Jessie’s Road To Recovery After Beating Bacterial Meningitis
~ After nearly losing my life, I finally pulled through and was released from the hospital 8 days later. However, even though I beat the disease, the damage it had done to my brain was a battle I wasn’t prepared for.
Jessie Berzins, 30, in the middle of a career change from an Environmental Advisor to Real Estate Agent
“In 2013 I was very ill with a sinus infection and I kept getting worse over the period of a couple of weeks. Finally after being carried into the hospital for the second time and my boyfriend demanding answers, I was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. I was never contagious because I was on antibiotics for the sinus infection but they said my body had been slowly losing the battle to the bacteria. After nearly losing my life, I finally pulled through and was released from the hospital 8 days later. However, even though I beat the disease, the damage it had done to my brain was a battle I wasn’t prepared for. I developed high anxiety and depression, short-term memory loss, hypersensitivity to loud noise and bright lights, and social situations were very hard to deal with. They described my mental capacity as being similar to that of a child, that all of a sudden I had these “switches” turned off and I was unable to cope and deal with situations like I had learned growing up. I was put on an antidepressant and anxiety medication and at first it worked great, but as my brain and body began to heal I could feel that I didn’t need the medication anymore. I came off everything in November 2014 and it was harder than anything I have ever dealt with. I gained weight, my relationship was on the rocks, I was even more depressed than ever and I felt like I had just given up – I didn’t even want to go ride my horse which always made me smile. That was my catalyst.”
WAS THIS YOUR FIRST TIME LOSING WEIGHT?
I have lost weight before for a fitness show but this was the first time I was losing weight for me, to feel better mentally and physically.
WHAT WAS YOUR DIET LIKE BEFORE HIRING NADINE?
Well, I tried to incorporate what I had learned from Nadine years ago by eating a protein at each meal, a veggie and a portion of a starch carb but when you are not prepared, you end up eating a lot of takeout or whatever is the easiest and fastest to make.
WHAT IS YOUR DIET LIKE NOW?
Right now I still get my macros from Nadine and it is relatively consistent with what I ate during the first 2015 Transformation Challenge. I prep meals on Sundays for the week and have a bit of variety each week. My breakfast is always the same as I find it is easy and starts my day off with the right amount of energy. My meals are still split 2-3 hours apart depending on my appetite and when I get my workout in. Consistency and preparation are key.
WHAT WAS YOUR WORKOUT REGIMEN BEFORE HIRING NADINE?
WHAT IS OUR REGIMEN LIKE NOW?
Right now I am in the gym 5-6 days a week weight lifting and riding 3-4 days a week. I also try to get to yoga 1-2 times per week.
DID YOU EVER PLAY ANY SPORTS GROWING UP?
I figure skated competitively for 15 years, played baseball, hockey and rode horses. I was a very active kid.
WHAT ARE YOUR INTERESTS AND PASSIONS NOW?
My interests and passions have not changed much as I still ride and love the outdoors. I have more of a passion now when it comes to cooking, working out and running though. I have really started to enjoy running. I am still an equine enthusiast and am hoping to start buying and selling in the future.
WHAT ARE YOUR DREAMS AND GOALS FOR THE NEXT YEAR?
Dreams and goals for the next year are to jump right into real estate and work my tail off. My one huge goal is to remove the toxicity in my life piece by piece.
WHO INSPIRES YOU?
I won’t lie; Nadine has inspired me over the last year. Inspired me to push through everything in my way and to figure out different ways to cope with my anxiety. We have spoke over the last year about life, family and careers. Knowing how she completely switched careers and built a beautiful life for her and her son, I know that I have the ability to do that as well!
WHAT ADVICE AND TIPS WOULD YOU GIVE OTHERS?
Listen to your coach. Reverse dieting is not a myth; I know this from personal experience. It happened to me years ago and happened to me again in June after my shows! The only other advice that I give to everyone is to listen to your body. If you feel awful and have that little guy inside your head telling you to take a day off, then you should. When I was sick with my sinus infection before meningitis, I ran myself to the ground. Worked a full time job, worked out and rode my horse and all the while I had that voice telling me to take some time for rest. Take the time you need because the work can wait and the weights can be lifted when you get back.
GIVE US THE GOODS; WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE INDULGENCE (food wise)?
Pizza and crème brulee, maybe not together though
WHEN IT COMES TO FOOD, WHAT IS YOUR GO-TO TO CUT CRAVINGS?
Sugar-free jello or sugar-free freezies. My boyfriend found them at Wal-Mart and they were a lifesaver this summer.
WHAT DO YOU SEE TODAY WHEN YOU LOOK IN THE MIRROR?
When I look in the mirror, I see someone who is still transforming and trying to figure herself out. I am still trying to find that happy place after doing a fitness show but I can see that I am strong and have come so far.
WHAT BATTLES DO YOU STILL HAVE?
I still battle with my health daily, particularly migraines, which keep me from doing my daily routine, eating properly and making it to the gym some days. I still get anxiety some days but am working through it without medication.
I also struggle with the scale. Seems funny that a battery-powered machine can have such control over my emotions but the scale became the “judge” and I became obsessed over it. Weight is just a number. I have to remind myself that I will hold water with certain medications, when I am sick, and after a hard workout, so my weight will increase. There are so many reasons that your weight can fluctuate and all of them didn’t matter to me – my weight increased so I was a failure. When I recognized this obsession with the scale, I took out the batteries and put the scale away. If I am working out and eating well and am happy with how I look in the mirror, then to me, the scale can remain without a battery.
HOW HAS YOUR TRANSFORMATION INSPIRED OTHERS? DO YOU HAVE ANY GREAT STORIES?
I have a friend who was getting the walk around from doctors and after my sickness, I referred her to a clinic that I thought could help her and she has never looked back. She told me a while ago “Thanks for being one of my biggest inspirations to keep seeking answers and not be satisfied with being brushed off, and to live my life in a much healthier and happier way. I will always be grateful to you for that.” She has continued to follow my transformation, and she is now inspiring me with the meals she creates and how she is always seeking to improve herself
Also, a month after my challenge and 6 weeks before my fitness show I tore a ligament off my thumb which required surgery and a pin to stabilize the bone. I was in a cast the whole time and even competed with it. Instead of giving up, I modified my workouts and pushed myself. I think if I didn’t do that, it would have been detrimental to me physically and mentally. I had so much encouragement from everyone. I ended up placing mid-pack in a stacked group of amazing ladies and could not have been more proud of myself.
HOW DID YOU FIND THIS TRANSFORMATION TO AFFECT YOU FROM AN EMOTIONAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL LEVEL?
Well, the physical transformation is obvious but the emotional and psychological transformation I had was incredible. There’s no other way to put it. I had come off my medication and was at the lowest point I could be. During the challenge, we ate well and worked out daily and I began to smile and laugh again. I stopped using my anxiety medication and it was like I was a new person. Nadine’s transformation saved my life.
One really neat thing with the weight loss is that my horse is actually jumping better and we have become more of a team. I am stronger and leaner which allows him to move better as well. It has been super neat to feel how he benefited from my transformation.
If you want to hear more of Jessie’s story, please join us October 28th in Calgary for the SheTalks Fitness event. Jessie will be speaking. You can order your tickets at www.shetalksglobal.com