As in my practice, where I like to trace one’s health and story from early on, I think that sharing my story from a young age will give you a better sense of who I am and how I approach health and the challenges that my patients must overcome with their illness. From a very early age, I was fascinated with health and the psyche. I used to often prefer watching and listening to the interactions of adults over playing with peers, I eschewed junk food served at birthday parties to kids – something intuitively seemed wrong about bright neon candies and icing and luncheon meat with macaroni noodles and bright orange cheese embedded in it…I still am not sure why other kids found it so exciting! I loved to do the family grocery shopping at our local health food store…and I loved to read and to learn. When asked to say grace at the table once (and not sure what to say coming from a non-religious family), I thanked God for the food on the table from each of the four food groups…which elicited laughter – but I thought it was worth being thankful for! A quote I recall reading when I was young at our little village health food store has rang true with me from when I read it to this day ‘You should absolutely refuse to be anything but healthy’.
As a child and young adult, I experienced odd symptoms that doctors could not figure out and which led to considerable frustration, confusion, and at times, isolation. It would be much later before I came to appreciate that I likely had undiagnosed food allergies and could probably be considered a highly sensitive person or ‘HSP’ and empath and was somaticizing stress that knew no other outlet. Despite what doctors may have said or implied, it was not all in my head nor something I could will away.
In my efforts to be well, I taught myself to cook at a young age and read a lot about nutrition – especially as I became a competitive swimmer as a young teen and had to be very mindful of what I ate and what medicines I took. Athletics taught me a great deal about health and psychology even as they took a considerable toll on both. As I embarked on university studies, it was clear to me that I wanted to study the health sciences, but less clear how to integrate all that I saw as interrelated and interesting. I finally accepted that double majors in neurology and psychology or nutrition and botany were not feasible and so decided on nutritional biochemistry (which I later rounded out with naturopathic studies and additional study in psychology and psychiatry).
Some of my most significant health challenges and learning in my life thus far came about as a result of a solo half-year trip to Asia. There, in India and Nepal, I contracted typhoid fever and another gastrointestinal (GI) infection. These infections led not only to GI issues, but I observed firsthand what an impact the GI had on psychological and neurological functioning. These health issues were occurring as I was beginning my naturopathic studies and further spurred my interest in the interrelationships between mental and physical health.
In medical school, it was often said that mental health issues needed to be addressed with physical health issues, but somehow little focus was given in treatment and case management to addressing both together it seemed…or to harnessing the insight and capacity of the mind to help heal the body. So I began to read voraciously on Jungian psychology, energetic medicines and phenomena, focused my studies in homeopathy (an energetic modality that sees mental and physical health as inextricably linked) and continued to learn about nutritional means to support the gut-brain axis. I sought preceptorships with psychiatrists, continued to pursue learning through my own healing (with Chinese medicine, homeopathy, nutrition, psychotherapy and other ‘interventions’ (hiking, climbing mountains, creating art and dancing)) and pursued research on integrative psychiatry through a National Institute of Health (NIH) postdoctoral research fellowship. My learning continues now through teaching, writing and my clinical work. I continue to feel honored to work with others seeking greater health and consciousness and to have the opportunity to help them towards becoming their best self.
When I am not teaching, seeing patients and learning more about health and psychology, I enjoy spending time with my husband and pets (a Maremma sheep dog and a variety of cats) at my home outside of Portland, swimming (especially in lakes), camping, hiking, skiing, gardening, cooking, antiquing, creating art and sewing.