Trust Your Gut!

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Do you know that your gut has over 500 million neurons, over 40 neurotransmitters of the same type found in your brain, and that your gut plays a role in far more than just digestion? Have you heard that many in scientific circles now refer to the digestive system as our “second brain?” Your gut helps regulate your hormone levels and mental stability, and it helps you sense environmental threats and opportunities.

Why then is it so hard for many of us to learn how to trust our gut instincts?

For many of us, we allow fear to instill doubt: maybe it is a fear of judgment from people we care about, fear of failure, fear of just being wrong, or maybe it is fear of being a bad parent. As I shared in my earlier post, Listen to Your Instincts, NOT Your Instigators, I have been working hard to overcome these fears and listen to my instincts after a few life lessons where, had I NOT immediately listened to those instincts, it could have cost my children their lives. Even those lessons didn’t stop me from having to re-learn the same lesson recently. I quickly touched on our latest lesson before, and many of you sent emails asking for more details. Because I think my experience may help inspire some of you to move past your fears and trust YOUR instincts, I am choosing to share our latest story.

My youngest daughter, Jay, has been having sleep issues for at least 7 months. Initially she just told me she woke up a lot or had trouble falling to sleep. Later she shared that it scared her when she woke up like that. Then, one day I witnessed what we call an “episode,” and I sensed that it wasn’t right.

My pediatrician immediately sent me to the pulmonary and sleep disorder center, but that doctor felt it was merely anxiety. I considered that opinion carefully and honestly would have preferred it over another medical condition; but it just didn’t fit. Jay rarely worries about anything; and if she does, she verbalizes it or throws a complete hissy fit to get her feelings out. She certainly does not internalize.

Jay's sleep study

Jay’s sleep study

So, I cashed in my trust card with my pediatrician and he talked the pulmonary doctor into at least doing a sleep study. From family and some friends I heard things like, “Oh, everyone has sleep issues, I am sure she is fine…why put her through unnecessary tests?” Some even ended that sentence with the word, “again.” I was starting to wonder if my husband and I were making a mistake. I even considered cancelling the test, but my husband reminded me that my gut was usually right and we should proceed.

It took me 3 months to get in for the sleep study. They called me shortly thereafter and shared that she had a “mild, non-obstructive sleep apnea,” and explained that basically they were not sure what was waking her but something certainly was at a time in her sleep cycle that was not normal. We at first felt comforted by the news, until we realized that the diagnosis merely acknowledged that something was not right, but didn’t pinpoint the cause.

We were referred to an ENT, who said her ears, nose, and throat were all perfect and he could not find a cause. We returned to see the specialist who felt again that maybe it was just stress-induced. As we were talking, I noticed a bullet on her results that read “abnormal EEG readings observed, follow up with a sleep deprived EEG may be warranted.” Believe it or not, the specialist was not intending to share that result. I had to point it out. He felt it was likely nothing and not worth testing for, until I reminded him that our daughter had two seizures as a baby that we always thought were medicine related, and that she was cocaine positive which is a risk factor for seizures. I also reminded him that we still did not know what was waking her at night, and this could help us either find the answer or exclude seizures as the cause. He acted as though I was crazy to even jump to seizures as a possibility, but still agreed to run it by the pediatric neurologist.

After weeks of not hearing anything, I called the office and inquired. They said they would get back to me. A week or so later I had to call again. I again wondered if I really should be pushing things since obviously none of her doctors seemed concerned. This time I received a prescription in the mail for a 24-hour ambulatory EEG, with no explanation as to why THAT test instead of the one we previously discussed, and no directions on what to do next. After I called to get that cleared up, the neurologist’s assistant informed me that it would be November before they could see my daughter.

Now, at this point, my mommy warning signals were screaming. My daughter is highly active in competitive gymnastics, tied for all-around gold in the state competition, and was scheduled to compete in Nationals. I didn’t want it to be seizures but was starting to feel that they may be the cause, and I was worried that IF she was having seizures and one happened while she was flying on a bar or upside down on a beam that the consequences could be severe.

I pleaded for an earlier date,  but to no avail. My pediatrician pleaded our case, but to no avail. I called again, didn’t seem to be getting anywhere, and unexpectedly burst out in tears on the phone with the neurologist’s assistant: “Why does no one seem to EVER listen to my instincts with my daughter even after I have repeatedly been right? I NEED this test before she competes if for nothing other than our peace of mind. I will call every hospital in a five state radius until I find one that can do this test this month unless you help me. I am so tired of people treating me like I am crazy when I KNOW something is not right.”

As I rudely hung up the phone, I was embarrassed and disappointed in myself for losing the carefully practiced control I usually exude in these situations. But, much to my surprise, my tears accomplished more than I could have fathomed (I still don’t recommend it as a normal method of persuasion). An hour later, the office called and said the doctor would squeeze me in at the end of the next day. Once I spoke to her and she agreed that I had reason for concern, she squeezed me in for the ambulatory EEG the following day.  And do you know how I felt? I should have felt relieved, but I didn’t. Instead, I was hit with a wave of embarrassment and guilt for possibly taking a spot from a more needy child. I mean, what if it WAS just anxiety? I shared my reaction with the doctor, and she reassured me that I had just the right level of concern and that I should never apologize for advocating for my daughter. If she didn’t feel the concern was warranted, she wouldn’t have scheduled the test.

~The results are in~

Unfortunately, it turns out my instincts were right…and I wish they hadn’t been. The test has shown that Jay IS having seizures emanating from the back of her brain. We go for an MRI soon to hopefully rule out a tumor or mass. It is possible it is a focal lesion from her biological mother’s cocaine use during pregnancy. However, the doctor is hopeful that it is just Benign Occipital Epilepsy of Childhood, the Panayiotopoulos type.

Now, I have to tell you, I am sad that I was right. I really would have preferred to be wrong. But ever since I saw that note on the initial sleep study report and read about childhood night seizures, I was fairly certain in my gut that this was the news I was going to hear. I tried to let the doctors words calm me when she said sometimes these things randomly happen and she didn’t expect to see anything since usually these abnormal waves never reappear. But, I knew. I cannot explain how I knew, but I knew.

After her National Competition

After her National Competition

Jay knew that it wasn’t normal and that it wasn’t anxiety too. She told me even before I listened. She tried to tell the doctor when we were in his office that she didn’t feel worried about anything. He then told her that she was a kid and could be anxious and not understand what that means, so she started to doubt herself. She started telling people she couldn’t sleep well and that “she guessed” it was because she worries alot. That is the saddest part to me. By allowing others to make me doubt my instincts, I almost taught my daughter to doubt her gut instincts as well.

I am so thankful that I didn’t allow others’ opinions and my fears to stop me from following my gut. We can now help our daughter overcome her latest challenge, because we know what that challenge is. Had we not pushed, Jay would still be waking up regularly in fear, feeling discouraged, and suffering the consequences at school and during her activities. Instead, her doctors felt we could safely allow her to compete since all seizure activity appears to be during sleep, and she won Gold in the all-around competition at her national meet (and one gold and three silvers in individual events as well)!

I am thankful to have such strong gut instincts. Now, I just need to learn to consistently trust them. I hope that by sharing our story, I will help inspire some of you to find the courage to overcome your doubts and fears so you can trust your gut more too!

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To learn more about the cleanse options, supplements, or essential oils I recommend, contact me using the form below or at alicia@healthytangents.com to request information or to schedule a wellness consultation.

Disclaimer: I am not a Physician. I am a wife, a mom, a certified health coach, and someone who loves learning about natural wellness tools and sharing with others the incredible things I learn through my classes, research, personal experiences, and the experiences of friends and family. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. Rather, they are intended to support your body in its efforts to restore balance and maintain health.

Listen to Your Instincts, NOT Your Instigators

Instincts: natural intuitive powers

Instigators: people who urge, provoke, or incite to some specific action or course

Sometimes I get so frustrated with myself because I cannot seem to learn how NOT to let others make me doubt my instincts. I have quite a few people in my life who fairly regularly feel the need to urge my husband and I to take some action other than the one we choose. Some directly speak their mind and others are more passive-aggressive about the way they share their disapproval or doubt.

My husband and I have four children: three are adopted and two were born with challenges that lessened their quality of life. I know I am not the majority, but I believe the body is designed to work; and any pain or discomfort, or anytime the body’s organs are not functioning problem-free, it means something is causing the disturbance. I do NOT believe colic, food intolerances, reflux, sensory integration disorder, and other similar challenges are “normal.” I believe there is almost always a root cause, especially when a single child has more than one of these challenges, and I never accept the diagnoses that basically mean the doctors admit there is a problem but they don’t know why (such as IBS, chronic fatigue, etc.). Because of that I have always respectfully challenged doctors and advocated for answers far past when most people would accept the answer. Also because of that, my children are healthy, happy, and thriving in spite of challenges that would normally be extremely limiting.

I have found that my approach is not very popular: not with some doctors, and not with many of my family. Because I research heavily and ensure I am able to speak the language and challenge doctors when I feel it necessary, and I try and correct someone when I feel they have an incorrect perception or understanding, I have been called a know-it-all by my family and “one of THOSE Moms” by my kids’ doctors. I have also been accused of being a hypochondriac and even of having Münchausen Syndrome (i.e., I make up myself or the kids being sick for attention); though I have never understood the last two accusations, since my seemingly obsessive efforts are to make them healthy, not sick. Sadly, those who accuse me most tend to be those who I feel should be supporting me in my efforts to improve my children’s quality of life.

I am embarrassed to admit how many times friends or family have caused me to doubt myself, and the consequences in some instances were life threatening.

  • One time a group we were staying with felt I was overreacting to my son’s symptoms, which to them seemed “normal.” Even my husband wasn’t sure I needed to worry. When I finally listened to my gut and rushed him to the Emergicenter, he stopped breathing on me twice during the drive and the ER doctor yelled at me for not coming sooner. My husband has never doubted my instincts since, but the next day our group still felt I was exaggerating because my son looked “fine” and it was “ironic” that I was the only one to take him whenever these things happened.
  • Another time my 8-month old daughter seemed particularly lethargic and unlike herself, and I felt her lips seemed off-color, but everyone convinced me I was just overly worrying and she was just tired. The next day, when I decided to trust my gut and take her to see the doctor, I felt stupid because as soon as we arrived my lethargic daughter transitioned into a a smiling, cooing baby who charmed the nurse. At that moment, I was convinced they had been right and I was overreacting. That is, until the nurse found that her left lung was almost completely collapsed. She was taken to the hospital and admitted immediately.

Sadly, even after these and many other lessons of a similar nature, I recently allowed others’ comments to make me doubt myself AGAIN. As it turns out,  if I HAD backed down, I would have missed a key piece of my youngest daughter’s medical history and I may have inadvertently taught my daughter to doubt her own instincts as well.

I WILL eventually learn how to be confident in my instincts ALL OF THE TIME. But, until I do, my husband and I have decided that we need to make difficult decisions and surround ourselves with people who support us in our efforts to care for our children as we feel is right, rather than people who continue to make us doubt our choices. Those who are able to help us brainstorm, consider all our options, and question our thoughts logically, lovingly, and open-mindedly will continue to be our sounding boards and will receive updates. Those who question with judgment and condemnation in their words just will not hear from us. We are not doing this out of spite or anger, I personally feel I  need to do this to ensure I continue to have the strength to advocate for my children, and that my inability to be immune to others’ disapproval won’t end up harming my children if I don’t take action when I should.

Do you need to do this in your life too? In case you do, I will share my learning lessons with you. Obviously, I am not claiming to have mastered these completely, but I do know that they are skills I NEED to master and will be working on daily.

When you are facing a difficult life decision:

  • ALWAYS listen to your gut. Whether you call it your inner voice, your intuition, Buddha, or the Holy Spirit…try and listen to that voice first and external voices second.
  • Find people who respect your thoughts and decisions even when they don’t agree. Those people will add value to your lives by helping you think through alternate options and paths you may not have thought to consider; but they will do so in a way that makes you feel as though you are wrapped in a big warm cozy hug as you tackle the challenge together.
  • Challenge authority whenever you have to. No one person or doctor knows everything, and no one knows you or your child better than you do. So challenge if you need to: respectfully and firmly. Don’t confuse challenging someone’s opinion with disrespecting the person. Just choose polite and respectful words, express your reasoning, and persist when you feel you need to.
  • Recognize that family is not always right, but they do usually mean well. Attempt to close down discussions politely before your feelings are hurt and the conversation ends badly. Come back to the discussion at a later time and try and talk through what happened and how you could have avoided it.  If they won’t talk it out with you, and they won’t stop the behavior, then just limit conversations to what you feel is still respectful to them but not draining to you.
  • Be sure to eat healthier, drink more water, and get more sleep when you are under a lot of  stress. Take extra fish oil and stress B vitamins. It will always be harder to maintain calm and control if you are tired and suffering from fluctuating blood sugar and a constant flow of cortisol (the stress hormone).
  • Ask for help. This is a big one for me. I tend to try and be strong and not ask for help. I need to put myself out there more and make more good, supportive friends who I feel I can ask for help when I need it. A true friend will WANT to be there for you when you need support.
  • Consider all advice against your specific situation. Listen to others’ experiences in case something helps, but don’t ever fall into the trap of thinking someone else knows what is right for you or your child…even if they have seemingly been through the same thing. All seizures are not the same. All allergies are not the same. Any condition is on a spectrum, and everyone’s situation will fall in a different location within that spectrum. It is good to learn from each other, and to question yourself and be sure you are being objective; but it is not good to doubt yourself or let fear of judgment block you from acting.
  • Finally, recognize that even if you advocate strongly and you end up finding that nothing was wrong or it wasn’t what was originally thought, you still did the right thing. Knowing what it is NOT is often just as helpful. AND, at least then you are being true to yourself. After all, how will others respect us unless we learn to respect ourselves?

***updated 8/7/2013***

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To learn more about the cleanse options, supplements, or essential oils I recommend, contact me using the form below or at alicia@healthytangents.com to request information or to schedule a wellness consultation.

Disclaimer: I am not a Physician. I am a wife, a mom, a certified health coach, and someone who loves learning about natural wellness tools and sharing with others the incredible things I learn through my classes, research, personal experiences, and the experiences of friends and family. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. Rather, they are intended to support your body in its efforts to restore balance and maintain health.