Coaching Credential, Functional Medicine Coaching Academy 2019
M.S., Ed Counseling,University of La Verne 1994
B.A., California State University, San Bernardino, CA 1986
First let me give you a little background history on myself. I grew up in a small town in southern California. I was the ultimate tomboy, the outstanding girl athlete in my Senior class. I wanted to be a physical education teacher. After graduating from high school I attended a Brigham Young University and majored in Physical Education and Health. I met a guy in my sophomore year and married at 20. I was expecting our first child 6 weeks after we got married and was so sick I had to drop out of school. I went on to fulfill another dream of having a large family. I wanted 12 kids but stopped at 11. When the youngest was in kindergarten I went back to college but with a different major of History, Psychology and Sociology. I became a teacher and taught history and a few other subjects. I also became a high school Activities Director and coached girls basketball. I was never on any kind of medications at all.
I grew up very healthy. When I was 17 and in the mountains with a group of high school friends for our school’s annual “Snow Day” I flew off a toboggan and hurt my knee. That would lead to my first big medical issue. I tore the cartilage in my knee which caused a locked knee that wouldn't straighten or bend. A surgery was required.... later this knee problem would be the catalyst for the health issues that led me into the world of prescription medications.
When I began my teaching career I taught high school and coached girls basketball. During my third year of teaching while I was at a basketball practice and shooting around I noticed my knee was hurting. It continued to bother me so I saw a local orthopedic doctor who determined that I needed arthroscopic surgeries on both knees. This was the start of the journey that led me to be put on medications. I had the surgeries and did physical therapy for a long period of time but I was unable to regain motion on either knee. My physical therapist was excellent and tried everything he could think of to help me. Finally, after going to my surgeon's office and reading the surgery reports for himself he told me he wanted me to go to a doctor who helped invent the artificial knee and was located in Los Angeles. I did that. They did an exploratory surgery to see if I had cancer. They sent me to a rheumatologist. Nothing seemed to help with the lack of motion and the pain I had. I was put on pain medications during this time. Eventually I told my doctor I did not want them and stopped taking them with no problems. Finally my knee doctor decided we should do knee replacements, although he did say he was not sure it would help. I did have my knees replaced, one was done one year and the other was done the following year. It did not help. In fact when I went back to teaching I could only stand for 15 minutes at a time due to pain and I used an electric wheelchair so I wouldn't have to walk too much.
During the time of these knee issues I had a new job as a full-time high school activities director along with working on my masters degree in counselling. I was very busy!!! I was exercising before work everyday trying to get my knees to work. I was working 12 to 14 hour days running the school activities. I began to lose weight which was a good thing. At the end of that first year I had developed an eating disorder..anorexia! I didn't realize that was happening until very late into it. It was a double whammy, knee problems and not eating while very busy with my work! One day when I took my middle school aged daughter to our doctor for a school sports physical my doctor looked at me and told me he was very worried about me. He saw I had lost a lot of weight and asked me to go see a psychologist at our local hospital. I did that but it didn't lead to anything further and that was probably because I was in denial and he had no experience with eating disorders...we didn't click. Then a few months later I was in some pain and realized I had not urinated in over 24 hours! I called my doctor in the middle of the night and he had me go straight to the local hospital to be admitted with kidney failure and there starts my journey into the world of psychiatric medications.
I went into an eating disorder program following that. It was in these programs that I was first put on psych drugs. After two years of being Activities Director I had to take a years leave of absence to take care of the eating disorder.
While working on the eating disorder I was put on several antidepressant medications. I did not like them and I had never felt depressed until they put me on these medications. I never felt like any of these programs or the therapists and doctors I worked with helped me in any way. Finally I decided I needed to help myself! I did exactly that!! During this time of anorexia when I went to my family physician for a check up he asked me how I was sleeping. If you know anything about anorexia it only makes sense that I would not be sleeping well. I was not complaining about it though! I answered that I was not sleeping well and he handed me a prescription for a medication (Benzodiazepine) called Dalmane, 30 MG and said take this. Now being raised to believe doctors knew what they were doing I did not question it I just did what my doctor told me to do. There was no internet to look things up on and people were not questioning their doctors, at least nobody I knew was. Still true for most these days . The Dalmane would be the medication that would mess my life up to no end!!!
During this same time I was dealing with the knee issues which even after knee replacements just didn't work. I was sent to a Rheumatologist who told me I had fibromyalgia and later osteoporosis. I trusted him too. When I found Point of Return www.pointofreturn.com ( I will refer to them as POR hereafter) I learned that the medications he had prescribed for pain were actually antidepressants. Fortunately I did not feel any of them were helping and did not take them as prescribed..as in every 4 hours!! When I found POR I was taking just one called Tramadol and taking it at night before bed rather than all day as prescribed. All of this began in the early 90's with the knee replacements done in 1995 and 1996.
In 2001 I decided to take a disability retirement due to my knee problem. It turned out to have been a good idea as within that first year I was diagnosed with a staph infection in my right knee replacement. They did a surgery to clean it out and sent me home on 6 weeks of a strong IV medications to kill the staph infection. 2 months later the staph infection proved not to be gone! This time they removed the artificial knee and after a couple of weeks in the hospital I was sent home with the IV mediation once again. A few weeks after I got home I noticed my left arm was swollen. To make a long story short with the help of a few doctors and being admitted to another hospital they discovered I had developed blood clots where the vascular surgeon had placed the line for the IV medication. I had a blood clot next to my heart, one under my arm and one under my elbow. The line had to be removed and I had to go on blood thinners. Due to being on blood thinners for the blood clots they could not do a surgery to put in another knee so I went without a knee which meant no walking for around 9 months. I think this gives you a fair idea of how my comfortable med-free life changed to a truly messy medicated life! Just an added tidbit..it has only been in these past three years (2015-2018) off medications that I have been able to unravel the things that caused the storm that led me to be anorexic.
I was on one kind of antidepressant or another starting with them being prescribed for anorexia and later for pain from 1991 to 2015-16. I do not know exactly how long I was on the Benzo/sleeping pill, Dalmane, because there is no way to access those medical records. My best guess is somewhere around 20 years. I never had any problems coming off any of the antidepressants... I just stopped taking them except for one called Desyrel that the psychiatrist I was working with had me taper off by taking less tablets every few weeks and I had no symptoms are issues doing that one either.
When did I realize this medication was no longer helping but instead harming? That is an interesting story. Although I was still dealing with health issues from osteoporosis and injuries from a couple of bad falls caused by my crazy knees I started thinking about the sleeping pill I was on. I had always been a good and sound sleeper...all my life. I still had no idea that this pill called Dalmane was only supposed to be prescribed for a couple of weeks and not for years like it was given to me. I decided in 2006 or 2007, not sure which year but in there someplace, that there was no reason for me to be taking it. After all, I had been over the anorexia for years and considering I only had sleep issues during that time there was certainly no need for it now. I had talked to my doctor ( no longer the one who originally prescribed it since he had retired) about getting off it and every time I mentioned it all he would say is let's try another one. It was not my intention to take anything. My pharmacist was a long time good friend, and I talked to him about getting off it more than once. He would always say, "You need your sleep, Karole." He offered to get it for me at a reduced price...nice of him, eh? This went on for a couple of years until I just decided I would take matters in my own hands and just stop taking it since no one would tell me how to get off it. I stopped which I know now is a cold turkey and very dangerous. I was okay for a couple of weeks which was due to this medication's long life. Then all sorts of weird things began to happen. I was working as a substitute teacher at the time and I still remember this day: I was working at a middle school and really not feeling well. While working one day I noticed I was dizzy, something I had never experienced in my entire life. The room was going around and I felt faint...I didn't faint, I just felt like I might. I knew something was really wrong, but did not attribute it to not taking my med. I really had no idea!! That experience started me on a journey with my doctor trying to find out what was wrong with me. This journey lasted months! I am not sure how long but a good 6 to 7 months. I thought I was dying from some unknown disease and my doctor did too. He was very worried. My normal good low blood pressure of 110/60 was going high and higher. One day it was very high and I was very sick and very scared. I called his office and he talked to me right then and told me to call an ambulance and get to the hospital. I did. They couldn't find anything wrong with me and as I recall the doctor wanted to give me a prescription for a pain pill...I looked at him strangely and he said, " You already have these, don't you?" I replied that yes I did and they did nothing to help me. My doctor continued the search to figure out what was wrong with me by sending me to every kind of specialist there is. I went to all kinds of doctors from neurologists to allergists and nobody could find anything wrong with me. I had one last specialist to see and that was a cardiologist. The appointment was scheduled when one Saturday I was just so sick and had not had any sleep in a couple of weeks that I told my husband I knew I was dying and I would not be here by Sunday morning. By nightfall I was just so sick and desperate that we decided to call the doctor at home. When he called me back we had a serious discussion. He told me he was going to call the hospital and make arrangements for me to be admitted without having to go through the emergency room. When he had it all arranged he called back and told me where to go and who to ask for. We went and I was immediately admitted and put on a heart monitor. I was given some Valium and went to sleep for the first time in a very long time. I remember waking up and feeling just as miserable as I was before they gave me the Valium and crying and asking them to give me more which they did NOT do. On Sunday the cardiologist who I was scheduled to see came in. He asked me some questions and did an exam. He told me he thought he knew what was wrong and not to worry because I was going to be just fine. Turns out he decided I had an infected gallbladder. That was that! Three days later a surgeon removed my gallbladder to make me all better. I was in the hospital for 8 or 9 days. When I came home I did not think I was okay. Some of my kids came over to see me that night and all they could talk about was how happy they were that I was okay now and the problem was taken care of. I just smiled and listened. When my husband walked outside with them as they left I went in to go to bed. As I laid there in bed I knew that nothing had changed that removing my removing my gallbladder had nothing to do with whatever was wrong with me. Nothing had changed except I had no gallbladder and it had never bothered me before. As I laid there thinking and crying a thought came to me. Those pills, the Dalmane prescription, I had forgotten all about them and they were still sitting in the medicine cabinet. I needed to sleep so why not take one and see if it helped. I went in and took one after having none for almost 7 months and for the first time in months I went right to sleep and slept all night. Light bulb moment indeed!! When I woke up in the morning I KNEW my problems were all from stopping that pill!!! I also knew that after not taking it for so long I should not need one that strong. I headed straight over to my doctor and asked him to change the prescription from 30MG to 15MG. He did that without a question, in fact I am not sure he ever understood that this was what was wrong with me the entire time. I learned from that experience that I could not just stop taking this medications safely. I would not do that again. From that day on I would often google Dalmane to see what I could find out about it. When I did find anything about it I found that it is very hard for people to come off and heard people talking about older people on it and that it would not be a good idea for them to come off it. I knew it was not safe from my own experience. One day, some years later, when I googled it up popped Point of Return with a safe way to taper off my medication. I can't tell you how excited and happy I was to find a way to get off this nasty medication that had made me so deathly ill. I did know I would have symptoms of not being able to sleep but I believed I would heal. I did not hesitate for a moment and didn't even call and talk to them, I just ordered the program.
I followed the POR protocol and worked on changing my diet which I had already been doing and actually thought I was doing fairly well in that area. I had so much to learn. I completed my taper off the Dalmane on July 15, 2015. The big symptom for me while tapering was sleep....it got worse and worse just as I expected it would. My problem was that the true withdrawal symptoms hit me about two and a half weeks after I completed my taper. I had a burning in my belly and hot feet. When I talked to Alesandra shortly after I finished my taper and told her I felt I needed to find a new kind of doctor she told me to look for a functional medicine doctor. I found one that very day, I called on a Thursday and had my first appointment on the following Monday. Not only did POR help me safely taper off the medication but they gave me the best advice for making myself the healthiest I could be for the rest of my life. I am ever indebted to Alesandra Rain, Andrea Crocker and Terry Crocker for helping me make my life a better life than I could ever have had without them and their program. I love working with them and helping others on the forum by being a Mentor. I really do understand what is happening to all of these people who have been given these crazy medications. I should add here that when I finished my taper off Dalmane I still had no idea that the Tramadol I was prescribed for pain was an antidepressant and that I needed to taper off it too. I had not even given it a thought since I only took it once in a while before bed. I tapered off it too and completed that taper on January 20, 2016. I am now over three years off these type of medications and I will NEVER take another one!
Now I am not going to tell you that healing from these drugs, mostly from the Dalmane, has been easy for me. I was just on it way too many years and it takes a lot of time for the body to heal itself from the damage this medication causes. I had a very difficult symptom of burning to deal with and it has taken over two years to go away. I had CT scans and MRI's....all test showed that there is nothing wrong with me other than a raw nervous system which is a result of coming off the medications. I was happy to have this confirmed and happy to report that as time has passed the burning has stopped. Am I 100% healed? No I am not. I still struggle with some physical symptoms related to my nervous system they are not what they were and everyday off a benzo is a good and better day than the one before. Healing will be complete one day!
My journey from good health with no pills to health issues that sent me into the world of prescription medications and into the world of tapering off them and healing is what brought me to functional medicine and a better way of being healthy.
This story is what fueled my passion to help others through functional medicine health coaching.