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August 1, 2018

Healing Women Series • Michelle Pellizzon

“That’s really been the biggest lesson for me. Listening to your body and what it needs at any given moment.”

Michelle Pelizzon is a California native who at a young age was diagnosed with epilepsy. Struggling to find a root cause, she’s explored many treatment avenues. She realized her seizures were energetically based and through diet and movement has created a holistic approach to her illness helping her to develop a deep intuitive relationship with her body. Michelle is the founder of Holisticism, a members-only community where mysticism meets realism, a place to meet inspiring, thoughtful and conscious women who are paving their own way and helping elevate others. I highly recommend joining.

 

You were diagnosed with epilepsy at a young age. How did it unfold?

I started having seizures, grand mal seizures, when I was 17. I was out for dinner with a bunch of my high school friends and we were celebrating the end of summer.  I lost my hearing suddenly, got really weird and then blacked out. When I woke up I had a lot of people crowded around me telling me I’d had a seizure. Nothing like that had happened to me before. My parents were out of the country and it was really scary. I ended up going to the hospital and all of my doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. After you have a seizure, it’s different for everyone but for me, I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck. Every muscle in your body fires when you’re seizing and it’s at extremes. It feels like a combination of running a marathon and doing yoga for 13 hours. You wake up and you can’t even move. I’d sleep for a couple of days and have no memory of what had happened. The 48 hours leading up to the seizure are really fuzzy and same thing after. I can hardly ever remember what happened.

I had also been having petit mal seizures which is different from grand mal seizures. Grand mal is like the ones you see on television. It’s when people are shaking and usually unconscious and those last anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. Petit mal seizures are a little more scary in my opinion. They look like someone’s just zoning out. We could be having a conversation and my eyes could just glaze over and I wouldn’t respond to you. Those can last for a really long time or be super short. It’s like your brain is short circuiting. I’d been having those for a much longer period of time and I thought they were normal. I thought that’s what zoning out was. That explained so much of what was happening to me in school. Even though I was an excellent student there would be days where I wouldn’t have any notes or I couldn’t remember for the life of me what had happened in class. I just thought it was stress.

Before I have a seizure I always have this thing called an aura. It’s really similar to, if anyone gets migraines they’ve probably had something similar happen to them, where you lose your vision or get a smell or taste in your mouth. Aura’s typically involve the five senses. It’s almost a precursor to a seizure, a signal that something’s going to happen. I know someone who starts walking in circles. For me, I lose my hearing. It’s like in a movie when a psychic walks into a room and can hear the thoughts of everyone in that room. We could be talking and I can see your lips moving but I wouldn’t be able to hear what you were saying. Instead I would hear everything that was going on around me, all at the same time and really loud in my deep inner ear. It’s really overwhelming. That’s what would happen 15 seconds before a seizure

 

What was your treatment protocol like? Did you incorporate any kind of holistic treatments?

I did all the tests that you could take and found out that my seizures had no point of origin. They didn’t know where my seizures were coming from and my brain was totally normal. It was ‘unremarkable’ which was the technical term. Often seizures come from an atrophy of the brain, brain damage or something has happened. They couldn’t find anything. They tried flashing lights into my eyes, kept me up late at night and used different sensations to bring on a seizure. None of it worked. They couldn’t figure out why I was having seizures. It wasn’t hormonal.  Seizure disorders are very common. One in ten people has a seizure disorder. That can mean that one person has had one seizure in their life or it can mean they have several seizures over the span of their life.  

My doctors said I would probably never find the answers as to why I this was happening and that there’s also no cure. They were going to put me on medication and hopefully that would fix it. There’s a million different medications that I could take and if one didn’t work, we would go on to the next one until something worked. I spent a year trying out different medications that would work for me. Some made me super tired and I couldn’t stay awake for more than four hours. Others totally changed my personality. The one I ended up settling on was called Lamictal; it’s a drug that’s used to prevent seizures (which is why it was prescribed to me) but it’s also used for bipolar and schizophrenia disorders, which means it really affects the personality.  It really slowed down my brain function and I didn’t feel like myself. I didn’t feel like I was in my own body. It worked most of the time but not all of it.  My doctors told me that I was going to be on it for the rest of my life and there was nothing I could do about it. They didn’t recommend trying anything else other than a prescription drug.

 

 

I ended up going to school at NYU to study dance about a year and a half  after my diagnosis and was taking medication but it really impacted my ability to remember choreography. I’d experiment with not taking it some days and noticed that I’d have my hearing aura so I would have to take it again. At NYU, every class started with a full body meditation where we would lay on the ground for an hour and clear our body system. We’d do that through body mind centering, the Klein method and Alexander technique which are all different systems of tapping into the body at a subtle level, combining energetics with the physical.

The more I did these techniques the more my symptoms seemed to go away when I would experiment with not being on medication.  Then I would experiment with not doing the exercises. I noticed I was much more likely to experiences symptoms, like my hearing aura would come back. I got brave after a while and stopped taking my medication to see what would happen.I noticed when I didn’t take my medication and would do the meditation exercises, I would be fine. But then if I didn’t do the exercises—because I wasn’t in class that day or something—I’d have a seizure. After a few years of exploration it was a no brainer, my body clearly needed these exercises. I didn’t know why. That’s what got me searching me for alternative methods of healing.

I did a lot of googling as a 19 year old. This was over a decade ago, and I remember a doctor telling me that you couldn’t create new neurons … which they’ve since discovered you totally can. They didn’t believe that you could change your brain. Which is so crazy to think of now.  I stumbled across all sorts of stuff on the deep web. People were talking about how if you changed your diet you could change the way your brain functioned or if you meditated you could change your grey matter. I thought it seemed too good to be true. It contradicted everything my doctors told me. That’s how I fell into the world of wellness, curiosity, ignorance and dumb luck. I happened to find something that worked for me. I would never recommend anyone do what I did. It was risky and I’m incredibly lucky that it worked. I got really lucky.

 

What do you eat to support your health?

No western medicine doctor ever recommended I change my diet, my exercise regime, or sleep patterns. They actually said the opposite that none of these things affected my seizures.  The ketogenic diet, which is quite popular now, was actually developed in the 1920’s for children with epilepsy. It’s a low carb, high fat, medium protein diet and while I didn’t necessarily prescribe to that I noticed that when I didn’t eat certain things, like fake sugar or fake food, I wouldn’t have seizures. When I’d eat splenda or aspartame I’d have a seizure almost immediately. That’s the only trigger that I know of.

Other than that, I think my seizures are mostly energetic. I started  experimenting with what foods felt good for my body. That’s really been the biggest lesson for me. Listening to your body and what it needs at any given moment. It’s constantly giving us signs and we’re really good at ignoring them. I think I happen to be more sensitive than most people which I think is a blessing but I get stopped in my tracks if I don’t listen.

 

 

If I don’t have to rely on something to be the best version of myself, I prefer not to.

 

What role does cannabis play in regulating your epilepsy?

Well, I was smoking weed when I was in college and I didn’t love it. I didn’t like being high at all but I noticed that it really helped with my seizures. I wouldn’t have seizures when I was on it, ever. I wanted to understand why so many “hippies” said cannabis wasn’t bad for you, and that it could actually help you. I grew up in California and even though I went to school in New York I always had my finger on the pulse of what was going on legislatively in California and cannabidiol oil came up a lot. It’s also come up a lot in research for kids with epilepsy and it’s been incredibly successful in helping them.

Pharmaceutical companies have actually spent millions to develop a drug that mimics the effects of cannabidiol oil, which is absolutely crazy since it already exists naturally! When I was 19 or 20, I went to my neurologist furious that I still had to take medication and he told me that the people who find “cures” are the people that fund drug research. And why would they come up with an actual cure if they can get you to pay a $150 a pill for something that’s a weekly cure? It was a pretty woke statement to make about the pharmaceutical industry.

For CBD, I didn’t really start taking it until I was here in California where I was introduced to it.  I went with a company called Gone Green in Arizona. They make hemp oil without any THC. I noticed immediately a huge change in my overall persona once I started taking it. I was way more relaxed but still focused and intentional. I felt better and it felt as though my brain was clear. I don’t take it every single day. I used to in my bulletproof coffee but it’s also very expensive. If I don’t have to rely on something to be the best version of myself, I prefer not to. I know that if I meditate, check in with myself, wake up early and am thoughtful I usually feel pretty good. Somedays I take CBD oil and somedays I just need to cancel my plans because I’m too stressed. It’s been really helpful for me and I wish that it didn’t have all these stigmas around it.

 

Have you ever walk away from doctors, healthcare practitioners that you didn’t feel aligned with?

Yes, definitely. I know almost instantly if someone is for me or not. I always try to stay open to new facilitators, doctors, and practitioners, but I have no problem waving goodbye if someone’s intentions aren’t aligned with my own.

 

Are there other supplements that have helped you and that you find important?

I take adaptogens pretty much every day. I have ten that I rotate in between.When I was growing up, my mom was a supplement queen.  She has an entire closet filled with pills and I don’t think she knows what any of them really do. But she believes they keep her young and healthy. I always thought that it was normal to take supplements. I loved walking down the supplement aisle when I was younger. I wanted to know what everything did and I got obsessed with taking supplements. Like mother like daughter.

I started taking them one at a time for a couple of weeks to see how they made me feel. I rotate through a lot of supplements but the one that I’ve always taken and that’s given me the most improvement in my life is magnesium. I had really bad insomnia when I was on prescription drugs which is ironic since lack of sleep is one of the triggers for for seizures. I was going four to five days without sleeping and with magnesium I would sleep instantly and  through the night. I was even given sleep aids and magnesium was the most helpful. Energetically it also helps me feel more vibrant.

I’ve been taking B12 lately. I’m also taking adaptogens like eleuthero, rhodiola, ashwagandha, astragalus, maca and a variety of mushrooms as well. I rotate between all of them since they all feel really different to me when I take them. I also take Bach Flower essences. I find them incredibly useful and kind of like a secret weapon. They’re so subtle but very powerful. I was taking one last year that’s suppose to help you find your life’s purpose or calling and around that time is when I had the idea for Holisticism. I really don’t think it was a coincidence. I’m also really into herbs and plant medicine. Not ayahuasca or hallucinogenics but more like basic herbs and infusions.

 

 

 

How do you manage your stress?

Sometimes not very well. The only reason that I’m stressed is because I care so much about everything that I do. As opposed to being stressed about relationships or things not working out. I feel more stress because there’s so much that I want to accomplish and there’s so little time. The way that I manage stress is I meditate and I have lots of rituals that make me feel better. Whether that’s making a potion or just burning palo santo.

I think as humans were naturally ritualistic and we don’t have lots of those beautiful, day to day, almost like physical prayers that we give up to the universe. It’s those opportunities to stop and be a little bit mystical. When I’m stressed I try to stop and breath and offer something to the universe, whether it’s a prayer of “please help me get through this” or “give me guidance.”  Sometimes I’ll use cards or I’ll journal to figure out what I need and what the root cause of my stress is.

 

 

My seizures are energetic and in my belief caused by something much deeper that I had been overlooking and avoiding for a really long time. For me that’s always my issue. It’s not the top level surface problem. It’s never the argument with the boyfriend or the parking ticket. It’s something much deeper and ingrained in my sense of being like being unlovable or irresponsible. Intellectualizing these issues helps me deal with this stress along with getting context and perspective.

I think reading the news is really important because we need context and perspective for our lives. I know there are people who are sensitive to energy and say they can’t listen to the news because it’ll put them in a funk for the rest of the day. While I understand that, I think it’s our duty as human beings to understand what’s happening around us and to our fellow man. If we have internet and are blessed enough to have a smartphone than there’s no excuse to be disconnected from what’s happening around the world. It’s important not to dig your head in the sand just because something is a bit difficult.

 

Listen to your gut.

 

What has your illness taught you?

Listen to your gut. We are far more energetic than we realize. We affect the people around us more than we know. The energy that we carry into a room and within us  impacts people constantly whether you realize it or not.  I’m guilty of this too. Walking into a meeting grumpy or feeling put out because I have to do something. We’re all little bulbs of energy and we affect others. You can walk into a meeting being the least powerful person there and you still hold power because you’re an energetic being. You can change the feeling of that room. You can change people’s minds and I don’t think many people are aware of that.  I’ve also learned that our bodies know how to get to homeostasis far better than we do. They’re so intelligent and if we let them do what they’re meant to do they can get back to health, to being 100 percent.

And listening to what they need as opposed to what we think they need. That can be difficult because everyone’s bodies are so different. There isn’t one protocol or herb or medication that’s going to work for everyone. This can be difficult and you wanna say just take ashwagandha, it’s the best, but that might not work for everyone. And really listening. Our emotions may manifest in the physical and the trauma we experienced as children, in our past lives or even epigenetically. What our grandparents and great grandparents went through, that trauma gets passed down in our DNA. There’s scientific proof of that. I think that trauma comes out in physical form as illness.

 

We are far more energetic than we realize.

 

How has your relationship with yourself changed because of epilepsy?

I’m listening to myself. Listening to my body more.  I’m such a perfectionist and I was so hard on myself growing up. I wanted to be a professional dancer my entire life. It’s a really tough industry. You have to look a certain way and you have to physically be perfect.  I was and it was really hard to maintain. I was also a perfectionist when it came to school and academics. I would kill myself and I was really unhappy. Even when I was dancing professionally there was something in me that thought this is great but this isn’t what I wanted to do.  Acknowledging that success looks different to everyone. Success, like time, isn’t linear and it doesn’t always make sense. The people who are successful at 22 look a lot different than those who are successful at 45-50. Giving myself the opportunity to look at these successful people around me and decide to myself if that’s the type of life I wanted for myself or not. I didn’t really see anything that I wanted out in the world. I didn’t want anyone else’s life. I wanted to create my own life. What was surrounding me wasn’t interesting to me. It didn’t seem that fun or amazing. I wanted an amazing life. Just giving myself the opportunity to look around and make that decision was probably the most freeing thing that’s ever happened.

 

 

What advice would you give someone who’s on their healing journey and might be struggling? 

Don’t be afraid to change your mind. It’s an important rule in life. Nothing stays the same and our bodies are constantly evolving. What’s worked for you as an infant, like drinking breast milk, isn’t going to work for you as a 20 year old. That’s an extreme example but our bodies are evolving really quickly. And often times what starts out working for us doesn’t always work for the rest of our lives. Have the personal sovereignty, understanding, and education  to say that this thing doesn’t work for me anymore and I’m going to try something different. I think that goes for practitioners and people you admire. We follow all these people on social media and want to see what they’re doing, how they’re living their lives and we start copying them because we want to be like them and it doesn’t necessarily work for us.

 

Who inspires you?

The people who inspire me aren’t the ones in the spotlight with tons of followers or writing books, although they’re amazing. The ones who inspire me are the ones who are doing the work silently on their own and living very normal lives. They’re going about their journey in a more quiet way.  I find that really inspiring. To not have to broadcast what you’re doing all the time. To have so much faith that something is going to work for you that you just do it. These people don’t need likes or to upload content to continue on their path. They hold themselves accountable even when no one’s looking. I think that’s amazing. I also love Michael Pollan and what the research that he does. He’s caused massive shifts in plant based eating and making it more mainstream. He also takes an interesting stance in being intellectually curious and open minded. I particularly love his recent research on psychedelics and I think it’ll be really interesting to see what comes out his book. think it’s an overlooked category as a healing modality.

 

Don’t be afraid to change your mind.

 

Do you have a morning and/or evening routine?

It changes. I work for myself and I’m an independent contractor in consulting. I work with startups on their content creating anything from emails, writing a content plan for an entire calendar year to writing blog content. I’m also a freelance editor so I’ll write stories for magazines and online publications. I also have Holisticism which is my passion and the thing that I love to spend my time on and probably takes up the most time.

 

 

I found it really helpful to get started in the morning by writing, meditating or sometimes just going on a walk with my dog. Sometimes waking up and meditating for 30 minutes isn’t useful. LIke this morning I woke up at 6 and had to hit the ground running. Getting myself situated in the morning is really important for me. Luckily I’m single so I get to be as leisurely as I want to and do whatever I want.  Then if I have a really nice morning where I get to just write and I don’t have to be somewhere and talk to anyone I’ll give myself a tea ceremony or I’ll make my own little potion, pull a card or journal just to give me perspective and focus for the day. I don’t believing in divination like seeing the future or reading the future. I do think a lot of the tools that we use that are a bit esoteric offer us a new perspective of what is already happening in our lives. If I’m confronted with an issue whether it’s with a person, a relationship or a work issue and I meditate on it and then pull a card, I always feel like it helps me refrain it in a way that helps me solve the problem. 

 

 

I have a very strict skin care routine. I always wash my face, use toner. I use to be a beauty editor and  I have tons and tons of natural products. It’s a lot like my adaptogens. I like to know what everything does and decide how I want to feel and what I need based on that day or what’s happened to me. I also do jade rolling or gua sha which is a type of facial massage. It has changed the way my skin looks. 

 

Favorite piece of advice/wisdom you’ve ever received?

Someone told me when I moved to New York that I should find a piece of art, adopt it and visit it often. Whether it’s in a museum or it’s a public piece. One of my biggest passions is to go and visit art and enjoy it. I found a painting at the MET that I would go and visit once a quarter. I didn’t really understand this advice when it was first given to me but you really develop a relationship with the artwork. It kind of becomes your mirror. You change so much and your relationship to the piece changes. I lived really far away from the MET and I used to get lost every time. Then eventually I’d find my way. A lot of these things act as barometers for our personal growth. I have a piece of art here in LA that I always try to visit once a quarter and it’s so wonderful. I wish more people were able to do that.

 

How do you celebrate yourself?

I have couple of cheerleaders in my life who are very dear to me and I feel comfortable telling them about my accomplishment and how excited I am about it. Letting other people celebrate me is really nice. I also really love birthdays. I think it’s a really nice way to celebrate your accomplishments. Now, I hate birthday parties and haven’t had one in five years. I typically spend my birthday by myself somewhere since I really like being alone. I love being able to reflect on the past year and see how much I’ve grown and changed.  Similar to working out and looking at yourself naked in the mirror everyday and you don’t see the changes but then you see a picture of yourself from three months ago and you look so different.

 

 

Favorite ways to recharge?

Being by myself. I’m a Pisces, sun in cancer rising, and scorpio moon so I have a lot of feelings.  I’m all water so I’m very emotional and an introvert so being home is really nice for me. Traveling is incredibly nourishing for me. I love traveling by myself. I love watching and understanding people and  seeing how energy works. Not knowing a language is so wonderful in facilitating that. Some of my favorite things are going to Nicaragua and going surfing by myself. Visiting Mexico city, not knowing anyone or any spanish, walking around, getting lost and eating churros.

I’m so lucky being in California, being close to Joshua Tree, Ojai and Santa Barbara. It’s so easy to take a quick, inexpensive trip to either of those places. I love kundalini yoga and it recharges me. If I can’t get away for two days, doing 30 minutes is really helpful. And dance. Modern dance for me feels like coming home. And also just vegging out and watching movies as been a big thing for me lately. I just got movie pass where you can watch unlimited movies in movie theaters and it’s amazing. But this past I’ve been so work focused that I haven’t even seen a movie. I thought it was such a waste of three hours and I could optimize that time and do something more. I told myself to chill. Movies and plays are cathartic. They’re important and help us release.


If you could ask women to do one thing to improve their health (physical, emotional or spiritual), what would it be?

Oh man, I would say the best thing you can do is evaluate how every relationship, task, and interaction in your life affects your energy. That means that you first need to establish a baseline of ‘neutral’ energy—how your body feels when its in alignment. I do this by lying on the ground in the morning, meditating, and doing a body scan to just feel what’s up with my bod—to notice any aches and pains or areas of discomfort. Once you’re familiar with that baseline of feeling good (I guess you could call it homeostasis), start noticing what affects your energy. Does that lunch with your longtime BFF drain you, or invigorate you? How do you feel after a day at work? Does your workout routine revitalize you or make you feel depleted? Figure out what drains you and leaves you tired, and cut it out of your life. Figure out what ignites you, and do more of it.

 

 

On rotation or favorite

Herb: Damiana

Book: The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan

Podcast: Oh god, I listen to so many but right now I’m loving Masters of Scale by Reid Hoffman.

Movie: I’m a Pisces sun, Cancer rising, Scorpio moon, so I love all rom-coms, but particularly love, “When Harry Met Sally”.

Piece of Art: Fujiko Nakaya’s cloud sculpture for Trisha Brown’s piece, Opal Loop

Supplement:  Rhodiola forever  #brainstuff

Skin care line: Goldfaden MD has changed my skin

Tea/Infusion: Gotu Kola

Healer: Too many to list, but Julie Evonne Washington + Morgan Yakus + Helen Vonderheide are who I turn to when I’m really lost and need guidance.

Mentor: I consider everyone I meet a kind of mentor. I have so much to learn from so many people.

Kundalini Kriya: Becoming Like Angels

 

Figure out what drains you and leaves you tired, and cut it out of your life. Figure out what ignites you, and do more of it.

 

If you could leave the reader with one thing, what would it be?

Everything we need we already have inside of us. Nobody knows what they are doing, really. Our most important job is to be good to people and elevate each other.

 

 

Connect with Michelle 

IG: @betterbymichelle

 

Join Holisticism

Holisticsm 

IG: @holisticsm

 

Healing Women Series • Michelle Pellizzon

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