New Year Healing: My Daily Plan

naturopathy symbolIf you read my first post of the year (and well done if you did; it was massive!), then you’ll know that I am focusing on my physical body this year, having done tons on my brain retraining and subconscious work the last two years. My poor little physical body feels a bit left behind and needs a bit of TLC and rebuilding now.

Some of you asked me to share what I plan to do so here it is for you. This will evolve, I have no doubt and, as you’ll see, the physical work needs to be dovetailed with the work to keep my amygdala desensitised and new brain neural pathways strengthening so I can maintain my food reintroductions! It also needs to fit in around my work if I am to develop this chronic illness work the Universe seems to have chosen for me!

From a physical perspective, the aim is primarily to start encouraging better lymphatic flow, tissue and organ oxygenation, muscle flexibility and strength. I also have a feeling I am still holding trauma in the muscles and that needs to be released.

Time was when I was really strong, fit and lean, worked out several times a week with free weights and in the gym and had powerful upper body strength from all the massage and manipulation work I was doing in-clinic. Now, I feel weak, tight and congested much of the time.

I sit on my backside most of the day writing, reading and answering questions. When I was really thin, I had to sit on a few cushions as it was so bony-painful. I also had to wear lots of warm clothes as I was so cold. Now, the food is going back in and the pounds are piling back on.

This is to be expected – when the body has been in starvation mode for as long as mine has, it will happily cling onto every calorie you give it for a while until it feels it can trust you again. That’s a survival mode switch and there’s no getting around it. If you restrict your food intake, for whatever reason, the body just gets more efficient at storing and using what you do give it as fat mainly. That’s why food restriction diets don’t work.

Women are especially good at this. We are the ‘feeders’ of the babies; it’s our job to keep the species going, if you like, and we hold more fat deliberately so we can continue producing enough hormones to have and feed babies during the leaner, scarce-food times.

Anyway, I am being kind to my body and giving it some TLC and a year to get used to me eating again. Which it will.

The importance of Self-care

Image result for messy hair cartoonWhen we are in chronic illness mode, we tend to ‘give up’ on our physical bodies; we distrust it, don’t like it, blame it, even hate it. I know I did. That often translates into self-sabotage types of behaviour, which of course can be horrific for some souls, but it can very commonly be seen in simply avoiding looking after yourself in the ways you used to.

Part of this next healing phase for me is to restart some of those. I’ve had my hair done into a new style – braving a big proper hair salon with smells n everything – started massaging oil into my nails which are as dry, ridged and bumpy as sandpaper and today treated myself to some ‘proper’ hair products and bugger the chemicals. I used to model my hair, for goodness’ sake, and my family will testify to some of the weird and wonderful hairstyles I’ve had -including very high sticky-up ones, pink, sponged-green and even an M shaved into my hair. Oh yes, I had fun.

Someone said to me the other day that I’d had the same hair style ever since he’d known me. That is NOT good. I realised during this last decade or so of illness, I had barely even looked at my hair really, so I vowed to start with that in my self care and now I have.

I used to LOVE having long baths with a glass of wine, some music or a good book. In fact, I used to finish work, get straight in the bath and call friends or family for a chat. It was my ME time. Then, I started reacting to the bath products in the water, then to the water itself, then I had panic attacks even getting into filtered non-chlorinated water.

Recently, I have been able to start having baths again. The first few resulted in panic attacks. The next few I meditated and WHEE’d in the bath (I just wanted to say that!) to tell myself I was safe. Then I had plain baths and, today, I am up to ones with Faith in Nature bubble bath, a candle and a glass of wine (sometimes). To treat myself and celebrate my bath progress, today I used a voucher from my birthday to buy this bamboo bath rack:

Bliss.

Anyway, I share all that to illustrate the self-care point. This is all part of the physical body healing plan for this year. To make friends with my body again.

checklist iconDaily Healing Plan

So, here is my daily plan, such as it is, in case it helps you – I’ll point out all the new stuff too as I know it gives some of you hope and you ask me to (stop press: coming back here after I have written this post, I have even astounded myself at the number of new things!!):

Wake. Hot water and lemon (new) or ginger (new) or a coffee (bean to cup)

Breakfast: Smoothie with fruit, slowly adding greens (new), banana, a date (new), almonds (new), brazil nuts (new) and sometimes cashews (new), flaxseeds (new) and pumpkin seeds (new) all blitzed up with RO water (not got tap yet) in my blender. I make enough for one and a half big glasses. I might add supplements in to it as I get to them. I currently spray magnesium oil (new) on after a shower and have started working on adding the TGF core supplement protocol (new). I also want to add some spice like turmeric and have got some fresh root ready for the purpose.

Image result for Qi gong

Before starting work: if it’s raining, I do a 10 or 20 minute morning, energising Qi Gong routine. If it’s fine, I walk up and down the road, which involves two steep hills and a glorious view of the sea, more than enough to set you up for the day! If I’m having a crap, poorly day, meditation for 20 minutes. If I have a migraine, I can’t meditate; I lie down and read, watch Homes under the Hammer or sleep, depending on how bad it is!

Mid-morning: drink the other glass of smoothie. I am perpetually hungry – I assume to do with the insulin control loss of PCOS and the gluten related disorder causing malabsorption. I need to eat very frequently or I will fall over. Or kill P. If I’m really starving, I need more fat so I might add half an avocado and re-blitz.

More work til lunch.

Lunch varies. Usually omelette or egg-based (new) or left overs from the night before. Often fresh mackerel or fish from the harbour. I am trying to get back to salad. I went off it for a long while because of my mouth pain. You’d think chewing leaves would be easy, right? Nope. The grinding motion was really painful a lot of the time so I just stopped and ate soft, non-grindy foods instead – loads of cooked root veg and fish mainly. Even things like spinach (grindy) or broccoli (couldn’t bite through it unless overcooked which I hated) had to be avoided because of the mouth pain. It might be a slice of roast beef now too (new). I’d love to get soups or casseroles or (please) curries in and I’m working on that.

I might have an apple (new) or a pear (new) to finish my lunch with something sweet.

After lunch is my most vulnerable time of the day. I have learned to just rest if I can. I often meditate for 20 minutes and then do some personal bits and bobs such as cooking, ordering stuff, putting the washing on, looking stuff up etc.

I am ALWAYS hungry about half an hour after I have eaten lunch. I haven’t worked this one out. Adrenal crash maybe from the exertion of digestion or gastric dumping syndrome I’ve had suggested to me, but haven’t worked on yet (part of this year!). It doesn’t matter what I’ve eaten; it always happens.

I’ve tried everything. Nothing works like 2-3 squares of really dark chocolate (new). Maybe it is a magnesium need. (I just thought that as I wrote it as a craving for chocolate is often a magnesium need). Anyhow, that’s what I do. When I couldn’t have the chocolate, it was a nightmare; I’d feel like I was going to collapse to be truthful. I recall P had to have the chocolate ready for me to pop out of a clinic appointment with a patient and give it to me as soon as he saw my pale face run into reception lol. Poor P. When I couldn’t have the chocolate – or a magnesium spray or any supplements – my saviour: plaintain crisps came to the rescue. I somehow needed fat and the salt which is what makes me feel it is to do with my adrenals. I swear those crisps stopped me losing even more weight. I still have some occasionally in the afternoon.

Image result for hibiscus teaBack to work. I am trying a cup of tea here (new). I have so far had Golden Monkey black tea – very gentle. I have several new ones to try and started with hibiscus flowers today, bright red colour and bursting with Vitamin C. Focusing on anti-histamine and nourishing types such as lotus root, moringa and olive leaf as well as my faves like spearmint and licorice.

In this new year, after lunch and my break, I will be focusing on writing the Healing Plan and doing the chronic illness development work. That involves reading, listening, watching stuff and writing mostly. This year, part of my plan is to build up to going for a longer walk three times a week and listen to a training podcast. I have got several series saved up especially for this that I’m really looking forward to.

Of course, this has physical body benefits in terms of the walking, the fresh sea air and resting my eyes on the sheer beauty of where I am lucky enough to live. This increases lymphatic flow, oxygenation and muscle strength as well as overall cardio fitness. Listening to the podcasts is training, but it is also part of my neuroplasticity work to keep strengthening those new neural pathways that healing is not only possible, nor even probable; it is a question of time and putting the effort in. Listening to others’ stories and understanding how things went wrong for me – and many chronic illness sufferers – and how to turn it around is a big part of the therapy.

Sometimes, of course, it is best to use the walk as ‘movement meditation’ and just concentrate on what you’re seeing around you. It’s a balance and intuitive.

Come back in from walk. Check for any urgent emails, finish off anything needed. Once I’ve finished emails, if I’ve not done a walk, I will usually do a 10 or 20 minute evening Qi Gong routine to release stress. There are shaking exercises in this that I find really work for me; I feel miles more relaxed in the evening if I’ve done them.

Interestingly, so-called trauma release exercises usually involve muscle ‘shaking’ so I am starting with the Qi Gong routines, but may upgrade to TRE or psoas release exercises later on when I feel ready. These are specific methods of releasing stored trauma and stress from the body tissues. I have tried them but they are too strong for me currently. If I feel rubbish, I will have a bath or do some more meditation.

Go and have some tea. Nowadays, that could be fish or seafood, egg (new) or meat (new) with courgetti pasta (new), mini baked, jacket or boiled potatoes (boiled in tap water!)(new), mayonnaise (new) or tomatoes (new), mushrooms, cucumber (new) or root veg with greens such as spinach, broccoli or cabbage mostly. I might have a glass of wine (new) rarely if I feel like one – usually if I have a bath, see above!

I might then follow that later on when I’m watching the telly with a couple of squares of chocolate (new) or a portion of my current fave: a nut fruit crumble made using apples (new) and plums (new), ground pecans (new) and almonds (new) with either dates (new), coconut sugar (new) or honey (new) and a little grapeseed oil (new).

So, that’s the ideal and what I can do food and energy-wise so far. It doesn’t always work out like that, of course, for various reasons, mainly if I feel rubbish or have got loads of work on, but that’s what I am now aiming for most days.

And that’s a heck of a lot better than life has been I can tell you!

As I have said many times, you need to have a plan, you need to know what you’re aiming at and you need to put the work in to get better. This is not as simple as taking a pill, although if that’s all you can do for now, that is fine. Like me, maybe you can start with lying-down meditation and WHEE and, just by doing that, you will start to turn yourself around and point yourself in the right direction for wellness.

Image result for healthy and happy

For me: I am determined to keep all the ‘body balls’ as I think of them in the air. I need to keep the emotional trauma work going with the hypnotherapy, WHEE, CBT etc, maintain the mental, cognitive neuroplasticity work to strengthen those neural pathways, continue my ‘spiritual’ work with the meditation and connection to the Universe (the most weird and hardest for me to accept, but ultimately, the most change has come from this) and now add in the physical work to build nutrient levels and optimum physical functioning. Ultimately, this will also build into better social connections and stepping back out into the world as a fully-well person.

Just a wee bit to do there then – I swear this getting better lark is a full-time job!

This year, peeps – are you coming with me???

What Next for Purehealth in 2017?

Image result for 2017 happy new year healthy  Happy 2017 to you all – here we go with another blank canvas to build on – SO exciting! Let’s start with my usual ‘state of the nation’ first post of the year..

I’ve been thinking an awful lot recently about where to take Purehealth in the next few years. I’m not quite there yet but, as per, I find if I write something down, it helps me think it through! Here’s a quick summary of what we’ve been up to in Purehealth Clinic world so far; it’s really interesting to see how it has evolved actually (to me, anyway) and I am aware we have a lot of new peeps who don’t know me from Adam, so I thought it might help. Many of you have been with me right from the start, which is lovely!

Simple beginnings

Gut PlanI started my natural medicine career with Holland & Barrett as a Saturday girl in 1988, would you believe, then, branch adviser, branch manager, then in head office troubleshooting for over 400 shops and in charge of customer service and PR/Communications for, eventually, the whole retail group.

After training in massage therapy and nutritional medicine, I spent from 1997 to 2010 seeing patients, writing and teaching on all aspects of natural medicine: physical and biochemical. At that point, cases seemed a lot less complex than they are today and I spent a lot of time on mainly gut health, TATT (tired all the time), blood sugar issues, weight maintenance, detox and what I would call ‘simple’ food intolerance (wheat and dairy mostly).

The vast majority of patients got better on my Gut Plan – the MOT allergen-removal, stomach acid support, gut and liver cleanse I started almost every patient off with and which solved most issues or at least let us see what we were left with. This still works today for a shed-load of people, of course. I dovetailed that with physical medicine as a massage/manipulative therapist and referred people to Philip for clinical hypnotherapy to help change habits, lower anxiety and unpick unhelpful beliefs. It was a system that worked well.

Getting more complex…

Image result for complex cases

From about 2008, I started getting more ‘complex’ cases through the door – what I term the unresolving chronic illnesses like chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple-sensitivity, chronic pain, hormonal dysfunction – essentially multi-system disorders usually not responding to ‘normal’ mainstream or alternative treatments. That may well have been because I was mentioning them more and just that when you’re experienced, people tend to seek you out.

My sense, though, was there did seem to be a lot more people with more multi-layered issues somehow. Rather than just asking patients to trial off wheat and dairy free, I moved to gluten and dairy free and that seemed to help more people, so I started looking at gluten more in my own case and why it might be causing issues in the complex cases.

grain iconGluten

From about 2010, I started working on gluten related disorders as a possibility why many of us chronic illness peeps weren’t getting well and why many of us seemed to be so hyper-sensitive. After I’d fallen over with shock at what I discovered, I introduced the premise in early 2011 with my article No Grain, No Pain here, launched this TrulyGlutenFree site to write everything I was learning down and started work on the Barrier Plan to explain how gluten causes barrier breakdown and hyper-permeability and onward to hypersensitivity to food and chemicals, inflammatory and autoimmune disorders. I released that for you in early 2012 and it was well-received, thank goodness 🙂

For the rest of that year and 2013, I developed TGF versions of the normal Adrenal and Candida Plans, wrote the TGF Breakfasts book and started work on the TGF Supplements Master List as I realised I was simply ingesting my allergens and sparking inflammatory and autoimmune issues with the very stuff I was using to try and get well! You can see all the TGF ebooks etc here.

Gluten Plan

In 2014, I decided the time had come to stop doing 1:1 consults and use that saved time to write down everything I’d learned and all this research finally culminated in the new 300-odd page Gluten Plan which included my testing and treatment protocols. Again, this went down really well and continues to do well to this day, helping many people realise the probable reasons for their unrelenting illness and how to test and treat if they have a gluten related disorder and barrier hyper-permeability of the gut and/or brain.

More than TrulyGlutenFree

During that same year, I determined that a proportion of people were truly hypersensitive and even going TGF seemed not to be enough to trigger healing and stop symptoms. This included me! I’d gone so far with it but was still suffering more than I should have been given my really restricted diet. So, thinking I must still be really inflamed, I went AIP (autoimmune protocol diet) although it wasn’t called that then – I sort of did it naturally by removing all inflammatory and allergenic foods. This helped to an extent but I next decided to do an elimination diet to see what was still triggering my mouth pain, migraines and chronic fatigue.

Worst decision I ever made. I did feel better but I then couldn’t get any of the foods back in so was left on about 20 core foods until quite recently! Oops.

Healing: nil by mouth!

Brain iconThe one good thing that came out of this very scary time was that it did start me thinking about non-ingestive healing methods. By that, I mean what could I (we?) do to get ourselves well that didn’t involve ingesting foods, meds or supplements? Frankly, I’d had enough of the ‘cut it out’ approach and had very little left to cut out! I wanted a more positive healing approach rather than more deprivation, if you know what I mean. That was ultimately a very depressing life and it needed to stop, but then so did my symptoms. What more could I do? Even on fewer than 20 foods, my fatigue, mouth pain and migraine hadn’t gone. Improved, but not gone. I started again writing down everything I found useful about non-ingestive healing methods and the Healing Series on the blogs started.

Since then, I have been researching and trialling various ‘healing’ methods and not taken any supplements or meds, or changed my diet, to see if I could get well a different way. This has led to a huge learning curve. I learned about brain neuroplasticity, subconscious behavioural systems, ACE (adverse childhood events) and trauma-triggered illness, central sensitivity syndrome, the amygdala and loads more.

What’s causing a lot of chronic illness?

I have come to the conclusion that many of us with unrelenting chronic illnesses have a too-turned up amygdala or sensitivity mechanism in the brain triggered by epigenetic changes caused by trauma and neglect in both childhood and as adults mostly but not exclusively. Add to that subconscious thought patterns, beliefs and fear feeding on fear creating deep neuroplastic grooves that just get stronger every time you think the same things and you get hyper-sensitised type conditions:

Related image

How many of those can you count? I think I have had 10 of them at some point! I first wrote about CSS here. Of course, it’s more complex than that and this won’t explain every case, but for the last year or so, I have been routinely asking people if they had any major stress or trauma in childhood or before the onset of the first symptoms of their current unremitting chronic illness. The numbers are HUGE, trust me. I am now much more surprised when someone says no than when they say yes. We need to wake up to this and start doing something about it.

The good news is that you CAN turn it around but, again trust me, it is not as easy as some people make out! It has taken time and dedication, but I have got much better at last. In the last six months, I have reintroduced a lot of foods and I feel I am somewhat approaching ‘normal’ health for a 50 year old! Sure, I’ve a way to go and have learned this is an evolving ‘journey’, but I am SO not the person I was health-wise even a year ago. How long have I wanted to be able to say that?!

Of course, now my task is to try and assess what I did that worked and put it into some kind of structure you can follow or that will at least help move you forward. Hence, I’ve started writing the Healing Plan, which is no mean feat as much of the work is instinctive and completely non-linear, not lending itself well at all to structure, but I’m having a go because so many of you have asked me to explain it and I can’t fully! Yet.

So, after all that: what now for Purehealth?

Clinic philosophy-wise, this has led me to trying now to develop a new Purehealth model of healing for chronic illness, if you like. There are lots of general models out there and I am now trying to fit what I did to them (proving very hard!) or adapt them and come up with something practical for you. This kind of thing but more specific, structured and practical that I can communicate and deliver in some way to more people – I’ll know it when I’ve done it 😉

Related image

To get truly well from a persistent, unresolving chronic illness – of whatever type – we need to work on the brain and subconscious as well as – and sometimes before – we chase down the biochemistry with tests, meds and supplements. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I tend nowadays to ask people to do the healing work first and then see what they are left with that needs fixing biochemically then – ie. the adrenals, thyroid, methylation or whatever.

That’s the stage I am at now. I need to work on the physical body now that my emotional, cognitive and spiritual (for want of a better word) are much stronger. The mistake I think we can make is to start with the physical and I am finding it rarely works in these kind of cases. You can certainly shore up the body and improve symptoms but the biochemical stuff maybe has to come later than we think, and then will we in fact need as much of it by that stage – probably not.

The biggest lesson I have learned – or been reminded of actually – is that if you give your body the healing state it needs, change the way the brain is thinking about illness and remove the subconscious triggers, it has the power to turn itself around without so much biochemical work. This is a tough admit for a biochemist-trained medical nutritionist! But it’s the truth, certainly in many cases I am seeing, especially in hypersensitivity and central sensitivity syndromes like CFS, fibromyalgia, migraine, depression, anxiety disorders, chronic pain etc etc.

I am aware this sounds like it is simple: trust me, it is not! But, I have proven it does work so it merits my clinical focus I think now.

How the heck will I have time to do all that?

Business-wise, I managed to run a totally virtual service of test facilitation, analysis, support and resources from behind my screen when I was feeling ill much of the time. I retreated behind my screen because I had to – no-one wants help from a nutritionist who keeps cancelling on you because she herself is too ill!

It was a strategy that worked. In fact, it has worked a bit too well! Frankly, the test service, which I originally set up so that patients didn’t feel I had abandoned them when they needed repeat tests and I’d stopped 1:1 work, is so successful, nowadays it takes all my time.

Once I realised people still needed my help to sort their tests out, of course they also needed interp and protocol advice. I couldn’t do 1:1 work so I set up the A-Z of Health Factsheets on the Purehealth site and wrote Plans for the most common issues I was being asked about – Adrenal, Candida, Gut, Diabetes/Belly Fat/Weight Gain to name a few – and offered test reports. I also set up the Facebook Groups and Pinterest boards to encourage knowledge-sharing and positive peer group support (no whingeing allowed!).

It worked really well and I felt I had stumbled onto a service much earlier than most in my industry about how to support people effectively from afar rather than do a traditional bums on seats clinic. I missed the company obviously but business-wise it worked.

So, that’s how it still works today, more or less. I realised early last year (2016) that the test service and Facebook was essentially taking up most of my time – there is a lot of admin and emails to testing and I am a natural chatterbox on FB, as you know! So, I recruited Victoria to help run the test service and Christine (aka the research rottweiler) to help out on Facebook.

Christine is a whizz on FB and continues to answer the questions and point you to stuff before I’ve even logged on, bless her! The test support service worked beautifully initially, but then, very upsettingly (is that even a word?!) and essentially doubling my workload overnight, I had to end my association with Victoria with immediate effect 6 weeks or so ago, hence me having to work out now what we do next!

OK, so that’s where we are today. I don’t feel much like taking on another nutritionist and I can’t do everything myself – and neither should I be. I have almost 30 years’ experience now in natural medicine and I should be a ‘join the dots’ type of person, working on the chronic illness stuff I have learned about personally and professionally, not ‘farting about with test admin’ as someone so elegantly put it to me the other day 😉

I’m sure you see my point.

New year: new way of working

Image result for writer

So, some changes are afoot. Of course there are: it’s a new year and you know what I get like at this time of year by now – all excited at a new blank year to build and create on 🙂

Essentially, this year I plan to start becoming more of the researcher, writer and educator I should be at this stage. Thankfully, I no longer need to be the person hiding behind a screen – or an illness for that matter, yay! The big job is essentially now to combine all the work on TGF and non-ingestive healing into a useable, easy to communicate, deliverable model of healing that works. No mean feat. Why DO I do this to myself??!!

Not sure how it will all work but I will try to do less of the test service admin work somehow, possibly by recruiting an admin person rather than a nutritionist this time and/or producing resources to foster DIY interp as per the Plans and I have a few other ideas up my sleeve for you, of course, which I am working on.

The first job is to finish the Healing Plan I am writing about the ‘journey’ I took and point you to the resources I used and specifically how I used them. I’m almost finished – although I do keep thinking that and then thinking of something else to add! I’m hoping to have done that by the end of Jan (aha: accountability there ;))

After that, I will keep the clinic services running as per and spend more time researching and communicating about chronic illness and developing the model and resources for you eg. on diabetes, thyroid, heart disease etc as well as the syndromes mentioned earlier like FM, CFS, autoimmune diseases and multiple sensitivity. That’s the theory anyway!

alt medicine iconPersonal healing

A bit more on my own personal healing as I know many of you want to know..

This year, I am focusing on my physical body again whilst continuing the healing stuff. I’ve worked so hard to change my neural pathways and subconscious triggers, my physical body has been left behind somewhere and it needs renourishing, quite literally.

I am now turning back to the biochemistry of nutrient imbalance, methylation issues, hormones, liver – whatever I deem necessary – as well as improving physical fitness, muscular and lymphatic strength. I had to do the healing stuff first and now I can see the wood for the trees, work on what’s left and rebuild like the 6 Million Dollar Man (that takes me back!). I need all my ‘bodies’ in alignment – I’ve been working on the mental, emotional and spiritual bodies, if you like; now it is time to maintain those and bring the physical body up to match.

2017 will be the year the migraine and mouth pain goes for good and I step back out into the world properly as a ‘well’ person. I am determined!

So, exciting times and a lot of personal and clinic work ahead for 2017 then as per! I hope it will ultimately help you as well as me so let’s get to it – any thoughts or ideas, do share – we’re family. x

Music Heals

Music notes on white background  I’ve just written a piece in the forthcoming Healing Plan (yes, I am still writing it!) about music and its importance in your healing, er, plan.

At various stages, music of different types became very important to me. I knew when I was really depressed and ill because I couldn’t bear to listen to music. I still find that works today as an indicator when stress is getting to me. I realise I’ve not had the radio on for a few days or something – that’s normally the first sign.

Then, at other stages, I needed extremely calming music, inspirational music, dance music to lose myself to, the sound of a piano to soothe me, nostalgic music from various stages of my life when I was either traumatised or happy. In short, I used music a lot to help me along the path to healing.

One of my favourite things when I was teaching my Sparkle Programme (for people who’d lost theirs!) was to make students sit or lie down and listen to a multi-layered piece of music and try to follow one strand/layer all the way through and ignore the rest. This is like a kind of meditation when you can’t meditate, if you like. I find it incredibly powerful and, thankfully, so did they. It takes practice but the practice is actually the meditation, if you see what I mean.

And it doesn’t have to be classical music either, unless that floats your boat.

Most often, in class and personally, I used one of my favourite bands: Leftfield! In fact, the Leftism album has followed me around in life: from lying on the floor with my partner at the time in complete darkness just experiencing it for the first time, to using a track from it to set scrolling images in a presentation to motivate staff when I had a ‘proper’ job at British Gas as a PR for a couple of years, to it creating a joyous feeling whenever I listen to it in the sun, to today writing to it often! It simply makes me dance in my head. Try it – its dance music but give it a go.

A softer piece of music – which I may in fact get married to next year! – is the soundtrack from The Piano by Michael Nuyman. I’m sure it is based on something by a different composer but I don’t know who – if you do, please let me know! Whatever, it gets me in my heart every time. I use it often to bring stuck emotions to the surface and it invariably leaves me feeling better and smiling – even if through tears.

Ok, so how did I get onto this subject?!

I saw this interesting piece from Yasmina on Music Therapy and it set me off. And, as I say, I had just written a bit about music in my own ‘journey’ in the Healing Plan. It’s a tough write this time but ultimately very satisfying as I pull together the strands of what helped and what didn’t. Though I say it myself, I am quite proud of myself for both doing it and being objective enough to analyse it for you to get something from, I hope!

Anyway, go and read Yasmina’s piece here too:

Music Therapy Helps Lower Histamine

Enjoy x

Recovery Bloating!

Image result for bloating One of the things you need to be prepared for when you start eating foods again is bloating! As I sit here, I am holding about 8 kittens in my stomach area.

Image result for kittensEh, kittens? P and I measure the size of my stomach in number of kittens to make it feel better!

Anyway, when you have been on a very restricted diet for several months or years and you lose a lot of weight like I did (almost 3 years on 20 foods, heading for a size 6), your body is really going to know about it when you start eating again!

You have basically been literally starving – poor macro and micro nutrient levels mean body systems slow down and you become very cold, fatigued, bony, periods stop or become erratic etc.

I began to think of it a bit akin to how anorexics must feel and suffer. And, as it turned out, my PTSD-triggered hypersensitivity was a form of eating disorder I think although I hesitate to call it that; probably more ‘disordered eating’, although I am not certain what the difference is. In fact, I overheard P telling someone how much better I was the other day and when they asked what it was, he said ‘a bit like an eating disorder’so it is clearly a kind of shorthand for what happened, an easy way to explain it, even if that wasn’t quite it as it started with a purely physiological TGF problem to gluten.

Anyway, yesterday someone liked the post I did When Will I Get Better? and I followed their blog as I often do. The top post was on recovery bloating no less and resonated with exactly how I am feeling! Have a read here:

The Truth about Bloating in Recovery

As you’ll see if you read that, the author talks about the inevitability of the body bloating when you start eating properly again. And, wisely, advises not to let it throw you back into disordered-eating thinking patterns.

I confess, a part of me has body dysmorphia – we discovered this in treatment – and this bloating has certainly made me think abut stopping eating again or at least consider cutting things out again to stop the bloat and fat feeling. This is not good! I am never going there again but it IS hard to deal with the bloating and weight gain, which happens so quickly, that it is quite normal to wobble a bit (in more ways than one!), but if we are aware it will probably happen, we can be ready for it and have a cognitive way of thinking about it ready.

For me, as a nutritionist, this is how I justify it to stop myself slipping back: ‘well, what did you think was going to happen when you reintroduced food? You needed to put weight on and you are doing. Your body doesn’t trust that it is going to get food now and has to re-learn to trust you. In the meantime, it is going to hang on to every bit of nutrient you are giving it. And when you put more food in, the gut flora is bound to change, you won’t have enough stomach acid or enzyme production to cope so OF COURSE your gut is going to struggle. Dur..!” etc etc.

That is exactly how my mind is working currently. I wanted to share it with you so you’ll be ready for it too when you start eating more foods again. Give your body – and mind – a chance to adapt and find its level. I anticipate it will take a good few months and will happen each time I put a major food group back in. And, now I can tolerate supplements again, I shall support my digestion, gut flora, vits and mins more speedily.

In essence, today’s lesson is: Bloating and weight gain will happen until the body finds its level again. Don’t let it faze you.

I need to listen to my own advice 😉

Chocolate, Wine, Nuts, Eggs Back In..Is This Really True?

Brain icon It’s been 6 months since my last confession (or big post in the Healing Series anyway!). At that point, we were discussing brain retraining techniques to add to our calming-amygdala strategies and I was wishing I had time to devote six months to getting better. Well, the good news is: I didn’t need to…

THE FOODS ARE GOING BACK IN!!!!!!!

Yep, as of four weeks ago, I have been putting foods back in daily – anything and everything I fancy, except the grains and dairy of course. Yet. I’ve not stinted. I’ve just gone for it. I know: you can faint with me now.

Where It All Started, Some Background..

If you recall, I had suffered numerous symptoms for years, with chronic fatigue syndrome, food intolerance and IBS type symptoms mainly. I wasn’t getting well enough with my usual interventions, despite being on a wheat and dairy free diet, which was becoming more and more restricted with other foods being ‘lost’ over time. Garlic caused ear swelling, coffee the stomach spasms, citrus my oesophagus to close up and rashes on my palms and on and on; the list was growing. Then the fatigue worsened and I could hardly stand up. I was cancelling patients left right and centre.  I started to get regular migraines, mouth sores and excruciating jaw pain about 8 years ago.

For the fatigue, I checked for anaemia and discovered I was severely anaemic. Hallelujah I thought, at least I could take iron and feel better. However, I couldn’t keep my iron stores up, then couldn’t tolerate the iron and thought I must be coeliac. My GP refused to test me and, at that point, we didn’t have any other choices so I gave up gluten. I improved for a while but it all came back. I investigated why coelaics don’t get well and fell off my chair when I found a really high number of them don’t heal their villi. Is that what’s going on, I thought. Not to be outdone, I found and introduced the gluten gene test to the UK.

That’s where I discovered I had the genes for a gluten related disorder and have since done a ton of research into NCGS (non coeliac gluten sensitivity) and the damage it can do. That’s also where this blog started as I recorded everything I was finding out. Heck, I even broke the story in early 2011 about GRDs in the UK, see here.

Went TrulyGlutenFree…

I thought that was my key. I found that most coeliacs and certainly NCGS sufferers don’t get well on a traditional gliadin free diet, so I invented the TrulyGlutenFree grain and dairy free diet. I followed that for two years. I felt a lot better, but I found that my symptoms would return regularly. At that point, we didn’t know about cross-reactive gluten foods like we do now – thanks Cyrex – but I had cut almost all of them out anyway, gradually sussing that each ‘attack’ seemed to coincide with a food type.

Went AIP…

In fact, almost four years ago now, I went AIP (autoimmune protocol) although it wasn’t really known as that then. Basically, in desperation, I had cut out anything I knew as a nutritionist could cause inflammation and scupper gut healing. I assumed the whole lot was to do with damage done by the gluten related disorder causing hypersensitivity to other food types and increasingly to pretty much anything. I thought the symptoms were most likely down to food reactions and was just cutting more and more out in a bid to find the culprit and feel better.

On the AIP diet (no grains, dairy, nightshades, seeds, nuts or pulses) for 6 months, my fatigue abated a bit, but the mouth pain and migraine were still especially bad.

Went Few-Foods Elimination Diet…

So, I decided to do an elimination few- foods diet to really calm my system down and gradually then put foods back in to trial them one by one and see what my own healing diet might be.

Problem was: after two months on the few-foods diet, I just couldn’t get anything back in! And I have been left with those few foods ever since. My diet has consisted of wild fish and shellfish, root veg, some green veg and some fruit – about 20 core foods. For. Almost. Three. Years.

This was not a good – or healthy – position to be in. It seems healthy enough but is actually pretty deficient in some nutrients –  and extremely depressing. Life became ever smaller.

Not Much Left…!

When I started losing even those foods, could only put olive oil on my skin and even RO filtered water made me ‘react’, I finally twigged that this was possibly not (just) biochemical and that my mind was involved in some way or another.

Could it be that the NCGS was causing the original issues but my mind had gone a bit awry about the food reactions or could my body be trying to tell me something? Why was I becoming super-sensitive to so many things, as I know many of you reading this are? I started to investigate other reasons for my pain and super-sensitivity and, if you have been reading the Healing Series, you know I have been working very hard on this now for two years. I didn’t really have any choice: at one point I was down to a size 6 and had lost water, I couldn’t take any meds or supplements to help myself. This was serious stuff.

What Can I Now Eat..?

Anyway, I’ll return to the story in a bit. For now, let’s have the celebratory bit for you! These are the main foods I now have back in, more or less in the order I put them back in. Yes chocolate was first and wine was second. I’ll explain why in a bit; there was reason behind my madness, promise.

Image for Sainsbury's Vintage Cava, Taste the Difference 75cl from Sainsbury'sChocolate, Cava wine, various fruit and veg, cashews, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, SOLO red wine, eggs (any type, not specific), potatoes, tomatoes, soya, coconut, various herbs, beef mince (not grass fed), vanilla extract. And before this point, I had already reintroduced tea and honey.

How fab is that? It means I have been able to eat homemade granola and nut/soya milk for breakfast, omelettes for lunch and have a chocolate or glass of wine as a treat when I want one.

I can’t tell you how relieved and joyful, instead of depressing, that feels. I knew avoidance was stressful – and not just for me either; it affects everyone close to you – but, boy, until that restriction lifts, you don’t realise how much anxiety it causes every minute of every day. Well you do, but it does bring it into sharp relief when you don’t feel it any more.

P -and quite a few people – have actually said I look younger. It’s the fear that’s left my face, the anxiety and depression gone from my mind, the frustration and that having to be strong and cheerful when you’re missing out on life feeling that I know you have too; the watching everyone else be ‘normal; it’s not much to ask for’ ever-present frustrated feeling. They’ve puffed away, finally. And I mean that finally too; it ain’t coming back, no way Jose!

So, let’s get to how it finally turned around.

A sudden shift. Not!

The funniest thing is it was very sudden. And when I say sudden, of course it was the culmination of two years’ really hard slogging consistent work but the switch itself was very sudden.

It’s a lot more complex than this, but let’s try and take the easy route.

I had a pain in my shoulder. It was so bad I couldn’t type to work. I recognised the feeling as I’d had it 10 years before when we were running the clinic in Uppermill and I had to give up the massage as I thought it was shoulder strain. But here it was back again. Exactly the same and yet I hadn’t done anything to cause a strain at all.

Then I remembered a few months before I had really bad leg pain, so much so I couldn’t walk on it properly for around 3 months on and off. That turned out to be emotional trauma held in the physical tissues and the only way we released it was to keep uncovering layers of trauma via meditation and unpicking them with clinical hypnotherapy, thank you Julie. There were a lot of layers but it went. Eventually. I still get the odd twinge which is a sign I am subconsciously – or even consciously – anxious about something.

Could this shoulder pain be the same thing maybe? I meditated on it for about an hour one morning after it wouldn’t shift for days, asking my body to tell me what was wrong and how to get rid if it. This sounds daft, I know, but it actually works. I’ll tell you how in the Healing Plan no doubt. I promised myself at the start of this to leave my sensible, analytical, biochemist-trained mind out of it and just accept and do whatever came up, and I have.

Anyway, eventually I got the distinct feeling that the pain was a strain from pulling my arm right back and punching something really hard! How odd. It fitted though. As a massage therapist, I knew which muscles would be involved and it was absolutely right. So, who was I punching?

Interestingly, the first punching was not me doing it; it was someone else’s anger and I won’t go into that. It went anyway once I’d acknowledged it. The next layer was me punching myself; a sort-of self sabotage behaviour and the sense was: ‘why are you continuing to punish yourself by denying yourself things – foods especially – you enjoy?’

This was interesting because, for the past month or so, every meditation ‘message’ that came up was telling me I was well in various ways. So, it was as if my body was showing me I wasn’t taking that message on board and that I was continuing to act in a self-sabotaging way. The sense was ‘you are well; go and eat a treat!’.

So, dear Reader, I did.

 

Gifting Options

Hotel Chocolat, bless them, had sent me a bloggers’ review bag of goodies at Christmas. I had tried my best – knowing it was as pure a chocolate as you could get and TGF safe – but I just couldn’t make myself try it. Depressing.  I kept it for ‘one day’ as you do.

Anyway, I went straight to the bag and ate some chocolate. My head nearly blew off. It is very strong chocolate anyway, even for someone who’d not tasted it for about 5 years! It was HEAVEN, I can tell you.

Of course, then the worry kicked in. What had I done? I was going to react. Oh no..and more besides. I decided to go and spend two hours walking on the beach below the house and distract myself for the time it would normally take for a reaction to occur: two hours on the dot usually for me.

Nothing happened.

I couldn’t believe it. I could not believe it.

I spent all evening talking to myself and keeping the worry down. ‘Everything’s fine now, there is no need to worry any more, this is an old feeling for a past illness and I don’t have that illness now, I am well, I can eat and drink safely now whatever I choose’ etc etc. I wore myself out and fell asleep.

I woke up the next morning and was still fine. P had been away and when he got back that evening, I asked him not to mention or say anything because this was ‘perfectly normal’ but would he please open a bottle of Cava (again saved for ‘one day’) and join me in a glass on our balcony? This was something I had promised myself ever since we moved in. One day, we would be able to share a glass of fizz on our very own sea-view balcony. It hurt me every time I saw someone else doing it and now here was my chance. At last.

With a very shocked expression, he did as I asked and we drank it together. I had the same worry and fear especially since the last glass of wine trial I had a year earlier after my initial psychotherapy sessions had resulted in four really horrible days involving a morphine painkiller. Nuff said.

Again, I talked myself down – a little less this time as I had the success of the chocolate to bolster me. I could do this and if I could this one, I knew I was well.

No reaction. And I had another glass the next day.

Since then, I have added back something every day for 3 weeks, started adding several new foods together, then combining them in the same meal etc. I decided that if my subconscious mind was asking me to believe I was well, I would show it I truly believed it and just went for it. No small amounts, no one at a time, no gentle reintro. I brooked no nonsense – and believe me, my mind tried and still does, but it is lessening more and more.

smileySo, how have I been?

The same as I was before, but with a nicer diet, an actual life and no depression! And that’s the point. It wasn’t the food that was causing the majority of my symptoms.

One of the things I realised just before the switch happened was that I went AIP/elimination diet because I was having mouth pain, migraines, fatigue, restless legs etc etc etc. They never really got better even on the few-foods diet for two years – the fatigue did, but the mouth and migraine never changed really and other things were cropping up regularly. So, it wasn’t the food; it was something else.

As part of this process, I was told repeatedly that the pain and hypersensitivity was down to PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). It took me three diagnoses to accept it — apparently it does everyone! – and it is only in the past 6 months working with Julie that the pain and symptoms have started to lessen significantly. I have learned the emotional triggers and how to release them and my own work to calm the amygdala down and change my subconscious thought patterns has worked. The biggest change so far, of course, is the ability to eat again, which I seriously doubted would ever happen.

I’m not there yet and  have a way to go but the food going back in is MASSIVE. I am now working on the two key remaining symptoms of migraine and mouth sores. These, I thought, were food reactions, but they are clearly not as I’ve not had any of them since I started reintroducing. Thank Goodness. They are much less as my system has calmed down.

The migraine when it started about 5 years ago was about a 12 sometimes on the Richter scale and lasted 5 days. The mouth pain was more than that. Both very debilitating. The migraine now is once a month – although I never had one last month….and is related to my hormone cycle definitely so I am hoping some B6 if NOW I can get it in will help. They score about 4-6 and last 1-2 days. I have had one episode of jaw pain in 8 months, although I get regular lymph node swelling behind my ears. The mouth sores are still constant. I haven’t been able to fight off an infection there I think, which is hardly surprising given such a deficient diet. This is why I encourage you to do the TGF Core Protocol. Sadly, I couldn’t.

What I mean to say is: I still get some symptoms because of the emotional trauma – in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the migraine and mouth pain are still related to that yet – my Bowen therapist and Julie are convinced they are so we’ll see; I get some of the symptoms because of my poor nutrient – and therefore organ/cellular depleted function (ie. fatigue, chronic infection, hormone imbalance), I get some symptoms now because I’ve got the foods back – my digestive system is not used to food and is grumbling a bit during this transition phase, which is to be expected!,  and I get some symptoms possibly because – as with any ‘normal’ person you pass in the street, some foods don’t like me and I am TGF. That’s NORMAL. What wasn’t normal was such a degree of hypersensitivity and that’s what I’m talking about here.

How did it get to be so severe?

The difficulty, for me at any rate, had come because of a sort-of perfect storm of issues and I am seeing that in many of you. This may be well wrong but I’ve tried to think about how this all came about in case it helps us work stuff out. This is as far as I’ve got with it so far (it’s interesting that this has come out as third person as if I can’t quite believe it’s me still yet!!):

Micki gets born with the genetic predisposition for a gluten related disorder, plus she is considerably premature and therefore immune-compromised, malnourished and neglected as a child. The genes for the GRD are triggered by any one of those via epigenetics as we know how that happens now. Then, we also have emotional trauma of various kinds as the ACE (adverse childhood event) disorder which is known to kick off hyper-sensitivity and trauma-related anxiety disorders in your 30s and 40s.

Right at the known vulnerable time for an ACE disorder (around 40), Micki’s trauma gets re-triggered and she develops major anxiety and hypersensitivity, later diagnosed as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), although the diagnosis is ignored three times as this is so not how she sees herself! She chooses to believe it is to do with food. This belief comes about because she is a nutritionist and therefore sees the problems food cause all the time, plus she has given up foods to help various symptoms and has felt better: coffee for IBS, wheat for IBS, gluten for chronic fatigue etc – all valid biochemical choices to calm a gut down.

Brain iconHowever, now her subconscious has learned that giving up food makes her feel better. This thought and belief gets cemented nicely as a new neural pathway in her brain and she eventually only has to see, smell or touch food to not want to eat it so she can feel better. When she does eat it, her subconscious brain has learned that it is a perceived danger and causes a physical reaction to warn her off it. She becomes more and more fearful of food, of anything even related to food and eventually that fear also becomes a deep neural groove and everything becomes fearful. Just going out of the house, answering the phone, driving a car, going anywhere on her own becomes a real stress. She fights it and this causes more anxiety.

Going back to the ACE disorder and PTSD, Micki’s amygdala was programmed at a very early age that she is not safe and she has to do everything in her power to keep safe. The amygdala controls her emotional and physical reactivity and is now stuck on hyper. She sees danger everywhere from a subconscious point of view. The PTSD has been ignored for decades or, more accurately, put down to the food sensitivity and, when Micki is at her most happy and stable, the mind thinks she is now able to process what was buried in a dissociative manner all those years ago. Plus, a family event triggers it again so it now becomes urgent that the mind gets this sorted out.

The subconscious starts to  express the trauma and emotional states through the physical body in a bid to get noticed and dealt with.

Oh dear. Now Micki has a true GRD and ACE-triggered hypersensitivity anxiety disorder causing psychosomatic (physical) reactions.

It is only when Micki’s actual life becomes threatened by, sometimes I’ll admit suicidal, depression, not being able to eat, dropping to a size 6 and then not tolerating even water, that she wakes up enough to start looking at it from an emotional point of view because she now has no choice. She takes three actions that are what has led to the successful reintroduction of food now.

The Healing Process

  1. She starts to meditate every day without fail. This starts to calm the amygdala down and therefore the hypersensitivity and anxiety. This also eventually gives her a dialogue with her subconscious which then gives her clues to what is going on and what to do about each thing as it crops up. This involves even moving away from the trauma scene of the crime, if you like, and to a more healing environment by the sea!
  2. She begins neuroplasticity brain retraining in lots of different ways to talk to her subconscious and reprogram the wrong beliefs about food and illness. This effectively helps her build a stronger pathway to ‘I am well’ ‘I can eat safely’ which means the other pathways weaken. Gradually, the one gets stronger than the other. A neural pathway never disappears but you can build new ones and strengthen existing ones with the right techniques which then means the ones you’re not using wither. That’s a neurological fact she used to her advantage. If her mind could do this to her, it could undo it too!
  3. She sought treatment for the PTSD, trying various techniques and finding a combination of NLP and clinical hypnotherapy worked best.

Phew. What a ride! I am fascinated by it even though it was happening to me. It’s quite nice to try and see it objectively and, I hope, that means I will be able to show you how to do it yourself if you, too, are a hypersensitive like me.

What Next?

There is surely more to be done, of course. I am currently working with Julie to cement the mind changes, as well as a Bowen therapist and am exploring Polarity Therapy to help release the pain from my physical tissues and head which my meditations suggest are emotional in origin, at least in part. We’ll see.

I feel Reiki may well come in for rebalancing at some point, too. I have used laser treatment (thanks Gill, who helped with this) to increase oxygenation in the mitochondria and Qi Gong as a kind of movement meditation to help release my physical tissues too.

The one thing I have found is that the meditation is a must; that this healing has become part of life and that it feels nice to be doing things that support me instead of punching myself! There are many pathways you could take to achieve the same calming down of your system; this is just mine. I honestly think that what we need to do is get an over-arching view of what needs to be done and then choose from a kind of smorgasbord of techniques to find the ones that suit us and get us there.

naturopathy symbolMy job now is to write the Healing Plan and give you that to work with in the hope it will help you get some life back too. If I can do it, so can you. And you have no idea how long I have wanted to be able to say that!

I described myself to someone the other day as no longer being an ill person; I am now a normal person with a few health issues to sort out, like anyone else. Only someone who has been through this type of illness can truly know the difference between those two statements and the work that has gone in to turn that thought around!

Summary

The TGF illness is real. The hypersensitivity is very probably not and can be brought back down again using various techniques to calm the amygdala, change neural pathways and release beliefs, triggers and trauma. If I can do it, so can you. You can get well and I will show you how fully when I finish the Healing Plan. Meantime, go back to the Healing Series and read from the bottom up; a lot of the info is already there. This will take at least 6 months to do. Go and make a start.

I am well. I am well. I can eat. Say it with me…

 

What’s Your Theme For 2016?

naturopathy symbolI have been mooching on what to write for the first TGF post this year and had decided to tell you about my chosen theme is for this year. Then, a newsletter email came through from SCD about the very same thing – about choosing a ‘theme’ for each year and how it can help to keep you on track. How weird is that – and actually that fits in quite nicely with part of the theme I’ve chosen, or that chose me actually (more on this below).

I’ll copy the SCD email for you below at the end of my missive to help you sort out what your own theme might be if nothing strikes you immediately- I’m sure they won’t mind. I can’t link to it as it’s not on the blog. First, here’s my take on it.

Brain iconNeuroplasticity theme for 2015

As many of you know, I have been trying to use neuroplasticity brain techniques to get my mind to change the way it thinks fearfully about food and, increasingly, life in general. I was becoming habitually fearful. It was a learned behaviour and entirely being driven by my subconscious mind and didn’t fit at all with my conscious sense of self as a successful, happy-go-lucky woman.

It got to such a fever-pitch that my biggest fear last year was actually whether I was going to survive or not. Sounds dramatic, but I kid you not. And I do know some of you have felt – and sadly still are – feeling the same, so I’m being brave and showing you that this happens, you can control it and you are definitely not the only one!

Mine wasn’t helped by losing so much weight, even though I thought that was what I wanted – and the number of people who congratulated me on it and had no idea of the scare it was giving me was numerous! To lose so many foods that your weight drops down dramatically, as mine did (see this post here on weight loss), then you do start to wonder how you can stop the weight loss if you physically can’t tolerate any more foods and can’t seem to get enough in. It’s a conundrum, and a very scary one.

Anyway, last year I really feared that I was going into the second year of a very restricted diet with no sign of it getting any more expansive. So, I deliberately chose a theme that Gloria Gaynor fans will know and love:

 

I will survive!

Enjoy it here. How many times have you sung that at the break-up of a relationship? Or is that just me?!

Anyway, I used it as passwords (for non-essential things, of course!) which made me have to say it several times a day. I had it written everywhere, I had it as my screen saver, I used it during Yoga Nidra meditation as the ‘san culpa’ – the intention message you give to your subconscious in the alpha state when it is most receptive. (Thanks here to Michelle at Foodsmatter who sent me a copy of this excellent CD by Rebecca Allen and started my whole meditation ‘journey’ off!).

I repeated it constantly when I was walking, I sang the song whilst I was cooking or cleaning. I drove P mad…It became my theme for the year. It became so ingrained in my head that I felt it was repeating itself without me eventually -a  kind of helpful ear worm!

And it worked. I lost the overwhelming feeling of fear and it no longer rules my life. Sure, I have moments of it but the feeling that I am a victim of this illness and that I didn’t want to live with it, wasn’t going to be able to live with it, was easier to just give up and die – thankfully – has gone. And I am sure this and, of course, the PTSD treatment was a part of both the emotional rollercoaster I went through last year and the reason the fear has now gone. Phew.

 

Theme for 2016: Survive to Thrive

This year, the theme has chosen me. It just popped into my head after the last PTSD session during a meditation and is now ‘I Will Thrive!’ How’s that for much more positive?

I’m not yet sure what it will actually transpire as but the feeling so far is two-fold. On the one hand, I have a real sense of just wanting to let go and trust that I will get better. On the other hand, I am already taking practical steps to improve my health and wellbeing if I have to continue to live this restricted life. I suppose the two do go together if I think about it. And it is often said that, ironically, letting go allows the healing to actually happen. I so hope that’s true – it was certainly a theme of all the success stories I listened to in Secrets to Recovery mentioned here.

Let Go and Trust.

That’s half the theme. In fact, in another of the quirky coincidences I am now looking out for (see more below), the next book on my to-read list on my Kindle a few days ago turned out to be Letting Go: the Pathway To Surrender no less. Twiglet zone…!

I have no idea if it’ll be any good, although I’m enjoying it so far. If you get past the enlightenment thing, it is really all about removing emotional blockages and negativity thought states to enable healing.

There is a real sense of relief at just trusting in my body, the universe, whatever that what is happening is happening and there seems to be bugger-all I can do about it other than live with it and find ways to cope. I’m supposed to think there is a reason for this and maybe there is; I just don’t know it yet. Many people say such suffering is a necessary part of ‘finding yourself’ spiritually or as an individual and I have certainly been doing a lot of that over the past year! However, I don’t actually believe that and tend to side with Deepak Chopra who believes suffering is not necessary for spiritual growth at all.

 Read his book Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul here where he focuses very much on the joy of life feeding the soul rather than suffering. I like that.

Maybe I’m just tired of the fight – my whole life seems to have been a fight in some way or another to survive. I give it up now, although strangely that doesn’t feel like it’s in a negative way at all; it feels immensely positive.

Make the best of it..

The other ‘half’ of the theme is much more practical. I have decided to try and make the best of the situation I have. I have much to be thankful for and I refuse now to let this diet restriction and illness continue to hold me back. It’s true: I still have bad days when I feel like crap, usually when I’m trying to reintroduce something or I’m stressed, but I now have a better coping mechanism and I don’t fall into the same pit of despair as I did and the consequent cycling that causes.

I’ve already moved to a healing environment by the sea. The illness already feels less significant as a result of this. I will thrive also is translating into better self-care: starting to get baths back in, use a nail polish, find nicer things to go on my skin, getting out and about meeting people, volunteering etc.

Diet-wise, I have decided to try and make the best of the foods I can have. I went through a stage recently where I was so sick of my 20-odd foods that I could no longer eat them. I literally felt nauseous every time I ate them. Then, I realised they were my friends and had actually kept me alive! So – actually inspired by something one of you said on the Facebook group about trying to make better recipes etc, thank you – I have decided to do the same.

  This weekend, I was thinking about how to start that and had just decided to start with breakfast and try to make that a bit more exciting than half or a full melon…every…single…day. I thought: I have managed to get ginger in so why don’t I start with a gingery juice of some kind?

I sat down to eat my half melon as I was thinking this and lo and behold I switched the TV on to a chap talking about how he has a ginger ‘shot’ every morning as an anti-histamine and general zinger! Weird coincidence or another message from the ‘let go and trust’ theme of my life?

Later that day, I was watching something else – I’ve forgotten what now – and a person was talking about how they’d realised they had to do much more than just survive on their diet, but to use it to thrive again. I nearly choked on my dinner!

 Anyway, I took these as a message and set off to order myself an ‘everyday use juicer‘ that can sit on the countertop as opposed to my workhorse of a Champion that comes out for apple harvests etc. I had some points to use up from my credit card use over the year so I treated myself – always better when it’s free! As I type, it has just arrived. Very exciting.

I know it’s a small step but expanding to include a juice in the morning is much more like the old me (trust in food as medicine, not going to harm me) and is an important indication of self-care that has been sorely missing during the PTSD days of the last 10 years.

In addition, I got a mango splitter, a sharper veg peeler as mine is worn out, not surprisingly with all the root veg I eat, a 3 in 1 avocado tool (cuts, de-stones and slices) and an avocado saver as I am fed up of losing halves in the fridge! Just to make life a teensy bit easier and have some fun in the kitchen again. Daft, I know, but there you go – gadget-queeniness is in the family, what can I say?

 Whilst I was there of course I had to buy a new book. I’ve been coveting this one for a while: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Yes, it’s a big book!

So, small starts but positive ones, and hopefully from little (ginger) roots, may my own roots get stronger or something like that.

Incidentally, I couldn’t resist looking if there was a song for I Will Thrive and I found this. I don’t agree with some of the advice, of course, but it made me smile nonetheless. Enjoy.

So, have you got a theme for this year to hold onto, to help you direct your healing? If not, do as I did and just lie there after meditation and ask for one – see what comes up. Or, do as SCD advises here:

The #1 Tip for New Year’s Resolution Success

It’s that time of the year for Resolutions, Goal Setting and Transformations.
Have you committed to any of these?
I secretly hope so. Sure, some people will tell you that it’s silly to attempt them. But typically those are also usually the people who are afraid. They are afraid of change – for you and for them.
Have I failed at resolutions? OF COURSE! In the last 6 years, I’ve probably failed many more times than I succeeded.
Have I missed my goals for the years? OF COURSE! In the last 6 years, I’ve missed goal after goal, whether it was for the business, for my health or for my love life.
But I’ve transformed over and over!
Everyone who knows me… knows that I’m healthier, happier, more grounded, have more evolved relationships and a bigger business than ever.
So, that tells me that missing goals, feeling pain, changing, and failure to achieve the desired outcome… is NORMAL.  
It’s an important part of the transformation piece.
And through all my “failures,” I’ve become the best man I’ve ever been – more capable in every area of my life! 2015 was my best year yet… and I fully intend 2016 to be even better.
How am I going to do that?
By using the #1 thing I’ve found to create a great year… a theme.
In 2012, I chose a Theme for my year, “The Grateful Professional.”  
I put sticky notes in my car, on my fridge, on the top of my computer, and in my bathroom. I wrote it on my journal. It was everywhere.  
At that point, Jordan and I had been losing money in this SCD business for 2.5 years. I was working 40 hours during the day at a boring engineering job and working all night trying to figure out how to inspire people to better health and get paid for it.
That theme helped me change everything. For me, it meant dropping the victimhood, the oh-poor-me’s, dropping the complaining, showing up every single day to do the work that needed to be done to make this a real company — and to be grateful for all the pain and frustration and annoyance… because one day soon it was all going to be worth it.  
And 2012 was the year I learned how to grow from “wanting to do business” to “doing business.” And in 2013 I finally started to get paid some money from this company!
Ever since this time, I’ve chosen a theme for my year. And every year, as long as I keep that theme in my mind most days, I say yes to the theme no matter how scary or painful… by the end of year it comes true.
My 2015 theme came true.  
And I know my 2016 theme will come true. This year for me… is the “Year of Being.”
I’m not very good at just “being.” It’s scary for me to think about “being” more – which to me means to stop working so hard, to stop trying to solve every problem, to slow down, to be in nature more, to connect with people more, to meditate more, and to trust more.  
But it’s precisely this fear that tells me it’s the right theme for the year.
So, here’s what I challenge you to do today.
I hope you have resolutions, I hope you have goals — because I want you to keeping transforming.  
But I challenge you to pick a theme for 2016 and to think about it every day, every week, every month and to reflect on it every quarter this year.
How to pick your theme:
(Step 1) – Look for commonalities in your intentions
Look at any goals or resolutions you’ve committed to or thought about and figure out what they have in common. (Or put them in buckets.) Are there several that are based on health? Are there several that are based on wealth? love? travel? freedom? Figure out what buckets are coming up for you this year…
(Step 2) – In which areas are you most excited about change?
Now, I want you to go to a quiet place and think about these buckets… health, wealth, love, sex, freedom, travel whatever it is. And I want you to think about what it would be like to achieve your goals or desires in these buckets. I want you to see yourself 12 months from now having accomplished them. Which one get’s you the most excited?  
(Step 3) – In which areas are you most afraid of change?
Next, which of these areas of your life are you most afraid of? Which one scares the hell out of you? Meaning, for instance, if you fully committed to your health and that meant that you had to stop cheating on your diet, put $1,000s of dollars into information training programs, supplements and doctors and you finally had to come face to face with the facts of your current health… does that scare you? If not, try on another bucket.
(Step 4) – Brainstorming your theme choices
So, now it’s time to craft a theme for the area of your life where you want change that feels good and for the area that scares the poop out of ya 🙂 Make your themes very high level and generic. It’s like a guiding principle… here’s some examples:

 

  • “The Year of the Grateful Professional”
  • “The Year of Trusting My Heart”
  • “Warrior Up, Hippie Down”
  • “The Year of Being”
  • “The Year of Trusting My Body”
  • “The Year of Connection”
  • “The Year of Healing”

 

As you can see, from these examples, this is your guiding light for the year. It helps you remember your focus for the day and week. So, when opportunities for you to transform come into your life, you can ask yourself does this help my theme? Does this add to my theme work this year? And if so it’s an easy yes.
(Step 5) – Selecting your theme
Now, pick ONE theme. And only one – either the exciting one or the scary one. And know that both choices are okay. But the one that you feel more intensity (notice: not good or bad feelings) in your body right now with will be the one that will produce probably the biggest transformation is the scary one.
So tell me… what’s your theme going to be this year?
I’ll be reading every single email response I get… can’t wait to hear your thoughts on my #1 tip for a great year. Just hit “reply” to this email to write me back.
In being,
Steve

 

In essence, today’s message is:

Think about where you are in your healing or life generally. Have you got a theme for the new year that will help direct you and keep you moving forward in some way? Is that a ‘doing something’ theme or a ‘let go and ease off’ type theme, or a mixture of both? What does your gut literally say?

Take 15 minutes to meditate or just before you go to sleep/wake fully in the morning and ask for a theme to come to you. What comes up? Go with it even if you have no idea what it is on about! Don’t worry if nothing comes up then, it will – keep your eye out for clues. Create a password with it and use it daily. Start changing your mindset.

Good luck – and here’s to 2016; it’s going to be a goodie – and that’s another of my phrases for the year – you can use it if you like 😉

 

 

 

Healing Series: Healing Stories and Mirror Neurons

Brain iconI am always on the look-out for success stories to share with you. It’s important to know it’s possible to get past chronic illness and to hear that others have done it. As I mentioned in my Healing Series, I try to spend some time every day listening to successful healing stories as part of my own healing strategy.

Sometimes lying in bed on a bad day, these are my saviours. Hearing what other people have gone through – often far worse than yourself, or something very similar – makes you feel less lonely with it all, doesn’t it? I like to focus on the healing part myself rather than the ‘what went wrong’ part and often listen to those bits repeatedly. If they can do it, so can we!

So, here are the latest healing success stories from Eileen at Phoenix Helix for you: a set of five people, each of whom struggled to get illness diagnoses, went through the usual hell and back, but came out the other side much improved using an AIP or TGF type approach. Remember that these are people with so-called incurable, irreversible autoimmune disorders according to most mainstream approaches.

Y’see: you CAN do it. Note that it takes time and commitment; this is not an easy ride as we all know. But there is hope.

Use these type of stories to build ‘mirror neurons’. This is a well-known, albeit still controversial, phenomenon whereby seeing and hearing others do something helps you build your own similar neural pathways in the brain. Here’s some info on them specifically for you.

Mirror neurons: Enigma of the metaphysical modular brain

Mirror neurons are one of the most important discoveries in the last decade of neuroscience. These are a variety of visuospatial neurons which indicate fundamentally about human social interaction. Essentially, mirror neurons respond to actions that we observe in others. The interesting part is that mirror neurons fire in the same way when we actually recreate that action ourselves. Apart from imitation, they are responsible for myriad of other sophisticated human behavior and thought processes. Defects in the mirror neuron system are being linked to disorders like autism. This review is a brief introduction to the neurons that shaped our civilization.

I can see how this might work best with video stories or things you watch, of course, but listening is also really useful. I don’t know abut you, but if I hear someone else say it, it goes in better!

Anyway, the point is that those new, stronger neural pathways will then have an influence on epigenetics, switching your genes on and off – which incidentally they do minute to minute; we are no longer in the era of believing we are ‘stuck’ with fixed genes. Genes have to be triggered to cause a related illness; to be switched on, if you like. They can be switched off too, thankfully. Of course, that also means that healing genes can be switched on and off and hearing success stories like this, listening to and watching others be passionate, enthusiastic and positive about getting better can only help you.

OK? Off you go then. Enjoy.

It Takes Dedication, But You Too Can Do It!

Brain iconAs you know, I’ve always got my eyes open for stories where people have successfully turned around chronic food-related ill health to share with you for inspiration.

Many of you follow Low Histamine Chef Yasmina who has uses a similar approach to the one I am now following myself and advocating as a healing strategy for us – less emphasis on avoidance, more on calming the amygdala, changing conditioned Pavlovian-like physical and mental responses, and nourishing the body in lots of different ways.

However, her recent post detailing her daily schedule was quite humbling. It shows just how much she does and how little I do in comparison; it’s a real eye-opener! But, it worked for her so it made me think: maybe I – we – have to get off our bums and apply ourselves a little more?

Yasmina does about 4 sessions of meditation/visualisation/self-hypnosis a day and an hour or so of yoga, plus ‘present moment’ meditation as she does normal day to day stuff like washing up etc. Phew. That is a lot. Not all of us have the type of day that can be structured into that kind of schedule – many of us have kids, full-time 9-5 (or 8-7!) jobs and many more demands on our time. But, maybe we can take a leaf out of her book and at least step up what we are doing to help ourselves?

Before I moved recently to Cornwall – for me, a crucial part of my healing path has been moving to a healing environment – I actually did have quite a similar structure in place; it was like a full-time job. My mind was on it all the time; it was quite exhausting but I was feeling better and started to get lesser reactions, so I know this works. But, there’s no getting around it; it takes a lot of time and dedication to get well, to turn down that inflammatory and reactivity dial, to stop the mental food-fear chatter, to end the eternal focus on ‘will I, won’t I react?’. But do it we must if we want to stop the ever- expanding avoidance of food groups I see every single day in my work with you all.

Have a read of Yasmina’s schedule below, then, and see if there’s anything more you could be doing. I have had a good kick up the proverbial and will be stepping up the meditation myself from today. Thanks, Yasmina, for the kick and the inspiration!

A DAY IN THE LIFE: MY FOOD AND EXERCISE SCHEDULE

Read the rest of my healing series here and you can see a bit of my schedule here. It does evolve all the time as I refine it and find what works for me specifically, but you get the gist. Are you doing some of that at least??

Healing Series: Are We Putting Too Much Pressure On Ourselves?

Brain icon  A bit of musing for you today..

Sometimes I think we have to take a step back and look at how much we are trying to achieve with all our healing strategies. I wonder sometimes if we put too much pressure on ourselves and I am forever being asked: ‘When will I be better?’, ‘How long before I’m cured?’.

I watch people, as I used to do myself, constantly investigating routes, going down paths on a never-ending search for answers and what to do next. I certainly don’t blame people; as I said, I did it myself for years. I suppose I have got to the stage where I am fed up with doing that, weary of the constant thinking and searching, if you see what I mean? Part of my current strategy is to stop doing that and relax off a bit. Goodness knows if I will keep that up or go back to the constant enquiry, but I have to say, for now, it’s a bit of a relief to have stopped!

Is there such a thing as a ‘cure’ anyway?

As any practitioner worth their salt knows: firstly, we do not use the word ‘cure’ for legal reasons, but also because there is really no such end point, at least with chronic illness. There is only ‘getting better’ and achieving the level of life you and your own body can get to, if you see what I mean? Indeed, that might be fabulously healthy compared to how you used to be, and often is thankfully, but it may not be a total ‘cure’ or disappearance of symptoms, scans showing stuff fully gone etc etc. And maybe if that’s what you’re waiting for before you can say you are ‘better’ then you may be setting yourself up for a disappointment or, more likely, a never-ending quest.

Does that really mean your strategy’s not working? Of course not. I think many people put too much pressure on themselves to solve every little thing and trick themselves into believing they’ve somehow failed if they haven’t done so.

In my own case, for example, I am way better than I was a few years ago. Sure, I still suffer with ongoing symptoms and the dreaded diet restrictions to control them, but I do now have a life that is on an upward trajectory rather than a downward, scary spiral. I believe I am getting well, even if I am not there yet. In fact, I have come to realise that the sheer belief that I am getting well is actually helping me to get there. The mind is a powerful ally, used correctly.

Will I ever get to a total disappearance of those symptoms? Who the heck knows? I hope so, of course, but if I can take the pressure off myself of constantly striving and craving to be ‘better’ maybe I can heal that much faster anyway: the ‘acceptance’ we’ve talked about in previous posts. If I can accept how far I have come and just trust that what I’m doing to help myself will pay dividends in a better quality life in the future, or even accept that this is my life as it is now, then perhaps that should be enough?

Anyway, I am musing, of course! As usual, I am being influenced by my current reading. This time, the famous The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, admittedly a tough read, but the main thrust is to encourage us to concentrate on what is happening right now in the present, let go of the past and stop worrying about the future. I haven’t learned how to do it yet, but wouldn’t it be a relief if that’s all we had to think about? Just accept what is happening now and that it is happening for some reason we may not have a clue about, but stop worrying so much about it. A nice thought!

How do others see it?

On this subject, I see that Petra8Paleo has put together a fabulous post directing us to various bloggers’ who share their ups and downs on their healing journeys for us. I find it interesting to read some of the comments the bloggers make on why they do or don’t share their bad times. I have always done so. I have been criticised for it myself, in fact. However, my take on it is that I am always honest about the trials and tribulations of chronic illness. I hope that people will trust me that much more for being honest, even if it puts some people off. I do try to keep it positive but therapists and practitioners are all too human themselves and it would be very misleading to say that all in the garden was rosy all the time. That’s just not life, is it? Anyway, I think we gain strength and knowledge from the bad times as much as the good as long as we can see them for what they are – which is tough sometimes, I admit! In fact, most good practitioners have had to deal with the stuff they’re helping you with themselves; they’ve been there and worn, or are still wearing, the T-shirt. It doesn’t mean they don’t know their stuff; it means they can empathise more with you and make suggestions you may not have thought of yet.

Anyway, back to the bloggers..In the posts I’ve read so far, the over-riding theme is that maybe no ‘cure’ exists at all, but that doesn’t mean because you can’t get right to the nth degree, you’ve failed. You need to take the positives as they come, recognise them and keep on keeping on if that’s what you decide to do, or maybe just stop where you are and let go of the fight.

I always find other people’s stories useful and inspiring to read and I will normally direct you to positive ones to help you ‘re-set’ your brains’ neural pathways. However, sometimes a dose of reality from other people going through the same things as us somehow helps us feel less alone with it all and can show us that others accept the place they have managed to get to and help us to ‘let go’ of the fight a bit ourselves.

Have a read anyway if that helps you. Thanks to Petra for putting it together for us:

Healing Autoimmune

Healing Series: The Reintegration Phase & Bouncing The Boundaries!

Brain iconI have been far too busy actually doing this stage in my healing to have time to tell you about it before now! I take that as a good sign 🙂

Reintegration? What the heck am I on about now? Let’s recap before I dive in, just so you can keep up. Do read the whole of my Healing Series (from the bottom up) if you haven’t already. And if you haven’t, why not?! My advice: do not leave this part of healing out if you want to get well.

Summary

In effect, we have been exploring a different way of healing; seeing if there is a way without diet and supplements for those of us super-sensitives who can’t tolerate that approach. So far, I have worked on two main steps – first, calming the amygdala and central nervous system down, turning the stuck ‘on’ switch off, if you like, and next using various neuroplasticity/brain-training/emotional release techniques to change the way the body sees threats. That’s it in a, er, nutshell. As I say, do read the series to follow what I have been doing. It’s a lot more complex than that, of course, but that is actually what we’ve been doing and discussing, put very simply.

So, this post is all about the third stage if you like: the reintegration stage. (Although, actually, I am coming to realise these are not stages as such, more areas to work on in an integrated fashion. You’ll see what I mean about this below.)

 

Reintegration?? 

What I mean by reintegration is essentially starting to push boundaries a bit, getting a life back. Once we feel calmer and ready, we need to push ourselves out of the fear and illness that has defined us pretty much, probably for years, and start doing stuff to see how far we can move forwards. This is not a science really, but feels more like an art.

Some people describe it as ‘bouncing’ the boundaries and that is about right so far for me. The idea really is to start taking a few risks, not necessarily with food to start with, to ‘bounce’ yourself out of illness and back into life. To show your body it is safe out there, to convince your mind things are not as bad as they might seem. I think of it a bit like the pinprick peanut allergen dosing where the body is exposed to the allergen in tiny but frequent doses to show the body it is safe and give it chance to work out how to deal with it. This is the same but not necessarily with food.

I’m probably not explaining this well; it is difficult to explain. I’ll use my own case as usual to try and make some sense of it.

 

smileyMoving On

I got to the stage a couple of months ago now where I felt much, much less fearful, more calm and centred in myself. I was waking up feeling ‘normal’ and having well days with the odd bad one instead of the other way round. It took me a good while actually to realise this. I only really realised when I thought how bored I was! More and more, I was becoming aware of how very small and internalised my life had become. I felt I had become bigger than my life, if you know what I mean. I was ready somehow to move on but I wasn’t sure what that actually meant. I suppose I wasn’t spending every hour thinking about food and how I felt, planning for the illness and how to cope. Once you stop that, you realise how much time it takes!

Obviously, for many of us moving from illness and fear to wellness and health is all about getting foods back in. So, I started there. The reintroduction phase, if you like, in food terms. I tried a couple of previously problematic foods and came a cropper. Not as bad as before and more able to cope with symptoms, the disappointment and frustration, but still reactive. Sigh. Things had changed, but I clearly had a long way to go.

But I was still feeling much more well than I had been in a long time.

Almost without thinking about it, I started to expand into life a bit more, becoming less defined by the fear of reacting, of upsetting people, of being the awkward one. I was suddenly not so focused on feeling crap or worrying about feeling crap because most of the time I felt ‘normal’ and not ill. Very strange!

Actually, what was most surprising, (and I have heard many severely ill people say the same thing, and that it surprised them too), is that I stopped yearning to go back to my old life. Somehow, I had moved past it and become a different person. I wasn’t hankering after the old stuff I used to do, the person I used to be, the foods I used to eat, the restaurants I used to frequent, the pubs I was always in (!). I wanted to continue to move forward and build a new life. It is much more positive than feeling frustrated about what you’ve lost. I stress here, again, this actually wasn’t conscious at all; it just started to be the case. I am sure it came from the meditation and brain-training.

Anyway, I had this real need for big spaces somehow. I felt too big for my life. I needed to be by the sea, to experience a different environment, to breathe different air. We started going on holiday to Devon and Cornwall for a few days here and there – in itself a big thing because I let go of the fear of starving to death because I couldn’t eat, of ruining the holiday by being ill for most of it, of being sad because I couldn’t go out to the usual places and join in – the usual things I know you recognise!  Anyway, it has morphed, as some of you now know from the Facebook groups, into a move to Cornwall shortly! I never do things by halves. I feel it is somehow right to have a bigger space to expand into. That’s as much as I can say to explain it.

Interestingly, many people who recover from illness do say that a change in environment – even if that’s moving the furniture around in the lounge – becomes quite important at certain stages. I have read some research that suggests it is a real help to altering the brain’s perception – it somehow encourages the brain to change. A few people I know have deliberately done things like sleeping on the wrong side of the bed, getting dressed in a different order and things like that whilst doing the brain-training/neuroplasticity/meditation techniques because it helps the brain to shift from the gear it’s been stuck in. I don’t know the basis of it but I do know that is somehow seemed to be needed in me at this stage. P wouldn’t let me get a new sofa to I’m having a new house instead – he should have said yes to the sofa… 😉

 

Volunteering

But it was going to take time for a move to the other end of the country. It was too long. I didn’t want to give myself time to slip back into my small life. I had long wanted to volunteer for a charity, preferably something to do with cats and after we heart-breakingly lost Benjamin, our 15 year old puss, I started fostering cats for Cat’s Protection. I would just never have done that before. Why? Because the stress of trying not to be ill on a day when I needed to be somewhere, be with someone or do something was just too stressful. I would have to be ‘careful’ for several days beforehand to make sure I was OK, and sometimes even then the strategy didn’t work and I just ended up having to cancel and being embarassed. After a few years of that, I simply gave up trying and just kept myself to myself pretty much to avoid the stress of it all. Hence the very small life. And I know many of you recognise this in your own lives because you’ve told me. It’s sad. But true.

Anyway, even though to some people that will sound like a piddling little step, it is huge for me. I am now part of something outside of my small food-obsessed life and am not defined by it. It feels much better. A relief, actually. It doesn’t mean I don’t get tired or P doesn’t have to step in if I’m feeling rubbish for a day or so, but the emphasis is different – it is on the odd bad patch rather than waking up every day thinking ‘what will I have to cope with today?’ That feels like progress.

Anyway, as I say, I didn’t do any of this consciously really but one day chatting to someone I realised that I was putting things back in, just not food yet. I was reintroducing things, reintegrating with life. Part of that will be food at some stage, of course, but I thought it was an interesting point to make that maybe food is not the be all and end all of it, just a part of the getting better? I think it all fits together and maybe my preoccupation with getting foods back in has been the wrong emphasis. Perhaps it is more of the ‘letting go’ we talked about in an earlier healing series post – if we let go of the fear of food and the constant yearning and attempts to get food back in, concentrating on other types of reintroduction for a while, perhaps the food will follow. I hope so anyway.

 

Bouncing

Just to make the point that this is not a straightforward trajectory thing. As with any illness, you have to work out where you are and what you can cope with at any given time. You might try a food and react. You might start a new hobby and feel that’s too much. You might try taking up knitting and it feels like a step forward. Who knows? What I do know is that you have to try and have your resilience hat on if it doesn’t quite go to plan yet! It probably won’t. But you will have some successes and those count, as does the trying. It’s almost about showing your body what it is capable of, of showing it things are OK, things are safe. Remember the peanut allergy idea above. It’s all about safety and showing yourself – slowly but surely – that life is safe again. It might be only in certain areas for now and that may not include new or previous foods, but the safety message is a really important one to get through to your mind. The more safe things you build – and notice! – overall the more safe your amygdala etc will feel. That’s what I’m choosing to work on anyway.

It is very tempting, I know, to stay in the comfort zone. I have done for far too long and, typical me, I have done something drastic to bounce myself out of it! It doesn’t have to be that dramatic but I would advise having a go. Perhaps focussing on something other than food and how you feel will help. It was a heck of a thing to do, but my body and mind really told me to get off my **** and try. It isn’t perfect by a long shot and I am sure there will be trials and tribulations to come, but the very act of trying to reintegrate/reintroduce more has moved me forward one notch more. If that is closer to being calmer, less controlled by illness and being able to introduce foods as well at some point, well that’s good. One step at a time.

 

info iconA Lesson Learned..Keep The Balls In The Air!

The other thing I’ve learned is not to stop the first stages either! I basically have been busy doing this other stuff and not done the usual meditation and brain training. Big mistake. I can feel the stress and reactivity increase as a result. Doing more when you’re not used to it is very tiring and can be stressful, even when it feels right. You need to continue to keep your amygdala nice and calm and to talk to yourself in positive neuroplasticity-strengthening ways as per the previous stages. As I said above, I’m discovering they are not really stages in a step by step fashion as such; more an integrated approach where you have to keep all the balls in the air.

 

Not Just Me Saying This…

As I was thinking about writing about this phase in the Healing Series, funnily enough, I came across this post from Angie at Autoimmune-Paleo where she is talking about getting out of the so-called ‘AIP rut’. It’s very much what I am saying in that she advises you start to let go of the illness and bounce yourself back into life. She even suggests starting to volunteer and organising more non food-based adventures to challenge yourself with – knitting is an adventure. Just sayin’ so you don’t think it has to be bungee jumping or something!

Anyway, have a read but one last point to bear in mind: reintegration is a known stage in the recovery of illness, especially mental illness and things like PTSD. It’s not some woolly thing despite how I have probably made it sound! It is an important part of recovery. I didn’t know the term before, didn’t even know that medical stage existed, I just did it. Perhaps so should you when you feel ready. And even if you don’t…

 

In essence, today’s advice is:

Even if you’re not sure you’re ready yet, start bouncing some boundaries. Make a few changes, show yourself you are safe with some little things even if that’s not food yet. Move yourself out of the illness as much as you can and focus on something else. Tell yourself: this is a temporary situation, I am not defined by it, it will pass. And get on with something else whilst your body learns to believe it! Stop hankering after the old you and embrace a new you.

Good luck!

PS. I have found a really good programme for you to follow if you work well with things like that and I will come back to some more specific brain training techniques you can add in too. Just sussing them out for us. Meantime, I hope you are at least doing your meditation, success stories and journaling?