My final Lyme Disease Awareness Month guest post is by Kat Woods, who created the wonderful and adorably illustrated Lyme, food, and wellness blog HopeHealCook. In addition to being an extremely talented writer and illustrator, Kat is also a gifted chef and recipe developer. She knows a ton about nutrition and has worked to heal her Lyme naturally. Please check out her story and her supercool, hand-inked cartoons.
My name is Kat Woods. I was born in Florida, grew up in California, went to college in Portland, Oregon, and now call Seattle, Washington, home. My formative years instilled in me a voracious love of citrus, but I’m a Pacific Northwest girl through and through: I looove cold, gray, rainy days!
I’ve always been “artistic.” My dad was very artistically talented, so I think I got it from him. I’m completely self-taught, and honestly I have so much to learn, especially when it comes to figure drawing and such. My brother took art classes and he’s really incredible. I had terrible self-esteem though—I was too fragile to put myself in any situation where my efforts at art might be criticized, judged, or graded. I’ve done a lot to heal my confidence and would love to take some cartooning classes now.
Food was another thing I was really into, and I ended up going to culinary school. I grew up in a really dysfunctional family and we didn’t eat together often. Out of necessity, I learned how to cook for myself and my little brother. I enjoyed being able to feed us; it was always an act of love. Preparing food turned out to be my love language, and preparing healthy food was just an extension of that.
Food can also be art and that’s what made me want to go into professional cooking. I’m really into fancy-pants food styling, but being seriously ill radically changed my cooking style. I used to love creating laborious gourmet recipes, but now my cooking style is pretty simple. I lived with chronic fatigue for many years, so my recipes had to be fairly “fatigue friendly.” Now I include Fatigue Friendly Instructions in many of my recipe posts because I know how hard it is to cook when you’re permanently exhausted.
I was symptomatic since I was really young, basically as far back as I can remember. I grew up in California and was bitten by numerous ticks, so it’s hard to pinpoint when I contracted Lyme disease. It’s even possible I was born with it, as my mom is from Connecticut, which is Lyme Ground Zero.
For a long time, I thought living with chronic pain was normal. For years I just powered through by abusing sugar and caffeine and surviving on very little sleep. My health completely collapsed shortly after I finished college. By my mid-twenties, I was bedridden.
It took nearly 18 years to figure out what was going on with me medically. I’d been diagnosed as being mentally ill, and for years my doctors wrote off my physical symptoms as being “all in my head,” since I was already marked as “crazy.” A lot of women run into similar problems, and it’s just awful. As for treatments, while I was using Western medicine, it was all about prescriptions. I can’t believe how many pills I was on back then.
My first big turning point happened when I started working with a naturopathic doctor. When I finally switched to an out-of-pocket naturopath, my condition was critical. My organs were starting to fail and I was so weak I had a hard time keeping anything down. It was only when I started working with naturopaths that I underwent comprehensive testing for pathogens, heavy metals, nutritional deficiencies, food intolerances, and other issues. And what do you know? It wasn’t all in my head! That comprehensive approach saved my life.
The other things that have been most impactful for my healing were:
- Switching to a diet that focused on anti-inflammatory whole foods. This took time (giving up Ben & Jerry’s was HARD!), but I truly believe how I eat is the foundation of how I healed. Diet is that important.
- Consciously deciding to stop beating myself up all the time and to start loving myself instead. Self-love changes everything. It’s the ultimate medicine.
- Coming to believe in and trust an unconditionally loving Higher Power (this was actually harder than giving up the Ben & Jerry’s). For me, chronic illness was Spiritual Bootcamp. My spiritual practices and growing faith got me through the long, hard years of illness and healing.
- Finding a Lyme-literate doctor. After finding an LLND (Lyme-literate naturopathic doctor), I was finally correctly diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. Only then was I able to start a successful treatment protocol for healing Lyme and its bazillion coinfections.
For years I was really isolated. I didn’t have friends in my area with chronic illness, so discovering the online Lyme and chronic illness communities was huge for me. I decided to start my blog, HopeHealCook.com as a way to connect with those communities and share how I was healing, including what I was eating.
I started HopeHealCook back before it occurred to me to include my “doodles.” At that time, drawing was difficult because of the extent of my neurological symptoms. My hands shook too much for careful inking. As I healed, I regained the ability to draw again, and I started including more illustrations. At this point my posts are fully illustrated (apart from food photos for my recipes), which I love.
I’m currently working on a collection of comics about having neurological illness. They are entirely based on real-life situations—I realized I could either cry about the severity of my neurological symptoms or laugh about ‘em. I decided to laugh. The tentative title is “Life with Lymebrain” (Lymebrain is a cartoon brain that has nooo idea what’s going on).
Find some of the recipes I’ve created in these Paleo AIP (autoimmune Paleo) community e-cookbooks.
I also designed a FREE coloring book that uses affirmations to support your healing, which you can get here.
To learn more about Lyme disease, check out Lyme Disease Challenge and Project Lyme. (There are many great websites, but these sites are well-organized and easy to read and navigate.) To find a Lyme-literate practitioner, go to ILADS.org, Global Lyme Alliance, or Lymenet.org.
I wish everyone a low-symptoms day and “Happy” Awareness Month! 💚 If you want to see my other awareness art guest posts, just type “Spoonie Artist Guest Post” into the search bar. (When my brain fog allows, I’m going to make a single page for all the posts.)