When you collapse on 15th street and everyone keeps walking.

It was the first day of my senior year in high school.

The day had started off like any other — oversleep, throw on a uniform, brush teeth, and run out the door.

9am: I had my assigned locked, a new schedule in my hands, and an annoying stomach ache.

11am: I was laying in the nurse’s office, clutching my stomach as ache transformed into crippling nausea. 15 minutes later, she shooed me away from her room, repeating that it was ‘first-day nerves’.

I spent that evening in the emergency room. And the next night.

And so began the hardest years of my life.

Now I want you to imagine it: a nausea so intense you lay paralyzed. One where even turning over in bed, is impossible. One where eating anything leaves you weeping in agony. One where your father has to carry you to the bathroom. One where you prayed to die.

These ‘gastric attacks’ as I call them now, would come without warning. Sometimes every few weeks, if I was lucky, every few months.

I lived in terror.

What did I have, you ask? Well…I didn’t know. And neither did the army of specialists I saw. They would shrug their shoulders while looking at inconclusive charts, and suggest that perhaps I should see a therapist.

That first year I changed high school. My old school has told me I would have to repeat the year since I had missed so many days. And a week later, I was adjusting into my new private school. The change had cost my mother her entire retirement fund.

I call that the transition year.

By the following year, the initial shock had worn off like melted ice. My life changed shape, literally. I lost a lot of weight. My eyes were sunken in, and my skin was a dull grey. Anything I ate made me ill, so everything on my plate made me fearful. Every step I made was calculated to avoid triggering an attack.

And my friends? They disappeared.

This could be the end of the story, but it’s not.

All those doctors, the hospitals, and the pills had left me with 0 answers. None. I was angry. Frustrated. Desperate. So I decided to change my own fate — naturally.

I focused on three areas of my life

  1. Nutrition
  2. Fitness
  3. Traveling…a lot

These days, I can honestly tell you that I’ve tried pretty much every single real-ingredient diet out there. Vegan, Raw, Paleo, HCLF, SCD, and so many more. Have you ever eaten 9 bananas in a day? What about bone broth and cranberry jello for a week straight?

Little did I know that I was actually eating things that made my digestive system feel worse. With every step forward I took, it felt like I was taking two steps back. I remember the worst point. It was in Manhattan. Sitting in my college class, when I felt the gastric attack coming. A moment later, I raced out of the room.

‘Just make it home’ I told myself. Well, I didn’t make it.

I collapsed on 15th street with a knee-buckling wave of nausea. Laying on the sidewalk, I couldn’t move and could barely speak. Everyone walked past. Most people would side-step me with a look of disgust, assuming I was a drug addict. It was a defining moment.

But why tell you this? I want to make it clear that improvement is not a straight line. There will be trial and error. Just as there will be learning curves.

My own learning curve appeared gradually.

I discovered foods that made me feel better. I ate more of them.

I explored crazy new forms of fitness: flying trapeze, sword fighting, kangoo jumps, and more.

I moved internationally 12 times over the course of 3 years.

Gradually, I needed less antibiotics.

As of writing this, it’s been 3 years since my last gastric attack.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

Pain makes us change. But we choose whether or not to let the change make us grow. It’s impossible to forget those very difficult days in the past. But it is possible to use them as a marker for how far you’ve come.

Today, I am a certified personal trainer. My AI-driven food and meal planning website, www.bravabod.com, is launching early 2019. And I am also building a vacation wellness startup, www.retreatKit.com.

It’s safe to say I chose to let the pain help me grow.

What would you choose?

Thanks for reading! :)

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