Welcome to the very first episode of the Autoimmune Resolution Podcast!

My name is Katherine Housh and I’m going to your host. I come to you today as a former Registered Nurse with over 15 years experience. I worked in the hospital and clinic settings. I did homecare. I even taught high school for a year. I transitioned to hospice nursing and even got my board certification as a holistic nurse coach.

In February of this year, 2022, I left nursing entirely, which is a whole episode of its own and I work now as a holistic health coach for women with chronic illness and autoimmune disease. As you’ll learn about me over the coming weeks and months, I integrate all sorts of techniques, including Polyvagal theory, somatic exercises, emotional release techniques, neuroplasticity, and brain rewiring, meditation, movement, nutrition, energy medicine – but my specialty is in a field of science called Germanic Healing Knowledge (German New Medicine).

I want to share with you where my health journey really began. And it was long before I ever got these certifications and trainings. It was long before I was a registered nurse. I began my story as a patient. I am passionate about helping women with chronic symptoms of fatigue, pain, anxiety, digestive, and skin issues because I was living a relatively normal life for much of my childhood and all that changed when I turned 18.

I was that kid that grew up in the family with the crunchy granola mom. As one of my childhood friends recently said, “Your mom liked brown rice before brown rice was cool!” So what I mean by that is when every other kid was on antibiotics, my mom was giving us spoonfuls of ecchinacea and golden seal. We weren’t allowed to have sugar. We could only eat grains. We had to drink milk every day – this was the 90s. She had us using recycled notebook paper. She had picking up trash after school and on the weekend. She was very much a healthy and environmentally conscious mama.

We did not get sick as children. I was the last person you would think would end up with an autoimmune disease. But here I was, 18 years old, a week before I was supposed to start nursing school. My family was out of town for the week. It was the first time as a young adult that I had the house completely to myself. And I woke up one morning, went to the bathroom, and found a toilet bowl full of blood. I should probably put a content warning in there if that kind of stuff grosses you out. But I was very quickly (within a matter of days) diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in the inflammatory bowel disorder category called ulcerative colitis.

And I will spare you the gory details. But I only want to say that I was really fortunate because there are many women that go on for months and years without getting as definitive an answer as I had. The average length of time to receive an autoimmune diagnosis for many women can be anywhere from three to seven years. That means that they’re waiting, feeling invalidated, not having effective treatment prescribed yet, not knowing what to tell family and friends other than their misery and suffering. So I was fortunate that I could tell people the name of what was wrong with me and let them go look it up for themselves so they could read about all my delicious symptoms.

That was a really early age for me to suddenly be confronting health problems that I had never experienced before in my life. In fact, I tried to start nursing school as planned. If any of you out there know anything about conventional nursing curriculums, it’s a very intensive, very stressful educational path. And so I didn’t make it through the first week of orientation. In fact, I was so sick that I can remember driving down the highway in Orlando, where my family lived at the time. I was attending University of Central Florida and let’s just say I had to carry plastic bags in the car in case of emergency and I had to use them.

I decided that that was no way that I wanted to continue my college career, so I had a sit down with my parents. I explained to them that I wanted to take a year off to try to adjust to my new circumstances in life. And after much resistance they could tell them I wasn’t going to back down. And they said, “Okay, we’ll support you in that.”

I took a year off. I moved from Florida back up to Vermont, where my family, both my parents were raised. And my grandparents graciously allowed me to rent a property that they had up there so I can have some peace and quiet. I got a job working as a caregiver for a lovely young lady that had a diagnosis of autism and it was really wonderful because my true dream career has always been to be an educator or special education teacher.

This allowed me to do something I was passionate about and still could look good on my application when I reapplied to nursing school the following year, and it was low stress and it paid enough to cover the bills. But that was a deeply introspective year. At the end of it, I can remember my mom coming to pick me up and bring me back home to Florida to go back to college. When we crossed the state line into Florida, I just started sobbing. I just knew it wasn’t where I wanted to be. It wasn’t what I wanted to do. But coming from you know, Boomer parents, it was kind of like, “You need to get a job skill. You need to get health insurance. You have to be responsible. You have to do the mature thing here.”

I decided to suck it up and get my nursing degree, which I did over the next two years, and move on after that. If nursing school is already hard when you’re in good health, I think those of you who understand that challenge might be able to imagine how terrible it was with a chronic illness that put you at risk of pooping your pants at any minute of the day, walking around a college campus with long stretches between classes in the hot Florida weather. I’m reliving it right now. It’s not pleasant!

In fact, I remember my very first semester when we were assigned a first clinical site. My clinical instructor was a lovely woman with a specialty in Psych nursing. And we were only a week or two in and I just showed up one day at the community nursing site, my heart was racing – I could hear it pounding in my ears. My pulse was nearly 200 beats per minute. I was skin and bones I was pale and I remember going to her and saying, “I don’t feel well. I think I should go home today.”

She checked my pulse and said, “You need to go immediately to the emergency room or to the campus clinic. I don’t think you’re going to make it.”

And I said, “I’m not going to make it?!”

She said, “I mean you’re not going to make it through the nursing program.”

I said, “Okay, well, you know, careful how you deliver that message!”

So I drove myself to the campus clinic, and they said, “Yeah, you’re really sick. Have you been vomiting or having any diarrhea or any significant heavy bleeding like with your period lately?”

And I said, “Well, kind of all three.” If you know anything about the symptoms of ulcerative colitis, you can have diarrhea more than 20 times a day, you lose fluids and nutrients as quickly as you consume them. And because the lining of your intestines are ulcerated, you’re also bleeding profusely. So they found me to be severely anemic which means you know, my, my blood levels were very low – low enough that they wanted to transfuse, but I asked them to hold off.

Instead, they admitted me to the hospital for three days and put me on bowel rest, IV steroids, and fluids. And thus began my first real experience as a patient on that side. of the nursing experience which, I think in a lot of ways went on to make me so much better at my job when I did start practicing as a licensed nurse. Because of not having been sick as a child, I really didn’t know what that experience was like for people, so it made me very compassionate and empathetic to that vulnerability, that feeling out of control, that fear not knowing not knowing what to expect.

That was my first time ever with a serious injury or illness that put me in the hospital and I can remember all the girls from my nursing clinical group coming to the hospital and I got a call on the hospital room phone saying, “Hey, you know, we’re down in the lobby. Can we come see you?” My mom took the phone from me and was like, “You’re just fine. And we’re going to be handling this as a family, thank you very much.” And she proceeded to spend the next three days turning away any guests that came. So it was a very different experience for me than what I’ve seen in the movies of get well cards and flowers and people showering you with love and concern because my mother, with the best of intentions, handled the situation how my family handled about just about everything, which is to say, “What happens in the family stays in the family.”

As I go on to share more of my story, I hope to begin to illustrate how growing up in an environment like that is more conducive to developing health issues like I have gone on to develop my life. So I spent the next five years finishing nursing school, getting my first job as a nurse, working night shift at a large teaching hospital in Vermont. And I remember walking into patient’s rooms in the middle of the night looking at them and thinking, “How am I supposed to take care of you when I am sicker than you?” It’s a miracle that I was on two feet when I look back now at like my lab tests and how bad my blood levels were and everything. I mean, I was just exhausted. I was short of breath. I was lethargic, fatigued, and in pain, cramping, running to the bathroom every three minutes.

My dear friends learn to make jokes of it because I think they didn’t know what else to do. But I realize now that I did myself a disservice in trying to make other people more comfortable with my diagnosis because all sorts of colitis symptoms are not a joke. They’re not just tummy trouble. They’re not just diarrhea. They’re not just running to the toilet. There are serious health risks and seriously debilitating symptoms and serious pain and suffering that goes with it – specially if you don’t understand why it’s happening.

No one else that I knew my age had symptoms like I did and so I felt very alone very isolated. This was before social media. This was before there were Facebook communities. I had no way to connect with anybody else’s experience. I felt like so many people do when they first get diagnosed with chronic illness and people around them are just saying, “I hope you feel better soon. Do you feel better yet? How are you doing? Do you think it’s something you ate? Do you think you’re just stressed?”

I got all sorts of advice from people. I had one woman tell me that blood in your stool was normal, everybody had it, so I shouldn’t make such a big deal out of it. I had other people tell me that it was my fault because I eat foods that had artificial dye in them. My poor mother was determined to save me so she tried to overhaul my entire diet. You know if she wasn’t holistic or natural enough, she started reading up on all sorts of elimination diets and taking out whole food groups and basically starving me trying to get me to heal.

It’s almost like the people around you become annoyed that you’re not getting better yet because they’re trying so hard to make you better. So yeah, it’s funny. I haven’t told this part of my story in such a long time.

I think what inspired me to start here as I have some skeptics in my DMs on social media, sometimes, who tell me that the reason I’m doing so well today is because I was never really that sick. Or they’ll tell me that I don’t understand people like them with chronic illness and I’m thinking to myself, “Maybe I haven’t made it clear enough just how sick I was.”

I’m going to take you to this deep, dark place, and then I promise every episode from there is going to shine a little bit more light and hope on your situation.

After dealing with the symptoms of ulcerative colitis for years, I ended up moving to another state where I didn’t know anyone, starting over starting fresh, just wanting to go somewhere where I could start new and I ended up having a great two years. In fact, I came off all my medications – no more corticosteroids, no more immunosuppressants – and I stopped having symptoms. My energy came back.

That’s where I started teaching high school, which was one of my dream jobs. I just felt really invigorated. I was able to go hiking in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. I was doing everything I ever dreamed of – things I had given up hope thinking were possible for me many, many years before. It was during that time I met my now husband Jordan, so that was a bright spot in my life. He was a really good friend to me long before we ever started dating. I got married. I was on a high. I was thinking, “Maybe I really can turn this thing around,” and was in a permanent remission until 2012, which is the year my darling mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Again, the most natural, holistic person you could meet and it didn’t make sense, but there she was with a lump in her breast, facing a mastectomy, chemo, radiation, the whole shebang. So I decided to leave behind my comfortable dream life, good health, excellent boundaries, and fastidious self-care and jump right back in to the home environment I grew up in, where none of those things existed, and focused solely on being her caregiver for the next three-and-a-half years.

If you’re wondering what happened to my health, it was in the toilet, figuratively and literally. Interestingly, it wasn’t just the ulcerative colitis. I was hospitalized again many times. I was introduced to a new diagnosis of Addison’s disease, as well as Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). These two diagnoses pulled the rug right out from under me. It was like nothing that I had ever experienced before with my ulcerative colitis. In fact, after my mother died, I moved out to the West Coast where I currently live in California, because this is where Jordan, my now husband, was from. I left behind the East Coast, all my family, all my friends, and I came here to grieve and to be close to him because he was my support system, and it sent me into such a deep spiral that I ended up bedridden.

I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t take care of myself. I couldn’t shower or bathe. I couldn’t make it from the bedroom to the kitchen to prepare myself a meal to feed myself. I was at rock bottom and I didn’t think that I was ever going to get better. I was not only far from family and friends and distance, but I had recently been the victim of narcissistic abuse from an individual in my life. Even though I have left that person on the East Coast, the impact of that person’s slander, smear campaign, and attacks in my life had rippled to the point where people didn’t know who to trust. I was really abandoned.

I understand now why people were confused, but that meant I didn’t have support while I was in the hospital. I didn’t have people reaching out, coming out to help me, checking on me, supporting me. And I remember telling Jordan at that time, “You don’t have to marry me. I don’t know that I’m ever going to get better. If this is as good as it gets, you shouldn’t have to be stuck with me.”

The fact that here I am now: It has been six years since that hospitalization. I own my own business. I work full time. I’m active in my volunteer work, my ministry in this beautiful community. I’m able to work in the garden. I’m able to cook, clean, do fun things, get outside in nature. It’s truly a place I didn’t know that I would ever get to in this lifetime.

I share this long journey to assure you that you can be at the lowest of lows and there is still hope, especially with the incredible scientific knowledge and understanding of our biology and how the human body works. That is what I cannot wait to share with you on this podcast in coming weeks.

I want to inspire you with the power of German Healing Knowledge (German New Medicine) and I want to illustrate through storytelling how others have been able to go on this healing journey of their own by applying these principles so that you can listen and start to think how that resonates with symptoms or situations you’re experiencing in your own life.

I’ll be releasing a new episode every Friday. Go ahead and subscribe on your favorite platform. It’s just going to be me, my voice in your ear. I’m hoping that it’ll help us get to know each other on a more personal level so you can understand more about the work I do, but also why I do it.

If you want to share and participate, you can always find me at https://instagram.com/wholselfrevolution

Please join me in the comments as I post each new episode. Let me know what you think of it or questions you have. I would love to inspire you to start looking at your health from a different perspective as well.

If there’s one thing I have learned, through all these ups and downs, it’s that our bodies are never attacking us. They’re always trying to help us survive. Our symptoms are not mistakes. They’re not random. They are messages from the body that are specific, intentional, and purposeful. And once we learn to speak our body’s language, then we’re better able to identify and resolve the true root causes of our symptoms.

We can begin to have this natural partnership with our body where we’re not fighting it. We are supporting it as it does what it was designed to do naturally and automatically, which is to heal and repair itself.

My invitation to you this week is to start getting curious about your own symptoms, about your own body, about whatever messages may be coming up for you about what needs attention in your life right now.

I will be back next week with a new story. I plan to go deeper into the biological root causes and if you’re not sure what I’m talking about, hang on there. Give this whole thing a shot because I promise your mind is going blown!

Stay curious and I will see you next Friday.

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