Great Lawn, Central Park. July 2014.
Hi, and welcome to grass ceiling! I’m Erin – Age: 29, Height: 5’4”, Eyes: hazel, Hair: dirty-blonde, Background: Polish-Italian-Irish (a popular New Jersey mix), Career: that’s a mix too, Current location: Manhattan, Interests: family, good people, good food, travel, sports, reading, films, and nature – especially the beach, Dog lover: absolutely, Health status: the reason why I created this blog.
Wait! Before you exit out of what seems to be a poorly-attempted online dating profile, please reread the last item in that list – “Health status: the reason why I created this blog.”
Ten years ago, my life changed overnight. It was like a switch within me was flipped on (or off), causing my vibrantly bouncing, budding, fluidly operating, reliably resilient teenage body to turn against itself – literally. It wasn’t clear to me at first what was occurring, but my immune system went into overdrive and proceeded to damage my own neurological system in a relentless pursuit.
After a battery of diagnostic tests, false positives, false negatives, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, anti-anxiety meds, a very brief stint of TNF inhibitors, with no answer and no relief, even after seeing almost a dozen top specialists in New York City hospitals, it was clear that conventional Western medicine was not helping. Moreover, it was just failed attempts at mere symptom suppression by some brilliant and well-intentioned doctors that could not figure out what had flipped that switch and how to return it and me back to homeostasis.
Finally, two and half years later in 2006, a blood test flagging positive antibodies to gliadin (a protein associated with gluten) came back very high. This meant that my immune system was producing attacks on my body whenever I consumed gluten. Way before gluten-free and everything-free diets were en vogue, I then embarked on a crusade to eliminate this apparent perpetrator. To my relief and astonishment, I slowly got completely better over the course of eight months. Soooo, after all the drugs, imaging, pokes, and prods, I just needed to eliminate something from my diet and my body could heal itself?!
And so began my love affair with natural health … Relationship status: Married to millet bread.
Three full years of blissful remission and back in my skin, I had graduated from college and set out on a successful career in HR at an Investment Bank in the city. I had also enrolled in night classes at an accredited Acupuncture school and completed 34 credits over the course of two and a half years. Chinese Medicine fascinated me; I had received regular acupuncture treatments throughout college when things were really bad, which provided some palliative relief. I firmly believe and admire the principles of Chinese Herbology and Acupuncture, but I needed something more tangible to resonate with me in order to leave my HR career and pursue a degree in that for the next four years.
As they say everything happens for a reason, it was in one of my Anatomy & Physiology classes there that my professor, who was both a Medical Doctor and an Acupuncturist, introduced me to the world of Nutrition. During this time where I had my hands, head, and heart in a few different places, my neurological symptoms unfortunately started to resurface – despite my commitment to being Miss Gluten-Free America. A link was still missing in my mystery, it seemed. Through my professor, I soon learned that just being gluten-free and saying you know about Nutrition is like going to Olive Garden and saying you know Italian food. (Apologies to anyone outside of the tri-state area – Sorry to burst your bubble – there is no Santa Claus, either).
Through his class, we scratched the surface on Biochemistry and how different nutrients, vitamins and minerals, blood sugar principles, and toxins cascaded different chemical reactions in your cells –> which would affect tissues –> which impacted organs –> then systems (such as my neurological system), and eventually –> an entire person’s health and wellbeing. This was science. This was tangible. This was resonating.
After this nudge to the end of the diving board, I took a zealous swan dive into Nutrition. I researched and read and tried and tasted. I started sourcing my foods from local farms. I joined a food club in Manhattan that delivered goods from farms in Lancaster county. Any eggs I ate were from pastured chickens (the yolks were orange!). Beef was from grass-fed cows. Only wild caught seafood passed these lips. All nuts I ate were soaked, sprouted, and dehydrated to ease digestion. I traveled to Pennsylvania regularly to purchase raw milk, cheese, and ice cream to harness the enzymes from unpasteurized dairy. I made kefir. I brewed and drank bone broth. I eliminated all grains, sugar, and starches for about a year to heal my digestive system, as I learned that 80% of one’s immune system resides within the intestines. Lo and behold, these efforts were not carried out in vain. I got better! Again. Nevertheless, this upkeep felt like more than a full time job on top of my already full time job. But it was worth it to me because I was able to reclaim my normal life.
One day while browsing a few articles through the Weston A. Price Foundation, I came across a nutritional therapy certification program that aligned with my beliefs and what worked for me in practice. For nearly a year in 2012, I enrolled in and completed this particular program while still working in HR. It introduced me to some amazingly smart people and a fantastic learning experience. It also introduced me to the power of nutritional supplementation. Healing with real foods and dietary tactics can do wonders for most people and most disease states. However, for some stubborn conditions where the waterfall of dominos cannot be dammed, professional grade supplements can truly make a difference.
Whether it is Chinese medicine, Nutrition, Naturopathy, and even Western medicine nowadays, one thing that I had consistently read about is the effect of stress on one’s health.
This is old news to all of you, I know. It’s old news to me, too. But to actually read studies and highly advanced experiments on what it does on a cellular level (again, I need tangibility) is truly awe-inspiring. So, here I am, making every effort to clean up my diet, stay active and exercise, take supplements, regularly go to therapy to work on myself and unlearn some patterns that may have gotten me here in the first place, eliminate all possible toxins … but still, this autoimmune assault continued to wage forth.
In coming to terms with what I have been in denial of ever since I started relapsing back in 2010, I needed to break free from a huge toxin in my life: my job. After six years in the biz, my last day was back in May. It’s not like my job was inherently stressful – I was not performing brain surgery or leading a rocket science launch by any means. But, Wall Street is a breeding ground for competitive, perfectionist, codependent and addictive, hungry people. It cultivates a most-plentiful jungle of stress and toxic relationships with work. To boot, being in the extremely undervalued, gut-churning, data-crunching, process-fixing, errand-running area of HR on top of this? Some people thrive on this. Others, like me, burn out.
So, I left. This summer, I began my graduate studies to earn my Master’s degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. With this credential and licensure, I will legitimately be able to make the switch in my career path to be part of an industry that truly makes me happy. Maybe that “switch” will be the one that was needed all along.
There is no panacea for healing. However, I have learned so much and continue to learn each day about how to treat your body so that it functions optimally via natural means. Through my current learned knowledge and what I will continue to develop in graduate school, it is my intention to share with you my thoughts, my experience(s), my research, studies, stories, and through this, my life. It is my hope that it brings you entertainment, a new perspective, something to talk about, and for some, answers and hope.
To learn more about what grass ceiling is outside of my blog posts and writing, please visit the About and Corporate Wellness pages.