Felicity West

my story

Felicity in 2006 vs Felicity in 2014

So you’d like to know a little bit more about me & my journey?

Perhaps you’re wondering “what does this woman know about the pain of burn out or weight gain?” because its easy to look at a photo of a beaming person in a pretty dress and think that they’ve got it sorted and haven’t had to struggle.

In my almost 37 years on this planet, I have certainly been on quite a ride that wasn’t all beaming smiles and glowing skin. But it has shaped me, it has strengthened me and gifted me the greatest lessons of my life. I have reached deep lows in my health and emotional state that have been the catalyst for immense change and growth. I have forced, pushed, and burned my body out repeatedly. Now at almost 37, I am learning balance again.

I am an only child, high achiever, Type A, perfectionist. I am also an extremely creative person, energetically sensitive and deeply intuitive. It’s an interesting combo to manage when you’re driven for success. I had been in denial of many of these gifts for most of my adult life.

While I have turned many aspects of my health around, I still believe I am on a journey, I am still learning and always will be. While I teach, I will also always be a student too.

Not everyone will want to read this and perhaps you might find the details boring or uninteresting. But this is for those of you who have a curiosity, a need to connect with the truth of another persons story, what is behind the curtain with all the nitty gritty details. If that’s you, then grab a cuppa and join me…

 

Let me share with you my story.

My journey back to good health starts in 1994, the year I began to lose my health.

Glandular Fever

1993 - happy & healthy

1993 – happy & healthy

1994 - weak & thin after Glandular Fever

1994 – post Glandular Fever

Top stream student, perfectionist, trying to keep up with study, sports and being a teenager. I was almost 16 in my School Certificate Year when I came down with the dreaded Glandular Fever.

I was hospitalised due to the extreme nature of my bout of Glandular Fever. This marked the end of good health for me for many years.

I was never quite right after this bug. I always had a puffy face, swollen glands and picked up every sore throat doing the rounds. And I was always tired, deep down to my bones tired. When taken to see a doctor, my Mum was told I was a tired, mopey teenager who needed more motivation, more activities, more sports. So I did more, more, more and I started to burn out.

Burning out, recovering and then pushing myself again to burn out became a pattern for many years.

By the time I finished school in 1996, I had discovered a love of graphic design, but was torn between my love of aromatherapy and natural healthcare. I took my first yoga classes in high school and while I fell in love with the practice, I thought it was uncool and stopped. My life was becoming turbulent with a rocky relationship with my boyfriend, a new stepfather, alcohol, drugs, constant swollen glands, puffiness and a never ending tiredness.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

1996 - swollen glands, puffy face & miserable

1996 – swollen & puffy

After my last year of high school in 1996 I was so lost, so miserable, and always so tired that I freaked out and didn’t go to uni for my graphic design training.

I worked instead and by the end of that year my constant tiredness had become constant exhaustion 24/7. I had started living on sugar to try to keep myself going, my weight had ballooned up, my joints ached, I couldn’t sleep, my brain was fuzzy, I couldn’t concentrate, I was depressed and always getting sick with viruses.

Then one day I simply couldn’t get out of bed.

My body had given up. After rounds of doctors, tests, questions, I was taken to a doctor who specialised in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). In the late 90s CFS was a relatively new and misunderstood illness, and people with CFS were often written off as lazy or hypochondriacs.

For me, my body slowly shutting down on me now had a name, but at 19 years old it felt like my life was over. I ended up on the Sickness Benefit, stuck at home day in, day out, unable to walk to even the letterbox some days.

Fighting back from CFS

1998 - housebound with CFS

1998 – housebound with CFS

After my diagnosis of CFS for the next 3 years I tried everything! From antidepressants, sleeping pills and B12 shots via the doctor; weight loss via Jenny Craig; wholefood cleanses, supplements, liver cleansing and herbs via a naturopath; reiki; osteopathy; flower essences; hypnotherapy; and diets by Dr Sandra Cabot and Harvey Diamond. You name it and I had tried it, both natural and allopathic remedies.

I really can’t say if one, single thing worked alone, however I do believe the greatest improvements I felt were with the more subtle energy work of reiki and flower essences.

The greatest aspect in my healing seemed to be my mind. My determination. I truly believed if you decided that a diagnosis of CFS is your life sentence, then it will be. I had too much living to do. I was determined to beat it. So I did … kind of.

Sadly, I tried to overcome CFS in the way I’d gotten myself into this mess originally
– by forcing and pushing and damn well making it happen.

While sick and housebound, I did correspondence courses in both website design and aromatherapy. I was still torn between computer design work and natural health. Day by day I clawed my way back. To vibrant, good health? No. To being a semi functioning sick person? Yes.

Chemical Sensitivity

2001 - chemical sensitivity took over my life

2001 – chemical sensitivity took over my life

In 2000 I made the bold (aka probably silly) move of enrolling in a two year course of Massage Therapy specialising in Aromatherapy, which I was so drawn to. I barely made it to the end of the first year and dropped out before year 2.

My body was NOT healed. My energy was too low. My soul had not healed in order for me to help heal others. I was devastated.

And then the chemical sensitivity kicked in.

Suddenly I was getting violent headaches all the time. Rashes. Burning skin. Weird aches (and I was very used to constant aches). I couldn’t wear my makeup, use soap, be near anyone wearing perfume, let alone wear it myself. I moved back home with my Mum and Stepdad and worked on healing.

Sick, partying & depressed

2003 - exhausted, sick & partying

2003 – sick & partying

2003 I had again gained back some health through shear willpower and force. By now I’d completed my 2 years of graphic design training, but at the same time abused my body with late nights partying, drinking, drugs and desperately trying to keep up with my friends and boyfriend at the time.

I ignored what my body needed, instead focusing on my extreme FOMO (fear of missing out) and trying to live the same lifestyle as my healthier, stronger friends.

Somehow, I got back into my yoga during this period and it was the bright spark in a dark time.

I started to see an amazing counselor who helped me navigate being torn between wanting to be “normal” and the fact that my body simply couldn’t hack the abuse I was throwing at it. I was so unwell that my drinking did nothing more than make me sicker, depressed and even more tired.

Clean, sober & single

2004 - sober & single

2004 – sober & single

By 2004 I knew I had to turn things around because my life was spiraling out of control. I ended my relationship, left my whole group of friends behind, got clean and sober and made a commitment to being single for a year, which ended up being two.

I threw myself into my work, having a happy single life and learning to love myself more through weekly counseling sessions. With space for self care, I began looking more at my health.

Polycystic Ovaries

2006 - severe acne

2006 – severe acne

2006 acne2 crop

2006 – severe acne

Around 2005 I decided I had been on the contraceptive pill almost 10 years and probably should give my body a break. This was a life changing decision, as 6 months later I had not had a single period. This post-pill amenorrhea (no period following coming off the pill) was just the beginning. I also developed horrific cystic acne all over my face and back, hair growth on my chin and breasts, and my 158cm frame had suddenly ballooned up to over 70kg. At a certain point for my sanity, I stopped looking at the scales.

Encouraged by a naturopath, I did a hormone saliva test which showed my testosterone was triple the normal range. She encouraged me to see my doctor and after an ultra sound, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) was confirmed. My ovaries were riddled with cysts and I was told my chances of fertility were slim.

The pharmaceutical way

2006 - medications working

2006 – medications working

2006 - PCOS & miserable

2006 – PCOS & miserable

While I originally wanted to treat my PCOS naturally, eating well under the guidance of a dietician and going to the gym almost every day, with the help of a personal trainer, the acne and my ballooning weight got too much.

I asked my fertility specialist to give me the whole pharmaceutical cocktail.

I went back on the pill and started spironolactone (to help with acne and hair growth) and metformin (a diabetic drug to help with my pre-diabetic insulin resistance). And it worked. The weight came off, the acne and hair went away, I started to look normal again.

I forced myself further in all areas of my life, training at the gym, working long hours. I lost the weight, got my figure and my looks back but was still deeply unhappy.

Depression, Saturn Return & a marriage

2007 - medication working & in a happy relationship

2007 – medication working & in a happy relationship

During my battle with PCOS I was in a very tumultuous relationship, rounded off with a horrific breakup involving my partner cheating on me multiple times. I was so betrayed and broken I had a complete breakdown, adding antidepressants to my cocktail of drugs just to function. Again, I returned to yoga in this dark time to deal with the pain and try to feel again.

I hurtled from my devastating breakup into a functional relationship with an amazing man who helped me heal much of my mistrust and broken heart. But sadly, following his fathers cancer diagnosis, this relationship ended too.

I am NOT proud of my next step, but I believe wholeheartedly in speaking truth so here is mine.

Smack bang in the middle of my Saturn Return and following the breakup, I pretty much flipped out and acted out in the craziest ways. I was devastated, angry, confused, felt betrayed again and yet couldn’t be angry at someone who had a genuine reason for breaking up. All my friends were married or getting married, having babies, moving forward. I got the ultimate FOMO and freaked out.

I was NOT going to be left behind. I forced and forced and forced that year.

By November on my 29th birthday, I ran off and had a secret quickie wedding with a friend. I dropped the bombshell on my parents at my birthday dinner. We should NEVER have gotten married, but its all part of the learning curve and lessons. Let this be a warning of respecting the energy of your Saturn Return!

Burning out, yet again

2008 - burning out

2008 – burning out

By 2008 I had left my graphic design job and was burning the candle at both ends with freelance design work, baking and selling cupcakes (as the NZ Cupcake Queen), making designer cross stitch kits (Stitch’d Ink), laser cut jewellery and started the Kraftbomb Craft Market with a friend.

I was miserable in my marriage and running from the truth. And in true Felicity style, when I was at breaking point, on the brink of my divorce,  I went back to art school in 2009 to complete my 4 year fine arts degree.

I was running on 4-5 hours sleep, eating terribly and drinking energy drinks every day. I was on a collision course with complete burnout again and couldn’t see it, even after having a panic attack that caused me to pass out cold and wake up to an ambulance crew!

Cancer scares, adrenal fatigue, losing everything

2010 - running from my pain

2010 – February running from my pain

2010 - support of friends

2010 – December support of great friends

2010 was a year of extremes. My body was screaming at me to stop.

I was miserable at art school, was in an unhappy, violent relationship, lived on energy drinks and sugar, barely slept juggling so many jobs, and each time I visited my doctor had repeated test results showing adrenal fatigue, severe gluten intolerance (which I was ignoring) and low Vit D levels.

Even after I was hospitalised with suspected cervical cancer following the discovery of a massive ulcer on my cervix, I was STILL unwilling to see I needed to change things in my life. Emotionally, physically and mentally I was not taking care of myself.

I had a lot of healing to do and a lot of things I wasn’t ready to face.

By the end of 2010, every aspect of my life had been torn apart through a series of personal and family tragedies that made me question everything. I found myself alone, homeless and living with various friends, my little pug in tow. My health was a mess, weight fluctuating wildly, back to swollen glands and getting sick.

But the flip side of so much tragedy, domestic violence and burn out – I returned to weekly yoga classes that year, had found amazing friends who were interested in living healthy, holistic lifestyles and had the blessing of meeting an amazing ayurvedic practitioner who started to open my eyes to the changes I needed to make. Ayurveda was a gift that helped me to start loving and respecting my body again.

Turning my life around

2011 - finding happiness

2011 – finding happiness

2011 is the year everything changed and I started to wake up, taking full responsibility for all aspects of my life. I moved into a flat with some great friends, surrounded by people doing yoga, juicing, eating raw food, exploring different natural healing modalities and striving to find good health. While I had no idea which direction to take my own life and returned for my third year of art school, I felt a stronger and stronger pull towards yoga, which since 2010 was now a daily practice.

I had vowed that I would be single for as long as it took, rather than keep settling for less in my relationships and ending up in the same destructive patterns. I was showing up in my counseling, dealing with an ongoing family tragedy from a place of empowerment rather than victim-hood. Daily yoga, eating better, exercising, quitting the energy drinks and FINALLY going gluten free after 3 years of gut problems left me feeling open and alive.

Living in a place of such joy and self care, the man who was to become my husband strolled into my life with his dog in tow.

Meeting a man who was also striving for good health, loved yoga and living a full life took me completely by surprise. By the end of 2011 I had finally quit art school and left the city to WWOOF on an organic farm with my partner. I felt such an enormous weight lift off my shoulders.

From this space I faced my PCOS and the fact that 5 years of various medications had only masked the symptoms and not dealt with the cause. Supporting myself with herbs, daily juicing, eating only organic whole foods, yoga, ayurvedic lifestyle practices and daily walks in nature, I stopped the pill and weened myself off spironolactone. Amazingly, other than some hormonal outbursts, I didn’t balloon up in weight or break out in pimples.

Healed from PCOS

2012 - healed of PCOS

2012 – healed of PCOS

In 2012 I followed my heart and intuition finally completing my yoga teacher training through Wellpark College of Natural Therapies. This was a life changing year for me in body, mind and spirit. I finally felt I was following my calling and on a path to truly helping people.

Yoga gave me the gift of connecting to all parts of myself, the strength to connect to the parts I was afraid of facing.

With so much yoga and a complete lifestyle change, I was curious about my PCOS. I felt intuitively that I had healed myself, but booked in for an ultrasound to confirm. 6 years after my original diagnosis, the report came back that I was completely free of PCOS.

Not quite the end of the story

2013 - gaining weight & addicted to sugar

2013 – gaining weight & addicted to sugar

2013 was a year of many challenges. Juggling a the ups and down of a longterm relationship, teaching yoga, freelance design work, commuting for ongoing Yoga Therapy training and the familiar tendency for me to push myself to burnout.

You can never get too cocky in life and think you’ve got it all sussed!

By the middle of 2013 I had slipped back into old habits, not enough sleep, working too much, juggling too many things and living on sugar and caffeine to keep me going. Now engaged with a wedding the next year, I was face to face with a body that was again exhausted, gaining weight and, if I wasn’t careful, back on a path back to PCOS with so much stress and sugar.

During Yoga Therapy training my awesome A & P tutor Cliff Harvey gave me a couple of nutrition sessions. He taught me that with my history of PCOS, adopting a more keto style of eating with high fat, lower carb (appropriate for my activity level) and cutting sugar was the way to go for me. But I was SUPER addicted to sugar. I didn’t want to let go of my last emotional crutch even though teaching weekly yoga classes it was not the greatest look being an exhausted, slowly inflating, puffy yoga teacher!

I experimented with quitting sugar a few times that year. Throughout my shift to a healthier diet with more wholefoods and vegetables, when it came to sugar I had simply swapped normal chocolate bars for raw chocolate, replaced biscuits with dates, used honey instead of sugar in my chai. I was still consuming far too much sugar for my stressed out body.

I made a few attempts to stay off all sugar, but after a day or two I’d hit my wall of being tired, then fall off the wagon in dramatic fashion by eating an entire king-size block of chocolate (not even a raw organic one either). I was still eating away my pain and stress.

Sugar free, healthy & happy bride

2014 - before & after IQS

2014 – before & after IQS

2014 - radiant & healthy

2014 – radiant & healthy

2014 I made the commitment to finally face my addiction to sugar.

Even though the last 3 years we’d been eating a 90% organic, wholefoods diet, my sugar addiction seemed to be undoing all the good of my healthy eating. My partner kindly (and probably at his wits end with my chocolate obsession) shouted me the I Quit Sugar 8 week program as a wedding present. The program finished the day of our wedding so it seemed like divine timing.

I jumped in, fed up with being so exhausted all the time. Giving up sugar was HARD as I was so addicted, both physically and emotionally, to that safety net of sweet treats and false energy to get me through the day.

I supported myself with my daily yoga practice, meditation, journaling, weekly acupuncture, walks with the dogs and keeping focused on how much I had to gain from kicking my oldest crutch. I had used sugar for 20 years to give my unhealthy, exhausted body energy to barely function. I leant to embrace cream, butter, ghee, full fat dairy, coconut oil and fuel my body with something other than sugar.

By the end of the 8 week program I was a completely transformed person and felt incredible.

I am NOT perfect or a buff fitspo girl. But I AM a strong, healthy yoga teacher, with womanly curves, who has kicked a crippling sugar addiction to the curb & loves her body again. I dropped over 4kgs, lost my mood swings, afternoon crankiness, bloating, cravings & addiction to sugar.

It wasn’t about weight loss, that was just a bonus.
It was about gaining health so I could carry my message of yoga & self care in a healthy, strong vessel.

Self care & self love

In 2015 I am moving towards a softer, more gentle place of self care and healing. Fueled by some discoveries during trainings in NVC (Non-Violent Communication) and Imago Relationship Counseling, I began to realise that I have struggled for a long time with understanding that I have needs, what those needs are and that it is perfectly ok to get my needs met.

All my years of abusing my body to get jobs done, work harder, train harder, it never occurred to me that perhaps I needed rest. Or gentleness. Or space to be quiet. My yoga and meditation practices have brought me closer to understanding the value of loving self care, but it is an ongoing, day by day practice to honour my needs.

This is my current journey. Still evolving, learning and coming closer and closer to the truth of my Soul.

 

citymike-27