Women and Identity: Karuna Rockwell – Chronic Illness Mentor and Coach

Karuna Rockwell - Mentor and  Coach for Women with Chronic Illness

Karuna Rockwell is a Leader of Healing Heroines, a paradigm-shifter in the realm of health and wellness, and a modern-day priestess. She mentors and coaches women with chronic illness through an integration of emotional support, mental health tools, neurophysiological exercises, nutritional counseling, and spiritual practices. Her purpose is to support women in experiencing their illness as a path of personal growth and empowerment. She has a masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and is certified as an Integrative Health Coach.

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chronic illness

Woah! My time with Karuna was so powerful, I couldn't wait to get her information out to all of you! Karuna works with a truly special group of women who are affected by chronic illnesses that are rarely cured and difficult to manage. Yet, Karuna manages to help women create lives that they are passionate about by providing them with the support and love they need to move forward. One big challenge she brings up is the feeling of loneliness that comes with having a chronic illness but how important it is to know that there is support for you! Read on to find out more about Karuna's journey and vision for her work!

What inspired you to work in this business?

I was already on a career path in mental health counseling, working in the field of equine psychotherapy. I had my dream job, but started suffering from an autoimmune disease; I felt like my whole life was falling apart. I had to leave my job and move in with my mom. My chronic illness felt like a death sentence. I started looking for holistic ways to improve my health. My whole perspective on my illness changed when I saw it as an opportunity to learn how to help others. I had a big shift - a clear moment where I hit a severe low. I was on the floor crying, despairing about my life and future. At that moment I called my brother and he said this is it, this is your training ground, your PhD to learn how to help others. My experience became my own boot camp, and I was learning in every moment, ultimately seeing how my experience could lead me to serve others on their journey.

Who is a woman you admire? Why?

My clients inspire me! I see how they are showing up for themselves, how they can manage their challenges with courage, grace, and humor. Every time I think of the people I work with, the qualities that come to mind are strength, resilience and showing up. These individuals are resolved to be open to their experience; they are not shut down. They haven't decided their life is over. They stay open. This keeps them vulnerable but ultimately leads them to feel more empowered. I am continually amazed by them; it’s an honor to work with them.

What is a challenge you see women face? How do you support women in getting past these challenges?

The women I work with all have a variety of diagnoses and a multitude of challenges with chronic illness.There is a laundry list of symptoms and it can be hard to even track all the symptoms sometimes!. Navigating the medical system is very difficult. Women get written off as a hypochondriac or depressed. They are made to feel crazy. By the time they see me, they are are feeling very discouraged. I validate their experience and help put together the bigger picture regarding their body systems and diagnoses. I provide support so they can learn to listen to their bodies and trust the information they are receiving from their bodies. Once they better understand their illness, they can take charge of their health. It is a very empowering process.

What can you tell my readers about the healing process?

For those suffering from chronic illness, I recommend reaching out to a holistic professional of some kind (a health coach, naturopath, functional medicine doctor are all possibilities). Find someone who doesn't have easy answers when you talk to them. You don’t want a quick fix treatment because this is usually only addressing the surface issues and not getting to the root of the illness. You want to get a sense that they know it is complex. They want to get to know your unique situation with all its complexity, and it may take a couple of hours for them to get the whole picture. Regarding my process, I’m unique because I bring so many different approaches into what I do. I often find the best place to start is with diet. When the immune system dysfunctional and other bodily systems are out of whack, the immune system can become easily triggered to certain foods. I start with a diet that eliminates the majority of known triggers. Everyone is different, so then it is a matter of seeing what foods the body can tolerate after at least a month of a strict diet.

The body may also need some nutritional supplements to get back into better balance. Then we might also need to address chemical sensitivities and environmental toxins that are stressing the body system. Spiritual practices and supporting shifts in perspective are integrated throughout our work together.

All of this can be overwhelming all at once, so I work in stages, and it is very individual. Once this a baseline of health is established, the deeper healing process can begin. This is where I do more of the work in regulating the nervous system and working with emotions. This is where shifts can take place that isn't possible with merely addressing the physical because it’s healing our experience of who we are in the world. This is ultimate health.

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What do you tell yourself in your darkest moments to keep moving forward?

I remind myself of the complexity of the situation and of the fact that my current condition of illness has been developing over a long period of time. Therefore, it’s natural that the healing process will take its time as well. I work on putting the moment into a greater context. I remind myself that it is not my fault that I am having a bad day. An autoimmune flare is caused by so many complex factors; it’s impossible to control these factors. I give myself permission to feel low those days. I remember that life is about growth and that this experience will help me better help others. I have a spiritual practice that I use to connect to a higher spirit and a higher power. I give up control and let love hold me.

If you could tell your younger-self something about life, what would it be?

I would tell myself not to take so much responsibility for the emotional well-being of the adults in my life when I was a child. I would urge my younger self to recognize that the things going on in her environment are not a reflection on her lovability; she is wonderful and perfect and whole as she is. When our needs are not met in childhood due to parents that are not available in the ways they could be, the safest thing to do is internalize that we are the problem, and then strive to achieve perfection. Our entire physiology becomes oriented to attacking us rather than protecting us. I believe in trauma work. We all had imperfect childhoods, some of us more than others because life is complex. Our parents were dealing with so much, and our needs for love and security may not have always been met. It can take some time to heal this disconnect, and this healing directly relates to healing chronic illness.

chronic illness

What comes to mind when you hear women and identity?

Chronic Illness has a way of stripping away everything you thought was your identity. You lose everything or close to it. If you were a go-getter, suddenly you are not able to live your life that way. If you were the generous one, suddenly you need to take more than you can give. Illness challenges you to find and know your true essence. I urge women to embrace this and connect with their true identity. Often by facing the challenges that come with having an illness, you find out who you are really are. If your friendships were based on insecurity and the need to feel needed, that changes; your relationships are now more based on you knowing your worth. When you are diagnosed you lose a lot, there is a grieving process, but you gain a better connection with who you are. You can really empower yourself. And please know you are not alone on this journey.

Why do you believe it is important for women to follow their passions?

A big drive for what I do is to help women keep or discover the passion they have for their lives. There is the potential to lose women and their gifts through illness because it can feel so hopeless. It can feel like their lives are over. Without support, women can give up, and we could lose our most powerful leaders and healers. These women learn things that are really important to our society through their experience of illness. Women with chronic illness are the canaries in the coal mine. The healthy are able to be blissfully ignorant to how vulnerable and sensitive our bodies are. There are realities of our society that will ultimately lead to more widespread disease, and these women are showing us what is needed for the greater health of all.Chronic illness requires support and learning things that are vital for overall health. Women hold a feminine wisdom that is really needed for our time and when they heal they can feel empowered and bring this wisdom to the rest of the world.

Where to find Karuna:

Website: Karuna Rockwell

Facebook Group: Healing Heroines Group

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