Michelle Paterson - How I came to be a Nutritional Therapist. A Personal but Important Story.
Why I didn’t become Amy Winehouse…(& became a Nutritional Therapist!)
Like many young people, in my teens, twenties, and (some of my) thirties, I worked and partied hard, as the cliché goes. Not as hard as Amy, but pretty hard all the same. I loved music - the louder and live(r) the better - and dancing. I still do, although my tastes have mellowed. There were many events, holidays and festivals where I baked in the sun and drunk alcohol all day and evening. And just about managed to avoid heatstroke & dehydration (apart from on one occasion).
Alongside the excess drinking, late nights and all-nighters were frequent - and food was just something grabbed between activities. A friend & I once ‘checked in’ some M&S cheese & ham pasties to a nightclub cloakroom. I now know this is all kinds of wrong. But at the time, it was just a carefully planned snack to indulge in after an exhilarating night out, just before crashing into bed at 3am-ish.
These were great times, sociable times, happy times, on the whole. But there was one thing that blotted the landscape (apart from the ubiquitous ‘boyfriend troubles’). My health. The most pervasive health issue I had that spanned these decades was hormone imbalance – specifically, debilitating painful periods. To the point that I could literally do nothing because of the pain. A boyfriend once took me to A&E as all I could do was lie on the floor and scream in agony.
There were few medical investigations. I was eventually put on the pill that ‘helped’ for a while. It meant I could usually just about get through those first days of my cycle, often with a large supply of different and overlapping painkillers. I’d get a bit panicky sometimes, willing and waiting for the meds to kick in, to ease the spiralling waves of pain. But feeling this way every month interfered with my social life and sometimes my work too.
Fast forward to age thirty, I had become much more interested in all things health-related. There were a few reasons for this. Shockingly, I had lost my closest friend (of pasty/cloakroom check-in fame) a few years earlier. Jacqui was just 25 when she died of a stroke. As well as leaving a massive hole in our lives, this naturally led to thoughts of my own mortality.
My symptoms were also getting worse. Following two episodes of food poisoning, my hormone problems had now been joined by wide-ranging digestive symptoms. My energy was all over the place. I came off the pill - this had been potentially implicated in the death of my friend. And so began a decade of trying to balance my raging health symptoms – painful periods, bad skin, unpredictable digestion - all accompanied by buckets of stress.
Frustratingly, feeling like this often got in the way of the things I wanted to do. If important things fell on ‘day one’ of my cycle, the best I could hope for was a ‘grin & bear it’ scenario. I was once on a train, on my way to visit a close university friend in Wales. The pain kicked in severely, I had no choice but to turn around and grimace my way back home. I’d then have a hot bath and curl up in bed, foetus-like, with a hot water bottle, dosed up to the eyeballs.
In February 2010, when I was 36, my brother-in-law turned 40. He decided to throw a fancy-dress party. I was looking forward to a fantastic evening (I have always been overenthusiastic about having an excuse to wear a fabulous costume, particularly at Halloween!)
I had admired Amy’s (Winehouse) attitude and vintage style and seen her perform with her spine-tingling gravelly voice at a few festivals. I managed to get hold of the perfect fancy-dress outfit, complete with Amy-style beehive wig, trademark rose hairclip, and stick-on (but quite professional-looking!) tattoos. I was all set to have a spectacular evening.
On the day of the party, I felt that familiar, uneasy feeling starting. Unfortunately, the pain then kicked in. I never got there. I had missed out….again.
The following year (2011) Amy Winehouse tragically passed away. I never got to wear the outfit although I did get to go to another fancy-dress bash. While a ‘Marilyn’ or ‘Elvis’ would have been fine, it was too close in time to be respectful of her sad passing.
In 2012, at aged 38, I began studying nutritional therapy and lifestyle medicine. Over the next few years, so many of the missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle gradually fell into place. I had previously ‘researched’ extensively to try and solve my health problems and had used a scattergun approach of multiple supplements and therapies, with varying degrees of success.
What I didn’t realise then, was how all my problems were linked. My symptoms all impacted upon each other and were reinforced and made worse by my unhealthy lifestyle. Stress was a major trigger as well as helping to keep these symptoms going. I was also trying to use supplements like medications – as a ‘sticking plaster’ – without understanding what was going on underneath.
While medications can be helpful (and are sometimes essential), they can also make other symptoms worse and cause new problems. For example, the pill often causes significant nutritional deficiencies, and all those pain killers played havoc with my digestive system.
By looking at all my specific symptoms together and undertaking some testing, I built up a clear picture of what was going on. I was able to take a systematic approach to heal - using food, supplements, and lifestyle changes as my tools. I finally understood that I had the knowledge and power to support my mind and body back into balance…..and I did. And now I help others to do the same 😊
These days life is calmer, but happily, I rarely miss out on the things I want to do. Looking after yourself is unfortunately not a ‘one and done’, an item you can hurriedly tick off your ‘to do’ list with a red pen. Our bodies and minds naturally change over time and continue to be impacted by the stuff life throws at us.
I’ve definitely got to keep on top of looking after myself to maintain good health but this becomes easier over time. And to me, it is so worth it – to feel well, and be able to do the things I want to do. It is very precious to me to feel like I’m making the most of my life.
If you’d like to discuss how I can help you, book a wellness kickstart sessions at https://Waytohappy.as.me/KICKSTART or email me firstname.lastname@example.org. More information is also available on my website www.transitionnutrition.co.uk