Jenna McDougall (Tonight Alive) opens up about tour drop offs, medical condition

Tonight Alive‘s singer, Jenna McDougall, recently explained in a blog post about a medical condition that was the reason for the band dropping off their American tour dates in 2011 and 2012. Read below or on her blog about the condition:

The lyrics of The Ocean have been quite a comical topic for some recently so due to the misconceptions and jokes out there about the meaning of the lyrics I wanted to share the story behind them and a part of my life that I haven’t been brave enough to share until now.
Between July 2011 and March 2012 I had health issues that were escalating beyond my control. My body was overloaded with toxins and my eczema had reached a point of paralysis. Willing to try anything, I saw doctor after doctor and tried countless forms of treatment but gained no relief and found no answers. It was by far the most challenging time of my life and throughout that period of time Tonight Alive did 9 tours.
For those who don’t know much about eczema, its a skin condition that can be genetic, environmental or diet related. The symptoms include violent itching, extreme dryness, blistering, cracking, weeping and bleeding of the skin.
Having eczema my whole life I’d used all kinds of creams and antibiotics. I tried acupuncture and hypnosis. Nothing offering long term relief or permanent cure. I specifically remember my GP telling me ‘Nobody knows what causes eczema’ and thinking ‘Is it really possible that that’s true?’ I took bleach baths as a treatment for the concept that the rashes were caused by bacteria and allergy to dust. But what I thought was about turn my life around, completely tore it to pieces. I saw a naturopath in Australia who treated me with home made traditional Chinese herbs for about 4 months. She told me that because of the cortisone cream I’d been using my whole life, all I had ever done was suppress my eczema. She told me I had to get worse before I got better and allow all the heat and the toxins come out through my skin. It seemed like I’d found the answer although the herbs were going to be a rude shock to my body and there was no way of telling how harsh it would really be. I trusted this doctor because her method’s saved Whakaio’s brother’s life, but for me it was all downhill from there.
Over time it became harder to dress myself, unable to turn my head or bend my arms and legs because of the dryness and rawness of my skin. We were sleeping on floors and couches or in the backs of vans on tour. I was double dosing antihistamines and relying on sleeping pills to get through the night. I remember shows when my eyes would fill up onstage because sweat felt like acid on my body. I would cry before and after every show for months, wearing baby powder under my clothes so that they wouldn’t stick to my skin. The herbs were attacking my immune system and eczema was completely taking over my life.
Despite the physical pain and discomfort that it put me through I hated the person that it made me. I felt weak and fragile. I felt ugly and embarrassed by the redness and swelling of my skin. The constant itching made me anxious and I had no confidence in myself.. Probably the worst combination of emotions when you have to perform every night.
I’ll never forget what it felt like putting makeup over my rough, red and swollen face every day to go onstage but my breaking point was in January in The UK one night when I couldn’t bend over to untie my shoes while I was running a bath. I’d never felt so defeated. With my health, the rest of 2012 and the sanity of the band in mind we decided to cancel our tour with Go Radio in the states to allow some time for recovery. In my heart I knew it was the right thing to do because if we didn’t stop then, it would have been impossible to keep going.
In the time between Soundwave and our Australian May headline I saw an Ayurvedic doctor. By examining my tongue and without even looking at my skin he was able to tell me my small intestine was too weak to break down grains which was causing high levels of acid in my blood, resulting in the extreme irritation of my skin. I couldn’t believe how simple he made it sound after 20 years of being told ‘Nobody knows why.’ From this point on I cut out bread, rice, pasta, cereal and anything that contains flour from my diet. I find it hard to avoid acidic fruits like berries, oranges and pineapple as they’re my favourites but I take alkalisers such as Barley Grass tablets and Spirulina to keep my blood clean. I don’t know what it was in my body that changed or how I developed such a high intolerance for grains but I now understand the importance of balance in the body and the ways it affects all areas of your life.
I wrote the lyrics of ‘The Ocean’ so that they were open to interpretation but it was really through these emotional and physical trials and ultimately detoxing my body that the song was inspired. The writing process of ‘The Other Side’ was very much a part of my therapy through the past 2 years. It talks about the balance between light and dark and follows a journey of emotional healing processes. I never thought I’d be able to talk about being sick because I didn’t think many people would understand it, but there was nothing more liberating for me than finding acceptance and overcoming my personal challenges. I hope that ‘The Other Side’ helps our listeners to do the same.

Jenna xx

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