The emotional and mental side of having an autoimmune disease can feel overwhelming. Kerry Jeffrey, a clinical hypnotherapist, counselor, and life coach, is uniquely positioned to provide these insights from both her personal experience and from working with a great number of people with autoimmune conditions.

We discuss in this interview:

  • Kerry’s own multiple autoimmune conditions and how she went beyond the standard medical treatment
  • The emotional impact of being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease
  • The difficulty in communicating the effects of the condition to healthy persons
  • A correct interpretation of acceptance
  • Normalizing the experience
  • Managing stress and anxiety
  • Funding research on autoimmune diseases
  • Feeling validated in chronic illness
  • Possible triggers for autoimmune conditions

Clint – When we have an autoimmune disease, the emotional side, and the mental side of it can feel overwhelming. Today, I’ve got a very special guest and her name is Kerry Jeffrey. She’s a clinical hypnotherapist, a counselor, and a life coach. Kerry is going to help us understand some of the insights around having an autoimmune condition because she has four. She’s uniquely positioned to provide these insights from both her personal experience and from working with a great number of people with autoimmune conditions. Also, helps us to have some actionable steps and things that we can take to improve our mental health and our emotional state dealing with chronic disease. Kerry, what an honor, and thanks so much for joining me.

Kerry – Oh, thanks so much for inviting me, Clint. I’m really looking forward to our discussion.

Clint – Yeah, we don’t get as many Aussies on this podcast, so it’s nice to have a fellow Australian with me. Tell us, how did you become chronically ill and what was that experience like for you before we get into some of your guidance?

Kerry – Yes, it was a real shock to me. Before that, I was one of those people who said that I never got ill. it was interesting when I was talking to my doctor later, she said, that’s not a good sign. It means you’ve always had an overachieving immune system. I was going through perimenopause at the time, and I understand, especially from a lot of women, that major hormonal events can often coincide with becoming chronically ill as the shifts in the body systems go. I was looking up all the symptoms I was having, and I just thought, I’m having the worst experience of perimenopause ever. I was visibly looking worse and worse and worse, like I was looking like I was aging. I was lacking in energy, getting pain in my body, and massive hot flashes. All the things going on until it kind of got to the point where the symptoms I was having no longer fit into what was supposed to be perimenopause. Then on top of that, I got what I thought was bad flu. For someone who never really got sick, I kept waiting to get better. But I was getting worse and worse and worse. Honestly, it was like the picture of Dorian Gray. I looked like I’d aged ten years and I didn’t recognize the person I was seeing in the mirror. Then one day, I was sitting on the couch and I fell over sideways as my body couldn’t hold itself up and thought this is not right. I went and saw my doctor and told him the symptoms, and he took some blood tests. Then, he rang me up and said, I know what you’ve got and it’s easily dealt with, come in and we’ll get you sorted. Then I said, what have I got? Then he said, you’ve got thyroid disease. At that time I felt like I was dying and I was struggling to breathe. I had barely any energy, I could barely speak, and the brain fog was so intense. I lost simple words, so I had to point. Like if I wanted the salt, I had to point because the word just wasn’t there. I’d never been so sick in my life and I was terrified. He said, you’ve got you’ve got thyroid issues. Just take your little pill and get adapted to your new normal. I’m like, yeah, it was Hashimoto’s. He didn’t even get that right. He was telling me I had graves disease, and even with my brain fog I thought, no, that’s hyper, I’m hypo. Luckily it was very easy to diagnose because the blood tests were so evident, like my pH was in the hundreds. My thyroid levels were so low that they were barely there at all, which was why I was so sick. I just got the feeling as I left. Like when you said you new normal. Well, I couldn’t work and I couldn’t function and I felt like I was dying. I don’t have a partner and I don’t have any emotional support. I was a therapist then, and I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. I was in my mid-50s then and it was just take this tablet. I’m in so much pain that I can’t stand I’m just rolling anxiety symptoms. I was suffering and so I just thought. If I’m going to survive this, it’s up to me, right? This guy is not going to help me and I’ve got to find something. Because if this has happened to me, right, there must be a way to either reverse it or to get some form of health and function back. It is because it’s a process in the body.

Clint – Exactly. No, I didn’t mean to cut you off. I just wanted to have the same recollection I felt if this suddenly happened to me. Something has triggered it and I’ve got a first class honours degree in laser physics. Not to say that to impress, but to say that I’ve got a science background and nothing happens in science or the body spontaneously. There’s always a trigger. I worked backward and it took me years to work out originally like the microbial intervention of antibiotics and so on. But yes, completely agree. Other than Hashimoto’s, what else were you diagnosed with and how did all this make you feel emotionally?

Kerry – Yeah. So initially years earlier. When I was in my 40s and I was going through my second pregnancy, I was trying to become pregnant then and I kept having miscarriages. They did a blood test and at that time, the disease Antiphospholipid syndrome was just starting to come in. This was over 20 years ago, and there was still a lot of contention about whether it was a real disease or not. They passed me along to a professor of blood, right? I can’t think of the technical term at the moment, but you know what I mean. Yep, a professor of hematology. Right. He diagnosed me with Antiphospholipid syndrome. He said that in my case, what was happening was that the disease was causing blood clots to form on the placenta, which was choking off all the nutrients to the developing fetus and killing it. He diagnosed that, mind you, I had a professor of obstetrics who completely disbelieved that I had that. The two professors arguing is often the case in the medical profession, right? But because it was pregnancy-specific, it was, here’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to take blood thinners, right? If you become pregnant, you’ll have to do that for the whole of the pregnancy. Then 6 to 8 weeks afterward and you’re going to be high risk and all of that sort of stuff. At that point, Clint was like I said to my husband, like, I don’t know if I can put myself through this because this is a lot. He said, of course, it’s totally up to you. The next day I realized I was late and so did the pregnancy test. I was pregnant and I called up the hospital saying, okay, I’ve got to come in. You’ve got to show me how to use the blood thinners and inject myself. Then, it was all through that. Then postpartum I had to take the blood thinners, but luckily enough it only seemed to bother me for that specific event, right? I’ve never had touchwood, deep vein thrombosis, blood clots, or anything like that. That was the first diagnosis, but I didn’t understand that it was autoimmune. Like they didn’t mention that and I think that’s one of the issues you’d find with your clients that have got rheumatoid arthritis, right? They don’t tell you the significance of what autoimmunity is and that it can leave you open. Unless you’re trying to in some way mitigate it or prevent it from gathering other illnesses as you go on. I’m sure you understand that while it feels like chronic illness happens, like overnight, because that’s how it felt to me, right? It felt like I went from well to healthy, but that wasn’t the actual process. I mean, looking back with hindsight, I can see I’ve probably had this since I was a kid.

Kerry – Right when a whole lot of things happened that didn’t make sense. Like I gained an enormous amount of weight. I went from being like a normal-sized child to an obese child and I struggled with a lot of things. But as we’re taught to do, like we see it as well. There must be something wrong with me, right? Maybe I’m lazy or maybe I’m not disciplined. I think the seeds of everybody’s chronic illness go back, and it takes so many different events and things. Finally, the damage accumulates in the immune system and then the full-blown expression of the disease happens. But so because the Antiphospholipid syndrome didn’t create any problems in my life. I didn’t have to do anything about it. As they said, if you’re ever going to do long-distance plane travel or something. We’ll give you some blood thinners in case you get a DVT, all of that sort of stuff. But apart from that, it didn’t affect my life. So Hashimoto’s was the first time when a chronic illness, I would say impacted me because I was disabled. I was physically and cognitively disabled. I literally could not function. My worst-case scenario was that I couldn’t do anything about this, and at that stage, I didn’t know what I could do about it. It was my kids to had to move out, put everything I owned in storage, and go and live in my elderly dad and try and get a disability. That’s the worst-case scenario I was facing at that stage. I think that’s the biggest emotional impact of chronic illness. Like when you get that diagnosis, there’s no one to take you by the hand and say, Kerry, here’s what you can do. Most doctors will just say, you’ve got it, and accept it. If there’s medication, have the medication. Of course, there are side effects of the medication, but that’s it. You’re out the door and you’re on your own. With a changed quality of life function, increased pain levels, and worsening disability. Also, most autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, are generally thought to be progressive. Then, depending on the doctor who tells you the information, either they’ll tell you the worst-case scenario, right? Either progressive wheelchair disability, not able to work, ongoing pain management, or they’ll kind of fobbed you off and underplay it. Then say, here are your medication choices, and go back. You decide which immunosuppressant you want to be on or we’ll try and manage the pain. Get on with your life, but you’re left in the wreckage and also kind of sitting there thinking, where do I go? Then as a therapist, when it happened to me I was like, in grief or I was thinking, is my life over? It felt like I’d lost who I was and I’d lost the future I thought I was going to have because I was in a pretty good place in my career, and I was writing a book and doing a whole lot of things. Now, I’m looking down the barrel of death and disability. Not knowing what’s going to happen to me. I thought, surely there must be therapists in this field, right? I mean, because I had a lot of tools at that stage. I didn’t know how to deal with what I was experiencing and I couldn’t find anyone. So basically, I’ve become the therapist coach I was looking for when chronic illness hit my life. Then, about a year later, because Hashimoto’s and Celiac often coincide, we did the test and I had the antibodies gliadin. Also, I wasn’t going to put myself through the test of having gluten and provocation test. I’m like, no, I’ve got the antibodies. I’m going to assume I’ve got the disease right. Then, I had the Antiphospholipid, Hashimoto’s, and the celiac. Then, almost three years ago, I suddenly started losing a significant amount of weight. Also, a whole lot of things were going on in my body. I ended up with a bowel obstruction, so I became emaciated. I looked like a little genderless, frail, skinny little skeleton. Then, I was in intensive care a week later, with type one diabetes. At that point, that was when I started sort of saying to my version of God. Like, isn’t what I really like, isn’t it enough what I’ve got to deal with? At every diagnosis, I’ve gone through that same emotional adjustment like shock and denial. Then how do I deal with this? Here’s another medication or something I’ve got to have. Here’s another change I’ve got to make to my life. Here’s another thing I’m now physically reliant on, especially as someone you know with type one diabetes. I am absolutely 100% dependent on insulin. I’ve kind of seen if I didn’t have insulin, I’ve kind of seen how I’m going to die. I can tell you, Clint, it’s not a very pleasant way to go. Then, I wanted to put myself out there because I knew this was so significant to me, so I started informally talking to other people with chronic illnesses. Like, how did you cope? How did you find acceptance? How did you adapt to it? Right emotionally? Like what did you do? It is because this destroyed my life. Like, I don’t know what’s going to happen to me. I don’t know how to cope with this, and I don’t know what to do because there’s no direction. Then as a therapist, I want to share my experiences because if I can help one person not go through what I went through to feel so abandoned by the medical profession. Also, I felt without hope for the future, with no direction on how I could even help myself. I want people to understand because then I knew about chronic illness. One of my cousins had graves disease, I saw her suffer, and I had tons of empathy. But until it happened to me, I didn’t get it because you get it right. Also, it’s one of those few experiences in life that unless you experience it, you’ve got no idea because you’re trying to use frameworks as a healthy person or a non-chronically ill person, like tired pain, lack of energy, sleep issues. Like I said before we started recording, I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night because I had low blood sugar issues. I was up till 2 -00 in the morning managing that. I’ve still got to get up and work and stuff, so I’m not quite as sharp as I would like to be. If I said to somebody I had a rough night, they’d go, I know what you mean. The kids kept me up and I’m like, you’ve got no idea. Like, autoimmune tired is like at a cellular level, right? You’ve got nothing in the tank and there’s no pushing yourself through it or mind over matter or any of that other stuff that we tell people to suck it up. It’s you literally, your body can’t and we get it.

Clint – I’m nodding enthusiastically and smiling, as you can see because autoimmune tired is a whole different level. I found a photograph of myself, on holiday in Fiji. It must be going back about 12 years that my now wife took, and I was slumped over the bed with my head between my knees. I was just like a jellyfish that had been pulled out of the ocean and slumped onto a rock. Then, that’s how tired I used to get, especially on the drug methotrexate, one of the chemo’s chemotherapy drugs that you can take for rheumatoid. I was just so awful and it’s laughable to think that otherwise healthy people are comparing that to being kept up for an hour or two with their children, of which we have many as well. So anyway, you have such wisdom and personal experience in this area. I mean, what is the thing that you find that comes up the most with your clients that you like to address early on or something that’s something that comes up pretty often? Where you think, let’s start with this.

Kerry – Yes. The biggest issue overall and it’s interesting, Clint and it is because I just had this tested. After all, I’m in the process of developing my first online course. I’m just doing one module because I do still have I do have an invisible disability. I do have limited physical resources like I’m managing four illnesses. So I thought I’d just do one. Not a whole course that’s too much, but just one. I’ll put it in my community. I came up with the two top issues. One of them is dealing with doctors because I’m not sure about your experience and your community’s experience, but medical gaslighting, even getting a diagnosis is so prevalent in our health system, right? Getting believed in the first place, getting a diagnosis. Dealing with pain, like getting people to understand the pain level that you’re dealing with and not accusing you of drug seeking and all of those other kinds of things. So dealing with doctors was one, but the second one was acceptance, and an overwhelming majority voted for acceptance. It is because so many people equate accepting means, I’m giving up or I’m not trying to find any more solutions and I’m accepting my fate. I’m rolling over and that’s it. The disease has now got me and I’m done. That’s how a lot of people see acceptance, right? But with normal kinds of things that we understand in grief, right? If somebody dies, everybody understands that. It means that that person is now gone. Then, we’re going through the long process of adapting to not having them physically here and present all of that sort of stuff, but people understand that. Also if you have a visible accident, like if you’re in a car accident, you’ve had a spinal cord injury and it’s a visible change. People understand that if you say my pet died or I got fired, people understand that. However, when you say I’m grieving the changes because now I’ve got a chronic illness, they don’t get it. They don’t get it and they expect you to keep fighting because that’s the model we have, right? The model we have is you get sick and you get better, or you get sick and you die. If you’ve got something that could potentially be cured, like cancer, then you have to fight it. You are the warrior, you’ve got to fight it and that’s your job. If you’re not seen to be doing that, were you giving up? However, with chronic illness, while it does lead to higher incidences of early death, it can kill people. Generally, it’s not a terminal illness, so people have no concept of getting sick and your body doesn’t just get over it. It’s something that you now need to manage whatever interventions you have. It’s not just physically managed, it’s emotionally managed. I’ve spoken to a lot of people with rheumatoid arthritis, I had a lot of clients with rheumatoid arthritis and pain wears you down. You never know what level you’re pain you’re going to be dealing with. Like, if you can wake up one morning and your wrist is in a flare, right? It’s got to be splintered and kept and it’s like trying to protect this tender thing, right? Also, if you wake up and it’s in your feet and now you can’t walk or you can’t drive a car, right? Then, you don’t know how to manage it, that’s terrifying because pain grinds you down.

Kerry – You’ve got the fatigue, pain, and that anticipation. I’m feeling okay at the moment but I can’t count on that because what if tomorrow? The thing people don’t understand about autoimmune diseases is we can be doing everything right and there’s no perfect way, right? Everybody’s different, but we can be doing everything right. However, external factors can trigger. You get another virus, you have a death in the family, or you’re under a high-stress period of something in your life, and that’s the trigger. So, what you’ve got to learn to do is be able to kind of calmly manage your flares and kind of be prepared for that. It makes it difficult to plan for the future. It’s not a discrete grief because the grief of chronic illness, and this is where acceptance comes in. There can often be so many changes, especially as we age, or if you get another illness, it’s like a constant process of accepting. If I’m feeling good and I’m going through a period where I feel like I’m in remission and I’m feeling good. Then, something triggers me and I’m in a flare, right? The fear of every flare as if what if I don’t come out of it? What if this is the new level now? It is because sometimes it can feel like that. All the changes and all the sacrifices, maybe they’re just not working anymore. Then what if the drug stops working, or what if? It’s that constant process of accepting not only the ebbs and flows of the day. It is because you never quite know sometimes what you’re going to get. However, dealing with the uncertainty and that affects relationships, right? It is because the disease can make you unreliable. So you’re not in yourself and you’re reliable. Sometimes it’s just I can’t write and I wanted to do that thing. I wanted to catch up with that person, and do that activity, but I can’t now. I know if I push myself, and this is where acceptance comes into it, right? If you can’t accept the physical reality that my body’s not up to that, honor and protect that. If you think I don’t want my friend to be upset with me, you’re going to push through. I’m sure you know, Clint, what happens when we ignore what’s going on with our body and we consistently push through? Thus, that’s an acceptance as well. It is where I can no longer be the friend at the level I was before the illness. I can no longer be the partner, parent, colleague, or employee that I was before. Thus, I’ve got to find what’s possible for me.

Clint – You’ve eloquently described a lot of the fear and anxiety aspects of this disease or these diseases, as you put it, invisible diseases. However, the acceptance one is interesting. Now, I’m just going to speak personally and we can just freestyle here a little bit on this, as two people with your autoimmune experience. There are some areas of my life that I accept, and there are some areas of my life that I accept for now, but I’m hell-bent on changing. I have different labeling for different things. For example, the week I was diagnosed, I was playing a game of touch football and I tore my ACL, which puts professional sports stars out of their game for 12 months. The inflammation immediately went to my left knee, and I had a much more aggressive impact on my cartilage swelling and everything. So that knee was so compromised, that I wasn’t able to use it properly. It was a welcome home for rheumatoid arthritis. Consequently, my left knee was eligible for a knee replacement within three years of diagnosis, a disaster. It took 15 years or so until I eventually had it done because I persevered and worked around the problem. However, my left knee now having had a replacement, I know that I cannot run. I accept that and I don’t fight that, and I don’t try and push that. It doesn’t bother me that much because I wasn’t able to run on the bad knee anyway. I feel like 15 years ago was the last when I tore my ACL and it was the last time that I ran. The way that we think about when we go on a park jog, right? There’s acceptance there, and there’s acceptance in some of the permanent damage that I have from my joints, from the really inflamed years that I’ve had in the past.

Clint – I accept that I don’t love that and I look at my affected fingers. Then, what’s mostly just that I don’t care about my elbows and it’s weird. Like my elbows don’t straighten, but they’re so functional and they’re so strong. I accept those too, and I don’t care about that. I think the only thing with my fingers and they still work perfectly. Yet, there has been some disfigurement over the years. Whilst, they serve me perfectly for everything I need to do, I guess it’s the feeling that other people will look at my fingers and say there’s something not quite right about that. It’s that feeling of judgment and maybe that feeling of what’s the word? Having some kind of disability and that’s disrespectful to those with a genuine disability comparing my fingers to that. However, it’s like a version that rises to a significant level because I don’t have a greater version than they have in my life. This is a problem for me and I know that when I was in an inflamed state, which has occurred to me significantly twice for very long periods. Particularly, the first one went on for years and years and I didn’t want to see anybody or I felt like I wanted to live in a cave. Then, throughout that entire time to today, I’ve been in the entertainment business, doing stand-up comedy. I’ve worked in like 13 countries doing comedy and made a great career out of that. Yet, I didn’t want to be seen by anybody. I felt like I’m almost like I’m a wounded animal and please leave me alone. I’m going to hide and try and work out how I can make myself feel better through any means possible. I just want to put my life on hold. Melissa and I, my wife, lived in this kind of status for many years because you’re just wounded. Also, you’re worried and you’re tired. You mentioned all those things so well and fearfully. So fearful about the future because it’s a progressive, ongoing disease as you said. Thus, you must have some very challenging calls. People who contact you must be sometimes quite distraught. Can you give us some insights into what you might say to someone who was like, I was at that time? At that time, I was in the worst state and you picked up the call. Then I said, Kerry, this is what’s going on for me and it’s miserable. What might you say to Clint back in 2008?

Kerry – I think the first thing that I would have said to Clint back in 2008 is you’ve just lost yourself, mate. It is because you know your identity. It’s a loss of identity and that’s what people don’t understand. Plus, it’s a loss of integrity in your body, right? The way you look, the way it functions. It’s a constant reminder of the change. As you said, when you look at your fingers, you’re aware of it and nobody would want that to happen and it’s there. It’s a constant reminder and it’s those little micro things. The main thing that I want to do on my discovery course and with my work with my clients is normalize the experience. It is basically what you’re going through and what I went through is a unique experience that only the people with chronic illness will ever understand It’s the club nobody wants to be in because it’s not talked about, it’s not recognized. We don’t have conversations in our communities about the emotional impacts of chronic illness, but we all know people who have it. However, we don’t know what it means. I’m sure we’ve all grown up knowing granny had arthritis or auntie might have had MS or another one had Crohn’s or whatever. While we saw them maybe suffering, they soldiered on and they didn’t talk about it. There was no awareness like, what does it mean? Do we understand that it’s ongoing and progressive or we don’t? It’s like the orphan child of medicine and we don’t talk about it. The biggest issue for people with chronic illness, as we said before, is if you try and say to people, I’m really struggling like I’m exhausted. They’ll just have to get some more sleep or just rest. We all get tired of pushing through and they’re completely negating your experience so you don’t get the empathy and support you get. So, don’t let the illness define you and don’t give in to this. Clint, you got to keep fighting it. Whereas I’m the voice saying everything you’re feeling is normal and appropriate for somebody going through your experience. All right, that’s it and that’s what all my clients will say if they’ve been to that thought therapy. They say they don’t get it or they get everything else I’m talking about. It is because even if you look you searched as I did before this. I want to see if there is anything out there on the emotional issues of rheumatoid arthritis. All you’re going to see is depression and anxiety, which are usually significant in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Thus, stress needs to be dealt with. Do they tell you how to do it? Of course, somebody’s in pain, right? With a diagnosis that’s radically changing their body that can’t be cured, right? That could lead to increasing disability. You’re going to feel upbeat happy and anxious with unrelenting pain. Honestly, that’s why I do what I do, and because that is absolute stupidity. Of course, somebody with a sickness and a disease is going to be feeling anxious, and depressed. It is because you’re grieving the loss of yourself and you’re grieving the person you were. For example, you said that you had a life, right? You’re traveling the world doing stand-up comedy. Now, at that point, you didn’t know if that was ever going to be possible for you again because there was no certainty. Everything’s on hold, and there’s no experts out there to come and say, Clint, do this and you’ll get this percentage of quality of life back. Also, do this and you’ll be able to have that. Like often you’re thinking, my life is over or my career is over. My ability to earn for myself is over. My quality of life is over, and all I’ve got to look forward to is more pain and more disability. Also, what the heck are these drugs that I’m taking doing to my body? It is because of the doctors, they overestimate the ability of the drug, like the positives and they undersell. The implications for what it can do mean. I’ve worked with people that because of the drug they’ve been on for their chronic illness, now have liver disease caused by the medication. There’s so much to weigh up, right? You’ve got to be your own advocate, researcher, dietician, biologist and chemist. It’s all on you, so the emotional load is huge. The advocacy that you’ve got to do. Like, I know more about my diseases than most doctors.

Clint – Yeah, totally. I call it the CEO of your health problem.

Kerry – Exactly.

Clint – This is why we do what we do, too. I don’t know how much you know about what we do, but our business is called Rheumatoid Solutions. Our whole approach is to deal with the issues that come about with this disease. Whilst, your expertise lies in the. The emotional mental mindset side of things. Our emphasis is on the intervention that we play via all the the lifestyle choices that people can make around diet, exercise, supplementation, exposure to sunlight, green space improved habits around sleep, and so forth. These in turn, we then see as a side benefit or a consequence, then improve mental health as well. It is because when we have a plan, hope returns, and when we see a path of success. Also, we feel empowered and that alone is stress-reducing. When we engage in more physical activity and we eat foods that support our gut health, those two equally improve mental health. We are both in the game of improving the emotional and mental mindset of patients with these conditions. You’re right we need to adopt a “this is on me” phrase. I also like the phrase, if it’s meant to be, it’s up to me. It’s one of the sort of quotes at the top of one of my chapters and it is certainly not something that is understood. It’s like when someone does get cancer, the community comes together. Sometimes there are even fundraisers and activities, and it’s an endless effort of collective enthusiasm and support around that individual. Whereas, when someone has an autoimmune condition, there are almost unspoken concerns and whispers whilst they’ve gone to the bathroom about, they don’t look too good now or I don’t know what they’re taking and I think that drug’s pretty bad. You’re right and there’s no understanding and it is weird. It doesn’t fit into a category because our body’s designed to heal itself, but with autoimmunity, it doesn’t. We’re not in the way that it does, not the way it should that we expect compared to cutting ourselves and getting a scar and healing over. It’s not the terminal aspect like the cancer. It’s definitely weird, Kerry and you know why? I think it’s weird because I don’t think it’s meant to be. I think these autoimmune things have happened only in the last 100-150 years as we’ve migrated into Western living. It is in a world of antibiotics, increased sanitization, and a deviation from eating close to the environment and close to bacterial sources from the soil. In the foods that we eat, a distancing from sunlight. We only spend 9% of our lives outdoors, when we used to live outdoors with just some little cave or something to cover us for periods of protection. We’ve distanced ourselves from the world that we live in through our artificial interventions. Also, whether you’ve got four autoimmune diseases or one autoimmune disease, I think that it’s an unnatural disease or disease for the human race, and that’s why we haven’t evolved to understand it. It’s a new category of disease, a new category of trying to comprehend it.

Kerry – See the other aspect of that, as somebody who worked in a university for many years. Also, who is very aware of the funding mechanism and all of that. Until all the research stop the silo of research money for multiple sclerosis and research money for RA. Until they all get together and say, research money for the autoimmune and that’s what I even have to explain to a lot of my clients because I do not have a thyroid disease nor I do not have a pancreatic disease. I have an autoimmune system that is attacking different aspects of my body. It is my auto-immune system that is faulty. Until they get together and say, we’re funding all of the research money into why the immune system is attacking itself. We’re not going to see any change, any benefits, anything. The interesting thing for me type one diabetes at the age that I did, and that was a fallacy. I’ve falsely believed it was juvenile and that’s what it was called in Australia, or Juvenile diabetes. So you think it happens to kids? So actually, I was in denial for the first month that I had type one diabetes because it didn’t make sense. Nobody in my family has it and it only happens to kids. Adults don’t get it and anybody can acquire type 1 diabetes at any age. Unfortunately, it’s often misdiagnosed for decades as type two because doctors still expect it to be a juvenile disease. Thus, people struggle for years being on type two medications that don’t help keep getting blamed for their not dieting or exercising properly. They’re not looking after themselves because their blood sugars are going up. They don’t do the antibody tests right. They don’t bother because they make the assumption it’s type two. When I got type one diabetes, I thought at least there’s been decades of research. Type one diabetes is very well known, so there should be heaps of really valid information but there’s nothing. The advice that I was given in the hospital was how to manage my type one diabetes. Like, when you’re talking to people who said, developed it as a kid. The endocrinologist said, let the kids be kids before anything. Then, here I am at 30 years old, blind with my feet amputated because my parents put the doctor’s advice ahead of the fact that my body can no longer process carbohydrates. I’m at risk of dying because I’m going to eat a standard diet. I’m going to have to take massive amounts of insulin and it’s a dangerous drug. Like too much insulin and you will die. The information, misinformation, the ignorance of doctors, and I couldn’t believe it. I’ve heard old timers that have been living with the disease for decades, they said when I got diagnosed 40 years ago, the doctors were saying that a cure is five years away. They’ve been saying that ever since.

Speaker3 – I asked about stem cells back in 2006 when my first rheumatology appointment. Let me ask you two questions. First of all, who would be the best sort of candidate for you if you would be? If someone’s listening to this and they. I’d like to share and talk to Kerry. I could do with some help in this issue just briefly. What would the sort of ideal candidate for you be? The someone the type of person that you could best help?

Kerry – Yes. The ideal candidate for me is someone who knows they’re struggling and they’ve tried everything and they can’t get a handle on it. Generally, from what I’ve found when you get a chronic illness, it will show up at every crack in your life. All the things you’ve been papering over while you were healthy. Your relationships, employment, family, health habits, and all of those things. It is because you no longer ignore it and someone feels they want to be understood because they’re feeling blamed. So many of us are blamed and shamed in our own families. People don’t believe we have an actual illness unless they can see it. You got told you’re lazy or you’re using the illnesses as an excuse or you’re not trying hard enough. In fact, in some particular religious cultures, people are told that they’re in a state of sin, and that’s why they’re sick. They’ve got to get right with God and pray harder. There’s that lack of understanding and support. To move or shift to empowered right, you need to feel validated that it’s not you. You’re not weak or lacking discipline. You’re a person suffering from a life-changing event for which you’re not getting the support that rallies around for people. I work very skills-based and I’ll teach people, my clients, new emotional frameworks so they understand what they’re responsible for and what they’re not. I teach them my key emotional tools to get that right mindset. Thus, you’re not stuck in self-sabotage and you know how to make a change. It is because of what you’re doing with your program and what I did because I changed every facet of my life. Firstly, from desperation, right? It is because I would have done anything right if they said, you can fix yourself by eating sea sponges. I would have eaten sea sponges three times a day. But after, because of hope and wanting that urgency the body breaks down for a reason. A Western diet is wrong and all the things that you said like the stress, the pressure to achieve, achieve, and feel emotionally responsible for everybody. Most people deal with guilt, stress, manipulation, pressure, feelings of failure, and feeling not good enough daily. When you’ve got a chronic illness, you don’t have the energy to keep pushing through anymore. So someone who realizes, look, I’ve given it a good go. I can’t wrap my head around this, I want to make changes, better relationships, and better communication. Also, I want to be able to advocate for myself. I also want to make the changes because I know it’s all on me. But I want that now to be empowered, feeling rather than a burden like I’m a victim and nobody’s going to help me. Please give me a drug give me a solution or give me something because I’m just feeling so lost, adrift, and grieving. I want to feel back in control of my life. It is because of chronic illness I lost control of everything and the certainty that we had before. The future we thought we were going to have, the things we thought we were going to do, even the holidays or the trips we had planned. Suddenly, all that’s out the window. As human beings, we don’t do well with uncertainty. Right. Someone who wants the support, wants the understanding, is willing to take responsibility and learn. New tools do things differently and know the right reasons to make the choices because change is hard. We all say that, but we don’t acknowledge it as a truth. Like you know yourself, Clint, right? You’ve got to have the right motivation. You’ve got to be able to stick to it and you’ve got to be able to measure if something’s working or not. You’ve got to have that feeling of hope and determination To be able to think, there is a way. There is something I can do, even if it’s the only thing I can do. The only power I have is how I choose to see myself in my situation because so many people feel like a burden.

Clint – Okay, my last question for you. Well, I’ve got the last question, and I like to ask this of everyone with an autoimmune condition. Have you looked back and tried to identify a potential trigger early in your life? Like, were you cesarean birth or were you not breastfed or were you given antibiotics as a young child or took antibiotics as a teenager? Do any of the above apply?

Kerry – Not all of them in that aspect. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the adverse child experience research that’s been done. It was a huge collection of data and what they found was that children had adverse experiences in childhood. For example, neglect, growing up in an abusive family, having a very thick or addicted parent, significant lack of money, access to resources and stressors have a higher correlation with growing up, among other things to get a chronic illness. It is because one of the things we do know about all diseases, which is why it’s mentioned everywhere with no advice on how to fix it, is stress makes everything worse. Then, everything you were saying about lifestyle, lack of connection to nature, the way that we eat, the expectations are placed on them. I score quite high on the a-score, but I did have a vaginal birth and was breastfed. However, I experienced a very high-stress environment as an empathic, highly sensitive child who felt the pain of the world and felt very responsible. I experienced parentification in growing up. I’ve experienced some significantly stressful and traumatic events. Also, like I said, I think the seeds because autoimmune does run in the family, right? Some of my cousins we’ve all got, about three of us have got different bad celiac. To the point, if he even touches it, he could be in the hospital. Then, my other cousins got graves and some of my aunties are now being diagnosed with something autoimmune rheumatoid arthritis and things like that. Thus, it’s definitely in the family and it’s a mixture of everything coming together. I think I had celiac and I do buy into quite a bit of the leaky gut. I do think that that is part of the formation with the gut lining is legal and the things come through, and I think that’s a part of it. Our body adapts and adapts until it can’t anymore, and that’s when the disease is expressed. However, the damage has been done decades before we’re even aware of it. As human beings, we’re incredibly resilient and adaptable. Thus, we just keep adapting and adapting. One of the things that I find in medicine is we expect people 30 and 40 years old to experience the pain of aging. Now, apart from my chronic illness, I’m 64 years old and I don’t have pain in my body. I don’t have the normal things associated with aging, and I consider myself to be a very healthy, chronically ill person. I take exquisite care of myself, well-fed, very well nourished, and as rested as I can be. My energy is my gold and I spend it very wisely. I would say probably genetic factors, definitely leaky gut but the stress of that.

Clint – Yeah, we had a microbiologist on the podcast about a month ago who said that the evidence is coming through, that stress can have a bigger impact on leaky gut than any of the any format of diet. There’s no doubt about it. Well, there’s plenty for us to continue to work on in our respective fields. Thank you so much, Kerry. Just finally leave us with how someone can get hold of you if they want to set up a discovery call.

Kerry – Fantastic. Thank you so much, Clint. They can head over to my website which is If you want to listen to me talking more about specifics of the emotional issues the Emotional Autoimmunity podcast, and it’s on all podcast players. People can search and subscribe if they want some practical help at my website, If you sign up to be part of my email community, you will get my grief model. I’ve created a specific grief model that is going to take you by the hand and walk you through every single emotion you can experience, from pre-diagnosis to acceptance and beyond. As I said, it’s a constantly evolving process. There’s lots of really good and valuable information there for people to have.

Clint – All right. Wonderful. Thanks so much and all the best with your business. Of course, more importantly, all the best with your health. It’s been lovely to meet you like this. Thanks for sharing. We had a personal conversation there and it’s appreciated as well. Thank you, Kerry.

Kerry – Thanks so much, Clint. It’s been great and I love talking to you.


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