There are two types of girls in middle school. The ones that are completely comfortable stripping down in the P.E. locker room. And the one’s who would rather die.
I was the latter.
But I wasn’t getting out of it on this day…
School Spinal Screenings.
Oh yes. Remember these? I do.
I vividly remember feeling uncomfortable that my classmate’s mom was going to see me in my training bra.
I also remember walking back to class, wondering why there was a big check mark next to “ADDITIONAL FOLLOW-UP REQUIRED/FAMILY CONTACTED”, on the sheet of paper I was carrying. Hm, that’s weird.
Only a few weeks later, I had my first introduction to a back doctor, or a “spine specialist” as they’re sometimes called.
He quickly diagnosed me with Scoliosis — just as they has suspected that day in the girl’s locker room.
But the doctor assured my parents that I was young and “still growing” and there was no need to rush into anything just yet.
A couple years later, l started high school and my scoliosis got worse.
I was really active at the time. Cheering, tumbling, conditioning multiple days a week. But I couldn’t help but notice that sitting through a church service felt difficult or that riding in the car for longer than an hour was almost unbearable. My purse was never without Icy Hot or Advil and I was constantly needing to bend forward to relieve the pain.
My doctor then suggested I start physical therapy twice a week. My therapist was super enthusiastic as he helped me try to build up the muscles on the weak side of my back. (I essentially didn’t have any on my left side, as my spine had pushed them all to the right).
But I worked hard to try to strengthen the weaker side… and of course, always looked forward to the deep neuro-tissue massage at the end of every session.
There were occasional talks of surgery. But my doc never felt 100% confident in me going that route. Phew.
I’ve had back pain for as long as I can remember.
Throwing up was a very normal activity of mine in college. But not for the reasons you would think. Every. single. football. game., I would throw up due to the nausea my back pain would create. Simply walking around campus all day was too much activity for my nervous system. Sometimes it was early during the tailgate, other times it was at halftime. I just knew it was bound to happen at some point. And if it were going to be extra hot that day in Alabama, game over.
I never made plans for after the game. What was the point? I knew how it would end. With me back in my apartment in bed, close enough to see the toilet. My friends knew. My current boyfriend knew. They would all take turns sitting down with me in the (all-standing) student section, offer to get me water, or of course, just run after me when I would quickly leave the scene… because it was time.
I did my best to stay hydrated, eat well, wear (somewhat) comfortable shoes. But it didn’t really make a difference. My body, my foundation wasn’t well.
Post-college, came with more weddings than I knew what to do with. I have so many fun, special memories of being a bridesmaid in some of best friend’s weddings. But I also have these unique memories of dancing with friends under stars (not drinking any alcohol) and then suddenly needing to run to a vacant vineyard to relieve myself. It would come out of no where… and those same dear college friends would follow. They knew. Nothing had changed.
And then of course, there’s the night I first met William. (At another wedding of all places.) We we’re both in the wedding party and there was talk of everyone going out together afterward. I avoided the conversation, knowing how rare it is for me to ever make it to an “after” party.
After the bride and groom made their exit and the reception was closing down… William came over to me and asked if I would be able to join them. I told him I couldn’t because I didn’t feel well. He seemed bummed and a little curious as to if I was lying, but like a true gentleman, handled it well.
I on the other hand, didn’t. I went home and cried… 1) because I was sick and 2) because I hated that I was 22 years old and couldn’t go out for a drink with some new friends because spending the day in a bridesmaid dress and heels was too much for my body to handle.
A year later, January 2014, (and now dating William) I was introduced to chiropractic care by 2 friends in my Bible study. They were in their last semester of chiropractic school and in need of people to adjust. I was skeptical yet secretly desperate.
I began getting adjusted every week or so. Obviously, it wasn’t an overnight miracle but it didn’t take long for me to notice I didn’t need to take as much Advil throughout the day. As in, popping 2 a day, instead of 6.
I was slowly beginning to believe in the power of chiropractic but still wasn’t fully committed to it.
April 2014 — William and I were tying the knot!
Sadly, I knew I would be sick on our wedding day.
The fact that I would be extremely nauseous the entire day after every dress fitting, was a sure sign. Of course, I knew by now that my body didn’t mix well with dresses that held my back in one place, but this was the day I had always dreamed about! I wanted that dress. So I was willing to sacrifice the pain.
I left every fitting debating if I should tell my mom that I don’t feel good when I’m wearing it for those short 10 minutes… which could only mean one thing if I plan to be wearing it all day. But I never did. This is just my life, I told myself.
Wedding day. I had been in the dress for almost 8 hours with no sign of needing to run to the restroom. Maybe I’m actually going to make it through the day?!, I thought to myself before the ceremony started.
But looking back, I think it was just the excitement and anticipation that kept the nausea at bay. As soon as we danced back down the aisle as man and wife, we were quickly snatched away by our photographers (at my prior request) to take our first pictures MARRIED!
This was one of my favorite parts of the entire day, as we were beaming with joy, excitement, love, and a little, disbelief. This also happened to be the first time in the day, where I finally felt completely relaxed and my head began to catch up to my body.
While the rest of the guests were enjoying cocktail hour upstairs. William and I were having a private dinner before making our entrance into the reception.
At this point, I really didn’t feel well (although you wouldn’t know it from the picture). Here I was with my new husband as he unzipped the back of my dress… but, again, not for the reasons you’re thinking. I just wanted to be able to BREATHE. As
we he ate dinner, I sipped on water, popped ibuprofen (not even caring that it hadn’t been 4 hours since the last), and prayed for the nausea to magically disappear.
The words he had just vowed to me (in sickness and in health) were already in full swing.
What felt like 10 minutes later, the wedding planner came downstairs with a huge smile… “Alright time to head up for the first dance!”, looking a little shocked that the back of my dress was completely unzipped…
Just ignore the pain, Brittany… Maybe it will go away, I thought.
“Do you want to go and try to throw up?”, my new husband asked me before walking upstairs. (A fairytale, I tell ya!) But I wasn’t comfortable with that idea. I never had been.
“No, it will happen when it needs to…. let’s just go”, I replied.
Sweet William, who LOVES to dance and spin me on the floor, held me so softly as we gently swayed back and forth. Both knowing I wasn’t up for much more.
I knew it wasn’t the first dance he would have wanted. And I regret that I’m the one to blame.
As William started dancing with his mom, I began to give hugs and make small talk with some of the guests surrounding the dance floor. When I reached the third person in, a sweet high school friend, now nurse, it hit me.
“I think I’m about to get sick”, I whispered to her in a slight panic. She immediately went into nurture mode and pulled me by the hand out of the crowd, out onto the patio, and back into a separate door near the restrooms. We rushed in, making it just in time. She held my $100 up-do back as I did my best to aim the few bites of collard greens I had just taken.
With tears rolling down my face, and a faithful friend telling me “it’s going to be okay”, I threw up 6 times.
I came out of the stall in complete distress, greeted by some women who were waiting in line — my friend’s mom and some of William’s college friends that I hadn’t met yet.
Oh Lord, please don’t let them think I’m drunk.
“Hi, it’s nice to meet you”, I said, with a light smile, as I avoided shaking their hands. I’m sure they didn’t mind.
Then, just like that, I cleaned up my face and got back to our wedding reception.
It’s amazing how much better I felt… and an absolute miracle my white dress walked away unharmed.
But that was the icing on the cake.
Honestly, I’m deeply embarrassed that I lived this way for so many years. That is took me violently throwing up on “the most special day of my life” for me to finally wake up to the hell I was living in.
I was in denial that maybe there was truly something wrong with me… that I was in need of major change… that l was sick.
The day after we got back from our honeymoon, William moved me to our home in St. Louis — with the memory of my wedding day stunt still not sitting well.
Newlywed, one-income, post-wedding broke, no chiropractic insurance… but we knew we had to make a way. After many discussions and prayer, William was so gracious to rework our budget to make his new wife’s health a priority. We didn’t want this to be my ‘normal’ any longer.
I started going to the chiropractor 3 times a week — the relief I was experiencing was written all over my face 🙂 . For the first time in my life, I had a health professional who was interested in what I was eating (Imagine that). My doctors quickly made changes to my diet and even grocery shopped with me! I quickly fell in love with real food and what it could do for me. I was soaking in information left and right — and already seeing a difference in my quality of life.
It obviously didn’t all happen over night. But over our first 6 months of marriage we tried to remove all toxins/chemicals from our home and bodies. I threw out almost everything in our fridge and pantry and started fresh. Stopped all medications (even my addiction to advil). Replaced all of our beauty products. Started making our cleaning supplies. Read and watched endless book and documentaries. Etc.
These changes led me to become very aware of my body. And just 2 years later, I have become someone I least expected… the “hippie” of the family.
People like to ask questions, sometimes laugh, mock, roll their eyes. But William has supported me through it all. In fact, joined me in it all.
You never know how the person you marry will change. My sweet husband probably never could have guessed that within 2 years of marriage he would be eating plant-based monday through friday, using essential oils daily, going to yoga weekly, and getting adjusted monthly. He’s too good for me.
I know he takes a lot of heat for it. We both do.
But the truth is… we don’t mind… part of this journey has been growing to be secure in the lifestyle we’ve adapted.
Because I know what my life was before and what it is now. And anything that people say or think, can’t change that.
I know what it’s like to look at my calendar and know which events I will throw up at.
I know what it’s like to not be able to drive without icy hot and Advil in the cupholder.
I know what it’s like to want to be active, but choose not to, because it’s not worth the outcome.
I know what it’s like to try on a pretty dress and not be able to buy it because my back can’t handle the pressure.
I know what it’s like to be the girl that people think is drunk, without ever having a sip.
And so I’m never going back to my old ways. I can’t go back.
It’s hard to believe I use to get excited if I went a month without vomiting — and now I’m going on two years. Thank you, Lord.
Not only is walking no longer painful — it’s enjoyable; something I never thought possible for myself. (And something that would have made living in Europe miserable.)
Chiropractic care (& real food) truly restored my quality of life.
Our body’s are temples. Broken and sinful, yes. But made in the image of the One true God. To be honored and cared for. I don’t want to take that lightly.
No one should take that lightly.
If you have a health concern, big or small, please don’t ignore it. God made our bodies with such detail and care. Any ache, pain, restlessness, exhaustion, anxiety, etc… isn’t “nothing” and it certainly doesn’t have to be your “norm”. They are your body’s way of telling you something isn’t right. That you need to do something different.
You only get one.
Listen to it. Make changes. Experiment. Ask questions. Pray for wisdom.
I wish I had a whole lot sooner.