There are two anniversaries to my brother’s death. One is Thanksgiving Day, and the other is November 23, when Thanksgiving fell that year. This year marks the 15th year since he left us. This event and the time of year that it happened are imprinted in the cells of my body. I usually start feeling more depressed than usual in November because of this fact, along with the cold and darkness, as well as the onset of the holiday season that magnifies loneliness.
This November, my depression seems to be tempered. Maybe it is due to my prolonged largely catatonic state, or maybe the inflammation is beginning to ease in my brain and thereby putting depression at bay. Maybe I am starting to learn some lessons from my illness about releasing myself from my past and stepping more fully into my present.
I have been on the Autoimmune Paleo diet for almost six weeks now, but unfortunately, it has not touched my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. My energy remains non-existent and somehow even worse than October, which has been frustrating to say the least. My digestive tract is also still troubled. Days where I must get up early are particularly hard on it, as has happened for the last two years. In addition, I have been losing sight in my right eye. I feel like my retina is detaching!
Lately, I have been hearing stories about people who are following the AIP diet who are not only not improving, but are being diagnosed with additional autoimmune disorders! I have heard that once you have an autoimmune disorder, it is common for another one to develop every 3-5 years (multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s, etc) . These stories and statistics are extremely alarming! I have also been hearing about people who have strictly followed this diet for more than a year and then discovered (through the Cyrex Array 10 testing) that they are sensitive to many of the foods on the AIP approved list! By following this diet, foods (such as lettuce and carrots, for example) are causing inflammation, which allows disease to persist! Many people have to backtrack and continue to remove foods from their diet with the end goal of eating the AIP approved foods that work with their particular bodies for the rest of their lives. I have also heard of people who became allergic to foods that they later reintroduced, such as almonds! Once your body starts producing antibodies to food particles that have leaked into the bloodstream (now foreign invaders to the body), they will always illicit an immune response to these foods. Gut problems and autoimmune diseases are no joke. They will affect you in one way or another for the rest of your life. Nothing will ever be the same.
In some ways, this is a good thing. Illness wakes you up to areas of your life that need attention. The key is to make this fact work in your favor. I am learning that I have been a ticking time bomb all along. The childhood trauma and stress that I experienced on a daily basis, the non-ability to feel safe or loved or worthy, and the poor nutrition I received did not allow my genes to be expressed the way they were meant to be expressed. My adrenal glands have been worn out from remaining on high alert for too many consecutive years. My gut flora was probably always out of balance (its population actually changes to match the people you are living with: entrainment in the microbiome!), but I didn’t know it. The events that happened on the PCT were too much for my body to handle. They have produced catastrophic effects.
Diet and supplements are not working. If I want to know what foods are still causing inflammation in my body, I will have to find a new doctor who will order the tests for me and pay thousands of dollars for them, myself. At this point, it seems like this would be the best route to take. I have started the process of having my medical records transferred to a Doctor of Osteopath, whom I have never met. I am hoping she will be more receptive to my physiology and problems than the primary care doctor I saw this summer.
I am learning a lot these days. I am learning about the molecules that act as keys to open up the tight junctions in the intestines, I am learning that probiotics won’t do anything unless you have a specific bacterial strain in your gut that acts as a seed for the others, and that probiotics need their own food to work. I am learning that brain inflammation (stemming from gut inflammation) inhibits the signalling pathway to the adrenal glands. Even more importantly than the science (which is all still in very early stages), however, I am learning that what is happening OUTSIDE of your body is equally, if not more important that what is happening inside of it. Family and psychic ancestral pain affects your DNA and the resilience of your body to rid itself of parasites and heal. I have been under the effect of psychic ancestral dysfunction and pain my entire life. I need to free myself from these chains in order to be able to live. Now is my opportunity to make some big changes in my life. This forced period of sitting is giving me the opportunity to change my belief system and thereby change my gene expression. Underneath it all, this illness is asking me 1) if I really want to be alive and 2) what will I do with my life if I get my health back (and even if I don’t!). It is also giving me the opportunity to learn the most important thing of all- to start loving myself.
I still have moments when I question the reason I should be alive if I must remain in this state for years, but these days, these kinds of thoughts pass much more quickly than they did in the summer. The last time I felt very depressed was in October when I tried to take a yoga class at my studio in Boston. Not only is the drive a nightmare in rush hour traffic, but the parking is equally tough. A new restaurant just opened on the street that I usually park on, making even less space available. On this particular night, I parked in the only spot I could and hurried in to class. When I walked back to my car after my enjoyable hour and a half, I discovered that it was gone! Its location was unknown to me, and I didn’t have a way to get to it. It was also pitch black out. It cost me $100 to get my car back, and then I found a parking ticket on the windshield when I finally got home for another $55! This was not a pleasant experience- especially for a girl with no income! For the next three days, I felt extremely depressed and didn’t do much other than sleep. I guess it was another way for the universe to tell me to stay home and rest. Don’t try to do the things you used to do, Wendy!
Something else that I am learning is that gratefulness reduces inflammation in the body. As one of my teachers, Jacqui Bonwell said, “Thanksgiving is a state of mind.”
Tomorrow, I will not do anything I haven’t been already doing for these last few months. I will stay home and rest and eat the foods I have been eating for the past 5.5 weeks. I may treat myself to my first coffee in that amount of time with coconut milk creamer that I will make myself. And I will enjoy it with the first Autoimmune Paleo baked dessert that I made- pumpkin bars! Maybe I will one again start a formal written gratitude practice. I am hoping that I will remain free of my usual deep depression from being alone on this holiday. If I can do that, I will feel like I am improving in at least some way. If I don’t manage that, I will simply allow what is and what comes.
I wish you all a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving! Special thoughts for all who are struggling on this day. Remember that you are loved.
And for anyone needing a little relief or humor, here you go! (I love dramatic musical life interpretations!)