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Journaling: From despair to hope...

Discussion in 'Success Stories Subforum' started by oneperson, May 21, 2021.

  1. oneperson

    oneperson Peer Supporter

    Long post here.
    But maybe it will inspire hope to not give up; even after decades of suffering.
    It's my success story which I wrote in 2005.

    In 2005 -- after 20+ years of asthma, hives, allergy, depression, anxiety, and more -- I got well.

    Journaling was the catalyst, and possibly the major factor, that allowed me to open and enter doors that led to wholeness.

    I had begun journaling in 1998. I found Sarno's work in the spring of 2000 which led me on a quest to discover if and how much my emotions were manifesting as other physical symptoms.

    Other than getting a total hip replacement in 2008 (due to bone deterioration from all the steroids I'd consumed to keep me breathing over 17+ years), I was well from 2005 until April, 2011. I was even able to take up my dream of backpacking.

    But in April, 2011, I developed a debilitating neurological condition, polyradiculitis, brought on in part or whole by a defective hip implant that was leaching heavy metals. The defective implant was explanted and replaced in August, 2016, and I've had slow but significant improvements since then. It's a long story, like most are.

    Suffice it to say, I'm currently in my 2nd chronicity and on a re-quest into wholeness.

    Some may say that the narrative below is not specifically MBS because there were some physical causes, and I used a combination of approaches to reach the 2005-wellness threshold. But I wonder how much of those physical causes were not mainly somatization or, at the least, were catalyzed by suppressed emotions that caused my body to be more vulnerable to physical toxins.

    Part of my story is that I was involved in a authoritarian religious group (which many consider a cult) from 1977 through 2005. I feel sure that the suppressive practices and doctrines I believed then are deeply tied into this story.

    Thanks to anyone who reads this...
    And I hope it can encourage hope...


    In the summer of 2005 my mental health therapist at the time asked if I would write my health story to be included in a book. She asked a few of her clients this same request. She had specific topics she wanted covered. Thus the content of the narrative posted below. I have made only a few revisions since it was originally penned in 2005.

    Healing the Soul, Healing the Body

    At 46 years old I sat across from my counselor. She looked into my eyes and stated, "Carol, I want you to start thinking like a well person."

    The statement stunned me. I felt nebulously lost within it having no concept of what her words meant. Over the next few days I rolled the statement over and over in my head and heart. The ensuing story is part of the journey endeavoring to discover what it means to think like a well person.

    I choose the 39th year of my life as the threshold for the following meandering, a snippet of my journey.
    It was in that year that I began to submerge myself in ink and page, writing my way toward wellness. Journaling changed my course from death to life, from despair to hope.

    At 39 years old I was married with two children, ages 8 and 10. For the last seventeen years I had suffered with severe asthma; numerous bouts of pneumonia; multiple sinus surgeries (1984, '85, '86, '96); environmental, chemical, food, and inhalant allergies; hives, welts, and various skin disorders; systemic candida; depression; anxiety; mood swings; chronic fatigue; body aches; and a myriad of other symptoms that go with an over-responsive and depleted immune system. I had been pumped with intravenous drugs, swallowed or inhaled a host of pharmaceuticals (including 1000's of doses of steroids), been pricked with needles 100's of times for various reasons, and received a myriad of allergy antigens. Alongside conventional treatments, I had utilized alternative therapies including homeopathy, oral and intravenous vitamin/mineral supplementation, strict dietary protocols, acupuncture, herbs, bodywork, prayer, and some psychological counseling.

    Exhaustion and depression were constant companions.
    I was caught in a sticky, mucous-coated, stagnant, thickened, stringy web that felt like it morphed in every tissue and cell beneath my skin.
    I felt trapped in my own body.
    I craved to breathe freely.
    I thirsted for fluid energy and to move without pain.
    I dreamed of running like a deer, graceful and free through the woods.
    I hungered for freedom.

    I often felt like a complete failure as a believer, as a mother, as a person. Shame coursed through my veins. My suicide plan was foolproof, but I couldn't leave my children with the legacy that their mother had committed suicide. My children were my saving grace, my reason to keep drawing one more breath, to keep trying.

    Life was not always dreary. Alternative treatments had become my mainstay for recovery, and I had stretches of improvement and hope. But the improvement came in incremental bits.

    Yet, now my hope was depleted; it was time to quit hoping.
    I had clung to the belief that God's will for me was complete health.
    It was time to give up the dream that I could actually get well.
    Death seemed the only alternative for release.

    At that point I took my pen to paper and began to write.

    Emotions crystallized into words upon the page detailing the self-loathing, the asthma attacks, the pain that racked my body, the exhaustion, the anger, the murky darkness of it all. I felt such deep, deep shame and self-hatred. Day after day I filled the pages; I held nothing back. I poured it all onto paper, including dreams and hopes.

    I wrote because I had to.
    I did not know what else to do.

    I never imagined that by putting pen to parchment my circumstances would begin to change, but they did in a most powerful way.


    Within a few months of starting to journal I was hospitalized yet again (October, 1998) and connected with a doctor who discovered I was suffering with mercury toxicity, a typical cause for immune dysfunction. In January, 1999, I was again hospitalized and connected with a different doctor who confirmed the mercury toxicity. That same month I began an intense yearlong detox regimen which included oral chelation therapy, intravenous and oral vitamin and mineral therapy, hydro-colon therapy, low heat saunas, and coffee enemas.

    I continued to journal and began to re-educate myself on healing.
    I began to have hope again.
    Unknown to me at that time, I suffered my last severe episode of asthma attacks in January, 1999.

    After six months from my last round of asthma attacks, I was able to start addressing more definitively other symptoms: fatigue, mood swings, hives, and pain. It was like my body continually pushed symptoms to the surface that were desperately crying to be released. Yet I was hopeful that these symptoms too could be ameliorated; the asthma was already curbed, and I had new treatments to try.

    Maybe my body can get well if I can learn better how to listen to what it is trying to communicate to me. Maybe I can allow it to heal itself. Maybe, maybe, just maybe....

    The next regimen on my agenda was a treatment known as Enzyme Potentiated Desensitization (EPD), a complex allergy treatment that approached the reprogramming of miscoded T-helper cells. Every eight weeks, for 1-1/2 years, I received injections containing over 200 antigens mixed with an enzyme to penetrate the miscoded cells. After each round of injections I went into quarantine for five days to limit my exposure to allergens and ate only venison, tapioca flour with water, and sweet potatoes due to multiple food sensitivities and allergies.

    My health improved with EPD. A sore spot in my left lung that had been present since my last bout with pneumonia cleared. Some skin conditions improved. My sense of smell was restored. Allergic reactions and energy improved. Then the FDA abruptly stopped the use of EPD in the United States. My sense of smell was stolen again, and some allergy troubles resurfaced. But I remained hopeful that other doors would open for me.


    In the spring of 2000, I was diagnosed with a herniated disc confirmed with an MRI. It had not responded to steroid injections, muscle relaxers, or physical therapy. A friend loaned me the book, Healing Back Pain, by Dr. John Sarno. The book was about how some people suppress emotional pain which then manifests as physical pain. I matched the profile.

    The book prompted me to dig deeper for a more specific program to help guide me in uncovering emotional causes. That search led me to a website, MindBodyMedicine.com, and Dr. David Schechter's guided journaling, reading, and education program. With the support of my then-medical doctor, I personally chose to approach the program completely psychological; I gave up my brace and physical therapy. For me that worked. Within six weeks of the program, the back spasms were 80% better. After five months they were completely gone.

    Due to the improvements of what I had learned via Sarno's work, I was prompted to delve more deeply into the relationship between my emotions and my physical illnesses.

    How many of my illnesses and symptoms could be due to suppressed emotions? Am I honest enough to be able to open up and see what really lurks in my soul?

    In the fall of 2000, I began regular psychological counseling to see how much of this connection could be a cause for some of my ailments. Over the subsequent four years I developed a support system which consisted of journaling, bibliotherapy, and relationships with a handful of people and professionals that I could call upon. I grew in my ability to open up, to peek within and see the ugliness and the beauty. I saw more ugliness than beauty. But I began to understand that even what I perceived as "ugly" was okay; I didn't have to fear it.

    During these four years my symptoms became less intense and then plateaued. I lived managing mood swings; hives and sneezing attacks a few times a week; and a hormone dysfunction that would manifests in severe aches, depression, and cognitive impairment about five days per month. I continued my search for relief through conventional means (including medications for the depression), bodywork, nutrition, homeopathy, and energy medicine. I continued with counseling and journaling. I began to think that this was as well as I could get.

    In latter 2004 I was introduced to a nutritional product that had more life-changing effects. Within nine months of consuming this product my hives completely disappeared. The mood swings and debilitating hormone dysfunction were probably 85% better. I was able to get off my daily psychiatric medications. My energy was more stable. I went from feeling like I was hit by an 18-wheeler four to five days a month to being hit by a bicycle a few days a month. I was beginning to taste freedom.

    It was during this time that my counselor stated those unforgettable words , "Carol I want you to start thinking like a well person."

    My adult life had revolved around sickness - a science of schedules and charts and foods and pills and needles and tests and treatments. This new experience of wellness was scary. Oddly I found myself wanting to break down, but couldn't.

    I thought I would run free once liberated from this tyranny of entrapment. Yet, I was in new territory, unfamiliar, uncomfortable. What was I to do with myself now? It took me six to eight months to become comfortable with being "well."

    In the fall of 2005 I was well enough to make some major religious changes. After twenty-eight years of loyalty I chose to leave an authoritarian religious organization. In hindsight I have no doubt that certain doctrines and practices that I had embraced from this organization were major contributors to the chronic illnesses with which I had been ensnared. Without the wellness I had been granted by 2005 I don't know if I could have made the break from that organization. It took much resolve and energy that I didn't have prior to 2004.

    Over time after divorcing the organization I was able to tap into my heart again, and I began to understand with greater clarity underlying emotional causes that contributed to the previous decades of illness.

    What are my maintenance practices? Decent nutrition, medications as needed, rest. Movement, nature, play. Mindfulness, reading, writing. Music, movies, laughter. And authentic relationships with myself, my environment, and loved ones. When I experience physiological symptoms or tumultuous emotions I endeavor to seek self-awareness and then to listen and follow the paths that offer relief.

    What does it mean to think like a well person? It means I recognize that I am significant, worthy of love, and fully human. I am a vital member of the human family. I am not an appliance that requires fixing; rather, I am a yearning individual with an innate need for love, acknowledgment, and to know my value.

    Last edited: May 21, 2021
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  2. Balsa11

    Balsa11 Well known member

    Yes! We don't realize how powerful our bodies are and it's so important to be grateful to our body every single day. Love the vibes :)
    oneperson likes this.
  3. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Wonderful narrative of your story, @oneperson, thank you. And, I agree 100% with this statement. I believe that the mind-body connection is implicated in many, if not most, physiological conditions, while at the same time it is also integral to healing and recovery - certainly recovery from the malfunctioning brain mechanism we call "TMS", but also from actual physiological illnesses or injuries.

    oneperson likes this.
  4. Cactusflower

    Cactusflower Beloved Grand Eagle

    Oneperson: that’s an amazing story! I was just searching about journaling here because I’ve been stuck. Months if journaling but not much deep darkness, getting it out is incredibly hard for me although being committed to journaling daily and tying is not herd, the digging is just not happening for me. Yet.
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  5. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    @Cactusflower - For me, the key was realizing that my brain was editing what I was writing down. You have to push through and don't let it do that. You know the messages - I'm sure we all do: "Oh, no, don't write THAT down - it's too embarrassing/shameful/silly/what if someone sees it/ I'm sure it's not necessary, it's totally okay to skip it..." Etc.
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  6. oneperson

    oneperson Peer Supporter

    Thank you @Balsa11!
    Right back-at-cha!:)
  7. oneperson

    oneperson Peer Supporter

    @JanAtheCPA ... thank you!

    And yes, I'm with you all the way on our mind-bodies. ("Mind-bodies." I now see little emoticons shaped like brains with legs, smiling and dancing. lol)

    Lots of thoughts. Lots of thoughts. I could write another "book" about just the last 3 weeks. But I'll spare ya'!
    But wait! I did write another "book," Dr. Schechter's workbook. lol

    Seriously though, the last 3 weeks have been quite stunning regarding my symptoms, even those of the polyradiculitis. I'll know more in 6 weeks, when I'm scheduled to get my next routine cervical trigger point injections. I'm patiently waiting and watching...and taking deep breaths when I think, "What if? What if!?!" (ie: what if I can actually get well?)

    I consider myself pretty familiar and somewhat well read in the mindbody area. Yet through this forum I'm learning stuff I didn't know. I have renewed HOPE. Right now I'm into Dr. Schubiner's Unlearn Your Pain, and every day, I'm awed.

    I better stop, or I'll just keep blathering on. lol

    Thanks again for reading and commenting...
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  8. oneperson

    oneperson Peer Supporter

    @Cactusflower ... That's so cool! I love serendipity. And thank you for reading and commenting and the kind words!

    It's good to hear that the act of journaling isn't hard. The stuckness can be frustrating though.

    Are you handwriting or typing your journal? At various times I've read about some supposed research that handwriting can be more beneficial than typing. And there probably is something to it in the way our human heart-brain-body circuitry works. OTOH, if typing works, go with it.

    Jan makes great points in her post. I especially like the "silly," which may not seem deep but maybe frees up some flow so that other stuff can come through. Maybe I'm trying to say that you don't necessarily have to look for the deep darkness; for me it just started bubbling up.

    When I started journaling in 1998, I didn't realize at that moment that I was delving into anything of depth. While sitting on the couch wheezing with asthma, I was watching a show on PBS about a diary of a midwife who lived in the 18th or 19th century. All I can recall is that I thought, All she did was write about the weather. That's not complicated. I'm gonna do that.

    That's how I started.
    And shortly thereafter, things started to pour.
    For me, it was a godsend. But I didn't know it at the time.

    I've been through plenty of dry spells since I started journaling, but it's something I seem to always come back to. I think maybe part of the motivation for always coming back is that I know how much it has helped me. Maybe it's kinda like home.

    I didn't do a guided journal until 2000, and that was Dr. David Schechter's workbook. I found his questions beneficial, though they also irritated me. Ha.

    This past month (21 years later) as I made my way (again) through his workbook, a couple times I shouted in the journal, "I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS ANYMORE!!! WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE!?!" But I kept at it.

    I really like his question: "What went on your life today?" Irritating as hell for me, but I like it. It's kind of like I'm getting to know my self. Because I finished the workbook, I'm back writing in my regular journal. And I'm sometimes using that question as a springboard.

    Within another week or so I'll be into the journaling part in Dr. Howard Schubiner's book, Unlearn Your Pain. At the moment I'm actually excited about it, which is funny-strange to me. I'm sure that feeling will fluctuate.

    I'm sure you already know that there are lots of books on the market about journaling and it's benefits. and lots of information on websites to help with prompts or ideas when/if needed. I've done writing exercises for recovery from a number of self-help books/programs. For me, they've all helped in one way or another.

    I hope you find relief and healing, however it comes in whatever format it comes...journaling or otherwise.

    Thanks again for commenting...
    All the best...
    ~Carol :)
    JanAtheCPA likes this.
  9. Cactusflower

    Cactusflower Beloved Grand Eagle

    I hand write, typing for is not personal. Part of my blockage is that I am a writer, a journalistic writer of facts, so I’m roped into that writing mindset of being less self expressive because I’m telling someone else's story, and of course it’s always a story. I’ve had my biggest revelations either just thinking or actually listening to podcasts and spring-boarding off of someone else's in-site it happened today, and I’d clearly been hedging about the topic but it was obviously so subconscious I didn’t stumble on what now seems ridiculously obvious. Hopefully that nugget will help with the deeper digging.
    Today I learned I am adding too much “grey” into the journaling, considering several sides of a situation, not just mine. It’s a challenge when that is part of your people pleaser personality - to always consider everyone. To try “feeling” what I wrote today I wrote about the positivity of love. Experimenting to see whatever works to get into that block! Clearly the whole block is a large part of TMS for me.
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  10. hawaii_five0

    hawaii_five0 Well known member

    @oneperson: Great post! I am struggling with journaling at the moment. But what you say about it echoes what is in David Hanscom's "Back in Control" book, which I have been re-reading. In fact journaling is the number one thing he recommends for people to get themselves whole and help settle their nervous system, or at least it helped him and many others it seems. So it's great to hear how it has helped you, and "thinking like a well person". Best regards.
    oneperson, JanAtheCPA and Forest like this.
  11. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Nichole Sachs is a huge proponent of journaling - and of not keeping what you write. She uses a blank text document, and when she's done, she deletes all the text before saving it as blank for her next session. I use crappy old notebook paper and fill up both sides with illegible scribbles before recycling it.

    I do this last thing at night, clearing my brain of whatever has accumulated during the day. I sometimes refer to my practice as "writing shit down", although I also always include at least one thing from the day that I'm grateful for.

    Not saving what you write is a significant enhancement to this process. It can really help to reduce or eliminate the unconscious editing that takes place if you think you're going to have to re-read what you wrote (or, yikes, if you're afraid that someone else might read it!)

    And as @oneperson pointed out, even unimportant or small things that suddenly come to the front of your brain during a free-writing session might actually have meaning to your fearful brain.
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  12. Davideus85

    Davideus85 Peer Supporter

    I’ve been journaling almost every day for the last four years. I keep everything I write. It’s part of my story, why throw it out? It may come in handy someday and might help someone else.
    oneperson likes this.
  13. mugwump

    mugwump Well known member

    Writing in a journal each day allows us to direct our focus to what we accomplished, what we are grateful for, and what we are committed to doing better tomorrow. Thus, we may deeply enjoy our journey each day.
    oneperson likes this.
  14. oneperson

    oneperson Peer Supporter

    "Writing shit down" :D

    I write in blank books, and keep them. They line a shelf in our bedroom. I have trashed some of my journaling and wish now that I hadn't. I dabble in writing memoir, and the journals can sometimes help. If I want, I can later open a journal and fact check and read my actual thoughts in the journal in real time, so to speak, putting my self more succinctly in that scene and perhaps be able to better feel it.

    When I journal, I think I don't unconsciously edit; though that is something to ponder. I use Gregg shorthand when I journal, and that might help stop some unconscious editing because even though Gregg is decipherable, it'd be like excavating dinosaur bones. I think few people know Gregg shorthand anymore. Plus, I don't think anyone will ever be that interested in ferreting through all those handwritten books. :bookworm:

    But when I write memoir I do catch my self quasi-conscious editing. I have to consciously tell my self, "Stop it!" At least for that first draft.

    Also, when I've gone back to read past journaling, it's been a boost for me....to know how far I've come. Sometimes, when I've read past scribblings, it's like reading about another person, which can be embarrassing. But that embarrassment can lead to understanding, forgiveness, and self-compassion. At least, for me. :)

    All that said, I also see the profit in deleting, trashing, burning, burying via ritual or not by ritual, (though I'm currently more of a ritual-leaning). Ridding can serve as a letting go; a freedom. It was just for that morning or day. A thought dump.

    I think too, for me...part of my keeping the journals may come from over 3 decades of indoctrination to "forget the past and declare it null and void." That "null-and-void" was a humdinger for me. It's part of the reason that after 30 years I felt a giant, empty hole in my heart; I no longer knew who Carol was. I had to refind me, re member my self back together. The hole slowly became whole. Grateful I am.

    Wow...thanks @JanAtheCPA . Your comment really prompted some thoughts for me....
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  15. oneperson

    oneperson Peer Supporter

    That's great @Cactusflower that you are able to identify part of the blockage. And that you discovered a nugget that helps with some deeper digging.

    I write plenty of grey as well. But for me, that grey usually leads to an opening up. And I think I write less grey now than I used to. Sometimes a CBT thought record helps me cut through grey.

    Yay for experimenting! Thinking of it as experimenting, to me, makes it into an adventure of discovery.

    How's it going for you now? It you'd like to share; I understand if not. :)
    JanAtheCPA likes this.
  16. oneperson

    oneperson Peer Supporter

    @Cactusflower, I just read the quote below by Anne Lamott. Upon reading it I thought, Those first three pages are the grey thoughts.

    I love serendipity.

    “You don’t care about those first three pages; those you will throw out, those you needed to write to get to that fourth page, to get to that one long paragraph that was what you had in mind when you started, only you didn’t know that, couldn’t know that, until you got to it.” -Anne Lamott
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  17. Cactusflower

    Cactusflower Beloved Grand Eagle

    Going slow but OK. Good write out the other day and reading/listening more about how others approach their journaling. Unsent letters are good for me. I also tried a thanks for friendship letter yesterday because I felt super great. I listened to a podcast from a few years back with great journaling ideas like thanks and gratitude letters occasionally, and also listing all the judgements you make about others - and turning it around to realize what we judge in others is often found in ourselves and that judging can be a form of self-loathing. That seems to work ok for me.
    I really like the idea of some positive journaling days. I think it will help me better see that every time I sit to write it won’t be some big heavy deal - that it can be emotional but not always need to be screamy-yelly. I also think that realizing some emotions are components of rage or anger and can be felt “as they are” - eg sadness and shame, guilt.. is more up my alley. I bury anger very deeply, and layer it on over years snd years. My brain is basically afraid of a giant ugly rage so peeling off the layers slowly seems much more safe to me. So slow, steady journaling with occasional insights may be just my way. It seems to be working in conjunction with specific breathing exercises in meditation right afterwards.
    How are you doing @oneperson?
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  18. hawaii_five0

    hawaii_five0 Well known member

    @oneperson: "In latter 2004 I was introduced to a nutritional product that had more life-changing effects. Within nine months of consuming this product my hives completely disappeared. "

    Just curious what this product was? Thanks
    oneperson likes this.
  19. oneperson

    oneperson Peer Supporter

    Good to hear you are moving along and that you're figuring out what works for you.
    "Slow and steady" reminds of the tortoise in The Tortoise and the Hare. Those tortoises are strong! Not to mention smart.
    And it sounds like you are having fun(?) with your experimenting.
    The layers sounds like a good idea. I too am afraid of the "rage" aspect of anger. I just talked about that a couple weeks ago with my mindbody coach. I think I've identified the source of part of where that comes from.

    I'm doing well, thank you. I had a happy day today, cycling a greenway in perfect weather.

    As far as my writing, I think I think that I'm ready to maybe jump back into a project. (Does that sound ambivalent enough? Ha!) I was working on the project a year ago and hit a wall. So...I'm thinking of picking it back up next week and seeing what happens.

    But first, this week I'll start the journaling section in Dr. Howard Schubiner's book Unlearn Your Pain. I'm a little nervous, but that's okay, because I'm safe. :)

    One of my symptoms since 2013 has been really bad cognitive fatigue. More than once, I've told the neurologist, "I don't have brain fog; I have brain mud." Seriously, it'd be like thick, wet cement. That would alternate with my brain feeling like scrambled eggs. Writing and conversing would be really difficult. I had to pretty much drop out of social life. I'd spend a lot of time in nature; words aren't needed there in order to connect and commune. The nature times were and still are healing for me.

    But in the past month, I've had quite a bit of improvement in that cognitive area, which has surprised me. Things are flowing better. I had the thought last week, "I'm back," referring to my thought flow. I'm hoping it continues, and I believe it will, with the regular ups and downs of life, of course. I think I'm on a good path right now, and for that, I'm grateful.

    Thank you for asking!

    And keep up the great work @Cactusflower!
  20. oneperson

    oneperson Peer Supporter

    Hey @hawaii_five0.
    Hmm...I guess I should have written that as products, plural. Because, at that time, it was 4 different food powder supplements made by Reliv. The four were Classic (soy based basic nutrition), Innergize (electrolytes), Fibrestore (gut health), and ReversAge (targeted at free radicals and for some hormone issues).
    My husband and I both still drink Reliv products; they work well for us, and we like them. :)
    hawaii_five0 likes this.

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