A Newlywed’s Story of Long COVID & The Birth of A New Career
When I tell you I wanted to avoid this topic for the rest of my life… I’m speaking my truth.
I was hesitant to share my story through a long COVID lens as I was scared. Scared of my own truth because I had some first time traumatic health experiences. However, I believe my honesty and openness will help someone, or many, out there and so I am choosing to be open and vulnerable by sharing my experience, and where it led me to. I can’t change my truth, my story, nor do I want to. What I can do is change my perspective on it, which is how I’ve healed. I look back on all of my experiences that stemmed from COVID (and pre-pandemic), and see only strength, bravery, courage and hard work. I see a woman who was on a quest for her truth, for true inner peace, and did the work to achieve this, and wants to help others.
I needed the lessons I learned in the last year to reconnect to the magic that lives inside of me and understand the importance of slowing down in what sometimes feels like an accelerated world so my body can hold, carry and execute the power she has within. For those who are reading this and meeting me for the first time, thank you for being here. Here’s a short summary of my life until 32:
I was born in 1989 in West Covina, California. My sister was born a few months later, and then our family would move to Lilburn, Georgia when I was 2 for my Dad’s job. I loved where we lived. I was a vibrant and energetic child who played tennis, soccer, swimming, basketball, baton, learned tap dance and ballet, as well as enjoyed the community we lived in. I then became an older sister of 2 when my youngest sibling was born in Snellville. My Mom and Dad decided to move to Carlsbad, California to be closer to family 10 years later. I’d go to Carlsbad High School (Go Lancers), fall in love with the sport of water polo, and graduate from Loyola Marymount University with a B.A. in Economics in 2011. Cue 3 jobs in marketing since I have graduated. The stars aligned for me to get my previous job the day I interviewed. I am grateful and will always be grateful for everything I’ve learned from each of my jobs I’ve had in life thus far. I’ve met strong leaders along the way, learned a lot about myself and my capabilities, and I always strive to be a better colleague, leader, and human.
Now for what led me to a new career. Here’s a summary of what my life has been since the pandemic began:
2020: the year my world turned upside down (with the rest of us), I postponed my wedding that was almost set, and the year I began a deeper desire to understand what life has been like for me as a brown girl & explore and reconnect to all of my roots.
2021: the year I did just that, plus understand how my body can heal itself and the important role our mind, thoughts and therefore energy play in wellness. Also, the year I finally married the love of my life.
2022: so far, it’s been the year I leave my 9–5 job to become my own Boss, have more flexibility in my schedule and start a holistic health business around my biggest lesson of 2021: “take your mental health seriously” were my doctor’s exact words.
My words (that I included a version of in my previous job’s resignation letter) are:
“In my world, women heal from years of patriarchal standards. I plan to dedicate a lot of my time now to empowering others on how to care for their overall wellness: mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically.”
My life would hit a halt when things started happening to my physical body I wasn’t understanding and couldn’t keep up with, and it all stemmed from getting COVID at the end of 2020 around the holidays.
Here are the experiences that led me to make a career shift this year to balance more of my work & life, as my physical body would take a toll in 2021. I go into detail in an effort to speak to someone else who might be experiencing things alone. If you’re interested instead about learning about what I created from my experiences including my 1:1 offerings (with one dedicated to long COVID) and the first program for women I just launched, you can scroll to the end ‘The Birth of A New Career’.
2020 COVID DIAGNOSIS
At my previous job, we received 2 weeks off in December for the holidays, a very nice benefit I’ve always looked forward to, especially the year the pandemic started. After a year of life turning upside down, I was looking forward to a break. I received my positive test the last day I was at work for the year, prompting my break used to rest and recover. My husband (then fiance) and I both lost our taste and smell for about 3–4 weeks (a really difficult experience that changed a lot in us both) as well as experienced other symptoms. Openly and honestly, we had some fear for the duration of our symptoms. I commend my husband for his strength as he experienced everything first (as my symptoms came later). We supported each other and made the best of our first Christmas just us two since we couldn’t be with family. I went back to work the first week of January 2021, fearful to tell anyone about my experience as I was still processing a lot, and I also felt shy of asking for more time to rest since we were given 2 weeks off. Day 2 back at work, I couldn’t help it and asked my boss for the remainder of the week to rest more.
I remember not wanting to do too much that month. I was mentally tired, so I treated myself gently and started living life more in the slow lane. I celebrated my birthday January 31st at home, my husband made the best day out of it (even filmed several TikToks with me I never ended up posting) and my friend dropped off a delicious home-cooked breakfast with my favorite: chilaquiles. It was a really fun day given how I felt all month. I remember feelings of gratitude, but also ‘strangeness’ is what I’ll call it. I wasn’t myself.
FIRST 2021 LESSON/EVENT: GUT HEALTH
One day in February I was on a walk in my neighborhood and I got so nauseous on my way back I had to sit down on the curb. I had been dealing with severe nausea since COVID and I didn’t like the feeling since it was out of the ordinary for me, so I went to the doctor. He said I had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and to try the FODMAP diet (FODMAP is an acronym for the types of carbohydrates found in our foods). I don’t see this as any regular ‘diet’- instead, it’s a way to understand what foods trigger your body, and it really helped me heal my gut and get my body back into alignment. Over the year, I also invested time in researching neuroscience and the mind-gut connection thanks to my father’s guidance. Now, I use the knowledge I read from credible sources and acquired from within through my experience to empower others to listen to their bodies and mind their thoughts when it comes to gut healing, and how important our gut (or “second brain”) is for overall wellness.
SECOND 2021 LESSON/EVENT: HAIR LOSS
One day in April, I realized my hair was falling out at a faster rate than normal. I would sit at my desk working, run my fingers through my hair, and in between tears, I noticed how many hair strands were leaving my body. It kept getting worse, and emotionally I was not okay. Some days, I felt like I was dying. The whole experience completely shattered me, especially heading into my postponed wedding coming in July. I did not understand what was happening and had never experienced hair loss before. This experience took a lot of my confidence away and dimmed some of my light within. My mom sent me an article about COVID survivors experiencing hair loss, and after some research it looks like what I was experiencing was ‘telogen effluviam’ which happens after you go through a traumatic experience. I was thankful for some answers, but it made me angry at COVID. By the time my wedding came, I had lost about 35%-40% of my hair. I was devastated for the duration of the 4 months this went on. Looking back, and understanding now, this was a very intense spiritual experience too. Hair is sacred, and I’ve learned a lot about how my body works through this experience as I’ve been able to feel it growing back since as my emotional health improved, however it still took some time.
THIRD 2021 LESSON/EVENT: A CHANGE IN MY SPIRIT
We are just vessels with beating hearts, flesh and blood without some spirit shining through us. My body was changing, some change for the better (I learned to eat more intuitively) and some for the worse. Hair loss took a huge hit on my inner light and soul. I would experience many heavy & emotional days, because I felt embarrassed, alone and not beautiful in my own skin. In the months heading into summer, I was not only dealing with all of these health changes & wedding planning, but also a very busy time at work preparing for a big televised event we host. Around this time, I felt very blurry a lot of days (brain fog) because I couldn’t keep up with the pace of my career, personal life and all of the physical changes I was experiencing at once. Due to this, I cut back on wedding celebrations like cancelling my original bachelorette party, while my husband went forward with his bachelor party, as I was not feeling myself and couldn’t be around too many people. This was not like me, as I love my friends and family and if I could go back, I would have wanted to keep things the same and allow myself to celebrate like I originally planned. Nonetheless, I am proud of myself for navigating these times to the best of my abilities, and grateful for family and friends who made me feel special leading into my big day, but I would suffer more health-wise before I was to be married.
FOURTH 2021 EVENT/LESSON: COMPLICATED CYST
The toughest part of my year was feeling a lump in my left breast the last week of June. At the time, I was freaking out. I worked for a cancer research non-profit, so you could imagine where my head went first but I tried diminishing attention to those thoughts. After seeking support from a co-worker, I took some deep breaths and all I could do was schedule an x-ray. I was told I had a ‘complicated cyst’ and they recommend draining it since it was painful for me. Between a busy few weeks heading into wedding day, I missed my appointment to drain it and had to get married with the cyst still in my body. Thankfully, it healed somewhat where it wasn’t painful by the time the big day came, but this scary experience added a damper to the way I felt heading into it, and it also made it harder to look at my wedding photos for a little while (now I’m okay and can see them with a smile on my face). I look back and can see my strong beaming light shining that day, but I also see how my heart was hurting. My inner world was taking a major shift (spiritually, physically and emotionally), and I now see clearly where I could have slowed down even more to listen to my body’s wisdom and cues.
Finally, the wedding we had waited more than a year for was here. Our wedding weekend was the brightest I had felt all year. Not only was I marrying my first boyfriend, the man I had been with for 8 years, with our closest friends and family as our witnesses, but I was reuniting with family and even my coworkers who I hadn’t seen in more than a year in person. It was a lot to take in for just one day…
… but it was also magical. Happy. Bright. And merry.
I was married.
While we definitely didn’t plan it this way, now I get to mark our wedding anniversary as my half birthday celebration, too. I love you, Luis.
We celebrated our honeymoon in the same area we were married in. It was a beautiful time, and we soaked in every moment and all the love.
Right when I got back to work, I jumped right back into busy times as we had the big televised event two weeks after my wedding. I had a lot of work to prepare for as Director of Social Media. This came and went. September, October and November were hard on me emotionally for many reasons. I began having mystical experiences around this time, too. I felt my grandmother Celia, who lives with us in spirit, around Thanksgiving and I felt guided by her. Feeling the energy of my ancestors since has brought me inner peace and continues to do so.
FIFTH 2021 LESSON/EVENT: MIGRAINE & NUMBNESS
I made my first appointment with a neurologist early in December to understand headache and migraine patterns that began during my first job after college. We scheduled a follow up mid-month and at this time I started a strong headache that would last about 2 weeks. The day before my appointment, I experienced numbness in my face and neck. I felt it come at the end of a busy Monday at work. At my follow-up appointment, the neurologist said he couldn’t explain why the parts of my face and neck were numb, he said they could be phantom symptoms but he acknowledged they were real for me. He said he think I’d be okay but he had me schedule an MRI to be safe (which I later received results I was clear). At the end of our appointment, he asked me a question: “may I ask what has got you so worked up about this year?” in response to me saying something terrible about it.
Unleash the fury. I told him everything I documented in this post I had experienced, and I almost knew what he was going to say as I had already seen a glimpse of what my next chapter of life could be. His next words were:
“I’ve seen a lot of women go down this path where one thing after another happens due to your body being under a lot of stress. You need to take your mental health seriously.”
That was my sign. That was all I needed to hear to pause life and readjust. All I was looking forward to was our coveted 2-week break again at work (I had a week and a half left to go). After this appointment however, I immediately told work I was taking medical leave. While my head was still experiencing some fog I could tell, I knew I needed to take some time to rest, process and figure out what my soul was pulling me towards.
This moment was not easy for me, however. I completely surrendered to life not knowing what my next days or weeks would bring, however, having a strong desire within to serve the world in another way and help others heal, especially women, the life givers on this planet, was present at this time.
DISCOVERING LONG COVID
We had planned a family trip to Loreto, Mexico earlier in the year for late December. On this trip, my mom asked me the most interesting question all year, and on the last couple of days of that long headache. She asks, “do you think all of this is from COVID”? I didn’t want to face this part of my story, but my soul said yes. I needed to accept it and accept my soul feeling something much larger than COVID going on with me, I was picking up on the shift in the world for some time… the birth of a new paradigm, and I wanted to create something from my experiences as I felt and knew from the deepest layers of my soul, that I could.
ADJUSTING WORK LIFE BALANCE
During medical leave for the first 2 months of this year, I rested and recovered and reassessed my next move. I wasn’t sure how a transition to starting a mind-body-soul aligned business supporting wellness would look exactly, and I wasn’t able to see it come to life until I was able to be brave enough to let my job go. I instilled trust in myself, and the universe, that everything would turn out okay and resigning from my job after 8 years was the right thing for me to do. I received more signs to confirm this.
The day I resigned, I wrote a heart felt 2-page resignation letter as I listened to the song Unstoppable by Sia on repeat. I needed some inspiration and motivation through this moment and this song was the perfect number and was on full blast. I had a lot of my memory come back as I had time to process a lot of my life at this time, so in the letter I opened up about how losing my aunt to cancer in 2011 made me proud to work for an organization working to improve patient lives. Later that day as I was preparing to send my letter to management, one of my cousins sends me a text: “my mom was just diagnosed with cervical cancer”.
Full body chills. The day that I chose to leave my job in cancer research…and after I just wrote a tearful letter about losing another aunt to cancer. As Sia says, “I put my armor on and showed the world how strong I was” by continuing what I knew I needed to do and sent my letter of resignation, but this news was heavy and hard to take in as you could imagine. (I can humbly and happily report that my aunt has since had a big surgery and is cancer free at this time - a huge moment to celebrate in our family).
THE BIRTH OF A NEW CAREER
I received my Reiki II certification, working on a Quantum Healing certification, took my lifetime of spiritual wisdom, years of yoga practice and certifications, knowledge acquired around health, especially in the last year, and teachings from a mentorship program to help me set up my launch on May 18th, 2022. I was able to soft launch on track with my goal of launching in May for Mental Health Awareness Month. My initial set of offerings include 1:1 remote intuitive spiritual guidance & energy healing sessions. I also just created a special program for anyone on their healing journey and wanting to love themselves no matter what, learn the energetics of mind, body and soul alignment and who want no excuse to be anybody but a true, authentic, aligned spirit & soul.
This 8-week program is something I am very proud to attach my name to as an emerging Entrepreneur, Healer and Spiritual Guide, and it is called Aligned Spirit Blueprint (ASB). Enrollment is NOW open for 10 humans. Book a call with me to here to sign up now.
This program includes science-based curriculum around the power of our minds and of rewriting beliefs that hold us back from our goals, desires, hopes and dreams. The world needs more strong, fierce and brave leaders so that we may not only serve ourselves better, but our families and communities as well who need us at this pivotal time of rebuilding a better world for all. I believe in our power, and these are my reasons behind the program ASB. If any of this spoke to your soul, book a Discovery Call with me here to see if this program is for you. Enrollment closes mid-July.
One thing I haven’t gone into detail yet was all of the deep inner work I committed to that allowed me to become the person I am today. COVID brought me many lessons, but I’ve been on a spiritual quest since birth. I’ve been journaling since I was a child, and last year I wrote a whole lot. I had to. It was how I processed everything that was happening FOR me (I have shifted my mindset from things happening TO me).
Times are tough right now, to say the least. The old ways of doing things are collapsing. It can feel overwhelming, and if you are experiencing long COVID, anxiety, depression or anything of the sort, it can be even harder to navigate these times. I created a free resource ‘5 Ways to Ground’ with the intention to give you ideas (based on my personal healing modalities) on how to slow down and process what is happening in your life at this time. If you are interested in receiving these recommendations, you can download it here.
A NEW 1:1 SERVICE SUPPORTING LONG COVID
Out of my COVID experience, and reading so many stories in the last few months of what others are going through and seeing a way I can help using my gifts, I am also proud to mention something for the first time here: a new 1:1 service dedicated to those experiencing long COVID.
The intention with this service I’ll offer for the next 6 months (or longer) is to hold space and help you process your symptoms, changes in your life and/or body and work on holistic solutions together to support your overall health (mental, physical, spiritual & emotional) to get you feeling well again. I hear stories about how doctors don’t believe you and what you’re experiencing. I believe you. Energy healing, an alternative & holistic form of medicine I practice, is also a part of these sessions. You can book this service with me here.
Let’s talk. Let’s heal. A peaceful mind, makes a more peaceful you, leading to a more peaceful day, which leads to a more peaceful world…
… and we could all use a little more peace these days.
My love to you. So much love.
Thank you for reading my story, and supporting me in my ambitions of healing one soul at a time.
Stephanie Jo Bours Flores
Daughter of Miguel & Jo, oldest of 3 sisters, first-generation college graduate in America, Healer and emerging Spiritual Entrepreneur