Astra’s shares their powerful transformation
Astra (they/them) shares how they healed from severe Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic Lyme, Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), Fibromyalgia, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), traumatic brain injuries, noise / light / sound / EMF / multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), digestion issues, co-dependency, bipolar 1, PTSD, and much more after a 27-year journey.
Liz: What is your purpose for sharing your recovery story?
As someone who was chronically ill for over 25 years, have tried thousands of treatments and spent even more money on things that did not work, my purpose is to provide HOPE that you can heal yourself!
Liz: Can you describe how your journey with chronic illness began?
I was born with Lyme Disease. When I was 6 years old, a broken water heater was leaking carbon monoxide into my room, I was living in black mold, and got all of my vaccinations at once – this was a huge load on my system and a perfect storm was created. Very shortly after, I was vomiting 3-7 times a day, developed extreme food and environment sensitivities, neurological conditions, and oh so much more.
You can get a taste of what exactly I recovered from here.
Liz: What were your functionality levels throughout your journey?
I was bedridden and unable to care for myself for 13 years in total, writhing in excruciating pain in my body, mind, and spirit for 24 hours a day.
The other years were mind bogglingly painful, but I forced myself to go out and “live” despite everything. In my twenties, I lived in the most beautiful places all over the world, but still wanted to kill myself because I was trapped inside of my body without hope.
[In our video interview, Astra explains how they would push and crash and puuush and crash, then have deep crashes that could last for years.]
Liz: How did this all play out with your friends at school?
I’ve always been able to make friends easily, but because of my chronic health problems, couldn’t really have real relationships.
In my mind, I would rather die before someone saw me as the “sick girl,” so I did my best to compartmentalize and not let people into that part of my life (even though it was pretty obvious because I would just disappear for long periods of time).
The main reason for this was because I truly believed that no one would ever be able to understand, and they would pity me.
During my healing journey, I realized that authenticity and vulnerability were major areas of focus for me.
Liz: Were you able to have any joy in your childhood?
I had joy in my childhood because I escaped into imagination and play.
Liz: What was your experience seeking medical answers, and were any of the doctors and the diagnoses you may or may not have received helpful?
Some of the diagnoses were helpful just to give me peace of mind knowing that it wasn’t actually in my head (like so many people have told me in the past). I knew that very real things were happening to my body and now had proof, for instance high levels of mold and persistent Lyme.
However, while some treatments helped me survive, no treatment ever healed me.
Instead, each treatment left me on the endless wild goose chase of trying to find the next treatment and looking for the next answer.
It was absolutely life changing to discover that the answer was inside of me.
Liz: So what are some of the treatments you tried, and were any helpful?
I’ve been to hundreds of doctors all over the world.
I spent millions of dollars on treatments yet I only got worse. I’ve tried everything from bee sting therapy, injecting myself with my own urine, IVs (was hooked up to one every day for 7 years – vitamin C, nutrients, antibiotics, etc., etc.), hyperbaric oxygen chambers, special diets, detoxing, supplements, and so many more.
Liz: What was your turning point in your journey, and how old were you?
The last doctor I went to was a specialist in the Bay Area who recommended neural retraining because I was so sensitive and in such a precarious state. I thought he was saying that it was all in my head, was insulted, and did not try it for another 6 years down the road.
When I first heard about it, it seemed like it was invalidating my very real conditions.
DNRS, the program he suggested, seemed too simple (not to downplay the work we put into it) and I interpreted it as just another person saying that it was all in my head, and if I just “thought happy thoughts” I would get better.
But I had exhausted all my resources and had tried everything – there was literally nothing left to try. I was living in a tent in my parent’s backyard at rock bottom for what seemed like the thousandth time. At this point, I had no treatment options left.
My family had moved to Colorado for work, and I lost access to that Bay Area doctor, who provided me daily IV treatments that were keeping me alive.
I was about to die, and I had no choice but to try neural retraining. If I was going to die, I was at least going to go out swinging.
Liz: Why did DNRS ultimately resonate with you?
My whole life people were telling me that it was just in my head, that I was trying to manipulate people for attention, that God did this to me to teach me a lesson, etc. In order to survive, I HAD to keep telling myself that this was not the authentic me, even if I didn’t always believe that.
Once I actually dove into DNRS and understood the nature of a limbic system injury, it gave me the science to back up what I have been doing my whole life in a precise and methodical way.
Limbic system impairment is a brain injury.
In a way, it was all in my head. When you have a limbic system injury, very real things can be happening inside the body because of what’s happening in your amygdala.
However, the great news is that we have the tools to heal the limbic system, and therefore, our bodies and lives! YAY!
Liz: You shared on your site that you broke free from victim mentality. You had to go through years of struggle and pain on every level from a very young age and had every reason to feel like this. Can you describe this shift?
Our society teaches us that we need to rely on doctors and other authority figures to “fix” us because we are “broken.” But what if they can’t do that, and even more, what if we’re not actually broken?
Learning to align the parts of myself and coming to the understanding that I am my own hero and have had the power all along is how I broke free from the victim mentality.
Liz: That really resonates with me. I spent a long time looking for someone else to fix me, which is also how I lost everything. And as you mention, DNRS is about healing yourself.
As I started taking responsibility for my life, I learned how to empower myself and magic happened.
Liz: So part of DNRS involves an incremental aspect. Do you think it’s helpful to remove sources of stress before you begin DNRS? Did you remove any before you built your resilience?
DNRS is not a 1-size-fits-all program. Healing is not 1-size-fits-all, so why approach retraining that way? Make DNRS workable for you. If you can create an environment that is less stressful, great!
About two months into DNRS, I moved from my parent’s backyard to live on my aunt and uncle’s property in the mountains. It helped reduce stress in a few areas, but it also came with its own brain retraining opportunities.
It’s not necessary and in a lot of cases is not always possible to remove all stress before starting DNRS or similar programs.
The limbic system wants to talk you out of this, so in my opinion, there’s no better time to start than now.
Don’t get caught up in doing it “right” – just do it.
Liz: Can you describe your diet / supplement protocols you tried before DNRS, your approach to expanding your diet during DNRS, and what you’re eating now?
I have tried countless diets and supplement protocols – things like GAPS, anti inflammatory, no gluten/sugar/dairy/fun lol, no oxalates, low histamine, camel’s milk, keto, one meal a day, water fasting, you name it, I’ve tried it.
By the time I started, I eliminated so much from my diet, that I was down to 3 different foods and 2 beverages.
When retraining, I prioritized diet because I was so stinkin hungry!
I watched my aunt and uncle in the mountains as they would eat GMO, sugar, gluten, dairy, and everything else I labeled as “bad and dangerous”, and was left in awe as they would eat cookies and ice cream, then go on a 20 mile hike!
I said to myself, “If they can do it, so can I! I can rewire my body to absorb nutrients from anything I choose to eat!”
Liz: What foods are you enjoying now?
I generally eat a plant based diet, but I also love sweets.
As I have learned to become my own loving parent, I have also learned moderation and balance.
By learning to intuitively eat, I am now able to connect with the things my body really wants.
Liz: Do you think elimination diets or detox protocols can be helpful at some point?
I am a huge believer in doing whatever is working for you! If a certain diet or detox protocols are working for you, then continue doing them until you no longer need them.
Look at them like training wheels, and when you’re ready to let them go, incrementally train on that.
Liz: Looking back, can you share any advice for communicating and interacting with friends and loved ones during one’s recovery journey?
If you are doing neural retraining, it can help to succinctly explain what you are healing from, and concrete ways for your family and friends to support you without diving into health issues.
It’s important to note that you are not denying the reality, but you are using positivity, joy, happiness, and peace to rewire and heal.
My goal was always to be able to have the full human experience which includes feeling a wide range of emotions, but learn how to not get stuck there.
Liz: How did you deal with setbacks while doing DNRS (if you had any)?
Yes, I had some major ebbs that lasted months, and smaller ones in between.
Remember: there is an ebb and flow to recovery, and you *have not* lost those new neural pathways that you have created.
I looked at myself like an Olympic athlete but for the mind – Olympic athletes always show up and practice.
Best things to do in this situation: elevate, calm, distract, and DOSE [dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins] as much as possible.
Reassure yourself that it’s a normal part of recovery, that you have not lost the progress you’ve made, and you will come through this.
Liz: When would you say you were fully recovered?
I don’t actually believe in “recovery”.
I believe in transformation and that this is a lifelong process. Learning to enjoy the process is the art of life!
I will continue to transform in some way or another for the rest of my life and that excites me!
The great news is that in the process of learning how to enjoy your life no matter what season you’re in, the symptoms will rewire and vanish.
Liz: What is your life like now?
I know and believe I can do whatever I want, I am in control of my emotions and my emotional regulation, I have life affirming relationships with my friends, family, and a partner, move my body however I want including hiking 14,000+ foot mountains, scuba dive, am the creator of a business that I love and get to help and hold space for them, and oh so much more!
Liz: In the Rewiring Your Wellness event where I heard you speak, you mentioned you added joy and playfulness to your rewiring endeavors. I love how you added your own spark. What were things you did to elevate your DOSE chemicals while you were rewiring?
I am a huge believer in enjoying my life and having fun in every moment (did you know that there are many different kinds of fun?)!
Looking at fun, laughter, and play as learned skills to incorporate into your life and what’s more – your healing journey – can be truly transformational.
Things I do in my own life that are spontaneous adventures, costumes, laughter, animal videos, karaoke and singing, dance parties, talking with friends and family and intentionally complimenting each other, rollerskating, acting and talking in accents, getting really excited about everything…the sky’s the limit!
When in doubt, play “pretend” like when you were a kid. A good jumping off point is to ask yourself what you enjoyed doing when you were a child, and go from there!
After the Rewiring Your Wellness event, I was inundated with messages from adults literally asking me to teach them how to play!
I’m now a coach, and I help people unlock their own kind of fun and use it to propel their healing. I am also in the middle of creating an online course to help people (re)discover their unique brand of weird, whimsy, and play.
Liz: Looking forward to that, it sounds awesome! I’ve heard amazing things about your coaching. What types of clients most benefit from your coaching help, how can people reach you, and what can they expect from coaching?
Coaching is the most fun and effective when clients are ready to do the work and also keep an open mind. Most of my clients have brain retraining experience, but I work with others who have none and give them a foundation.
If you’re interested in receiving guidance from me, I encourage you to reach out for a free consultation just to explore. During the session, you can ask me as many questions as you’d like to see if we’re a good fit for each other.
I love seeing people grow, transform, and become their authentic selves.
I provide a balance of being your cheerleader, coach, friend, and motivating voice to remind you that YOU can do this!
If you’re interested to learn more about Astra’s work, you can visit her website yayneuroplasticity.com. If you’d like to chat about how Astra can help, they’d love to hear from you. You can email them firstname.lastname@example.org and find them on Instagram @yayneuroplasticity.
In our video interview we dive deeper into:
- How Astra hid their health challenges during youth sports competitions
- The science of neuroplasticity and more details about DNRS (the program they did)
- The “missing puzzle piece” that helped them out of a setback during brain retraining
- What to do if your brain can’t remember a time when you felt healthy and happy
- The biggest thing they rewired
- What aspects of the Gupta Program they also incorporated
- What got Astra into the fun work they’re doing now to help others reclaim their health and joy
(And we dance at one point!)