A 7 Year Health Struggle Finally Led to Answers for Liz O'Carroll

A 7 Year Health Struggle Finally Led to Answers for Liz O'Carroll

Liz O’Carroll had been dealing with strange digestive issues, food sensitivities and depression on and off throughout her twenties, which all came to a head when she was suddenly diagnosed with 5 serious health conditions within an 18-month span. Her health journey involved 7 years of pain, doctors visits, frustration and no answers until she finally saw a functional medicine doctor and started getting some relief. Read more about her experience below!

Liz’s story is part of Rupa Health’s new Be Your Own Healthcare Advocate series, where we share the stories of patients who take their health issues and wellbeing into their own hands.

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Tell us about your health story. What were you experiencing or struggling with?

Around the time I turned 30, I was diagnosed with spinal osteoarthritis, PCOS, hypothyroidism, lymph edema and leaky gut within about an 18 month period. This was after experiencing digestive issues and struggling with food sensitivities and depression on and off for years. I was a sick kid and always was a slow healer, but all these health issues just didn't make sense to me given my healthy lifestyle and clean diet. 

When did you realize something wasn't right? What symptoms were you experiencing?

I started experiencing increased sensitivity to foods, skin reactions, mood swings, severe nerve pain in my leg and a variety of symptoms that were difficult to pinpoint. I struggled on and off with these symptoms and chronic pain for far longer than I should have, had I received the right care and diagnoses.

Tell us about your lowest point. What happened, how did you deal with it?

My lowest point was definitely recovering from back surgery. The pain came back within 6 weeks and it took about 2 years to fully recover. Everything was affected, from my digestion to my mental health. It was the hardest thing I've ever been through. I dealt with it by simplifying my life, my diet and my routine so I could focus on healing. Acupuncture, an anti-inflammatory diet, and pilates were my saving graces. 

What was the most frustrating part of your journey? 

When I finally found a functional medicine doctor that seemed to be on to something in terms of getting some answers, I still ended up disappointed in the standard of care. So many doctors are overworked and have little time to truly focus on guiding an individual's healing journey in the way I had hoped he would. 

I've learned that you have to be an active participant in your healing journey. Your role is just as important as any caregivers. 

What was a high moment or a turning point in your journey?

When I finally wasn't in daily pain anymore. 

How has this experience impacted or shaped your life today?

I've learned that you have to be an active participant in your healing journey. Your role is just as important as any caregivers. 

What motivated you to keep going in search of answers? What made you determined to find a solution? 

I'm very stubborn. I refused to accept a lower quality of life for myself. The days when I felt mentally and physically well gave me hope and showed me it was possible, I just had to figure out how to feel well more consistently!

How did holistic or integrative care shape your journey?

The only caregivers that have given me hope, answers and have helped me heal have been in holistic/integrative care. I've never had a positive experience with doctors otherwise. 

I struggled on and off for about 7 years before I started getting some answers that helped me put the puzzle pieces together. 

How difficult was it for you to find a holistic or integrative practitioner? What were the main barriers here? 

Cost. Functional medicine practitioners, acupuncturists, etc are often not covered by insurance and/or don't take insurance. 

How are you doing today, and how do you define “being healthy”?

I feel mentally and physically better than I have in my entire adult life. To stay healthy, I prioritize sleep, stress management, whole food nutrition, meaningful work and mindful movement. I put my health above everything. 

I believe being healthy is about feeling mentally and physically well enough to take advantage of all that life has to offer.

What does it mean to you to "be your own health advocate"? 

It means you take your health into your own hands by reading/researching as much as you can, asking in depth questions, preparing for your visits with caregivers to make the most of your time with them, challenging recommended protocols and not being afraid to speak up when your gut tells you something is wrong. Most importantly, it means sharing the responsibility for your mental and physical health, instead of just hoping and trusting that your doctors will handle it all. 

What advice do you have for someone that's trying to figure out their own health concerns?

Don't give up, trust your gut and buckle down. It can take years to get the answers you seek, but if you learn to be an advocate for yourself and prioritize your health over everything, you will get your answers.

Liz is now working as a holistic health coach, speaker, and the founder of Misfit Wellness, an online platform centered around making healthy lifestyles accessible to everyone. Her own struggles with hormonal issues, food sensitivities, digestive conditions, and more led her on a long health journey for the physical and mental wellness she knew she deserved.

Find Liz on Instagram, Linkedin, and drop by her Facebook page!

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