Here is a woman who is true courage in Action. I have been so inspired by her health journey. A successful, incredibly intelligent woman, her life changed dramatically as her health took a nosedive, and she and her family have had to walk through years of pain, hardship and adversity. Naomi is ‘Owning her health’ in the most sensational way.
I can’t wait for you to hear her story
Naomi! For those who don’t know you could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi! I’m Naomi. I’m a wife, mother, daughter of the King, lover of Jesus, blogger, craft enthusiast, somewhat whimsical and an encourager. I love reading, writing, walks through nature and especially my fantastic family. I have a wonderful husband and two lovely daughters—Isobelle and Abigail. Blessed beyond measure!
In the last few years, your life, and your health has drastically changed. Can you tell us a little of your experience, when it started and what you have gone through?
I’m not entirely sure when it started. I noticed things changing with me from about May 2014. Just a general feeling of being unwell, not wanting to eat food and struggling with energy levels and concentration. Things became quite acute in April of 2015 when a work colleague pointed out my enlarged thyroid. Testing revealed I was hyperthyroid (overactive) at that stage. I was dramatically losing weight and had a host of unpleasant symptoms. I was pretty stubborn about pushing through this but was forced to stop work in May 2015. I have not been able to successfully return since.
For twelve months from this time onward, I was seeing a range of specialists and received multiple diagnoses. I was classified with the ambiguous “Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” category with autoimmune complications in the thyroid and gut. At the end of the day, after seeing so many specialists and paying who knows how much, I was told there was nothing they could do. I would never work again…
Practically, what affects has this had on you and your family?
Looking back, this is hard to describe. The shock of it on my family and how quickly I declined took its toll. Abi was too young to remember it (she was only 3), but my older daughter Isobelle was in Prep. She has high emotional intelligence, and even though she didn’t know what was going on, she could sense it. Her teachers were concerned for her and wanted her to repeat. We decided against this but the effects on her emotionally were difficult to watch. Praise God for an amazing school who worked hard with her to build her confidence over the last few years.
Terry just broke—literally. It had a huge effect on his career and ambitions. He was studying for his PhD, in demand for his groundbreaking research and had to cut short his travels significantly to take up a lot more duties around the house. This included an invitation to speak at Harvard in Boston. During this time, Holy Spirit worked in our family and brought Terry to the Cross. He’s never been the same since.
The ongoing effects on the family continue. My husband does the lion share of work around the house including cooking AND dishes. (I mean, who should seriously have to do dishes after they cook?!) Our social outings and holidays are very limited and need to be carefully planned. We get as much help from outside as we can afford.
In the face of such drastic effects, have you had times where you have felt like you have succumbed to depression and anxiety?
OH YES!!! I don’t want to brush over this because I spent 17 months in a hole from May 2015 to September 2016. The frustration of diagnosis after diagnosis, treatment after treatment and no clear path ahead was taxing emotionally. I got to breaking point by about April of 2016 and told my husband, “I don’t think I want to live anymore”. These feelings persisted until August 2016 when I sought medical intervention for major depression. My GP put me on a standard SSRI (antidepressant) and within one hour of taking it, I had an adverse reaction. Antidepressants were not going to help. I needed answers! I cried out to God at this time. He gave me two solutions. The first was to see an integrative health GP who put me on to a supplement containing (amongst other things) activated B6 and zinc. My symptoms of depression left within 48 hours. The second was to submit myself to an inner healing process and deal with trauma.
In September of 2016, I was miraculously healed from suicidal thoughts at a women’s conference. I felt it leave and it has never returned. Over 8 weeks, I was radically changed by exposing all of my past hurts, failings and trauma to the love of God. I have never been the same since. While I do struggle with some anxiety from time to time, I’m able now to distinguish between it being an outworking of physical symptoms in my body, psychological anxiety and worries or an outright attack of the enemy. Most days, my mental health is in great shape.
Have you found practical ways to keep yourself mentally well and to keep your spirits up when your life has changed so drastically to what you are used to?
Joy is my secret weapon. I laugh—ALOT. When I feel down, I hear the Lord telling me to watch something funny and have a good old belly laugh. It’s highly therapeutic!
Praise is effective too. When I’m feeling heaviness, I put on the most obnoxious praise song I can find and play it. Sometimes I find myself crying through it as I feel Him lift my burdens. By the time I get to the end of it, I have a smile on my face and a new song in my heart. I know I can do ALL the things I need to do.
I think outwardly. When I’m struggling, I find reaching out and helping someone else gives such a payload of joy and abundance. Everyone struggles with something. No one is immune to pain. I may face different struggles but I’m thankful for what I have. This gives me the ability to help others. I have effectively been in ministry since the transformation in September 2016. Most of it has been unseen or on my couch. Even when I couldn’t leave the house the Lord would bring people to my door—tradies, chippies etc… I consciously minister to every person who steps through my door.
I also have hobbies—craft, reading, writing, blogging, online shopping (does that count?!)
How has your family responded to your health? Has this impacted them?
As I mentioned earlier, our social life and holidays look a bit different from most families. We need to plan things well in advance and I need to schedule rest after “having too much fun”. (This is a phrase I use when my body has become overstressed and I have a backlash of unpleasant symptoms).
My husband is Super Dad and carries us all very well. It takes its toll on him sometimes though. In many ways, he blames himself for what happened to me because we were both very driven and hard-working people. We are learning to take these burdens to the Lord as a family. My children have become highly empathetic humans. I’m so proud of them all!
My girls struggle from time to time with explaining to their friends why we can’t do sleepovers or many social outings. I have not discussed a lot of detail with my kids but I have given them some language to discuss the effects of “invisible illnesses” on people. They have had to learn to deal with insensitive comments from friends like, “Well your Mum doesn’t LOOK sick!”. There has been anger and frustration at times and a whole lot of parental guilt (useless emotion!), but we have forged ahead with empathy and compassion.
What are some practical ways that you have helped them to adjust?
Communication is key. When we don’t communicate about our feelings, unmet expectations surface and this can result in anger and frustration. We make it a daily discipline to unpack our day over communion as a family. We give all our worries and cares to God and air any grievances so they can be dealt with quickly. We give our kids a safe space to express what is on their hearts.
My girls have become quite independent over the last few years out of necessity. In many ways, this is a good thing. I have also prioritised fun in whatever form it takes. Saturday night movie night in our Super King size bed is sometimes all I can do physically, but we make it a family affair. My girls also rely on one another for entertainment quite a bit. They have a close and special bond.
Being someone who believes in divine healing, how have you navigated not seeing healing the way you would like with your health and finding the balance of still believing for supernatural, complete healing, and on the other hand also doing everything you can medically and in the natural to optimise your own health?
Isaiah 40:31 has been my key scripture through this process. The truth of this passage has sustained me. I’ve learnt to wait on the Lord and walk in the unforced rhythms of grace. When I first accepted that this health “thing” was looking long term, I asked the Lord what He wanted me to learn. He told me, “REST!” I can truly say I have learnt to rest and trust the process.
I have also realised the difference between truth and reality. My reality might be a whole load of unpleasant physical symptoms, but the truth is I AM healed! Walking the tension between truth and reality allows you to keep your eyes on Him and not be swayed by your circumstances. I have changed my language. I don’t say, “I have Fibromyalgia etc..” I say, “I have been diagnosed with…or I wrestle with…” I don’t adopt it as my own. It does not belong to me. It is not my inheritance. I reject it as part of my true identity.
Finally, I have discovered it is far better to rest in the love of God rather than rebuke symptoms all the time. This can wear you out with a chronic illness. On hard days, I lay down, soak in His presence and receive His love.
What are some practical changes that you have made to your health in what you eat and how you live?
With a coeliac diagnosis amongst other things, I’m on a whole new diet. For the most part, I eat really good food (I cheat occasionally). I take a few supplements but not too many because I believe diet is the best medicine. Above all, I am learning my limits. I love physical activity and used to love going to the gym. It’s not a possibility at present, but I find ways to stay active within the boundaries of what my body will allow right now. Some days I have way too much fun (this is my codename for overdoing it). At these times my family usually tells me to lie down. It’s funny they sometimes know my limits better than me. But hey, I’m still learning too…
What is your day on a plate?
Some days I struggle to eat. If my body is overstressed it suppresses my appetite. Since last year, I have made it a daily discipline to drink a green veggie smoothie every morning with some fruit, resistance starch and pea protein. It’s usually all I can tolerate until midday. I tend to prefer simple foods like share plates with raw vegetables, lean protein and cheese (really very attached to cheese). Protein and veggies are the priority. Some days I crave carbs. Other days I can’t eat them at all. I listen to my body. I drink lots of water and I’m partial to a cup (or two) of rooibos tea. I don’t do caffeine at all. My favourite meal is Creole curry with green veggies and rice. Oh and I cheat too…sometimes…with dark chocolate, gorgonzola cheese and potato chips…
Where to from here? What are you believing for in the next year?
This year I’m just letting go. I’m believing the anointing breaks the yoke so I’m operating in my anointing. I’m stepping out more in online ministry and I’m busy writing books…a few of them. I do it from bed. 80% of my life is spent in a prostrate position, but I’m still busy doing something. I’m not worrying about my future or when healing will manifest. This is the declaration I have framed and sitting up on my toilet wall (of all places). It’s a reminder that when I’m seated on the throne (pun intended) I’m seated in heavenly places.
I am anointed! The anointing I have is greater than an autoimmune disease, greater than chronic infections, greater than chronic pain. The anointing is causing me to overcome. It is breaking every chain. Fear has to leave. Stress and anxiety have to bow their knee. Healing comes. Strength comes. Faith comes. Hallelujah!
What is one bit of advice would you give for someone who wants to ‘own their health’ but is walking through a chronic illness or living with health issues that are not subsiding?
The biggest piece of wisdom I could impart is to ABIDE. He is our exceeding great reward. In His presence is fullness of joy. Don’t allow circumstances of any kind steal your joy. Enjoy your life in whatever capacity you can. It doesn’t need to be something big. Baby steps at first. Don’t socially isolate yourself. The right people will come and visit you in your PJs and sit with you on your couch or even lie with you in your bed. When you’re having a bad day, down tools and rest. Tell yourself tomorrow is a new day and you can try again. His mercies are new every morning. Some days I just want to cry with the physical pain I experience. These are the days I curl up in bed, cry if I need to and just let Him love me. It’s okay to have a bad day. Just try again tomorrow.
What does ‘Owning your health Mean to you”
I’m learning what I’m responsible for and what I’m not. You can’t do everything but you can always do something. Some days making my bed is the high achievement of the day. Small goals you can meet everyday boost you mentally.
I eat well. Food is medicine. I’m mindful not to eat like a zombie. I cheat occasionally. A little light exercise within my tolerance limits is so good for mental clarity and overall wellbeing. And most importantly, I aim to enjoy my life every day.
Isn’t she amazing?
You can get in touch with her through these links:
- Website: naomibyersministries.com
- Facebook: Naomi Byers
- Instagram: @naomibyersministries
- YouTube: Naomi Byers Ministries
Thank you again precious Naomi!
You are, as always,
Deeply loved and richly cherished.
Dr Christine Greenwood
Own Your Health – Changing the way you Think, Eat and Live.
Standout… Naomi’s husband cooks and does the dishes. He deserves a noble prize. I have a dishwasher and hate even loading it! He is next level!
P.S Have you read Own Your Health with my beloved Taryn Rose?