By Desiree Lee
Health is not valued till sickness comes. These words by Thomas Fuller resonate in my mind as I sit looking out my window at the beautiful native trees and green pastures of the Makarua Valley, North of Auckland where I call home.
I have always felt a connection to nature, not necessarily a spiritual connection but a sense of calm and rejuvenation that it brings me. As a child I grew up in rural northland. My parents were share milkers and we moved around to a few different farms in the area, each one presenting my siblings and myself with a new and exciting landscape full of natural bush and rivers to explore. Then in my early teens my family moved to Auckland.
As you can imagine this came as quite a shock to me, moving from amazing wide-open spaces to – in my eyes – a concrete jungle.
After High School I joined the Conservation Corps which got me back into the outdoors with other young people, assisting the Department of Conservation on various projects such as weeding on remote Hauraki Gulf islands. From there I moved onto outdoor pursuits and learning how to abseil and rock climb.
Although I have continued to live in Auckland since then, that deep longing inside me to be surrounded by nature has never left. It is this connection that prompted me to explore health and nutrition as a career path. Like most people I always wanted to be healthy, but growing up in an average kiwi home watching what we ate and the products that we used on ourselves and in our home were never front of mind. We lived as many families do, using anti-bacterial and chemical laden products on our bodies because this was the norm, and eating a diet with little or no nutritional value.
Then I became a mother. Motherhood is the most precious thing in life, but can also be the most challenging.
You discover a love that you never knew existed, and that love compels you to do everything in your power to protect your child from harm.
If, like me, you have a child that has health issues then you want, no have to, help fix them and after the birth of my second child my health journey began.
As a baby my daughter Nicole had terrible Eczema. I tried a number of different creams and steroids prescribed by our doctor but nothing seemed to help. At just one year old she developed allergies that required us to carry an EpiPen. I made sure that those things that would trigger her allergies were avoided but I still didn’t really know anything about natural health. At the age of three she started to develop a number of strange behavioural issues that became increasingly difficult to deal with. She had issues with wearing clothes as the feeling of most fabrics on her skin would irritate her, pushing her into complete meltdown mode until she disrobed. To get her to wear anything was a major undertaking making even a simple outing to the local shops a major event.
Even without clothes she would have times when her skin would itch and her eyes would become red and sore leading to, you guessed it, another meltdown of epic proportions.
Night time was also a challenge with her regularly waking during the night. Any attempt to help her settle was met with anger and screaming. OCD symptoms also began appearing with things needing to be a certain way, doors that had to stay closed, wiping her feet exactly six times before they were clean among the list.
Entering parking buildings also became problematic. Even if car windows were closed (which she insisted upon) she would cry and spit when you entered saying it “tasted yucky”, as if the air inside the carpark itself caused her distress.
Her anger and outbursts became so bad that it was hard to have a conversation with her.
In an attempt to prepare her for school, we sent her to kindy. It took her three terms going three half days a week before she was able to be left without incident. This was one of the darkest times in my life and I know my husband and son were struggling too. Our lives were filled with yelling and crying, and the only reprieve came when my daughter was away at kindy. The thing that broke my heart was the day my little girl came to me crying and said “I’m so sorry Mum, I don’t know why I’m like this.” It was like for a brief moment she was released from the nightmare that we were all trapped in, just long enough to apologise for something that she had no control over. This moment of clarity ignited my resolve, my little girl was a prisoner and I was going to move Heaven and Earth to help her.