My 2 Days with The Big “Z”

Most of you who know me or have been following Karma Chow for a while, know that I have been struggling with some health issues over this last year and a half. Namely, exhausted adrenals, hypothyroidism and the dreaded Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS.)

I have been on a journey for this last year to heal myself, which was part of the reason I left Los Angeles, or City of Crazy, as I call it, and moved to Santa Barbara, aka Blissville. Can you see why?

This is the view from our dog park..yes, dog park! This is the view from our dog park..yes, dog park!

Over the course of this time, I have seen many different kinds of people to help me with my healing; naturopaths, hormone specialists, nutritionists of all kinds, kinesiologists, acupuncturists, massage therapists and more.  I have literally spent thousands of dollars, been poked and prodded, peed in many cups, and I am still struggling in a lot of ways.

My life for the past 20 years has been built around healing naturally and healing my body through clean eating, yoga and exercise. Which is how Karma Chow and my passion to help others, came to be. This way of living is something that is NOW ingrained in me, a strong belief system, if you will, because it worked for me, up until about 2 weeks ago, when I had to seek out other help (when I refer to “other,” I mean traditional medicine.)

Now, I know some of you may be thinking, well, if this is what you do for a living, why can’t you heal yourself with all the knowledge you have? And I have, up until a certain point. Eating a clean, vegan diet has saved my life in many ways, but I hit a wall with my healing and these new “dis-eases” in my body, and I couldn’t figure out how to heal or feel better without extra support. So I had to turn to people who have way more knowledge than I do.

As a child, I suffered from asthma, migraines, allergies, IBS, TMJ and more. A lot of this was food related, and a lot of it was emotionally related too. I had a rough upbringing with a lot of emotional turmoil, and as a kid, I didn’t know what to do with my emotions. I wasn’t taught how to express them, or to know that they are just emotions and they are not good or bad, they just are (if you are a parent reading this, teaching your kids how to express their emotions, healthfully, can save them from a lifetime of health issues.)

So, in the process of not knowing how to express my emotions, or feeling the support to do so, I stuffed them all down, and kept silent, or I identified with them, which made me feel bad and broken. This resulted in ill-health.

When I began my spiritual and clean eating journey many years ago, all of these illnesses I mentioned above (IBS, migraines, etc) healed over time. Now granted, I still had emotional stuff, and always will. I am human after all, but over the years I have compiled a pretty nice size tool box full of some shiny tools to help me through the emotional storms when they happen. But sometimes, I would find myself in situations where I was sitting on the floor with all the tools strewn around me and they just didn’t work, or seemed a bit rusty, if you will.

This leads me to present day and the WHY I am now living with CFS, Adrenal Exhaustion & Hormonal imbalances. I almost said, “fighting” and not “living with,” but the way I see it, the more we fight against something, the more it will persist, so I am learning to gracefully live with these things, while taking the positive action to heal.

There are so many campaigns out there that are termed, “war on cancer, war on violence, etc”…it just seems like a going to war with something, or someone, never really fixes the problem, it just exacerbates it more, and keeps us in a negative mindset.

I’m not sure if you know about CFS, but it’s a mystery disease to many,
even doctors. It’s basically caused by the body fighting viruses that
will always exist there, once contracted. As a kid, without even knowing
it, I contracted Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), otherwise known as MONO (the
kissing disease.) I have no idea when I got it, but I suspect it was
when I had a bout with walking pneumonia in my very early twenties. I
also picked up a couple others along the way, and with my immunity not
being strong as a child, my body was throwing a welcoming party for
these immune blasters.

Little did I know, until about a year ago, after my functional nutritionist recommended I do a specific viral blood test, that I had all of these so-called dormant viruses in my system. These not-so-nice suckers will live there for my lifetime, and if I am put under a tremendous amount of emotional stress, or any kind of stress, they will reactivate and wreak havoc to my system, thus Chronic Fatigue. My body is constantly battling against itself, not to mention a low working thyroid and exhausted adrenals, which can all be a result of the CFS.

As you may imagine, these things have taken a toll on my emotional health as well. I went through 2 pretty rough years of an emotionally abusive relationship, and with my body constantly being in Fight or Flight and survival mode, all of these things were brewing under the surface. I guess I should’ve known considering I lost a tremendous amount of weight, weighing in at 124 and standing at 5’11” and couldn’t keep it on, no matter what I ate (yes, I know some of you would beg for this to happen, but not at the price I paid…although I do have to admit, my ego-driven, feel-loved-for-the way-I-look part of myself loved being that thin for a while, but that’s not real, that’s insanity! And to top it off, that’s not where my body can function. All of our bodies have a natural weight where they work best at.

Once I left the relationship, which took some time, and a long time to forgive myself for staying, my body shut down. I didn’t have to be in fight or flight anymore, and I hit a proverbial (very thick) wall and couldn’t get out of bed.

I had a constant course of
stress and cortisol running through my system for these 2 years, which
activated those little intruding, but dormant viruses. AND, to top it
off, my thyroid stopped working properly, my hair started falling out,
my digestion was a mess, I couldn’t sleep, yet I couldn’t get out of
bed. I had ZERO energy. I started to feel down, and like I was slipping
into a depression.

I was taken off of exercise because of my poor little adrenals and the fact that my blood pressure was so low, I would faint occasionally. Now exercise is the one thing that actually helps CFS (and I love it,) but because of my adrenals being so exhausted, exercise would just exacerbate things (extreme exercise puts undue stress on the body.) So all of those feel good chemicals that come from exercise were no longer available to me, including serotonin, and my body was depleted.

I began to gain weight, about 20 lbs worth in a year..and it wasn’t good old lean muscle, it was that icky, gooey stuff that most of us don’t really like. My body felt out of control, flabby and just plain bad. As clean as I ate, I just kept putting on weight.

I know I needed to put on a few, because I was tired of my friends telling me how gaunt I looked, but I couldn’t control it anymore. My body was just doing it’s own thing and I couldn’t do anything about it. Now for someone who has struggled with emotional, body image related eating issues most of her young life, this was a huge challenge for me. One more thing to add to the mix!

For a full year and a half, I felt like crap. Sure there were some good days, but mostly my days were low, I was emotionally and physically exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep. I had insomnia and my cortisol was so messed up, that in the mornings I felt like I drank a bottle of Jack the night prior (you know what I’m talking about.) I never felt rested, ever!  I couldn’t stand to be around people, the things that I used to love to do, didn’t do it for me anymore. I just couldn’t find an ounce of joy anywhere. All I ached for was to feel like myself again, and I was scared I never would. I felt like my health was taken away from me and I would never get it back, and I was responsible for this!

About 2 weeks ago, I was invited back to be on LIVE TV in San Diego for the San Diego Living Show. I also received a very special invite to the book launch of my dear friend and celebrity yoga teacher, Many Ingber for her first book, Yogalosophy (which I penned the meal plans and recipes for and it’s awesome, so I suggest you pick up a copy) I was so excited for both and couldn’t wait, but my body had other ideas.

The weekend before these 2 amazing events, where I was actually going to finally meet Jennifer Aniston (yes, I think she’s super cool), my CFS came on with a vengeance. I spent 4 full days in bed, and the 6 days leading up to that, feeling like I was living with a permanent hangover that came from 3 bottles of Jack, not one! UGH!
When the days came for me to show up, I couldn’t. Not only was my body not doing what I needed it to (giving me energy, feeling alive, etc), but my spirits were in the tar pits (if you live in L.A., you know what I’m talking about.) To put it bluntly, I was EFFIN DEPRESSED.

I couldn’t take it anymore. My body was betraying me and I was missing HUGE opportunities that a lot of people live their whole lives for. Being on TV, meeting Jennifer Aniston and other awesome celebs, and seeing my dear friend launch her book. What the??  But I had to miss it. I couldn’t even pull myself up to get there, and FAKE it.  I was in serious pain, sadness and desolation. I just laid in bed and cried, not knowing what to do. Now my business was suffering along with the rest of my life.

All of this brought me to feel, enough is enough, I had to do something.  So, I talked to a dear friend of mine who is a psycho therapist and asked her about Anti-Depressants. WHAT??? Yes, you heard me. Now this is something I NEVER in my lifetime thought I would resort to. I am the “master” natural healer after all. But, I knew I needed something. I have friends who are on them, and knew others who received great benefit from them, so I bit the bullet and went to see a doc to get a prescription.

I cried in the doctor’s office, because I never thought I would be in this position. Now don’t get me wrong, I think drugs are great in a lot of cases, and they help a lot of people, but I have lived anti-drug for mostly all of my adult life, and for good reason. but this felt like I was battling a chemical deficiency, and it felt like I needed a little something to help me through.

So I walked out of the doc’s office with a script in hand for 50mg of The Big Z, Zoloft (the mildest, and oldest AD on the market, which means the least side effects.) BTW, I can’t tell you how easy it was to get a prescription without divulging much information, it kind of freaked me out, and now I really get why so many people have prescription drug addictions.

Anyway, I went right to the pharmacy, feeling a little shame, when the pharmacist took my prescription and looked at me funny, or so I perceived. I thought, “he’s going to know I’m screwed up.” And it was all just a huge projection of how I was feeling about myself inside.

I got the prescription and went home. That night, I took that little oblong blue pill before bed, and as I was swallowing it, I didn’t feel right. Something felt “off,” icky and bad. My strong belief system was being challenged and screaming at me, “this is not good for you, this is poison.” Now how good can it be to swallow something that is suppose to help me, but at the same time I am thinking it’s poison? Not very. I believe our thoughts are just as powerful as anything in our own healing, and these thoughts were not going to help me.

So that night, wouldn’t you know it, I had horrible nightmares, I didn’t sleep, I tossed and turned, I was nauseous, I got up 2x because I thought I was going to vomit, I felt out of control. My whole world was reeling. The next day was just as bad because I couldn’t come to terms with what my life had come to.

That next night, I did it one more time. This time, I tried to be more positive and tell myself that the Big Z was going to help me, but a very loud voice rang out as I was swallowing that little blue pill, “this is poison.”  Everything I had known up until this point felt like it was disappearing. Feelings that I haven’t experienced since I was a child were coming forward. I felt completely helpless and out of control!

The second night, again, horrible nightmares, insomnia in between. I was up all night staring at the ceiling feeling scared, alone and totally screwed up. I began to pray because that is all that I could do. The thought of not living felt easier than going through all this pain, for so long. Life seemed very grim.

The next day as I got out of bed, I said to myself, “that’s it, I’m done. I can’t do this, I can’t put this “poison” in my body.” So, I made an appointment to see my acupuncturist, because my body was in so much pain. I talked to her about my experience and she pointed out that my decision to take the drugs was obviously not aligned with my deeper truth, and came from a place of desperation. At that moment, I received a wave of clarity and made a informed (by my very intuitive gut) decision to not take the Big Z, and to figure out a way to heal myself from the inside out, naturally.

That night I went to bed, Z-free, and I slept really well (first miracle,) with a little help from melatonin. I didn’t have nightmares, and for the first time in over 2 years, I woke up feeling good (2nd miracle.) I didn’t feel like I was run over by a truck, something inside me felt different. I didn’t feel a heavy fog hanging over me (wow, so many miracles.)

I got out of bed, and sat down to meditate as I often do, and right after that, something inside me told me to unroll my yoga mat on the living room floor, which I hadn’t done in over a year because of how much my body hurt. I proceeded to do 90 minutes of yoga, on my own, letting my body move how it wanted.  It wasn’t easy, but it was SO powerful and freeing. I couldn’t believe the shift I was feeling. I was scared it would go away any second and I’d be back in that dark, deathening tunnel of despair. I just kept moving and breathing deeper than I ever had, and I felt my breath start to open up my body.

I can’t explain it, but all I know is that the very act of taking The Big Z, felt like the lowest, low I could ever go (side note: I do not believe this to be true for everyone, as some people need drugs to help them and I am totally in favor of that – we are all very different and that’s part of what I teach with clean eating) and it WOKE ME UP!

So today, over a week later, the fog is STILL gone. I have done yoga almost every day since that beautiful day filled with miracle after miracle, and I have been engaged in life again. I am breathing deeper, feeling my body, meditating daily and getting out again. The message that I received that first morning while I was meditating was, “get back to what really matters to you; yoga, meditation and your breath because these things have helped you so much on your journey to heal, in the past.”
It rang SO TRUE. It was like peals of church bells going off in my ears. I felt a BIG YES resounding through me, it truly felt like a miracle. And I can say that today, I am SO humbled by and grateful for my 2 days with the Big Z, because those 2 darkest days of my life opened me back up to the beauty of myself and my ability to heal. Thank God for those little, blue oblong pills.

Now this doesn’t mean that my adrenals are healed, my CFS gone and my hormones perfect, but what it does mean, is that I will continue on my healing journey, naturally with the addition of yoga & breathwork, which to me is one of the most powerful healers out there. The truth is, I was in such a low place that I couldn’t even feel the beauty of these things when I did them because of the cloud that hung around.

I’m not sure if this will stay with me, but while it’s here, I will relish in the deliciousness of it and I will always remember that morning I woke up, humbled by the presence of God in my life and the all-mighty universe supporting me when I took an intended action. It is a constant daily practice of awareness, positive intended action, and surrender. Surrender being the hardest of all.

I will also seek out natural ways to lift my mood like, St. John’s Wort, 5-HTP and serotonin producing foods. I hope that reading this has helped you in some way, and as I continue on my healing path, I will share my journey as I know that we all need the love and support.

With Love and Gratitude….

**(If you or someone you know
is suffering from depression, please seek help immediately, in whatever
realm you feel works for you!)

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Showing 35 comments
  • Jenn

    Wow…..I am so very sorry that you are dealing with these issues. Being hypothyroid (and having adrenal disease) I can relate to SO.MANY things that you have written. I know the "can’t sleep but can’t get out of bed" feeling so very well…..too well! One of my specialists tried to put me on AD but I refused. Like you said, they DO work for some people, I just wasn’t being properly treated for my hypothyroidism and felt that wasn’t my problem. I never saw him again.
    I will be sending healing prayers your way 🙂

  • melanie

    Well done for finding your way out! I can relate totally to your issues with food, Epstein-Barr and other badies slumbering in your bones waiting to strike and that feeling, the one that says something like "This is all too much. I am so bloody tired and I don’t want anything any more". I hope your path is less rocky in future.
    I found out that I have a bunch of low grade food intolerances which cause me no end of problems. It seems to me there are as many ways to get out of flow as there are to get in. I guess we all just need to swim out of the eddies in our own free-style now and then.

  • Christine

    Hang in there girl! I have been there in many ways myself….hypothyroid, insomnia, adrenal exhaustion, etc. I also do not believe in prescription meds, but ended up myself with The Big Z a couple years back. I struggled with taking it as well. I will say, they should have started you off on a lower dose. It’s really just to balance out your serotonin levels…might have been better to start out at 25mg, or even 12.5. Although I’ve hated taking it, I must say it has helped me when I couldn’t heal myself. I also tried st john’s wort etc and it didn’t work for me, but every body is different. Glad you’re doing acupuncture and yoga. Have you ever tried reiki?….or craniosacral therapy? I would HIGHLY recommend. I think youd get quite a bit of relief out of it. So no one cares if your newsletter was late….you just take care of yourself. A wise woman once told me we’re all here for the ride…..some of us in a Cadillac and some in a Pinto…..just learn to work with what you’ve got.

  • Sandy Cooper

    Thank you for sharing your story. I, too, have suffered from depression and can relate to so many of the things you describe. It really is a miracle when that dark cloud lifts for the first time and you can see that ray of light, isn’t it?

    I applaud your efforts to find the cause, to deeply analyze all the factors contributing to your declining health and to heal your body in whatever way you need to.

    I pray the depression stays far, far away. Forever and ever, amen.

    Blessings and prayers,

  • Rachel

    Missy- you are such a courageous, bright light in this world. Thank you for sharing all of yourself so authentically and vulnerably. I am truly in awe of you and I send you huge love!!!
    Rachel Parks

    • Melissa Costello

      Thanks girl! Love you

  • Dana

    Missy I thank you for writing this! I can totally relate and it was so nice to have someone to relate to. I have been told my problem comes from fibromyalgia and some days are so hard. I tried medicine and same as you it wasn’t aligned with my soul and what I wanted for my body. Clean food, supplements, and working out helps me. However I find meditation really helps and you inspired me to get back to it. Thank you again for sharing I feel I am not alone!

    • Melissa Costello

      Thank you Dana. You are definitely not alone! I’m happy you are on a path of healing as well! xx

  • Randi Pierce

    With ya 🙂 Thank you so much for posting this Missy! It took guts to talk about this publicly and I applaud you. I, myself, have struggled with many of the symptoms you talk about – and agree that it is part physical, part emotional healing and management. We’re not perfect, and no one has it all figured out (even though we perceive it’s a business death sentence if we admit it). Thanks for reminding us to be courageous, true and vulnerable. Much love, Randi

    • Melissa Costello

      Thank you love. Your words mean alot to me. It was definitely scary to put it out there, but too important not to! Sending love to you and Lucy Loo! xx

  • Elizabeth

    It must have taken courage to write this blog posting and to share your story. Your recipes and food suggestions along with The Ultimate Reset changed my life. I emailed you about it and also about the food blog I had started myself. My husband is a personal fitness trainer and I am a psychotherapist. I personally do my own self work on a daily basis which includes meditation and exercise and it was the clean eating I learned from you that helped me "plus" all of the other efforts I make which in turn helped my mood as well. It was my own journey with learned poor emotional coping mechanisms that led me to a career as a therapist, both for my own healing as well as a way to offer help to others.

    I help women everyday who are dealing with depression, anxiety, life-balance issues and autoimmune difficulties. I related to this posting on a personal and professional level not only because of my own journey but because so many of my clients hesitate so long to reach out for help because they feel ashamed, disappointed somehow in their "weakness." There is much liberation when we decide to love ourselves enough to acknowledge our humane imperfections. This awareness is connecting to ourselves and also to others. Cheers to you for continuing to search for what works for you and for encouraging the discussion with others. I plan to share your blog post with others who I know will benefit from reading.

  • Justin

    Thanks for posting this Missy. I feel like I’m going through some similar issues as well. I tend to beat my body up during extreme workouts, and I don’t sleep as well as I should. I tend to wake up in the morning with my heart beating hard, and sometimes out of breath. I was told I possibly have Hyperthyrodism, which might explain other problems with weak digestion and mid-day fatigue. These health issues are so important to know, and yet there not recognized nearly as much as they should be by the medical community. I pray that you continue to heal so you can get back to the things that you love. I look forward to learning from you and experiences.

  • SteveK


  • Toni

    It is amazing to me how many of us are struggling with these issues! Thank you for writing this. It helps to know we are not alone.

    • Melissa Costello

      Thank you Toni! I am happy that I could be a resource of support! xo

  • Lizanne

    Your amazing and I LOVE you!!! What an inspiration 🙂

  • Patti Ryan

    Thank you for writing about your situation in such detail. I felt like you were describing me. I’ve never had allergies and today was so bad, debilitating headache that I went to kaplers and asked for pills. I was so afraid to take them cause I never take anything. I enjoyed reading your story and so glad you’re feeling better!

    • Melissa Costello

      Thank you Patty! Gosh, I wish all I had was allergies! 🙂 Sometimes we have to resort to pills, but usually it’s best to go to the root with diet, exercise, herbs, etc. Thanks for sharing!

  • Cory

    Thank you for sharing. My wife and I have had some similar issues and run-in’s with traditional medicine. She was actually hospitalized (twice) and went through two outpatient programs for depression/anxiety following an ectopic pregnancy. She was put on so many anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs, I cannot remember how many, let alone their names. Her reactions to some were similar to yours and others were more severe (a couple of them gave her extreme paranoia and delusions). I also lost count of how many doctors and counselors she saw.

    Nothing was working until we went to a holistic doctor recommended by a friend. That doctor had a series of tests done and found out that she has a gene mutation that makes it difficult for her to metabolize folic acid. Furthermore, to "treat" the ectopic pregnancy, she was given a chemotherapy drug called Methotrexate. One of the effects of that drug is that it depletes your folic acid levels. It was determined (eventually) that the drug and her gene mutation are what sent her mental health into a tailspin. The holistic doctor recommended vitamins (including a folic acid that worked well with her body) for her deficiencies and we ended up doing the Ultimate Reset as well. She quickly got better and it has been a night and day difference ever since. It shows what happens when our body gets out of balance with what it needs. Of course none of the traditional doctors we saw seem to want to give too much credit to something that isn’t inline with what they are taught to prescribe on an everyday basis.

    • Melissa Costello

      wow Cory, thank you for sharing. It’s so disheartening sometimes because the medical system is so, excuse my french, effed up! I’m happy your wife is doing better now. That must have been really scary for you both! It blows me away that they would give her a chemo drug! UGH!! Anyway, I’m glad you are both doing well! thank you for commenting! I truly appreciate it!

  • Gloria

    Greetings dear sweet lady!! Your story made me cry the graphics made me laugh. You are sharing such an important part of your life that SO MANY of us deal with on a daily basis. I love the stories of how this puzzle of yours is being worked out. Piece by piece, no wonder one’s head starts to spin. What will the next move be? When can you slap in the last piece and endure all the gratification that you deserve? You my dear are in the running for a GOLD MEDAL OF HONOR! Thank you for your thoughts and experiences that reach out to so many…

  • Patty

    You’ve done so much for me and changed my life! I wish the very best for you in your journey.

  • Susan

    Melissa, Thank you for sharing your tragic, beautiful and inspirational story. Most of us suffer at some level with eating issues, depression issues, stress issues etc… hopefully your vulnerable story will help others to not give up hope. You are beautiful. You are successful. You have helped so many people! Be good to yourself and keep breathing. God Bless you!

    • Melissa Costello

      wow, Susan! Thank you! Thank you!

  • Christi

    Because you are already doing so many healthy things for your body, I’d like to suggest Regression therapy for what is left. You might check out "Many Lives, Many Masters" by Dr. Brian Weiss, and other books, then find someone that helps in this area. Thank you for sharing what helped you so far on your journey!

  • Kit Caldicott

    Hey Missy,
    What an incredible and crazy journey you’ve been on. I admire your courage and your patience–two things I don’t know I’d have if I were faced with the same types of challenges. I pray that you wil find balance very soon. EVERY single recipe I’ve made of yours I have absolutely LOVED. You have truly taught me how to cook clean food and make it taste really good. Thanks for all you do and thanks for publishing your great recipes in your cookbook too!! Kit

    • Melissa Costello

      Thanks Kit, this means a lot to me! Sending you love!

  • Josy Ferraro

    Courage and determination! Wow! You are stronger than you know. You have helped and transformed my life in so many positive ways I am sending back to you all the incredible energy received from all your recipes. My health is improved thanx to the awareness you have brought forth. I wish you "une superbe santé et longue vie" (live long and healthy).

  • Seth Streeter

    Melissa, I am sending you light and healing love. To eliminating dis-ease from your life so your radiant self can continue to shine through!

    • Melissa Costello

      Thank you Seth! xo

  • CJ


    THANK YOU so much for sharing this!!! Your attitude towards food and health has really been impacting me these last few months. Although I don’t like to hear that you are suffering, my daughter and I can relate to chronic pain and health issues. Your blog is encouraging me to look deeper into this, including the best treatment methods for us. Thank you so much for putting yourself ‘out there’ for us.

  • O. Rose


    I applaud you for taking the bold steps you’ve taken and for sharing your journey! It’s been amazing to see and hear how many of us have been going through some of our darkest days in the last month! You are not alone! (YANA courtesy of Lisa Nichols) Also, there may be another TV opportunity for you. Look in your email soon!:-)

  • Fran Patoskie

    Dearest Missy,
    Thank you so much for sharing so transparently. Many years ago, I suffered from an episode of depression and panic attacks so bad that I could not leave my house. I, too, went to a doctor who prescribed AD, and I could not bring myself to take them, not even one pill! Like you, the overwhelming feeling that it was poison woke me up and I turned to prayer instead. God healed me and I am praying that He continues to heal you, too. Love you much!

    Fran Patoskie

  • maria Gilbert

    big hug Melissa!!!! Love ya!
    Maria Gilbert

  • Crystal

    Hi Melissa,
    I hope you are doing well! Hopefully you can post an update and mention certain things you have found to be helpful. Thank you!

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