How and Why You Need to Listen to Your Body

During the first quarter of the second year in my naturopathic medical school, I rushed to clinic, as my neck felt warm. The student doctor said, “Hives—most likely due to stress.”

Now they were traveling down both arms, and I burst into tears out of frustration and helplessness. As I hung my head in self-pity, I realized my stomach had gotten big—not just bloated, but big. I had gained 20 pounds in 4 months (I’m only 5 feet tall). How could I hide behind denial when I know how the mind and body work—literally?!

Feelings of shame and guilt washed over me, and in desperation I begged for a few magic supplements to “fix” me. They looked at me skeptically, explained my treatment plan, and informed me that the only magic pill is effort.

This was not what I wanted to hear.

Rewind to fall semester of my sophomore year in high school. I’d injured my elbow practicing for gymnastics, so no more trombone, either—even though I’d always had after-school activities. Confusion, depression, and anxiety replaced my natural optimism as I began reading Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, and Erik Erikson in hopes of understanding the origin of these new emotions. A few months later I re-injured my elbow, injured my knee in lacrosse, had a dying grandfather, and nearly failed half my classes—not to mention, had to deal with a lot of family drama. I expanded my repertoire from other authors, but I felt something was missing. I needed help. I began working with a therapist during my junior and senior years, and became so inspired by how she helped me that I wanted to get my PhD in psychology just like her and give back that same healing.

I began college as a psychology major and Japanese minor. When the latter didn’t work out, a close friend suggested I become a psychiatrist to do more for people (i.e., through pharmaceuticals). I felt like there was more to healing, so upon visiting a naturopathic medical school that spring and seeing phrases like, “Doctor as Teacher,” and “Using the body’s innate wisdom to heal,” I found my calling.

Here, I would learn conventional and natural medicine, and a philosophy with many treatment modalities to address all of the “why”s of dis-ease. My business plan was now private practice, and I was also speaking and writing to spark others to ask questions and learn how to be advocates for their health. I wanted to help people get to the root cause of disease, as naturally as possible.

Circle back to that day in clinic where they helped me understand that my past issues with painful periods and acne (palliated with birth control and Midol), plus my current skipped or elongated periods, weight gain, and ongoing acne, were all signs that my body was rebelling. They asked what I was holding on to emotionally, and I cried from being speechless due to the unexpectedness of the question, the emotions that arose, and my new understanding that my goals were not a quick fix.

My plan included bloodwork, a nutrition plan for weight, and natural therapies aimed at hormones and emotional support. A few days later, I felt better emotionally, and in a few weeks the weight began to disappear. Eventually, my acne was gone, and my periods were both painless and like clockwork. Months later, my weight was normal, and I achieved a greater awareness of myself. The process was not linear, but I had a renewed sense of identity and gratitude for the healing power of nature.

Back in New York City, I am doing everything I envisioned. I worked intensely with a business coach last fall to grow and expand. I began to notice the people who distracted and drained me without even realizing their effect. I felt guilty for not being able to accommodate their needs, but I was simultaneously exhausted and exhilarated by the end of the year. I was going to own 2018.

However, a month into the new year, I released a soul, rendering me physically weak, emotionally drained, and stunned. Back to business. Then, a month later, I experienced a rejection in which my defense mechanisms didn’t do their job and left me in a place of exhaustion. I questioned all that I was attracting into my life. This was going to challenge me on all levels, but I knew I wanted something different. I sought counseling, a financial advisor, my naturopathic doctor, and a personal trainer—and I redefined my professional and personal network. I got rid of bland-feeling clothes and began journaling. After all, many hormonal concerns stem from our sacral chakra, which holds emotions of anger and repression.

My acne, weight, and period cramps are long gone, and I am experiencing a whole different level of awareness—taking control of my health and life in ways I never thought possible. That may change at some point, and that’s OK. Health and healing take ongoing effort; sometimes, it’s two steps forward and one step back, but whatever it takes, you are where you’re meant to be.

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About the Author | Serena Goldstein

Dr. Serena Goldstein is a Naturopathic Doctor who specializes in treating hormone concerns such as weight, sleep, low energy, stress, PMS, peri/menopause, and andropause through nutrition, homeopathy, and botanical medicine by creating plans specific for each patient. Dr. Serena has been published in well-known health and wellness resources, such as MindBodyGreen, Consumer Health Digest, and the Hearty Soul, and appeared on Sirius XM NYU Doctor Radio and Everlast Podcast. Dr. Serena is also on the Advisory Board of Natural Practitioner Magazine, and lends her expertise at NYU Poison Control Center.

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