I wish someone would have been there to share this information with me when I was struggling.
About 15 years ago, as a mother, I was beside myself. At wits’ end. I didn’t know what to do. Most people in my life probably didn’t even know it because I ‘keep it together’ pretty well.
But, here’s what was really going on at my house.
I didn’t know how to be a good mom for my youngest child Kady. She was about 10 at the time.
It had been going on for quite some time. And it was just getting worse the older she got.
She would come home from school every day and have a complete melt down. It could be slamming doors. Screaming at me. Stomping. Her mood would swing from one extreme to the other. I never knew what to expect from her.
My husband TK and I are a couple of the most quiet, calm, easy-going people you will ever meet. This kind of behavior was so disrupting to us – so out of our realm.
At school she was ‘well-behaved’, but when she would get home I never knew what to expect. I felt like I had to tiptoe around every interaction I had with her. And, it was only escalating with time.
Maybe it was me. Maybe I was the trigger. Maybe I was doing something wrong.
Or maybe there was something wrong with her.
I started researching bi-polar disorder because it most closely matched what I was experiencing with her. I was trying to put a name – a diagnosis to this behavior.
I felt very alone.
There were other signs, too. But, at the time, all I could see was the volatile swings from joy to rage.
We struggled over homework. We struggled over everything.
I was scared.
Maybe I should get professional help and consider medications for her.
But sometimes, she was okay. About the time I would consider picking up the phone to find a doctor, it would get better.
For a while.
And then, it would happen again.
Around this same time, TK and I were trying to get into shape. We were going to the gym. Getting really serious about exercise and diet. We were trying everything. Atkins. South Beach. Fit for Life. You name it.
It would work for a while, but then it wouldn’t. And, we’d start again.
At the time, I didn’t see the connection of these patterns. I didn’t notice that Kady was doing better when we were ‘doing better’.
I considered myself a pretty healthy person. We were your typical American family. Even when we weren’t over-doing it on some kind of exercise program or diet…we were still living by the ‘rules’ that we thought were healthy for our family.
We rarely ate red meat. We bought cup after cup of low-fat yogurt. Gogurts. Fruit snacks. Diet sodas. All natural sodas. Basically guided by the packaging…All natural. Whole wheat. Low fat. Lean. Our kids didn’t get lots of sugary treats. We avoided the fast food chains.
I didn’t know then what I know now about food and nutrition.
When Kady wasn’t having a meltdown, she was complaining about her joints. We thought she was just growing fast. She was tall and lanky. Double-jointed. Her elbows practically bent the other direction. So, I didn’t think much about her complaints. I would tell her she needed more rest – that her body was growing fast.
She always had rashes. From the time she was little. We had seen doctors numerous times for that and always had some kind of prescription cream on hand for an outbreak. Anywhere she had a crease in her body – elbows, knees, toes – she would have outbreaks of rashes.
One time she had a rash on her face. I didn’t think anything of it. I treated it like anything else. But, we happened to be at the doctor’s office for something else when the doctor said…”What is that rash on her nose? We need to find out what that is.”
They wanted a biopsy.
I tried to tell myself it was okay. But, right away all of the pieces started to come together for me. The extreme behavior. The aching joints. The rashes. Maybe there really was something wrong with this beautiful child of mine.
When all was said and done. The diagnosis was discoid lupus. An auto-immune disease. I was told to be grateful because this type of lupus affects only the skin. There would be a 1 in 10 chance that this could become full-blown lupus later in life and a few other potential complications as she got older, but for now the treatment was simple.
Keep her out of the sun.
That was it. Hats. Sunscreens. Fully protective clothing.
I remember freaking out that year because she had a school trip – outdoor camping/hiking. What would happen if she got too much sun? We fussed over her sun protective clothing and getting her to wear a hat.
Meanwhile, back in our kitchen TK and I were finally starting to figure out our food. Little by little. Not a diet. But, whole foods. We were watching food documentaries and becoming obsessed with nutrition. We met with a nutritionist. And, we were finally getting into the shape we had always wanted.
We never forced any of our efforts on our kids. Didn’t seem fair to force them to change. But some things just sort of happened. Like, we replaced milk with almond, soy and coconut milk. We bought organic fruits. (I remember how the girls didn’t like how the apples weren’t ‘flawless’. They thought it wasn’t a good apple if it wasn’t picture perfect like the ones we ‘used to buy’.)
We started making everything from scratch – instead of from boxes and take-out. We swapped our ‘whole wheat bread’ for other whole and sprouted grains.
Little by little. We made changes. And, little by little our girls joined in. Our picky eaters – started trying new things. They saw the changes in us. They overheard our conversations. They were curious.
One day, Kady asked if she could go see the nutritionist. I thought – Brilliant idea. Maybe it would somehow help her. Maybe she would pick up on something.
So, we went together.
That is when it hit me. Just how deprived her diet had been. She was eating cereal or sugary toast for breakfast. A collection of packaged stuff (granola bars, go-gurts, Goldfish, fruit chews) in her lunch. A baked potato or pasta after school. All of these foods were either processed or were foods that were quickly converted to sugar in the body.
Even with a healthy dinner – she wasn’t getting the nutrients her growing body was demanding.
Finally – I connected the dots between the way we were eating and the way she was feeling.
And, so did she.
Immediately, we changed her breakfast. A balanced combination of proteins, carbs and fats.
I made a rule. We have to get breakfast right. “I will always have breakfast ready for you in the morning. All you have to do is come out and eat it. You don’t have to prepare it or wash dishes. Just come eat.” That plan got us all the way thru high school.
Lunch was always a challenge because she was so picky, but I figured if we could get breakfast and dinner right that would be an improvement.
And, it was.
Within weeks, this child that I had struggled with for so many years became peaceful. Her mood swings ended. She became self-driven. Rather than struggling over homework, she was completing her assignments on her own and always finished them early. This kid was more organized and productive than me!
I couldn’t believe the changes.
I still remember to this day, one evening at dinner, sitting next to her at the kitchen island – We had served up a stir-fry that night. Her plate was full of about 10 different vegetables. And, she was eating it up. Without complaint. She was even enjoying it!
I don’t even know when it really ‘happened’…it just happened.
And, the lupus?
Besides all of her rashes going away, we have never had any other sign of lupus. She leads a normal life. No hats. No sunscreen clothing. She enjoys going to the beach with friends. Being out in the sun.
No one ever mentioned to me that nutrition might play a role in causing (or curing) her auto-immune disease. Had I known this, I would have been more insistent on changing her diet before.
I would have changed a lot of things at our house if I had known.
Today people think of me as a healthy person which is great. But they may or may not realize the struggle it took to get here. Or why I am so passionate.
And, the true icing on the cake is the fact that my struggles with Kady not only disappeared, but completely made a 180 in a positive direction.
She graduated high school with honors. She is 100% self-driven and motivated. We sailed through the teen years. And, today, she is attending college studying restaurant management & culinary arts because she wants to open her own restaurant one day to show people how healthy food can taste good and what it can do for you.
THIS is why I am passionate about nutrition. THIS is why I want to help others learn what I have learned. So, you don’t have to struggle with conditions that can be so easily & miraculously cured.
And, so you can see how much easier it is for a family to ‘get along’ and thrive when they actually feel their best and are their healthiest. It is the thread behind our family’s happiness and health.
Nutrition is magic stuff. We truly are what we eat.
This is not stuff you learn at school or in a doctor’s office. It’s stuff you learn on your own and today the information is getting easier to find.
But, it’s also overwhelming. Where do you start? Who do you listen to? Who can you trust? Why is there so much conflicting information when it comes to nutrition and food?
If you need help, please seek me out.
When we as parents can get it right for ourselves, everyone in our life benefits. Especially our kids.
There are so many things going on in our life that we don’t have any control over. But food is one that we actually can change. And, we can do it in a way that makes our family healthier, happier and brings us all closer together.
Whatever the hurdle. Don’t struggle. Don’t be alone. It’s unnecessary. We are all here to help each other.
If this story can help just one other person, it is worth sharing.
You never know who is struggling around you. That’s why the more we can be honest with each other and share, the better our world can be.