Anchored in Love: My Healing Journey

A few months ago I was asked by the founder of Crowned Chics to share my story. This post was originally published on the Crowned Chics website on February 25th, 2019. Today, I’m sharing it with you. I think we all have a story to tell, because life is a tale of love and pain and redemption and struggle, and in a way it binds us all together into a grander story that isn’t our own. I hope some day I’ll get to hear more of your story too.

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I’ve heard it said that life is a love story.

I didn’t know what that meant, but I think now I do.   

I found out when I entered the storm.  It made me fall deeper in love with the Creator, with the world, and with the gift of existence.  Brokenness has a way of making you more keenly aware of the beauty of this sacred life, doesn’t it?

 
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So here’s some pieces of my story, how Love has put them back together, and what still remains fragmented….

My freshman year of college I became ill.  Doctors ran tests and treated me for pestilence that I’d previously acquired on a trip overseas.  We figured that would be the end of it, but in the years that followed I continued to experience a variety of gut imbalances…we’d conquer one and another would pop up like some strange game of whack-a-mole.  I became a student of my body and lifestyle, micromanaging to the point of avoiding all immediate symptoms, trying to keep the balance beam from tipping.  But life was relatively normal. I got married, graduated college, moved across the country, and worked a job I loved.  

Then, years later, the crash came.  I’d managed for so long, but in the fall of 2016, my weary body started firing symptoms like sirens.  

I reluctantly put myself back into the hands of a doctor, and after running another panel of tests, she found the mysterious bacteria that had been oppressing my body for almost a decade.  We were shocked and relieved, and I immediately entered into the necessary but brutal treatment.  

Love carried me through those months.  The love of my husband who wrapped me in blankets every day just to get me into fresh air.  The love of my friends who met me where I was at...in my bed. The love of my family who helped care for me.  And mostly, the love of my Creator, who planted a peace in my heart that not even the tears could wash away.  

 
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Treatment finally ended and I figured it would be all uphill from there, but it was actually just a new beginning...we’d set fire to an already desolate field, and in a lot of ways, the worst was yet to come.

The healing path proved to be ten times more painful than coasting in the dysfunction ever was.  On a physiological level, a devastated gut microbiome impacts nearly every system of the body - hormone production, nutrient absorption, organ function, everything.  The trillions of bacteria and cells residing in the gut make it impossible to have a complete roadmap for healing, even with the guidance of incredible physicians.


So I had to count on the waves, the symptoms, the pain, to tell me and the doctors what to address next.  I’d experience a symptom, research, test, treat, heal, and then move onto the next broken space. Some but not all of the symptoms I navigated through included nutrient malabsorption, gastroparesis, low white blood cells, crippling gas pains, ulcers, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, spinal misalignment, gastritis, intestinal nerve damage, visceral hyperalgesia, low immune function, a hiatal hernia, brain fog, amenorrhea, imbalances in acidity, and the inevitable anxiety and emotional toll of chronic illness and mysterious symptoms.


Pain was my roadmap, but Love was the anchor that kept hope alive.  If I could tell you one thing that has been most critical to my healing, it was (and still is) a daily practice of returning to Love - seeking God’s wisdom, envisioning my body thriving, allowing my inner-child to grieve, guide, and delight, and then taking the next step.  It’s been my most faithful guide to healing amidst what’s felt like chronic dysfunction.

Through symptoms, new understandings, trial and error, and a lot of patience, grace, and time, I’ve gotten to experience an endless list of healing that’s happened. The body is absolutely incredible at finding its way back home when we partner with it relentlessly.

So much healing has happened over time, but I’m not at the end looking back yet.  I think that’s how life is for most of us. Risen so far above the waves, and yet still in them.  Sometimes there’s a clear beginning and end, and sometimes we get to experience a lifetime of daily renewal, one cell at a time, learning trust and grace as the restoration unfolds - a mysterious coexistence of healing, humanity, and freedom - all wrapped up in one holy life.


I came to a place where things had normalized on paper, tests came back clear, doctors were confident that no tangible issues still remained, and I could feel my body normalizing on an uphill trajectory. But there still remained a bundle of mysterious symptoms that lingered relentlessly and kept me from functioning completely normally. In early 2019, those symptoms were given a diagnosis of Dysautonomia POTS - a dysfunction of my autonomic nervous system that possibly set in through the turmoil. It doesn’t feel like a sad turn of events, it feels like freedom and victory to no longer be caught in the mystery of those symptoms, and to be better equipped to walk the next part of the road. Something about the knowing helped remove the fear. And when fear is removed, even pain loses its power.

Doctors call this part of my diagnosis a chronic illness, but I believe in chronic healing. I’ve seen and experienced too much restoration to ever give up on the relentless journey of partnering with the body and the Creator in a constant re-creation. Whether full restoration comes, or there’s a lifetime of continued healing, this is what I know without a doubt….It’s possible to live a really whole life even with broken pieces. For me, and for you.

This journey has instilled in me a deep kinship to the sacred path of relentlessly seeking after greater wholeness.  It’s my joy and privilege to now work as a certified Integrative Health Coach, offering guidance, tools, and education for women who desire to step more fully into their own healing.  By supporting healing through various modalities - nutrition, environment, emotional and mental health, knowledge of the body, and lifestyle - we get to partake more fully in the health, calling, and life we were created for.

I’ve heard it said that life is a love story.

I didn’t know what that meant, but I think now I do.   

I found out when I entered the storm.

So friend, may you seek relentlessly after greater wholeness in your body, mind, and heart.  May you hunker down in the inevitable storms, and rise victoriously over a thousand waves. And through every season, may you be guided by Love and transformed by light.

Below is a photo diary of a few of the moments that Stephen captured through treatment and recovery that began in 2016, after seven years of mysterious symptoms. There’s a lot of really hard and good left out, but these are snap shots that feel really important to me.

 
Wheel Chair walks through phase one of treatment to rid the pestilence. -January 2017

Wheel Chair walks through phase one of treatment to rid the pestilence. -January 2017

 
 
Mamma and sister, the best distractions through side effects.

Mamma and sister, the best distractions through side effects.

 
 
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The best part of my care team. Staying with parents during treatment for extra help.

The best part of my care team. Staying with parents during treatment for extra help.

 
 
Most days I couldn’t leave home, but sometimes symptoms would lighten and we’d get a 30 minute outing. This was my first outing during phase one, right before the second treatment started.

Most days I couldn’t leave home, but sometimes symptoms would lighten and we’d get a 30 minute outing. This was my first outing during phase one, right before the second treatment started.

 
Phase 2, week 2. Oh so tired.

Phase 2, week 2. Oh so tired.

 
 
 
Phase two was solely consuming a pre-digested formula for 14 days straight. This was the day I finished my first bag, which was a miracle because I vividly remember crying and begging Stephen to let me quit because it made me feel so terrible. He refused, I obliged, and we made it :)

Phase two was solely consuming a pre-digested formula for 14 days straight. This was the day I finished my first bag, which was a miracle because I vividly remember crying and begging Stephen to let me quit because it made me feel so terrible. He refused, I obliged, and we made it :)

 
 
Stephen and sister drank liquids through those weeks too. This was on his birthday.

Stephen and sister drank liquids through those weeks too. This was on his birthday.

 
 
Doctors appointments were physically grueling, so I’d close my eyes and recite Psalm 121 as we waited, and it got me through every time.

Doctors appointments were physically grueling, so I’d close my eyes and recite Psalm 121 as we waited, and it got me through every time.

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Hours of castor oil packs every day

Hours of castor oil packs every day

 
 
First meal after completing 1,344 oz of formula.

First meal after completing 1,344 oz of formula.

 
 
Move back home day! Finally well enough to move back to our apartment and be home alone

Move back home day! Finally well enough to move back to our apartment and be home alone

 
 
Date nights still weren’t an option for about a year because of continued healing symptoms, so this “stay-cation” was probably my favorite memory of that season.

Date nights still weren’t an option for about a year because of continued healing symptoms, so this “stay-cation” was probably my favorite memory of that season.

 
 
I had no idea Stephen took this. It’s hard to look at, but it belongs, because the reality was that suffering still ended most nights in tears as my body worked to heal months after treatment.

I had no idea Stephen took this. It’s hard to look at, but it belongs, because the reality was that suffering still ended most nights in tears as my body worked to heal months after treatment.

 
 
It sounds cliche, but my awareness and gratitude for the simple things absolutely grew ten fold through this season, because when the hard is really hard, the good is really good.

It sounds cliche, but my awareness and gratitude for the simple things absolutely grew ten fold through this season, because when the hard is really hard, the good is really good.

 
 
Bright spots grew bigger as upward strides finally started happening about 18 months after the initial bacterial diagnosis in 2016.

Bright spots grew bigger as upward strides finally started happening about 18 months after the initial bacterial diagnosis in 2016.

 
 
…Followed by a few more curve balls, blood draws, and dates with the hematologist to rule out some lingering symptoms.

…Followed by a few more curve balls, blood draws, and dates with the hematologist to rule out some lingering symptoms.

And so much broth….If I’m ever asked to drink broth again…the answer will be no :)

And so much broth….If I’m ever asked to drink broth again…the answer will be no :)

 
 
Supplements, on supplements, on supplements. 80% of which I don’t have to take anymore!

Supplements, on supplements, on supplements. 80% of which I don’t have to take anymore!

 

There was a halt in my healing that could no longer be broken through by doctors. I dove deeper into studying the mind-body connection and daily practices of connecting and renewing my mind, and it brought a new wave of healing in my body that nothing else could.

Daily yoga for the body

Daily yoga for the body

Meditation for the mind

Meditation for the mind

Art for the soul

Art for the soul

 
This picture sums up so much for me over the past years. It was a rare day when I’d look at Stephen and say “I didn’t cry today!” We learned to hold hope and sorrow in both hands, to celebrate the good days, and then hunker down when the storm gets too rough - this was taken on one of those stormy days of tears. Stephen my love, you are my earthly anchor and treasure.

This picture sums up so much for me over the past years. It was a rare day when I’d look at Stephen and say “I didn’t cry today!” We learned to hold hope and sorrow in both hands, to celebrate the good days, and then hunker down when the storm gets too rough - this was taken on one of those stormy days of tears. Stephen my love, you are my earthly anchor and treasure.

 
 
One final scan to make sense of a chronic stabbing pain that persisted for over a year. All was well. -Spring 2018

One final scan to make sense of a chronic stabbing pain that persisted for over a year. All was well. -Spring 2018

Our faithful guide, Dr. Jesika. I walked into her office pale and in tears with little hope after 6 years of unknowns. And through 2.5 years of walking side by side, there’s been 4 bacterias conquered, yeast balanced, good bacteria re-grown, weeks of formula, weeks of antibiotics, countless supplements, countless messages back and forth navigating symptoms, an endoscopy, ultrasound, imaging, hair no longer falling out, menstruation normalized, gastroparesis improved, perfect blood tests, nutrient absorption restored, and a final diagnosis of dysautonomia to make sense of and support all the lingering symptoms. We are forever thankful.

Our faithful guide, Dr. Jesika. I walked into her office pale and in tears with little hope after 6 years of unknowns. And through 2.5 years of walking side by side, there’s been 4 bacterias conquered, yeast balanced, good bacteria re-grown, weeks of formula, weeks of antibiotics, countless supplements, countless messages back and forth navigating symptoms, an endoscopy, ultrasound, imaging, hair no longer falling out, menstruation normalized, gastroparesis improved, perfect blood tests, nutrient absorption restored, and a final diagnosis of dysautonomia to make sense of and support all the lingering symptoms. We are forever thankful.

No more formula or broth for this gal! Plant-based strong ;)

No more formula or broth for this gal! Plant-based strong ;)

 

A photo documentation wouldn’t be complete without these faces. (Not pictured are so many other faithful prayer warriors, friends, doctors, and family who march through every season by my side)

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Every day for years I envisioned myself strong and trekking through forest, and when we went to Hawaii in January of 2019, I got to do that. Stephen snapped this photo as a reminder of how far we’ve come, and the faithful restoration that our Creator has done and continues to do.

Every day for years I envisioned myself strong and trekking through forest, and when we went to Hawaii in January of 2019, I got to do that. Stephen snapped this photo as a reminder of how far we’ve come, and the faithful restoration that our Creator has done and continues to do.

 
 
I remember when I couldn’t imagine long walks, being alone, or having energy. But here we are, summer walks, compression socks, energy, and belly burns that are healing from years of heat pads. Gratitude can get lost still, but when I return to the start, we can’t help but be in awe of God’s faithfulness. The story isn’t over.

I remember when I couldn’t imagine long walks, being alone, or having energy. But here we are, summer walks, compression socks, energy, and belly burns that are healing from years of heat pads. Gratitude can get lost still, but when I return to the start, we can’t help but be in awe of God’s faithfulness. The story isn’t over.

 

If any of my story resonates with you or you want to connect, reach out! I’d LOVE to hear from you!

 
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With love, gratitude, and relentless healing & hope,

Christina Grace Hutson
Certified Integrative Nutrition Coach

*Disclaimer: This is my personal story. Not to be used as medical advice.