Monthly Archives: July 2015

The Daily Grind

The strangest thing is happening. Yesterday and today I really didn’t want to eat at all. I did, because I have to with my supplements, but I’m not hungry and the thought of eating is not at all appealing. I don’t know if this will continue or not, but if it does, I imagine I’ll lose those extra few pounds I’ve put on recently – and then some. This might actually be the way it’s going to be, because as a person with leaky bowel syndrome (the result of a long-term H. pylori infection), I haven’t been getting the nutrition my food is supposed to provide, which results in me wanting to eat all the time because, even though I’m always eating, technically I’m also always starving. After three weeks on the H.pylori-killing mastica and a variety of gut healing goodies, it’s just possible that’s all changing now. Hmm, I wonder what that will be like long term? I’m supposed to be eating all sorts of good-for-me foods now, every color of the rainbow every day, but a few bites these past two days and it’s already more than I want. Maybe I’ll have little appetite until I’ve burned up all my sexy, voluptuous fat reserves and then my appetite will return (I can dream, cant I?).

So this is my current supplement routine:

As soon as I get up in the mornings, I drink a glass of water (it’s supposed to be warm water, but for some reason I can’t stomach that – it has to be room temp for me).

30 minutes or so later, acacia powder and diatomaceous earth with 20 ounces of water. This is kind of like drinking nice, clean dirt. In fact, that’s exactly what it’s like.

Whenever I get around to eating, which is usually a late breakfast or early lunch (sometime between 11 – 1), along with my food I get to take 14 pills (supplements, not drugs), which include Gamma E Complex (fancy vitamin E), Curcumin Phytosome (the bright orange powerful healing agent in turmeric), probiotics, both krill and coconut old, mastica (I don’t know what this is, some kind of herb I think, and it kills H. pylori), licorice root, B-complex and a whole food vitamin C. Again, lots of water involved.

I get the afternoons off, and then my dinner supplements total just 5 pills: another dose each of mastica, licorice root and vitamin C.

Around 9:30 I have another cocktail of acacia powder, diatomaceous earth and lots of water, and as a bedtime snack I get to mix it up with magnesium citrate and (you’re gonna love this) activated charcoal. Yes that’s right: charcoal. With, you guessed it, lots of water.

The mastica and licorice (8 pills daily!) is a 60-day regime, thankfully, so that much at least is short term. As for the rest, I don’t really know what stays and what goes. I imagine I’ll find out on a need to know basis.

As for my mood? Still on the upswing. In fact, now that I think about it I realize that tonight I totally skipped my evening dose of gnawing loneliness. Wow. That hasn’t happened in, gosh, years?

Oh and by the way, I successfully collected my four little vials of spit today, all right on schedule. They’re now languishing in the freezer until tomorrow, when I’ll pack them up and take them to UPS first thing. Don’t you wish you were my UPS man?

Spit, Spit, Spit!

Tomorrow I get to collect samples for a lab test to determine if I have adrenal fatigue. It’s a fun little process: four times tomorrow I get to spit into a vial until it’s half full (no hocking!). But the instructions are ve-e-ery specific! First off, no caffeine, alcohol or cigarettes tomorrow (only the no alcohol might be a challenge). I have to spit at certain times (between 6 – 8am, 12-1pm, 4-5pm and 10-midnight), and I’m not to eat or drink anything but water for an hour before spitting. Also, be forewarned that it may take up to ten minutes to drool out a half a vial-full. As soon as the collection is collected, I’m to make a note of the date on the handy little label and put the spit-vial straight into the freezer, nestled in alongside the two freezer bags that have to have been frozen for at least 36 hours before shipping. Leave the vials in the freezer overnight, then ship according to the very clearly outlined directions. I have a huge mailing pouch for my four tiny vials, because they have to be kept frozen during shipping. The pouch has layer upon layer of insulation, and the four spit-vials (after they’ve been appropriately labelled and sealed into the plastic biohazard bag) are to be sandwiched between the two thick freezer bags, then wrapped in the silver insulating wrap, then slid into the white insulating wrap, then put into the white shipping bag which must be sealed just so and then punctured in four different places (being careful not to puncture the white insulating wrap inside) so that the outermost bag will inflate fully (oh, and do not forget to put all the paperwork in there somewhere before you start sealing things up!). Then that all gets put into the final blue, brown and grey UPS Laboratory Pak. Then quick as ever you can, rush the whole shebang to UPS and drop it off. Oh, you can schedule a pickup, but I wouldn’t want to risk that with the close-to-100 degree temps that expected are Tuesday. And be sure to do my collection so that I can ship Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, because if I ship Thursday or Friday, I’ve wasted my time and my money and my spit; it’ll be in transit too long. I’m not making this up!

If I don’t have adrenal fatigue before I do all that, I may by the time I’m done!

This is just one more step on my healing journey, one more diagnostic tool to try and narrow down my multitudinous options of what all might be causing my annoying chronic symptoms. It’s actually all pretty interesting to me. I had to look up adrenal fatigue to find out what it even is, how it affects a person. Quick answer – chronic fatigue. Oh, right, well, I’ve had that for about a hundred years now. The adrenal glands produce hormones that respond to pretty much any and every stressor one experiences (they produce cortisol, for example). So if a person has had a long period of stress, chances are good that the adrenals are a bit tired. Hmmm, does fourteen years of trying to get pregnant count? Howzabout chronic depression and anxiety and H. pylori and leaky bowel syndrome, do those count? How long is “a long period” exactly? Do you think forty or so years would be considered long by my li’l ol adrenal glands?

In other news, my body is doing weird stuff. My appetite is way off, and I find myself wanting to go ahead and eat the “bad” things I normally eat, just because, after all, it’s my habit. But right at this moment, chips or chocolate or wine or even my old favorite, a Moscow Mule, just sound awful to me. My four big food vices, and not one of them is appealing to me! I forced myself to eat a little egg salad, a few almond-stuffed olives and several cherry tomatoes for dinner because I need to take my dinnertime handful of supplements with food. But really? Ugh.

This whole process is definitely not a straight line. My mood remains slightly better than what had become normal, and I’ve managed to get through some packing in the last few days, which is great because packing and otherwise going through and sorting stuff is extremely anxiety inducing for me. I feel bloated a lot, which I hate, and my weight is definitely up higher than it’s been in a few years, which I also hate. And still, my mood is pretty much okay, though I have been angry a lot in the last couple of weeks. But I find that it’s a relief, feeling that I don’t have to do anything other than what I’m doing (taking a zillion supplements and putting one foot in front of the other). I don’t have to judge myself, I can just observe and be curious: will this change as my body heals? Will that?

One Step Forward . . .

I might be feeling better. I’ve had a rough, rough week, and today I woke up to discover that my ailing phone is no longer ailing: it’s dead. I expect a new one on my doorstep any minute, but those minutes keep on ticking past. I’m pretty sure I’ve gained a hundred pounds in the last month (although my shorts still fit … ). I got hot as hell over something pretty stupid the other day and it took me two days to cool off – a little bit. On Saturday I went to Mare Island with my dearly-beloved niece and her husband and although it was a crazy hippy surprise of a place and I had a great time, for reasons unknown my “gut’ hurt from my heart to my pelvis all afternoon, so badly that it made my back ache and even though I managed to stand upright and walk around like a seemingly normal person, all my body really wanted was to double over, curl up tight and ride it out. Plus I tripped on a chain and fell flat on my back while we were there. Ouch. Oh and did I mention that apparently I’m not dating the guy I thought I might be dating? Yeah, Sarah experiences another bail-out.

Today I’ve put everything on hold while I wait for that new phone, because I’ve decided to go to the T-Mobile store and ask them to set it up for me, and why go do errands now when I’ll just be going out again as soon as that one special package arrives? And my scheduled activities all require me to run errands in preparation, although I could do some things via phone – if I had a working phone. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. So I finished watching a series on Netflix that I’m still not sure why I started in the first place, let alone kept watching. Thank heaven that’s over!

Still … I feel surprisingly good. My body feels pretty good, and I’m in better overall spirits than I’ve been in a long time (except for that incredible Thursday night I went dancing last week!). I’ve got a ton of stuff to do, including clearing out all of my stuff from the main rooms in the house because we’re having repairs done that will include removing the popcorn ceilings – what a mess! While I’m at it, I might as well start packing, right? While I was throwing my little temper tantrum last Saturday night, I went to hang out at my favorite neighborhood bar, and I sat at the bar and made list after list after list: Necessary first steps, things to buy for Michigan, things I want to do once I’m back in Michigan, order of things I need to do before I move, what I need to do to finish my current novel …. I even wrote out a list of interview questions to gather information for one of the two novels I’ve started. All while an extremely good looking and personable man was trying to charm me into having sex with him. I was slightly flattered but not distracted from the main event, which was being mad and making lists. And even though there were a lot of lists and they each had a lot of bullet points, once I’d written all that down, none of it seemed overwhelming. I can do it. I can do it all.

Am I feeling better because my body is healing? Have the supplements I’ve been taking been cleaning out the H. pylori and is my intestinal lining tightening up and am I getting better nutrition from my food now and is all of that improving my mood?

I have no idea. Whatever the case, I’m going to enjoy the feeling of not feeling mad and discouraged and sick and depressed and anxious. In this moment, I’m going to be happy I’m alive.

Well it ain’t all bad

I’m getting frustrated with my own frustration! I’ve heard for so many years, surround yourself with supportive people! Get a good network of friends! Blah blah blah. My life has taught me to depend on myself, because in the dark days I have been the only one who I am guaranteed will be there for me. But as I’ve said publicly now (and at no small cost to my sense of self) I simply can’t do it – whatever it is – alone. I need help. And I’ve set out to get it.

Let me just say that I’m right back where I started. I am who I can depend on. Everyone else is too busy to even do what they’ve agreed to do. Someone agreed to create my book cover for me. I asked for mid-June. Yesterday I got the first beginning draft. This person is just too busy! I’m planning to apply for a job in Michigan, a job I really want. My friend says she’ll do my resume for me. A week goes by, a week and a half. Obviously, she’s too busy. She offers to send me a copy of hers as a template. Great, that’s fine. Two days later I have to text her again to ask her for that.

I get it. I’m asking for favors. People are busy.

But I had this really great appointment with my new doctor (I wrote about it in my last post) and I was so encouraged. She has me starting new supplements slowly, one every two days so I don’t overwhelm my system. And considering the migraine I’m fighting, that was wise. I left her office last Thursday with the first three supplements in hand and a promise that she’d send me the information so I could order what I needed after that.

One week, three emails and one phone call later and I still haven’t received the follow-up information from her. It’s bad enough that she hasn’t sent me the summary of our visit and the information about H. pylori and the different remedies I’m taking. But I haven’t been able to order the supplements I’m supposed to start taking tomorrow. Now, I’m not asking this lady for any favors. I paid, and paid well, for her time and expertise. And still I’m not getting the support I need.

One of the things that happens when a person starts taking supplements that will change the biodynamics of the body is that symptoms arise or are exacerbated (such as the migraine), especially if part of the process is killing things that have been making a home in said body. I’m assuming that’s why depression, anxiety, frustration and discouragement are all rising up within me like enraged sea-serpents, in spite of the fact that I might be dating someone and that today I’ll be seeing dearly beloved out-of-town relatives for the first time in two years and we’ve got some really fun things planned for the next week. I hate feeling this way. I hate feeling that I’ve been hung out to dry – again. I hate bitching and moaning and complaining.

But I’ve committed to walking this path publicly. Rgh. What was I thinking?

Two days pass …

Well that last day just got better – ha! My niece texted to say they were already here (about an hour earlier than expected), should they drive around for an hour or come on in? So excited, I jumped up, ran to the front door, flung it open and raced out onto the porch. No sign of anyone. So I whirled back around to go back into the house, caught the toe of my slipper on the step and went crashing into the door frame, smashing several toes, pulling my already compromised hamstring and whacking the heck out of my wrist. And, of course, I burst into tears. So this is what my niece and her dear husband arrived to: me, a sobbing mess. And she has no idea about all the stuff I write about here. Sheesh. Thankfully, she loves me a lot and her dear husband can cope. And after that the day really did get better.

In other news: today my delayed resume goes in the mail: huge step for me. Also, I finally heard back from my doctor. I went out dancing with friends last night and wore a fabulous dress I brought home from Mexico and I was on fire! It was one of those nights where I could feel heads turn as I passed, and a whole lotta guys were trying to catch my eye, and stopping me to talk, and wanting to buy me drinks. In fact, one man approached me whom I met when I first moved out here eleven years ago. Did I recognize him? Not even a little (though I did remember him after he filled me in on the deets). Did he recognize me? Oh yeah you betcha! And we danced and danced and danced! And it was all extra-special because I kinda maybe have a guy, so I can just enjoy this attention and feel my awesomeness and all it means is that in this moment everything is perfect.

I do so dearly love those moments!

Getting Started

I’m starting this post by saying I’m feeling better these days, but it’s not necessarily due to fessing up my shit and trying some new ways to get healthy.  In the interest of (semi-) full disclosure, I’ll admit that it might have more to do with the fact that I had a first date Friday night. Understand that I haven’t had a first date in almost two years. And according to my (possibly narrow) definitions, I’m not sure I’d really call this one an actual date. But I did meet, on purpose, a pre-determined man at a pre-determined place and time, and we hung out together. We drank a little, danced a little, talked a lot, got home way too late. Apparently we both had a really good time, and since he firmly believes it was an actual date, and seems determined to follow it up with a second date (which would be lovely!), I’m willing to give him this one and call it a first date. And I admit, this and the pre- and subsequent texting has me feeling a lot more cheerful. One reason I think I can just enjoy this and not stress out as I normally might is that I’m leaving for Michigan soon, so I can have fun without getting all wigged out about it. After all, I’m leaving. How serious can it get? Which also makes it easier for me to overlook the undeniable fact that he is much younger than I am. And he was raised by women, so that gives him a definite edge in maturity as it applies to how a man should treat a woman. LIKE.

So back to the main news: this past Thursday was my appointment with a functional medicine practitioner, starting the New Plan to Get Me Healthy at Last. Let me just say that this was not your average doctor visit. The appointment lasted two hours and forty minutes! She asked questions, and listened to the answers. I asked questions and she didn’t get all insulted that I would question her obviously superior doctor wisdom. She wanted to hear about my physical symptoms and my emotional and mental symptoms, back all the way to birth. And at the end of the appointment, since she is also a chiropractor and had a table just hanging out in the office with us, I asked her if she could help me with a misplaced rib that had been causing me a great deal of trouble, and she did, sure, no problem. It wasn’t an easy fix, either, she really had to work at it. And she didn’t charge me extra! And the original fee (which I’ll grant you was not what I’d call cheap) includes the two-week follow-up visit. Am I favorably impressed so far? Oh heck yeah!

I had sent in a sample (of what you don’t want to know!) ahead of time, and she had the lab results, so we went over those extensively. I tested positive on one of the two Helicobactor pylori strains, and negative for the antigen. Negative as in zero. What that means is that I’ve got an overabundance of the stuff that is responsible for ulcers (though thankfully it doesn’t seem that I actually have an ulcer), and it looks as though I’ve had it for a very, very long time, maybe for as long as I’ve been feeling crappy (40+ years!), and that I’ve currently got nothing in my gut to fight it with. I also am high in something (which shall remain unnamed) that indicates that I’m not processing fat, so it just hangs out with me forever. So that’s a yes for long-term leaky gut syndrome, which means a yes for all kinds of malnutrition.

Back to the H. pylori: if this was treated by conventional western medicine, I’d be in for at least three rounds of heavy duty antibiotics. No, no, no! However, I’m going a different route, and as of this morning am taking a supplement of mastica (for more info on mastica: http://www.modernherbalist.com/products/mastica.html ), which kills the little blighters in a much more human-friendly fashion, and won’t kill off all of my beneficial gut bacteria at the same time.

I have to appreciate my doc’s approach. I was already taking a really great probiotic daily, as well as acacia fiber, both of which are great for gut problems. She had me add diatomaceous earth ( DE – basically I’m now drinking dirt twice a day with my acacia), but she had me take that for two days before I added the mastica, because she doesn’t want my super-sensitive highly compromised system to wig out and get me really sick before it gets better. The DE works like microscopic scrub brushes in the intestines to clean out whatever needs cleaning out, and once my system adjusted to that (fingers crossed!) I added the mastica, which has the potential to make me feel pretty crappy at first as it kills off the massive colonies of H. pylori. On Tuesday I’ll start taking a licorice root supplement, which helps with cleaning unwelcome critters (yeast comes to mind) out of the gut and also can be useful in situations of depression. In days to come I’ll be adding a B-complex, whole food vitamin C, Magnesium Citrate and eventually activated charcoal, but the charcoal is off a ways because that’s the big guns and I’m way too fragile for that at this point.

I thought she’d talk a lot more about my diet, but at this point I need healing before we can get a good idea of what I really have problems with. For example, I tested as having no reactivity to gluten, but is that because I don’t react to it or because I haven’t had any for so long that there’s nothing there for me to react to? At this point there’s no way to know. She knows I’m already mostly organic and that I have a jones for chips and chocolate (also organic, so that’s okay, right??) and that alcohol makes my gut feel better, but she didn’t talk about any of that. She just encouraged me to add more color to my diet (Eat a rainbow every day? Yes.). (I’m pretty sure she didn’t mean skittles.)

So, I’m out the gate and the race is on, though it’s going to be a lot more like a marathon than a sprint. Happily, the mastica and licorice root are here for a limited engagement; two months and the H. pylori should be successfully eradicated. As for the rest? I honestly don’t know. I’m here to tell ya, 2-3/4 hours worth of info is way too much for me to remember! But I feel so much hope, not wishful thinking type hope, but this lady seems to know what she’s talking about and has a plan that makes sense to me and it feels like a big, floaty life preserver to me. Whew.

Slight Panic

It’s 11:10pm and, right on schedule, my heartbeats are getting heavier and my mouth wants to turn down at the corners and I feel the potential of tears burning the edges of my eyes and sinuses. It’s a little worse than usual because last night I told you, my world, about the trouble I’m in, and now people are watching. Maybe. Also, tomorrow is my appointment with the functional medicine doc. I admit that I’m putting probably way too much hope in her, in her system, which I don’t even know anything about yet. But it’s the best hope I’ve had in a really long time, so I’m hanging onto it with white knuckled tenacity.

When I was in sixth grade (what’s that – 11 years old?) my mom took a friend and me away, just the three of us, for a weekend of camping at a nearby church camp. This was outrageously abnormal, and I’ve always understood that she did that because I was apparently some sort of emotional wreck and this was her way of helping me. I remember that trip with so much love for my mom. I remember catching a passel of tiny bluegills, and my mom cleaned and fried up every one. Each little fish provided two small bites of deliciousness. But what is it that makes a sixth grader such an emotional wreck that her mom takes her on a weekend escape, leaving the other five kids at home? Especially back then, at the dawn of the 1970s, before it was vogue to be a seriously messed up kid? And I remember being forced to go to counselling with a tall, thin, beautiful man who looked like Jesus to me, all hippy with deep brown eyes and long brown hair. I don’t recall, however, that I ever felt any better for it.

When I was fifteen I went to the hospital for an upper and lower GI series. What that means is I drank and, um, otherwise received barium so that my stomach and intestines would show up all bright and pretty on x-rays or something, so that maybe they could find out why my gut always hurt so much. Inconclusive.

Also at fifteen I got my first real job, working with sheep at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. The first summer I loved it so much! The second summer, I hated – hated! – having dirty hands, so much so that I ended up creating a big excuse to quit two weeks before summer’s end. I couldn’t stand going to that job anymore. Now I look back and recognize that as the first time I quit a job because of extreme anxiety. The first time of many.

This is all to say that I have had notable gut pain, depression and anxiety since my pre-teens. For the last ten years in particular I’ve been doing everything I could think of to help myself. I’ve gone gluten free, dairy free, caffeine free. I’ve done energy exercises. I’ve done regression therapy and hypnotherapy and tried all kinds of different supplements. I’ve exercised. I’ve meditated. I’ve taken medications and I’ve stopped taking medications. I’ve read so much, and listened to so many interviews with so many experts. And here I am, writing this blog, telling you all how messed up I am, confessing that I have such unrealistically high hopes for my appointment tomorrow. But I have to. I have to have hope in something.

So send me good energy, please. Say a prayer for me. Whatever you do to support people you care about, I’m asking you to do that for me now. And know that I appreciate you, and whatever you send my way, from the deepest corners of my heart.

Making a Plan

Perhaps you’ve noticed that I haven’t posted in a really long time. I haven’t been writing at all, actually. In fact, I haven’t been doing much of anything. This year has knocked me off my stride something fierce, and I’ve handled it the best way I know – by isolating. First I had to deal with the sudden ice-water shock of going from a commitment to do one new thing every single day for a year, to January 1, 2015, when I was suddenly done and had absolutely nothing I needed to do, ever. Of course, some people might think about getting a job, or finishing their latest novel, or something. But any time I tried to think about anything like that, I started to have such extreme anxiety that the only possible thing to do was to go watch Netflix. And maybe drink some wine.

After a while I had to start contemplating the idea that maybe I had some anxiety issues.

Add to that my sister’s engagement. We’ve lived together for the last seven years, and her generosity has enabled me to not have to face up to this paralyzing panic. But with her impending marriage, everything changed. Our relationship changed. My living situation became precarious. Then she actually got married. And all of a sudden nobody really needed me anymore, even Beth, and one day I realized I didn’t want to go to sleep at night and I didn’t want to get up in the morning. I realized that I didn’t, in fact, want to actually live anymore.

Of course I recognized that that’s not acceptable. It’s not okay. I also realized that I’ve been trying to fix this in myself, by myself, for too many years to count on all my fingers and toes together. Way too many. And that I had clearly failed. So I called a meeting with Beth and her new husband, Paul, and I told them the situation and we made a plan.

I hate writing about this shit. I hate feeling it. But every time I do write about it, it seems really valuable to a lot of people; these posts get the most response. So if my f***ed upedness can help somebody else – anybody else! – than I should let it. So I’m going to try to write about what’s up for me. I’m going to do my best to drag myself out of my most-comfortable state of isolation and share, in the hopes that someone somewhere will be blessed by my journey.

Thursday I have an appointment with a functional medicine practitioner. Functional medicine looks for causes of symptoms rather than simply medicating them. I’ve had three major chronic symptoms since my teens: gut pain/bowel troubles, depression and anxiety. The research I’ve done lately indicates that it’s entirely possible that all three are very closely related. Maybe I can find some answers in functional medicine.

In addition, I’m planning to move back to Michigan in the fall. In Michigan I have some great friends, people who’ve loved me for a very long time, and who will support me in ways that I need. I’ll have a yard in which I can start practicing some of the permaculture I keep reading about. And I’m working on getting a great resume together so I can send it to a place there where I think I can work. I mean, a place that feels safe enough to me that I’m not too scared to even try to get a job there. Once in Michigan, I know someone who can hopefully give me a referral to a good therapist.

I don’t want to leave California, so to add to my mix, I’m grieving.

This isn’t fun stuff to write about, and I’m sure it isn’t fun to read, either. But if you hang in there with me, maybe before too long things will start to get fun again.