Liz: I am so glad to have connected with you. What’s your purpose for sharing your recovery story from severe CFS/ME?
Vera: My purpose for sharing my story is that it is painful for me to know that others are still suffering and will suffer in the future with an affliction and a situation I have already “figured out.”
I know every story and background are different, but I think the pillars in my recovery (digestion & reducing stress) are quite universal.
I also want to wake up and empower those who are trapped in toxic relationships dynamics, especially parent-child-relationships, and make them question why their body is screaming at them right now.
Is your body telling you to get out of where you are?
I am also sharing my story because I wish someone had told me all of this sooner, and I wouldn’t have had to learn in such an extremely hard way. I want to be that person for others.
Liz: Powerful question. I’m grateful to share your story. I can feel your renewed spirit from thousands of miles away. I know there are people whose lives will change from hearing your words.
Why I’m excited to share Vera recovery story:
When we talk about a “toxic environment,” we may assume a moldy home or proximity to a chemical plant. We often fail to consider how toxic people can create a hazardous environment for our health. I’ve personally learned that my body’s recovery mechanisms do not differentiate much between sources of stress.
Not everyone with ME/CFS had to experience the hell Vera went through surviving an abusive relationship like she did. But I hope it can cause everyone to consider the toxic situations in their lives and how breaking free is essential for healing.
Vera will describe the toxic conditions that led to her developing very severe ME/CFS and IBS, her powerful story on how she climbed out and reclaimed her vitality, and how she’s continuing to heal from complex PTSD.
Vera’s insights on Ayurvedic digestion principles also align with what helped me out of a severe stage of IBS and CFS.
I hope you will find inspiration and at least one thing (if not many) helpful from this powerful interview.
Liz: What was your life like before CFS?
Vera: Ooof. Ugh. Long story short; I was trapped, terrified and in chains. I grew up with parents who brainwashed me into thinking I was dirty, good-for-nothing, unwanted, annoying, ugly, stupid, always said the wrong thing etc, etc. I was not free at all.
I was constantly walking on eggshells.
I tried to morph myself into a person that would go the most unnoticed by and be the most pleasing to my parents. I sacrificed all my individuality, clothing style, hobbies and relationships to try to stay safe in that house.
Even though it looked like I made my own choices from the outside and my parents claim I had free will, I wasn’t free to make my own choices at all. Because if I didn’t do what they told me to do directly or indirectly, they would punish me with mocking, ugly looks, silent treatment and gossiping about me to other “family” members, friends or colleagues.
If I strayed from their wishes or did not live in the same box as them, it would be a threat to my survival. So I was a shy overachiever with extremely low self-esteem, studying engineering like my parents. I also played in the student orchestra, and I exercised a lot.
I overachieved in many arenas all at once.
I even overachieved at drinking, I kid you not; the logic that had been programmed into me from birth made me think that everyone else could handle drinking large amounts of alcohol every weekend (even twice in one weekend) and not feel sick, but since there is something wrong and weird with me, then I am the only one getting sick from drinking these amounts – so I should just suck it up and push on so no one realizes that I can’t keep up!
Becoming ill was my only way out of this crazy upside down-world I was trapped in. So, I am kind of grateful for my collapse, but I wish I wouldn’t have had to suffer that much.
But I am truly grateful that I unmeshed myself from this toxic parent-child dynamic this early in life. I know there are people out there suffering under abusive and toxic parents until they are in their fifties or their parents pass away!
I learnt the most liberating lesson of all: no family is better than an abusive family.
The relief and peace I feel now is indescribable. I have a life to live now!
Liz: I lived in a very moldy home and you lived in an extremely emotionally toxic home, which each contributed to us getting CFS/ME. Can you explain the level of stress you were under?
Vera: I don’t even know how to do the stress levels justice with words. They were extreme. Even during childhood I had symptoms of toxic stress such as dizziness, tingling, muscle cramps, numbness and spasms. I would also lie awake at night during my childhood, trying to push away the ever-increasing library of traumas my mind would replay over and over again.
I would squeeze my eyes really tight until the images and feelings went away, because I knew I wasn’t allowed to think, feel or question. I thought I was being mean to my mom when I felt hurt by her. I think I took my first belly breath ever at the age of 27.
My house was not a home, it was an unsafe warzone with a different minefield every single day. I was just constantly adapting, trying to be invisible and to survive.
My mom had scared me half to death with her snide comments about other people over the years, which led me to believe that if you weren’t an engineer, you’d die divorced, sick and starving – all while being homeless. And that I’d be a bad mother if I didn’t have an education. Every time my mother spoke about family friends or similar that were going through hardship, like divorce or illness, she would say things like “Well… They don’t have much education…” or “They didn’t go to X university” (hers). I truly believed this deep down.
I didn’t think you could even survive on a normal paycheck. But, um, hello, we live in Norway and if you work at a grocery store you can still go on overseas vacations every year if you save money!
Survival is not a problem at all. These are all things I am realizing now that I am detoxing from the sneaky brainwashing.
I was experiencing life-or-death-stress over things that really weren’t that important or even real.
Liz: Did things improve when you went to university?
Vera: No. It didn’t get any better, because now was my time to prove to my parents that I was a smart and good girl worthy of love by becoming an engineer.
I woke up every morning with a panic attack.
It thought that if I just reached the finish line (engineering degree) as fast as possible, then I would finally be able to live and breathe. My parents would be happy, finally love me, and stop treating me like shit.
Liz: What actually happened when you went off to university?
Vera: This did not happen.
Instead, my mother planted doubt in me about everything, from my scientific skills and abilities to the clothes I wore, and everything else it is possible to pick on (it’s a lot, you’d be surprised).
As a result, I felt too stupid and unworthy to attend the university I was a student at, and walked around looking at the ground hoping no one would notice me and call me out for being there, for being a fraud.
Nevertheless, I pushed myself very hard to succeed, but at the same time this enormous stress left me barely able to concentrate resulting in a mediocre performance.
Let’s just say they were also disappointed, so I was slowly beginning to doubt that I would ever reach the end of the rainbow (them loving me and approving of me). The stress increased because I felt I had to really step it up and “fulfill my destiny.” But of course, everything I was doing, saying and wearing was still wrong.
So, did I say “feck off” and go and finally go and live my own life and do my own thing?
NO, I WORKED EVEN HARDER!
This seems so stupid looking back on it, but that’s what toxic relationships do to you, it really messes with your brain and pleasing the toxic person/people becomes your only goal in life, even if you know deep down it’s impossible.
Liz: Can you describe your health before your collapse?
Vera: I had always suffered from minor afflictions because of my stressful upbringing, like skin diseases and rhinitis, but it was when I began university that my health really began to deteriorate. Especially my digestion.
I began university in 2013 (21 years old), and I had trouble sitting down in class because of stomach pain (it was less painful to be standing up).
I had it all: bloating, pain, diarrhea, constipation, nausea and vomiting. This went on for a couple of years while I did my best to function.
I saw a gastroenterologist and nutritionist who either had no advice to give or gave me advice that made things worse. (The nutritionist advised me to eat when I wasn’t hungry, which is a huge no-no in Ayurveda.)
Liz: Can you describe your onset?
Vera: My health collapse had been building and building for many years from stress and food choices.
The fever came gradually during the summer of 2015, which was the first physical symptom I noticed on my serious health decline (up until this point, I “only” had IBS, extreme stress and trauma). I began sweating a lot, having hot flashes and feeling faint on top of my indigestion.
By October 2015, I became bed bound until that Christmas. I could not lift my head off the pillow.
Liz: Did the alarm bells go off when you couldn’t lift your head off the pillow for 3 months?
Vera: No. My glands had been a little bit swollen a few months before.
I thought I just had mono and postviral fatigue that would disappear on its own.
On a deeper level, I had a gnawing feeling that this felt kinda similar to what happened when I was 16 (a mental collapse & exhaustion) just expressed differently in my body. But at 16, I had tried to speak frankly with my parents – we were even in therapy together – and it didn’t work at all. It made things even worse and they punished me for years for it.
So every time my mind converged on my relationship with my parents being the cause – it catapulted itself somewhere else, as this was very unsafe territory and had not ended me up in a good place previously.
Liz: What happened after Christmas 2015?
I pushed myself to attend university in the spring semester of 2016, sweating like a pig and also being completely unable to concentrate.
By May 2016 my legs began to protest and went numb (looking back I realize that my body upped the severity of a symptom or added a new one every time I pushed forward).
Even though I couldn’t walk and did not have access to a wheelchair (that’s for patients who really need it, according to my mom), I still tried to finish my exams.
And that’s when the light sensitivity and headaches really kicked in.
So at last, I finally was forced to give up the idea of taking my finals. For the next 3 years, I was “permanently” bed bound.
Liz: Can you describe what your life was like after you fully collapsed?
In the beginning, I was constantly researching on my phone, constantly pushing myself, constantly going to doctor’s appointments and being wiped out for a week, then doing it all over again (I’m guessing some of you unfortunately can relate).
2016-2017 was just a constant doctor’s appointment, then collapse, repeat cycle of despair and crazy.
All this stress made my fingers and arms follow suit after my legs.
I did all the tests, even a spinal fluid test (which SUCKED!) and a test where they zapped my nerves with electric shocks to see if they were still carrying signals (which they were, I was just in constant pain, numbness and tingling from the stress overload).
The year 2017-2018 I have almost no memories or pictures from, I was just in my bed, constantly trying to think my way out. I left the house 2 times in 2018, both for fruitless doctor’s appointments.
Liz: That sounds horrible. Can you describe your experiences with the medical system?
The frustration was indescribable.
It was also a case of “maybe I’m not explaining it right.”
Or “maybe I’m using the wrong words”, while the doctors just simply didn’t care, didn’t want to hear it or (a few) were sad they didn’t have the tools to help.
I went back over and over to my GP trying to rephrase and re-explain, but no words in the world could have made this person want to help me. This was also a doctor chosen by my mother (shocker). Yes, I know I was over 18 years of age and had the power to change doctors and in general do my own thing, but I didn’t know I had this power as I had been brainwashed and beaten down my entire life.
My doctor seemed completely unfazed that I was out of school for years in my early twenties, and didn’t want to refer me to specialists as there “was no point.” I eventually saw specialists through another doctor, but my GP was actually right about one thing; there was no point.
The hundreds of blood tests and MRIs showed nothing, so of course there was nothing wrong (*eyeroll*).
By November 2018, I probably took every blood test and examination in the world. I had given up on the healthcare system and they had given up on me.
One doctor actually did seriously questioned my relationship with my mother one day, but when I became protective she snapped and said “Argh, this isn’t healthy! Don’t you see it?!” and she rolled her eyes. This was actually a psychiatrist I saw once while touring the neurology department.
Healthcare workers should know that when prodding into abusive relationships, you should offer resources for support and a full escape plan, not get annoyed and roll your eyes when the victim is scared to open up. Especially mental health workers.
I felt so bad, like an attention seeking, overachieving little girl. But I wasn’t. I sat there, visibly sweating and swaying in my chair, clearly in poor health, while they said to my face that there was nothing wrong with me as they didn’t have any evidence.
I even questioned if it really was all in my head. Is this what health care has come to?
I thought doctor’s were supposed to be healers, but from what I’ve experienced, they’re just dispensers for pills, creams and surgeries.
And if there’s no evidence from a lab test, that must mean you’re lying for attention.
What happened to using your eyes, your hands and your human intuition?
What happened to advising people to be in healthy, loving relationships, having faith in something and having a purpose in life?
What about advising them to leave stressful situations and jobs?
What about teaching them that they have a lot more power over their health than they think, using their diet, lifestyle and their choice of environment?
(I know there are good doctors out there, I’m just sharing my experience, and in my experience there have been 1 in 20 who actually listened.)
Liz: This is so powerful and revolutionary (factoring diet, lifestyle, and healthy relationships), yet seems so simple.
Liz note: I was so inspired by Vera’s insights (which resonated with my own beliefs) that I’m making a video about my dream for healthcare intervention to prevent chronic illness and help people thrive. Stay tuned.
Liz: How was it like becoming physically dependent on your abusive parents while you were bed bound?
Vera: It felt like being endlessly drowned.
When I tried to get a wheelchair they would “forget” to make the call, even if I reminded them over and over, or talk me out of it, telling me I would be depriving someone who really needed it of a wheelchair.
I chose not to shower more than once every two weeks when I could do it myself and have a crash afterwards, instead of risking snide comments about my appearance and body if they were to “help” me.
When I asked them to cook certain foods they would cook the exact opposite.
I needed cooked and easy-to-digest food like soups and they would intentionally make a salad instead.
I even wrote and rewrote a paper in the kitchen, thinking I hadn’t explained it clearly enough what cooked, wet and mushy food vs raw food was. But it was clear, they just didn’t want to. I really feel for CFS and other chronically ill patients who are stuck at home with abusive and sabotaging “caretakers”.
I wish I could kick down the door of every household like this and carry them out, tell them they’ll never have to go back again, create a CFS “shelter” in my backyard, and care for them myself!
I know I can’t personally care for everyone in these situations, but I can empower them with my story.
Liz: A sanctuary for healing from chronic illness is a brilliant idea! Similar to how addiction recovery is currently treated. It seems like it would be orders of magnitude more helpful than just ordering someone more lab tests while someone is stuck in a toxic environment.
Liz: After not receiving medical answers or help, what did you decide to do?
With no results or help, I was actually preparing to die. I spent the little energy I had on sorting through my things, basically making a memory box about me.
But deep down I knew I was leaving out everything that my mom could potentially use to mock me or shame me for after my death… which could be anything, she is quite creative. I was 40 kg, had lost my appetite and eating anything caused me significant pain.
Then one day an image popped into my mind of my parent’s collecting sympathies and hugs at my funeral – and it made me so angry!
It lit a fire in me that torched down the entire gaslit/brainwashed illusion, and I had this new clarity.
I suddenly had this new motivation to survive just in spite. At this point I felt so erased that I couldn’t imagine a life for myself to dream about, so at this point my motivation was anger.
And the built up, overdue anger of 26 years fueled me with fire and I found help, found treatment, I paid for it myself, cooked my own Ayurvedic food and when I had the stamina left the house of horrors on a bike (I put my duvet in a blue IKEA-bag and biked away in the snow, it was crazy!).
I finally took my power back.
Liz: What is your advice to others in a toxic environment?
Vera: I encourage others to build up self respect, a sense of self and self love after and during toxic relationships. These things will really help you to get out and stay out, no matter how much they threaten you or tempt you (“now you’ll finally get my love”, lol, nope, it’s a TRAP!).
But honestly, I hadn’t built up any of this when I left, I just couldn’t do it anymore.
Something clicked inside of me, and I was done.
Liz: So at the absolutely lowest point in your life, you found your catalyst. Can you describe your trajectory back to health? You mentioned Ayurvedic food.
At this point I was just lying in bed, not knowing what to do.
But I was listening to self help podcasts as they were very interesting and uplifting. I was listening to the Lavendaire Lifestyle podcast (she is a YouTuber who makes videos about creating your dream life, and her voice is very soothing and sound sensitivity-friendly), and she had a guest on one of the episodes whom introduced me to the healing system that would heal me and become my life purpose!
The guest was Sahara Rose, author of Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda. Her story of having multiple chronic symptoms that seemed unrelated but at the same time how could they not be related, and not getting any help or answers from the western doctors – who randomly decided to try an Ayurvedic doctor while traveling in India – deeply resonated with me.
I hadn’t been connected to my gut feeling for years because of the narcissistic abuse – but in this moment it erupted within me!
My gut was screaming at me, I knew this was it.
A health system that centered around digestion was exactly what I had been searching for all these years dealing with digestive issues and trying different diets.
This knowing was so strong that I didn’t even care about my parents constant mocking (this mocking usually made me abandon my “silly” projects, but not this time).
I did it anyway. I stood over the stove stirring an Ayurvedic meal, shaking from being out of bed, while my parents made their jokes. I knew I was soon getting out of there, that I would finally have a life, and the joke was on them all along.
I quickly got a lot of energy back in January 2019 after cooking something I could finally actually digest (a dish called kitchari). A few days later I begun panchakarma which helped even more! In just 2-3 weeks I had fully gotten my energy back and just needed to build muscle and reintegrate into society again.
Liz: Wow. Working on my digestion significantly improved my health, but it took a while. That’s amazing this modality had such a profound and immediate impact on your health. Can you describe panchakarma?
When you read about panchakarma it might not tell you much, since it is always so individualized, a general treatment is very hard to describe. You’ll mostly find lists of the library of treatments ayurvedic doctors choose from. Panchakarma is the most intensive (but very gentle) treatment of Ayurveda.
It is truly a detox, a reset, a rebuild and rejuvenation of your body.
The rejuvenation part is called rasayana and comes after panchakarma, and depending on your condition you will take herbs or similar strengthening measures for months. All treatments are individualized, but they all generally consist of lymph massage (abhyanga), sweating using steam (swedana), medicated oil enemas (basti, for Vata conditions), purgation (virechana, for Pitta conditions), medically induced vomiting (vamana, for Kapha conditions) and medicated oil in the sinuses (nasya, for all conditions, Ayurveda sees the sinuses as a gateway to the brain and the nervous system).
Panchakarma is not done or is postponed when the patient is in a very weakened state and it is deemed to do more harm than good. Then other ayurvedic measures will be taken.
Panchakarma must always be done by a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner and be overseen by an Ayurvedic trained doctor.
You can’t just decide you want to do panchakarma, the practitioner has to deem it safe. But if they don’t want to do panchakarma on you right now, don’t worry, they have plenty of other tools and they will want to help you :). Find a local practitioner or travel to one if you can.
If you want to hear more about my treatment, then please watch this video. Please keep in mind that my treatment was tailored exactly to me and might do damage if recreated by someone else. The purpose of the video is to inspire you to look into Ayurveda for yourself and find an ayurvedic practitioner or an ayurvedic doctor :).
Video: Vera describes panchakarma (starts 18:05):
Liz: How did the panchakarma treatment help?
Vera: The night before the beginning of my treatment I cried because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to walk the stairs to let the practitioner in.
Day 5 I decluttered my closet and tidied the kitchen and felt great! Day 7 I had my first walk (about 400 meters). Day 10 I took a cab to the clinic downtown and did the treatment there instead of at home! It was my first trip outside on my own in years! Day 12 I had a friend over! And the last two days of treatment, I took the bus both ways, which included walking to and from the bus stops both at home and downtown!
Also, my tongue looked better every single day of treatment, before treatment it was covered in a 4 mm gray coating with black spots, which cleared up in symmetrical patterns day by day! I also felt a lot less stiff, my eyes were clearer and my energy levels were high and stable.
I was very underweight and had zero muscles, but I was back.
Liz: Do you think there was a spiritual element to releasing all the toxins your body was storing?
Vera: Definitely. Ayurveda has an explanation for this. When you do a panchakarma, your body becomes so clean, the channels are open and everything suddenly starts flowing. And now you’ll feel the urge to solve your karma and do and learn the things you are meant to do in this life. I suddenly had this newfound clarity on my parents and my childhood, even though it was painful to accept, it had to be done.
I have heard from other people how their life completely changed after panchakarma. You can read stories about this online. I’ve read about others who were suddenly “attacked” by repressed memories a few months after panchakarma, and they were forced to digest and deal with what they had repressed.
Things are still coming up for me (it’s like my subconscious has hiccups and vomits every other day) and I have to journal it out to process it. But then it has been digested and it is no longer weighing me down. I used to have this painful lump in my chest, which completely disappeared after one of these repressed-trauma-digestion-sessions of mine! It hasn’t come back.
I gradually feel lighter and lighter, and my external reality (life, job, house etc) changes for the better as I do this inner work (it’s like after I’ve done a section of inner work some kind of external upgrade suddenly enters my life).
This physical purification really sets things in motion! It opened the can of worms and it set me freeee!
Liz: Thanks for sharing your experience with panchakarma. Can you tell us more about Ayurveda, the system it comes from?
Vera: Ayurveda is the traditional health system of India; it comes from the Vedas (ancient scriptures where yoga also comes from). It is a complete health system that centers around digestion. It views well-functioning or malfunctioning digestion as the root cause of good or bad health.
In the West, we have very low standards for what is considered good digestion, we think gas, bloating, burping and acid reflux is normal. It is not. These are all considered indigestion.
I didn’t even know it was possible to not have a single fart after a meal, BUT IT IS!
Every tiny digestive discomfort is a sign of imbalance which can easily be addressed during the next meal if cooked and eaten correctly (well cooked and eaten in a relaxing environment while feeling calm).
Ayurveda categorizes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as a “disease of indigestion,” and this definitely was the case for me!
I had severe indigestion for 3 years before the onset of fatigue. The explanation is: when you do not digest properly the body is depleted over time as you’re not building your tissues or removing your wastes properly.
This leads to fatigue and general depletion (and is the root cause of all illnesses). It also causes mental illness (though this goes both ways, digestion disturbs the mind and the mind disturbs digestion).
Your stress, your diet and how and when you eat must be dealt with for optimal digestion.
Liz: That definitely makes sense. What Ayurvedic principles helped you improve your digestion and energy?
Vera: For me, eating more cooked than raw foods has eliminated bloating. And eating more in line with Ayurvedic recommendations for my body type (Pitta) has helped my skin a lot.
Making lunch my main meal of the day has really improved my energy levels.
I made a video with Ayurvedic tips for improving digestion and energy levels that I hope you’ll find helpful. In this video, I explain the Ayurvedic concept “Agni” (the digestive fire) and how to care for it!
Video: Vera shares 5 Ayuvedic tips for improving digestion and energy levels
Liz: Are you still practicing Ayurveda today?
Vera: Yes! Ayurveda is also a bunch of guidelines for illness prevention and avoiding seasonal complaints.
Ayurveda taught me how to regulate my digestion and energy levels and how to continue doing it every day. I continue to live a lifestyle and eat a diet suitable for my body type.
I learned we create our health every day and you can create and uncreate imbalances very quickly.
My diet changes with the seasons, the state my body is in (dry, moist, hot, cold etc.) and always takes in account my body type.
Liz: What did you eat before you changed your diet?
Vera: I used to eat very lightly and often throughout the day, and then have a big dinner.
Sandwiches or crispy crackers used to be my lunches (so much bloating!). And often yoghurt for snacks (hello acid reflux). And then I would often eat spaghetti with tomato sauces for dinner (so much acid reflux and eczema, concentrated tomato is not recommended for Pitta types).
Liz: What are you typically eating now?
Vera: For breakfast, I often eat cooked oats with dates and maple syrup.
For lunch, which is now my largest meal, I often eat some chicken, grains (couscous, quinoa, rice, etc.) and steamed vegetables.
Dinner is often steamed vegetables and grains too, a smaller amount of meat or lentils instead.
If I get hungry in between meals I usually have apples or pears (recommended for the pitta body type as they are cooling). I don’t eat before bed, I often have some warm milk instead.
Liz: Were you cured after your panchakarma treatment?
Vera: Health is created every day. After the treatment I noticed some symptoms returned when I didn’t follow the ayurvedic guidelines in my diet or lifestyle.
So there’s treatment – and then there’s your new lifestyle that creates health in your mind and body. I am still working on this, it takes time.
But around March 2019 I noticed that some of my symptoms were returning, especially headaches, but only at certain times of day. And these times were only when my parents were home. And that’s when I finally realized that it was them causing me stress that was the true root cause, and it would all happen again if I stayed and let them continue to treat me like that.
April 2019, I left on a bike. June 2019, I sent a letter initiating a lifelong no-contact-regime. Now (May 2020) I still have complex PTSD which is very Vata vitiating (leads to dry skin, constipation, loss of menstruation etc), but this is slowly getting better.
I have so much energy and I truly feel strong and healthy. Now I just need to follow the ayurvedic guidelines for the season and for my body type – and I’ll continue to have amazing health!
Liz: I’m so glad you found something that helped you heal and now thrive. What other things have helped you do this?
Vera: To truly heal, I needed to remove the cause (go no-contact with my parents) and to process and release all stored trauma and emotions in my body.
I journal a lot, breathe through emotions (just let them come) and I’m in therapy (my first good experience with therapy).
Liz: How did therapy help?
Vera: My first experience with therapy was a bad one, after my plan to starve myself when I was 16 as a cry for help didn’t work out, I was first sent to a psychiatric facility for 3 weeks. I only had superficial and invalidating conversations with the staff there. They didn’t dig at all into my home life. When it became clear that I was going “home” instead of going into foster care where I’d surely be safer and freer – I tried to kill myself.
When I woke up, I thought “dammit!” Of course I’m happy to be alive now – I just wish I didn’t have to go through all this unnecessary suffering. The long term therapist I was assigned invalidated me and said things like “stop worrying” and “we all end up like our parents anyway.”
Looking back, the “therapy” I received back then only trapped me deeper. Had I gotten real help back then I don’t think I would’ve had to go through the second round of suffering in university.
That being said, finding a good therapist, who understood the deep level of abuse I had been through and also believed in my recovery, has been a key part of my healing journey.
When my current therapist said “I am so sorry on behalf of the health care system for what happened to you. You were not seen or helped,” I cried for 6 hours straight.
Talk about release, huh! Now, I actually notice improvements in myself, my feelings and patterns after sessions. I didn’t know therapy could actually work, and work quickly! I want to warn others that if your therapist makes you feel invalidated or straight up mocks you – then SWITCH!
Liz: Yeah. Many people write off therapy forever after a poor experience. What made you consider giving it second chance?
I’m very used to doing things on my own, I even figured out how to heal from chronic fatigue syndrome on my own, without the help of doctors!
I thought I could do it on my own with journaling and meditation, and I do think you can, but throw a good therapist into the mix and you’re on the recovery highway, girl!
A friend of mine who is a doctor convinced me to give it one more chance and helped me write a short summary of everything that had happened (it helped a lot, it was much easier to give the doctor something written instead of trying to explain the whole shebang in person while being nervous and emotional).
I also realized it would be safe now, since I had already realized that the last therapy I received was crap – and that I could trust myself to leave or switch therapists if it happened again. I would never be trapped in horrible therapy again.
And I wanted to do it properly, the processing of trauma I mean. And on the first try, I found a good one :). I had a good gut feeling when I applied, I thought “This time the universe will provide me with someone who actually knows how to facilitate real healing, and I know this because I’m ready for it!”
Liz: How did journaling help you release things? When did you begin doing this.
I used to burn the few things I ever wrote, I’ve only written 2 journals throughout my entire life until I went no contact. It was not safe to look inside, it was a direct threat to my survival to feel my feelings or express them in any way, even in writing.
Every time I tried, all this anger would bubble up and I thought this was evidence of my “badness” and thought it best not to look inside after that. My parents made me deeply believe I was bad, evil and that there was something wrong with me. I didn’t want to look inside and find evidence of this.
After I went no contact in June 2019, it was like the dam burst and I wrote 2 journals a week!
Journaling is an essential tool for me now. I can finally communicate with myself and release everything I have been repressing.
I do it when I feel overwhelmed, when I wake up after nightmares with painful feelings, to write down quotes I find on Youtube, Instagram or in books, or for pure self-discovery and curiosity about myself and what I want. Below is a picture of all the journals I have filled since going no contact. It was like a dam burst and everything came flooding and flowing.
When I look at this picture I feel like the length of this row of journals represents how far I have walked on the road to myself, how far I have come. I feel very proud.
Liz: You should be proud! I didn’t journal until I was 32, and now I’ve gone through at least 20. I love your journal messages and mantras that you’ve shared below.
Liz: You earlier mentioned emotional release techniques. Can you share?
Thank you, started at 26, better late than never! Some people spend their entire life running from their inner world, so I think we’re doing pretty well!
Just let your feelings come, cry, get angry, let your stress rise, it needs to come so it can go.
Write it out, breathe it out, sigh, sing, chant (yogic mantras, chanting brings up a lot of things to be cleared), scream, take a walk and imagine letting more and more go for every step, do EFT (emotional freedom technique or “tapping). Turn on a timer for 30 minutes or similar if you’re afraid of getting lost in the feelings :).
In the future I would like to try trauma-focused yoga, or yoga for PTSD. I’ve already experienced emotions coming up during stretching, they really are stored in the body! I want to let it all go!
Video: Here’s a video Vera just made on how to feel your feelings
Liz: Your channel is such a wonderful resource. What are some of your favorite resources for emotionally healing? It seems like you have quite a few from your website.
Aaron Doughty: YouTube videos on taking your power back, how to change your patterns and let go of your old beliefs. He had a narcissistic ex-step-mom and he really knows how to move on from this.
Candace van Dell: YouTube channel. Hands down an emotional wounds expert. She goes beyond any therapy I’ve ever received, her videos are just amazing.
Liz: How are you creating a new identity for yourself?
Vera: Just doing new things, picking up projects and interests I dropped during my upbringing (like rewatching Powerpuff Girls, LOVE IT!!), and experimenting with style!
I used to play the cello (much serious, yes) but it didn’t really suit my personality, so last fall I began taking dancehall dance classes (had never taken a dance class in my life!), and it was so much fun!
Building a capsule wardrobe has been the most important thing I can point to in reconnecting with my true self (except for journaling).
Liz: This is really interesting to me. And fun. Can you explain?
Vera: A capsule wardrobe is a small wardrobe (between 20-50 items excluding socks and underwear, including shoes, purses and outerwear), where everything goes together and fits you very well.
To create a capsule wardrobe I had to reflect on questions like what type of lifestyle do I have, what cuts suit me the best, what colours do I like?
It took me a long time to create, but now I have a wardrobe consisting of around 40 items in burgundy, yellow, pink and many shades of green. I have a “uniform” I wear every day which consists of high waist jeans, a t-shirt, a sweater, a cool jacket and some crazy earrings.
I feel joy when I open my closet, and I feel like I am truly expressing all the energy and colour inside me when I dress!
Video: Vera explains the power of minimalism and authentic self-expression
Liz: I love your new style and am inspired to experiment more myself. What’s your dream?
Vera: To be someone who helps people and catalyzes their healing and growth, to continually learn and teach, to be a YouTuber, have a cat, be a coach/Ayurvedic healer (who also can teach meditation and yoga) and a fantasy writer :).
Liz: I love it. I’m going to come visit your Ayurvedic office one day. You’re going to help so many people!
Vera: Yeess, then we’ll talk about healing and growth for hours!! Thank you for the opportunity to share my story, Liz!
And thank YOU for reading. I am rooting for you! You will rise again and it will be glorious.
(Send me a pic of you living your best life when you feel better, it’ll give me LIFE!)
How you can follow Vera:
You can learn more about Vera’s inspiring journey on her website, follow her on Instagram, and subscribe to her inspirational new YouTube channel for CFS/ME, IBS, and emotional abuse recovery.
Her channel contains many informative, uplifting, and well-produced videos on healing modalities like Ayurveda and her transformation to an authentic life.