Karen Prescod on battling her chronic pain with mindfulness
(26 minutes) Karen Prescod is a sought after empowerment speaker and moderator, who believes in our ability to harness and utilize the power of our minds and knowledge, to create a life of truth and authentic expression. A #1 International Best selling author, she is the Founder and Chief Statement Maker of The Bowtie Gurl ™ and the Visionary and Founder of Bowtie Kids™. Both her business and non-profit are built on the foundation of 5 Empowerment Principles. Self-Discovery, Self-Awareness, Self-Worth, Self-Expression, Social Engagement & Advocacy.
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Welcoming Karen Prescod
HACKIE REITMAN, M.D. (HR): Hi, I’m Dr. Hackie Reitman. Welcome to another episode of Exploring Different Brains! Today we’re so lucky to have with us Karen Prescod, the founder of BowTie Gurl, the founder of BowTie Kids, where she helped so many children and she’s an international best-selling author. She’s an empowerment speaker and she’s a pleasure to have here. Thank you for coming Karen!
KAREN PRESCOD (KP): Thank you! Thank you so much for having me
HR: So, tell us how you got into all this. You’re doing so much on so many fronts. You got your own lifestyle line, you got the bow tie for kids, you got everything going on. How did this all start? What’s happening?
KP: Well, I have to say, I’m a serial entrepreneur. I came from a background in the corporate world. However, through my journey, I encountered some health challenges. I went through surgery and through the process of healing BowTie Kids and the BowTie Gurl was born.
Dealing with chronic pain
HR: What kind of surgeries did you have? What kind of problems were you having?
KP: So, back in 2003 I believe, I had my first neck surgery, but it took about three years to find out what was going on with me because I was having severe headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain. They were telling me it was stress. So, I had about three different doctors and by the third one, they’re like, “We know exactly what’s wrong”. So, they send me to a specialist to do an MRI on my neck, realize I had set of issues. I needed surgery eventually, but I went through the whole process of having injections, physical therapy. None of those things worked, actually made it worse. So, I have that first neck surgery back in 2003. It took 8 weeks. Everything was back to normal. The doctor said maybe 5 to 10 years and right about 5 years I needed another surgery for my neck. For my C4 to 7 is currently fused and that second surgery just did not go as well as I had hoped. It actually took me into that path of my life. It took longer to heal. The pain was way worse than when I went in and it left me unable to use my right leg and kind of almost like vegetable.
HR: Looks like it hasn’t done you much harm in the long-term. You’re doing great now!
HR: So, you had to adopt a very positive outlook going forward.
KP: I had to. In order to heal. I had to. First, I thought my life was over and I had given up. So, once I realized, listen, I have a purpose on this Earth for me, I had to take a deeper look inside and fight through that to fulfill that purpose.
HR: So you’ve decided to devote yourself to helping kids with chronic pain.
The BowTie Gurl
HR: And then on the serial entrepreneur side, you’ve decided to come out with a lifestyle brand. Tell us first about your brand?
KP: So, the BowTie Gurl really is about being confident, being courageous and just being yourself. Being you. It’s really an empowerment statement of embodying yourself. Expressing yourself. Just standing in your own power and being okay with that and emanating from that where people just can see, and feel your energy of who you are, and just living through to yourself.
HR: Now do you design the fashion line yourself?
KP: I do. So, the bow tie girl was born because in a meditation process that I had, a question came of that: If I had one thing to do in this world and I know it would succeed for sure, what would I do? And I wanted to always have a fashion line. And wearing a bow tie, the first-time people started to call me the “bow tie girl”. So, I was like hmmm, what a great ring. Great name for a business and it allowed me to start the fashion dream, the path that I’m on by simply being able to make it from home with my hands. So that’s kind of how that was born, and it really embodies me. It embodies who I have become from the inside out. The person that stands in confidence, stands in openness, stands in growth, stands in supporting people. Just being able to get people a safe space to just be, and I’m proud of that, and that’s process to my journey.
Combatting chronic pain with mindfulness
HR: Now tell us the specific tools that you might recommend for somebody in our audience who might be experiencing chronic pain, which affects many.
KP: Yes. Well the first thing I did was a lot of research because I was on a lot of medication that just didn’t seem to be helping but it was helping this massive issue and my journey really started when I started meditating. Really going on the inside and it was a struggle. It was a struggle because you know your mind drifts and you hear all these different things. You try to keep your mind silent. So, I did a lot of research on that. I started with guided meditations. I find different voices that didn’t really suit me. I like male voices better than female voices, different tones, and I just, I wanted to give up, but I didn’t give up because I was like, “Okay what else are you doing? You just got to keep trying until you figure this thing out.” And then I nailed it and I figured out what was working for me, and I just continued to do that. Eventually now I went in from meditating for an hour. Sometimes 2 hours because I love being in that space. Now so much time, I have to cut it down some days, five minutes will work for me, ten minutes will work for me. I can do that in the middle of the day, I can meditate in middle of driving and just, I can send to myself and it’s just amazing.
HR: Well I think you should have if you haven’t already because you’re a serial entrepreneur, The BowTie Gurl app for meditation in mindfulness.
KP: There you go! I love that. (Laughs.)
HR: I’ll try it.
KP: I love that idea.
HR: Well, you know what, it’s funny because I’ve just started using a couple of different apps for mindfulness which I find very helpful. And it’s the convenience of having it right there on your phone, and you can do it for five minutes, you can do for ten minutes, and then it’s a good space to be in, and I’ve just started it. And I got to say I really feel the difference the days I don’t do it compared when I do take the five or ten minutes to do it.
KP: It is. It makes a huge difference in your life and for me, it’s a big part of my healing. Yes, I changed the way I ate and juiced. I did a lot of things. I started exercising, but meditation just, it helped me sleep better because I was going through insomnia, I couldn’t sleep. So, changing the routine of going to bed at the same time, waking up at the same time, my body eventually found the natural flow without having to set an alarm as to how much time I body actually needed. But that’s from going in the inside and then hearing the message. For me meditation is about the listening right, I believe prayer is about asking and talking, and meditation is about a listening for the message, and whatever that message is. So, you get silent in order to hear the messages. It’s okay if you’re your thinking, for me it’s not about grabbing onto the thoughts but just paying attention to them like watching the movie when they come.
HR: And what would be the best way for somebody to start that for one minute, two minutes, five minutes? What would be some of the suggestions you might have?
KP: I would suggest a guided meditation because you actually have somebody there guiding you through the process, and even on a five-minute meditation. Your mind could stray when you just started to meditate. It’s just so easy to go back but they say that if you focus on your breathing it brings you back center and present, because if you’re focusing on your breathing you can’t think about the past or the future. You’re only thinking about the now. Meditation healings come from just being present in the now.
HR: Good advice. You know it’s so interesting we talk about things that are good for us in so many ways, so a couple of tools we mention: Diet, like just a good diet which means not eating a whole bunch of processed stuff and we can say the Mediterranean diet or this diet or that diet, but a healthy diet definitely rewires your brain and that also the studies is showing you’ll get less cancer, less heart disease. You’ll live longer. Same thing with exercise. So, it’s all the same stuff and mindfulness and meditation is right there in there with the newest studies that are coming out that show on the active brain scans, the actual rewiring of your brain, and it’s amazing to me that we as a civilization, we know these things, or we won’t do them.
KP: Yes, that is so true, I agree with you. We sometimes are impatient, and I had to remind myself what else am I doing. I’m impatient about wanting to figure out meditation but what else am I doing, sitting and watching TV, that’s not doing anything for me. I still can’t sleep in the light and I don’t like how I’m feeling. And there’s really a reason I actually started meditating to try to help me sleep but it brought so much more to my life. Because I was angry for a long time. I was angry at God. I was angry at the world. I was angry at myself. Meditation really kind of like help something like that.
Opioids and chronic pain
HR: Now in this era where we’re having an epidemic of opioid addiction, teen depression, and suicide, and things, but let’s just for a minute to talk about the addiction. You had chronic pain and you were given prescriptions and pills. Did you get addicted to any point?
KP: Yes. My body absolutely did. I believe, I believe I don’t have an addictive personality mentally, but eventually I saw away my body was asking addicted to the opioid. I remember maybe about two years ago, a little over two years ago, I started noticing that I had to feel. I was wearing a fentanyl patch and I started noticing two different types of pain in my body, and I was like, “Hmmm that didn’t seem like the original pain”, and so I started paying attention to them realizing that I had to feel the pain that was coming from the opioid, that was making my body hurt even more. And when I realized that, and I looked at it closely and I started measuring it. I was like, I got to get up and get off of this thing. And so I started research and realizing; I can get off of this thing and through dandelion tea, I mean like beets, celery juice and those things every day. Three times a day I was drinking the tea, so I was boiling the tea down till it was concentrated.
Because remember its years of all the stuff that’s inside of my body right and it was just two years with me taking opioid, Oxy, Fentanyl patch, Flexeril, you name it, Gabapentin. I mean you name it. I was on everything. So, it was years of that built up in my body, and I took myself off back and it was tough, I wanted to give up at some point to take about three or four months, and that was not too bad but because I was just centered on. I got off of meats. I got off eating starch. I got off of eating carbs. I did a lot of research that chickpeas were good, have a lot of protein, lentils, peas, red beans. I did all this research of what type of vegetables is better for me to eat. I paid attention to my body and it was just very mindful, everything I was doing, and it just made such a difference from taking pills, such a difference, it’s amazing. I’m like, “Why didn’t I do this before!”.
HR: Well, because many times, one reason is; many times, we don’t stop to take a deep breath and think, “What am I doing?” We’re just in a rush, we’re doing it, putting food on the table, taking care of business, we’re doing all our obligations and one of the side products of mindfulness and meditation is to actually stop and think about, “Why am I eating this?”, “Do I really want to do that?”, and “What don’t I want to do?” and, so you’ve really come a long, long way.
KP: I have.
HR: Tell us about your writing, because you’ve had some books and doing other things. Tell us about that.
KP: So, I have some more writing to do, but I was able to just capture a snapshot of what I’ve been through in the last few years, and why the BowTie Gurl was born and why BowTie Kids was born. And it’s really telling the Journey about me. I’ve been in this space where I was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome and its nerve damage. And its pain that they say is the most painful and nerve pain is just painful, and so I wanted to give the readers just a snap view of inside of my journey and letting people know that you know what, you can overcome. Look where I am today, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, attempted suicide. I felt like I have no reason to live on this Earth and I was just existing because I went from being independent to being dependent. People paid me, help feed me, pay my bills, and that mental toll alone by itself, and then you add the pain with it or I don’t know which one came first, the pain and then that. I don’t know, it just took me to a dark path. So, wanted to share that with the readers and give them hope that guess what… you can overcome this and also, there’s somebody who is here to listen. You can reach out, because sometimes some of the hardest things to do is to have a conversation with somebody that don’t understand what you are going through. So, the fact that I’ve been through those journeys give me, give a safe space for you to open up.
HR: How can our audience learn more about you?
KP: Okay. So, I do have a website called it’s called Karenprescod.com. I also have the BowTie Gurl , Gurl spelled with a “u”. But Karenprescod.com can tell you a lot about me, and you can also follow me on Facebook. I’m kind of an open book.
HR: Tell us more about bow tie kids?
KP: My passion. The reason I believe I’m on this face, one of the big reasons I believe, I’m on the face of this Earth. BowTie Kids is about courage and confidence with kids that are living with chronic pain, but it’s not just about the kids. It’s about their siblings and the parents as well, because we all know that it takes everyone, based on my experience at the time I didn’t understand why my partner the time was having a hard time with what I was going through, and I was in pain but now I’m outside of it I understand like, she also was suffering too. And so, it’s a big part to have the caretakers and our siblings involved in this. It’s based on the 5 empowerment principles. So, it’s self-discovery, it’s self-awareness, it’s self-birth, self-expression and social engagement methods. And those were born because of my personal journey itself, that the things that I struggled with when I was going through what I was going through. I wasn’t able to express myself. I knew I was hurting and all I can say is I’m hurting. I don’t know what the pain feels like so I just crying, just help me. So wasn’t able to do that, I wasn’t able to articulate how I was feeling to anyone, the doctors, the people around me. I just knew I was just feeling pain, and this confident person now just had her feel she had no value anymore in this world and nobody cared and I’m almost going to take myself back feeling it, but when I do that my tears kind of you know wants the surface. Clearly there is some healing still to be done, and really becoming aware of myself. I’m discovering.
So, and I did that through planting right, I was watching some of my plants as I was taking care of them, not taking care of them. Depends on what was happening with me in my life. If I’m taking care of them they were healthy, they were green, they were growing fabulously. When I’m not taking care of myself, I wasn’t taking care of my plants. They were drying up cause because I wasn’t watering down and wasn’t talking to them, there was no light, I wasn’t taking the dead leaves off. And that’s what’s up with discovering energy in oneself was about for me. I was like, “hmm this is really interesting”. So, meditation did a lot of things. I was so present for a lot of things in my life, but I followed my principles, I said wow we all need that. We all get to focus on that and through meditation and yoga. Through art, through music. Through engaging with others. I wanted to be alone. I didn’t want to be bothered. I didn’t want you to ask me anything. I didn’t want you to check on me. I want help but, I don’t want help. I was frustrated. I was fatigued. I am naturally, I’m an introvert but that didn’t help. I just really wanted to be alone and that was really detrimental really, in the end, because it’s not healthy.
Empowerment through personal style
HR: Can you talk about the value psychologically and emotionally of dressing up and having a personal brand?
KP: I feel sense of empowerment. I feel a sense of ownership. I feel a sense of freedom. Just being able to just be me, allows me to feel free, and being afloat and what happens is, people embrace that. When you become who you are from the inside-out, people are attracted to that, attracted to that confidence, that level of self-expression, that level of you just being able to be you, and they admire that. It’s just, I just feel powerful. I don’t know how else to explain it? It’s just really very powerful to be able to just be free.
HR: And with that comes the self-esteem?
KP: Yes, the self esteem rises, the self-worth rises. I mean things in life that you want to start, just starts to happen with ease, with very little resistance and if you have resistance it’s just part of life, it’s you know, it’s not hard, it’s just it’s okay, it’s just for me to take a toll, but self-esteem rises from just being stubborn, and watching people just accept you for who you are, and just embracing you.
HR: Tell us the value from your point of view of having a job, going to work, having a career, getting dressed, going out there, and working.
KP: I’ve worked all my life and I’ve worked for Corporate America. One day I decided you know I work so hard and reason number one, taking things from bottom and taking me here. I can do this myself and then when I got sick, and I was on my butt, and I became dependent on other people, it really sucked the life out of me. I had to get in the space with that, to even accept that, that’s a where it was a worse time of my life, in order for it to even be easier and be in the flow, but going to the journey when I started to be able to walk around with the cane and all that stuff, I still got out there and I was in the world, so moving, because I wanted more for myself but not only that. After attempting to take my life and God showed me, “Listen, I got a greater purpose for you”. I know that I had to keep moving one foot at a time. I’ll come back to that little bit.
I always wondered why people retired and go back into work right. If I was a multi-millionaire today, people have so much money they’re still working, there’s empowerment for that. You know how to keep doing good, to keep moving, to keep learning, to keep your brand functioning as much as you can. That’s a lot of happiness comes from being around people and being able to share and be able to grow without a lost world. I love seeing people grow and shift too. So being able to get up and get dressed, and leave the house, and work for myself, but if you work for yourself, you work more hours than if you work for somebody else. But it’s great, you still have the freedom and the flexibility.
It’s empowering. It’s empowering to be able to do that. But it’s also, but for me, it’s also how I wasn’t able to do that, to be able to find peace and the way I was at a time. And accepting that’s where I am, allowed me to be able to move out the errors in my life. So, accepting this is where I am today. I’m not able to walk, I’m having trouble sleeping. Okay, what am I going to try to do about it, not beating myself up about it, but trying to figure out some way out of it, and being okay with that, and knowing that one day where ever I’m at physically, emotionally, I just got to accept being afloat, because they say there’s always going to be pain, but you don’t have to suffer right, and that’s kind of really for me, I was in pain but I was also suffering, but then I got to a point where I was in pain but I wasn’t suffering. So, going to work is empowering feeling.
The BowTie Kids fashion show
HR: What has BowTie Kids been up to these days?
KP: Planning our first power and confidence awards with the fashion show. I like to add the fashion show, because the fashion show is about challenging the societal norms of what models are supposed to be like. So pretty excited about that. We get to like, everybody gets to be free and happy and embraces power and confidence no matter what you look like. What size you look like. Whether you’re transgender. Whether you’re black or white. Whether you’re in a wheelchair. We just we just want to challenge all that on the runway in May, when we have our power and confidence awards.
HR: Where can our audience learn more about that fashion.
KP: So, I would go to bowtiekids.org. We will keep you updated there and also on BowTie Kids Facebook page. Yes. So, very excited cause it’s going to be 5 Awards. Each one is going to be based on the 5 empowerment principles. One of them, the community gets to be engaged in choosing one of those winners for the award. So, it’s going to be awesome!
HR: Very cool, very cool. Well, it’s been a pleasure having you here Karen Prescod. BowTie Gurls with a “u”. BowTie Kids. Thank you so much and I hope you will come back again real soon.
KP: Thank you, thank you, for having me. This has been great. Highlighting BowTie Gurls and BowTie kids.
HR: Alright, Have a good one Karen.
KP: Thank you. Thanks a lot.