Finding Light in Your Darkest Moments
My name is Charlotte. Years ago, in 2010, I started a blog called It's me, Charlotte. You can still find the archives through the link. I began the blog as a way to share my journey of living a healthy, vibrant and inspired life. I was a D-1 collegiate tennis athlete at the time and it was my space for sharing healthy recipes, lifestyle inspiration and musings on life. In May of 2014, one month before graduating from college, I was given a cancer scare. I had an enlarged goiter in my throat that my doctor thought was a tumor. My mom died of cancer when I was eleven so this news shook me to my core. It turns out that while I did have an enlarged goiter, it wasn't cancerous. It was thyroid disease. Autoimmune thyroid disease—also know as the debilitating autoimmune disorder Hashimoto's Thyroiditis.
Looking back, I had been suffering from thyroid disease for a long time. I believe it began after losing my mom at the age of eleven. Our thyroids are highly sensitive. If you're curious, talk to me about my theory that females who have a stressed relationship with their mother (neglect, death, abandonment etc.) are more likely to suffer from thyroid disease. That's a topic for another time though. For me, Hashimoto's manifested as extreme fatigue, a #30 pound weight gain, puffiness, depression, anxiety, severe skin reactions, mood swings, and absolutely debilitating pain in my back and neck. I found myself nearly bed ridden for the year following for these reasons. During this time, I began to share my healing journey on my blog about my efforts to reclaim my health through the Autoimmune Protocol diet, a therapeutic diet, and the suggested lifestyle practices that accompany it (by the way, this did and still does help support my health immensely.) I lived in Portland, Oregon during this time with my boyfriend of five years plus.
In the Spring of 2015, he moved back to Europe after losing his American visa. Two months later, to my dismay, we broke up. He broke my heart to absolute bits and pieces. I felt abandoned and alone, just as I had felt the years following my mom's death. I fell into a deep depression. I spent most of 2015 even sicker than I had been the previous year. I remained in Portland through the Spring and Summer.
After several months of feeling deeply unwell, I decided that I would take a "soul trip" to Copenhagen, Denmark—a place that inspired me visually, was incredibly safe for female solo travelers and had a very gluten-free friendly (and progressive) food scene. My ex-boyfriend was Danish and I felt deeply connected to the culture as we would travel there together every year we had been together. In August of 2015, I packed a backpack and carry-on, rented an amazing apartment in Copenhagen and was on my way. I stayed for one month and ended up having the BEST time of my life. I spent my time taking photos, biking all around the city, having picnics by the water and even had a short lived romance that taught me I would be able to love again. This trip changed my life and I can't recommend solo travel enough. For the first time in over a year, I felt happy. I felt inspired. My soul trip changed my life. I went from a place of deep depression and not knowing how I'd continue on in life to a quick turn around where I felt inspired to create a life I wanted to live. My trip planted a spark of joy that, at that time, was quite unfamiliar. I was devastated to have to return to Portland. As the extremist that I am, I decided I absolutely had to move to Copenhagen. I couldn't not be there.
During the Fall of 2015, before moving to Copenhagen, my amazing friend, mentor and all around boss lady (who is now one of my besties), Mickey Trescott—a prominent figure in the Autoimmune community and founder of the incredible resource Autoimmune Wellness—got an amazing book deal with a large publishing house in New York. Mickey and her business partner Angie hired me to shoot their cookbook, the Autoimmune Wellness Handbook, which is a holistic guide to healing from autoimmune disease. I spent the fall in Portland/Santa Barbara photographing their book. It was amazing. If you're interested in the book, you can purchase it here. It's an incredible resource and a project that I am still so grateful to have been part of.
After finishing up the cookbook in November 2015, I sold all my things, left my sweet little SE Portland house and boarded a one way flight to Copenhagen with not much more than a carry-on and my camera. My Hashimoto's was still pervasive when I moved to Copenhagen but that spark of joy remained and kept me going.
Whilst I thought my life would greatly improve in Denmark, which it did in ways, what I really did during my year plus in Denmark, was grieve. Copenhagen gave me space and inspiration to turn inward and do some very deep soul healing. I was going through the deeply painful work of putting my heart back together. I had no idea how much a broken heart would shake me up, break me open and rebirth me. I continued to blog during this time but began to feel that I no longer wanted to share my story. It started feeling really personal. I had gained a large readership and a great Instagram following but I just couldn't share anymore. I shut my blog down...like, literally took it off the internet with no explanation and turned inwards.
I began to realize that my breakup was a catalyst for immense change. My break-up cracked my heart open all the way to its core, and what was coming out, was not only grieving the loss of my relationship with my now ex-partner, but more so, it opened pathways for me to finally begin grieving my mom, something which I now realize will not be a linear path and will likely be a lifelong pursuit. I went through some of the deepest and darkest moments of my life during this healing process in Copenhagen. Cue crying naked on the bathroom floor of a Danish flat with a face covered in stress acne and a severely sprained ankle (this makes me laugh a little looking back!) I hit rock bottom for the thousandth time in my life and it was beautiful.
I thank my old love for being a catalyst for my rebirth and ability to completely reclaim my health. The two darkest years of my life lead to a new bright and airy self. Completely refreshed. I began to notice that my autoimmune symptoms were more closely connected to unresolved grief than anything else. Many of my symptoms were a result of how I was treating my body due to grief. An example...over eating to deal with feelings of pain and sadness, which contributed to poor blood sugar regulation, which triggered my adrenals and ultimately my thyroid. I spent a lot of my time in Copenhagen working through this grief. I met so many amazing people during my time in that magical country who welcomed me into their communities and loved me in my darkest moments.
In August 2016, after receiving some closure I needed in Denmark, I returned back to Oregon to photograph a cookbook with a local farm whom I had been connected with previously. I had the best time photographing the cookbook. I had returned to central oregon—a place that feels like home to me. When I got to Bend, everything fell into place. I decided to settle in. I moved into the most perfect house in a near-impossible rental market (come stay in my airbnb!). I manifested my dream car in less than 24 hours (a 1988 two-tone blue Toyota land cruiser). And I met a beautiful soul partner whom I completely adore and has been such a light of expansion in my life. I have integrated myself into a dynamic community of artists and entrepreneurs. My photography business in Bend, Oregon has exploded and I've gotten to work with nearly all of the brands I have manifested such as Mint Jewelry, Jem Organics, Bontá Gelato and the artist Katie Daisy along with photographing numerous weddings, engagements and portraits.
After a few painful years of navigating sickness, grief and heartbreak, things have turned around and I'm living the inspired life that I always dreamed about but didn't know was possible for myself. I get the feeling that sometimes people look at me and my generally positive and happy disposition and think I've got it easy; perhaps that things have been handed to me on a golden platter. That is so far from the truth. Through extremely painful moments in my life, I've chosen to see the light. I've chosen to look for the beauty in the saddest moments of life. I've hit rock bottom time and time again. I've worked through debilitating illness that I will have to manage my entire life. I raised myself motherless. I didn't have a consistent or healthy home environment growing up. I've been through heartbreak that felt like the worst kind of abandonment possible. In my darkest moments, I didn't know how I would or could continue on. And now I'm here. I'm on my way to living my best life. And it seems to be expanding every day as I expand my subconscious beliefs around my own self worth. I do my work and for that, I have seen the rewards. I've completely reclaimed my health and no longer have autoimmune symptoms (although I will always be a sensitive body type and will always be autoimmune - meaning my body attacks its own cells.) But here I am—I know that I have to share this story, all the beautiful and ugly parts wrapped into one beautiful crystal sphere. I know what it's like to be sick and have no hope. I promise you, beauty lies in the darkness. My experience has given me the perspective and experience to live the rest of my life as my own expression of vibrance and inspiration.
Thank you for reading and receiving my journey. I hope it is able to inspire those navigating dark time.