I am so happy I can finally share this post with you now that my skin has calmed down/gone back to “normal”! It is shocking and sad how many other women have reached out saying they experienced the exact same thing. Until I was finally comfortable enough to share what I was experiencing on Instagram I felt so alone and that no one would understand. Why do we always feel this way? It is almost NEVER the case. There is always someone out there who is going through the same thing and also feels alone.
Let’s rewind to February last year when I was “in love” with AB (Aussie Boy) . Yes I put that in quotations because was I really? I honestly don’t know. I’ll spare you the details of the relationship just know that I experienced major heartbreak, some massive changes in my personal and professional life, and I was a freaking emotional MESS. You can read about the changes in this blog post here.
This post is quite long and so I have broken it down into seasons to make it a bit easier to follow.
I had never really experience anxiety until this point in my life and all of a sudden it hit me. I would wake up with knots in my stomach for no reason, I couldn’t focus, and I would cry at the drop of a dime over ANYTHING. It was an awful feeling. On top of the anxiety, I started to notice significant changes in my skin. Out of nowhere it was so insanely dry I could hardly stand it. Like I’m talking dryer than it was in the dead of Winter and this was Spring. It was so odd. At first I thought I wasn’t drinking enough water so I made sure I was drinking more than the daily recommended amount (2 litres). Then I thought it was an allergic reaction to my makeup so I stopped wearing it all together. I was cleansing with coconut oil because I thought it was natural and would be hydrating, DO NOT DO THIS. I learned the hard way. It is terrible for your skin. It kept getting worse. I was so confused. Desperate to try anything I made an appointment with a naturopath, Dr. Marika Geis. The first appointment felt more like a therapy session. She asked me a series of questions and with every answer I gave I cried. I was mortified. I am such a happy person but I legit could not stop crying. She was the so sweet and supportive and told me that my skin issues were most likely due to stress/anxiety and an unhealthy gut. The stress part I understood but the gut health part had me confused. I am a pretty healthy person. I eat healthy(ish) I exercise, drink a tonne of water, and smash green smoothies… #health. She sent me on my way with a prescription to lower my stress levels by working less (it was May and I was teaching at the time so that was tricky), doing yoga, spending time with my family and friends, and a shit tonne of vitamins. I was to take 2 tads, 1 B6, 8000 IU of Vitamin D (for 6 weeks), 2 capsules of magnesium at night, and 3 sprays of melatonin (I wasn’t sleeping). Crazy right? I took my vitamins, tried my best to lower my stress levels but the skin issues continued to get worse. I was now having flair ups at least once a week. My face would turn red and burn and my eyes would swell and then my face would become insanely dry and then peel.
I travelled to Nashville with my mom and sister. We had a freaking blast! I tried my best to stay away from dairy but after a few drinks I slipped up and had a late night piece of pizza. The next morning I woke up swollen and red… noted, no more cheese.
Fast forward a few week and Kammy and I are now in Italy. The issues were still there but seem to subside slightly. I tried to stay clear of dairy as best I could as Dr. Geis told me it may be causing the issues. However, I was in Italy- the land of pasta, cheese and gelato.. not the ideal time to cut it from my diet. I ate dairy sporadically and never noticed a direct correlation to my flair ups. I ate ALL of the gluten because like I said, I was in Italy, and Dr. Geis had said that many people who can’t handle gluten prepared in North America seem to be fine in Europe. My skin seemed to improve slightly but it wasn’t back to normal. At this point I was feeling a lot more like myself. Less stressed and only feeling anxious a few moments during the trip.
I was home from Italy and off to one of my favourite weekends of the year Raymore Summer Slam. A small country festival that happens in my hometown. It is a freaking blast! A weekend filled with my childhood friends, family, and country music. I was drinking, dancing, eating burgers at 3 am and having a ball… and I payed for it. I woke up with the worst reaction to date. It legit looked like I’d been punched in the face. My face was red, swollen and I was in so much pain. I laid in bed sobbing with ice packs over my face. Sounds dramatic I know. WTF was going on?! I thought it was stress that was causing it? BUT how can it be, I just had the most fun weekend ever. No stress. Just fun. I was SO ANGRY AND CONFUSED. After each reaction a few days later my entire face would peel off. You know how your face is after you get a chemical peel? I was like that, minus the chemical peel. Not fun.
Around this time I started to feel like I was ready to go on dates again but I remember praying no one would ask me out for a proper dinner date. I didn’t want to eat in front of anyone. Try going out on a date with someone for the first time and ordering when you can’t eat gluten, dairy, cheese, cashews, soy, pepper, plums, or really anything LOL if that doesn’t scream high maintenance I don’t know what will. Walks around Wascana with a black coffee were my best friend, lol.
It also was affecting my work. I would avoid going on my IG stories whenever I was having a reaction not so much because I cared what I looked like but more because I was miserable. I was embarrassed. I wanted to be open about it and share what I was going through but it was also hard because everyone thought they had the answer. It was SO sweet how many of you gave me suggestions but it was also very overwhelming. I didn’t want anymore feedback because nothing worked.
Because this was really starting to affect my personal and professional life I was desperate. Against many peoples recommendations (it’s expensive and basically give the same results to everyone) I decided to take a food sensitivity test (this one to be exact). It came back and showed that I was basically allergic to everything, well not everything but A LOT. Dairy, casein (the protein found in cheese), soy, wheat, cashews, plums, pepper, egg whites and a million other things. Basically I was forced to stick to fruit (minus plums), vegetables, and meat. It was hard but I felt a bit of relief “knowing” (who REALLY knows) what it was that caused my reactions. I ate what I could, (not a lot) which caused me to loose some weight but my face wasn’t burning, swollen or peeling so I was happy. During this time, I noticed my anxiety levels start to lower. I was laughing more and crying less. I just felt happy, calm, and at peace with the changes. I was working full time on my blog and it was going really well. I was travelling a bit more, going on dates with a cute boy, and just enjoying life. I decided to have one sneaky square (I’m talking 1 inch square) of cheese while in Vancouver. I woke up with a swollen face. I was upset at myself for doing that but I also felt like it gave me some answers. I was for surely allergic to cheese. Devastating because I LOVE cheese…but at least I knew.
Still feeling good! I was having lots of fun travelling, within Canada mostly, and doing my thing. I was working from home, spending time with the people I love and cooking up a storm. My last flair up was in early September (after eating the cheese in Van). From September until late November I didn’t eat Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Cashews, Soy, Plums, or anything that showed up yellow or red on the food sensitivity test. The first bit of gluten I tried was a donut from The Everyday Kitchen. I decided to try this donut for two reasons. The first was because it’s literally my favourite treat in the city and second, it’s a true sourdough which I had read was supposed to be easier for people with gluten allergies to handle. I ate it and was terrified for the results the next morning. To my surprise, I woke up felt my face and nothing happened. I was shocked! I couldn’t believe it. From that day on I decided that I would start reintroducing some of the foods I had eliminated to try and pin point which ones were causing my reactions. I started with bits of dairy, and all was well. Then a few weeks later I introduced gluten, same thing… no reactions! Last I had cheese, I know this is a part of the dairy group but the test showed I was allergic to Casein a specific protein in cheese. I had zero reactions. WHAT IN THE ACTUAL F? I was so happy to be back to my regular diet but I was also very confused.
I am back to eating everything and anything I can get my hands on and nothing is happening to my face.
I honestly feel bad because I know many of you are looking for answers and the truth is I still really don’t have the answers. Was it stress? Allergies? Anxiety? The weather… who freaking knows?! However, if I had to pin point it to a few things I would blame stress, anxiety, and the amount of travel I did without letting my body slow down and recover. Don’t get me wrong, I loved travelling to Australia (I travelled their 4 times in 10 months) but that amount of travel is not healthy, especially when you don’t have the time when you return to properly allow your body to recover. I would get home from a 36 hour travel day at 3 am and be up at 7am and back to work… crazy, I know.
I know this post is long so I am going to wrap it up but I want to share what I have learned through this experience.
1.) Listen to you body. I knew I was stressed and overwhelmed but I didn’t realize how bad it was. It came out in my face and it forced me to slow down and take care of myself.
2.) Never take your health for granted. I know I wasn’t dying but it was so painful. Many people thought it was a vanity thing. They thought I was upset because my face was red and swollen. Yes, that part wasn’t great but it was SO SO painful and that was by far the worst part.
3.) ENJOY your food. This sounds silly but honestly, not having some of my favourite foods for several months has really made me enjoy it so much more. You never know when you could develop an allergy so enjoy that one inch square of smoked applewood cheddar, baby!
Sorry for the long post! If you’re struggling with something similar I hope you find comfort in knowing you’re not alone!