I have always known that with whatever I did with my life, I wanted to make a difference in the world. I want to help people, to be able to physically see the way in which I enrich the lives of others. What I didn’t know early on, however, was that the times when I have needed the most help from others would provide the catalyst for shaping my future. My exploration of the world of traditional health care began when I was 16 years old. I started suffering from terrible stomachaches that wouldn’t go away. My junior year of high school is when things began to get especially bad. I couldn’t eat without getting very ill, and each day during lunch I would drive home and sit with my parents while I ate because I was scared of getting sick, and tired of feeling badly. The first doctor I saw put me on antidepressants and told me that a lot of these things can be “in our heads” and that stress from high school can sometimes lead to these sorts of stomach issues. I was young and naïve and I didn’t know better than to not trust what my doctor was telling/selling me, so I went ahead and started taking the antidepressants. Unfortunately, these did nothing for me but make me tired, sad and even more confused. My parents decided that we needed to go see a GI specialist who could run more tests and better understand if anything serious was going on. We made an appointment for a few weeks in the future, but things ultimately came to a head before that date. On prom night of my junior year I suddenly became ill and was rushed to the emergency room in my prom dress. When I finally made it to my appointment with the GI they didn’t ask me any questions, didn’t want to hear what I had to say or how I was feeling, but instead ordered a bunch of tests and sent me on my way. When the test results came back normal, I was told that I had IBS, and was given more prescriptions to take. Over the next few months I was in and out of the hospital with stomach pains so bad that I literally thought I was going to die. I was exhausted, scared and tired of missing out on my life. It was amazing to me that not one doctor ever asked what I was eating or what my lifestyle was like, as to discover potential links to my stomach issues. Although I worked out constantly, ate what I thought was nutritionally sound, and felt like my life was balanced (despite my constant hospital visits), each doctor seemed to only want to know where I hurt so that they could cover up my symptoms via one prescription or another. I began a downward spiral of confusion and exhaustion. After an entire year I still didn’t have answers. I saw virtually every doctor in the state of Colorado if my mom thought they could help. I couldn’t understand how doctors could perform open heart surgeries yet still couldn’t figure out what was making my stomach hurt. Eventually, as a last resort, my mom decided that since traditional medicine had continually failed us, we should try a more natural approach. I had become fascinated with homeopathy and natural medicine over the past few years during my illness and had begun to research alternatives to the medical world that I had been exposed to thus far. Upon my first visit, the doctor asked me questions about how I was feeling mentally, physically and emotionally. It felt amazing to have a doctor listen and show interest in what I had to say. He asked me about my lifestyle, my friends, and my family, all before delving into more significant health questions. After a few small and simple tests, my doctor printed out a packet titled “How to Live with Celiac.” I looked up from the paper at him and said, “So wait, this was all just a food allergy?” It was at first almost disappointing to me. It seemed like such a simple answer. I almost wanted something more dramatic to tell to my friends and teachers to justify all the time I had spent away from school. All those years of suffering and struggle, because I can’t eat bread? I was in tears that this man was able to help me so dramatically by taking care to talk to me and ask me questions, and let me speak about what had been going on. It was truly a miracle. From that point on, my love of and fascination with integrative health and medicine, both traditional and non-traditional, has continued to grow exponentially. I now have a Master's Degree in Integrative Health and am a certified Health and Wellness Coach. I love to explore new meanings of health and wellness and help others find what true health means to them.
Stories by Stephanie Arnold
I’ve always been a huge believer in alternative health practices and the basic and real understanding that there is so much more to health and...