It’s funny how things come full circle…

Many of you know that I started my career as a mental health therapist. In my work as a therapist, I specialized in trauma and severe stress recovery. I quickly realized that I need to work more on the level of the body and the nervous, rather than focusing on purely talk therapy, to effectively intervene in these issues. Despite being very successful using these interventions with most of my clients, I found that there were those stubborn cases that didn’t respond to my work. At the same time, I developed my own severe autoimmune illness. This forced me to understand the gut-brain axis, and how much nutrition and the microbiome play into psychological health. I went back to school and became a nutritional therapy practitioner and a certified GAPS (gut and psychology syndrome) practitioner. This has allowed me to work with clients in a more holistic perspective, addressing both sides of that gut-brain axis.

So, while I feel that intervening with nutrient status and gut health is often essential for people’s full mind body recovery, I also deeply understand the importance of getting the nervous system regulated through mindset and somatic work as well. For many people, you can’t focus completely on one side of this axis and not the other.

I truly believe that my mindset and consistent nervous system regulation work is what allowed me to heal on the timeline I did. Many clients that I work with come to me with a very goal oriented mindset. This means that related to unprocessed loss they have experienced related to their illness, they come to the healing process with a strict timeline that they need to experience a certain amount of progress in a certain period of time, or else they experience extreme distress. This sets your body up for disaster. If you try to impose the timeline you WANT on your body instead of being present for the timeline that your body is actually on, it is going to send you into a chronic stress state that comes with this anxious preoccupation.

Related to this is a scarcity mindset. Many people who come to me are very hyper focused on the things that they must give up or restrict in order to heal. Now, it is always okay to have a normal human emotion of disappointment or loss. The problem is that people often become so focused on what they CAN’T have or CAN’T do that they bring new foods or activities in too quickly and sabotage the long game of their healing process. This mindset of needing to add as much as you can as quickly as you can is again, a stressful form of anxious preoccupation that create an obstacle to their healing.

Do you see your healing practices as chores? As drudgery? As something you have to force yourself to do but you are miserable and constricted the whole time? You can do everything with your diet, supplements, and routine perfectly- but if you are always in a rush to get it over with, or feel resentful towards the practice the whole time- your body will not see the practice as healing. Watch your mindset closely.

So what attitudes did I cultivate in order to make the recovery I have?

  1. What do you believe your purpose is? Is it to ACCOMPLISH? To PROGRESS? To DO? Or is it to simply be an organism on this planet no more special than any plant or bug. I learned to completely let go of my need to ACCOMPLISH things in order feel purpose, and instead believe that my purpose was to simply be present on this planet.
  2. Do you have total faith in your body’s ability to heal? It is a TRUTH that your body is by default in a state of repair and recovery. I learned to balance total acceptance that if I was house bound with mast cell activation for the rest of my life, I would still be living a purposeful life, because I was just being present- with ABSOLUTE FAITH that I would make a full recovery in time. This balance may seem paradoxical, but is actually not, and can coexist perfectly.
  3. Healing is inherently spiritual. It does not matter WHAT type of spirituality you align with- even if you are secular. It is the felt sense of transcendence, awe and belonging that I consider to be spirituality and is a universal human experience. If you are able to find the greater, transformative meaning in your illness- if you are able to see it as an opportunity to really change the way you are in the world- your experience of recovery will shift too.
About the Author
Jen Donovan completely rebuilt her life and career as a result of her experience with severe chronic illness. After finding no answers from conventional medical approaches, she took matters into her own hands and with the help of key mentors, found a path to healing.
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