a hair tissue mineral analysis, a comprehensive hormone test, a metabolic panel, thyroid test, genetic test, and food sensitivity test. I was diagnosed with food sensitivities, hormonal imbalances, poor liver function, genetic mutations that were effecting my detoxification capacity of hormones, toxicants, inflammation, and stress response, and various nutritional/mineral deficiencies & toxicities.
After working for about three years with various naturopaths and experiencing a decrease in my migraine frequency, I still was not migraine-free. It was time for me to pursue a new direction that would heal the remaining health issues I was having.
That’s when I found myself slowly easing up to the idea of the Gerson Therapy (GT). I didn’t come to GT as a cancer patient, which is what brings most folks to this therapy. But I did come as someone who had exhausted all the other options and was still struggling with poor health. I was dissatisfied with the treatments I had tried and unwilling to settle for still being sick. Gerson Therapy and eventually Functional Medicine were a large part of my final healing journey.
Dr. Max Gerson healed his chronic migraines in the 1920s using a program of nutrition and detoxification. He went on to develop a protocol in the 1930s to not only heal migraines, but other degenerative diseases such as cancer, tuberculosis, diabetes, hypertension, fibromyalgia, and more. The Gerson Therapy is offered for free to patients around the world and Dr. Gerson himself provided his services to patients regardless of whether or not they could pay. He is a great inspiration to me.
After pursing both the Gerson Therapy and a Functional Medicine approach, I no longer experience the disabling pain of migraines and I am on a mission to educate others about the body’s ability to heal itself.
I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to accept the widespread belief that you will always be sick with migraines. There is hope! We live in a culture where it has become widely accepted to put a band-aid over an illness or symptoms instead of seeking to address why an illness is occurring in the first place. Healing involves taking responsibility for your health and believing that you can get well. My healing journey has been personalized to my body’s unique needs and yours must be too.
This journey has led me to dedicate myself to helping other migraineurs. I have been called to do this. As a result, I have co-founded The Herdell Migraine Institute, which is dedicated to sharing our family’s story of healing and helping guide migraineurs on the path to healing. In order to best serve migraineurs during their healing journey, I have obtained a Master’s of Science in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine from the University of Western States, am a Licensed Nutritionist, am a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach, have clinical functional nutrition training from Dr. Kara Fitzgerald and am a Board-Certified Nutrition Specialist.
I feel compelled to offer you hope. Don’t give up.
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