Chelation is a Bitch.

Today is (fingers crossed) my last chelation treatment! It's DMPS which binds with Mercury in your system so you can pee it out. That means I'll sleep a ton tonight and wake up late and tired tomorrow and probably the next couple days. Aside from the sterile, medical, literal part of this journey, there's the part where you actually have to do the work, walk through the fire.  It sucks. Day to day, it sucks. I've talked a bit about the usual gastrointestinal symptoms, which are annoying. Those are definitely around for Chelation (for me). It was the same during killing off SIBO. Regardless of my practically "perfect for me" food intake, I was super tired as well as bloated and waterlogged. I was SO moody. I sometimes don't feel like "impatient" and "frustrated" do justice to describe how terrible a version of myself I become. I'm just not nice, to myself, to others. I'm snappy and exhausted and sometimes downright mean or vindictive. Meanwhile, my real self, my true self, is inside me, hearing and seeing me be such a jerk and then judging that behavior and feeling terrible that I'm not trying harder to not be a jerk. It takes so much energy and patience to be the best version of myself and when those energies are depleted I'm a real snarky pill. The second month of treatment for SIBO, it was less of the physical stuff and all of the mental stuff plus anxiety and big depression.

Fatigue

With any of these reactions (SIBO, Die-off, Chelation) I'm mostly just so tired. It feels like I haven't slept in days but I'm actually sleeping 9hrs minimum. Don't get me started on "maybe you're sleeping too much." That's not a thing for me. Let's just leave it there. Some people need more sleep than others regularly and then there's excessive sleeping. For me, (10-14 hrs) it's a sign that I'm trying to repair or recover from something. The problem is, I'd been needing excessive sleep for years but was on the go all the time so I wasn't getting nearly enough. Not even the 8-9 a night minimum at times. I slept all weekend, Monday's were the worst. (aren't they still?) I also experienced insomnia during chelation, not usually an issue for me. I'd lay in bed, meditate, use essential oils, take magnesium, take valerian root, I'd just lay there awake. One night last week, by around 6a I was like "maybe I should just get up and make coffee, by 7 Brahm will be up and then we can go for a walk". But at 6:30 i fell asleep and finally woke up at 11a. 

Fatigue is probably one of the symptoms that bothers me the most. I'm a pretty energetic person so feeling beat, despite eating nutrient rich foods and prioritizing a healthy lifestyle is soul crushing. I was working two jobs at one point last year, not a problem if I was feeling well. I would come off the road and directly report to the office. It was too much for me at the time (and would be still, if i was still there). I needed the extra money to pay for all the health costs but at the same time was stressing out my system by never having down time. It was a lose, lose situation. They weren't getting my best self and I wasn't resting enough to heal. I considered briefly whether I could apply for disability for income supplementation. The mental and physical exhaustion and inability to problem solve, complete thoughts and retain memories was seriously debilitating. I had a friend say that it would be hard to argue for that, if I was performing all the time. I understood that perception and it sounds logical but singing and dancing on stage for 2 hours or working an 8 hour day AND performing for 2 hours a night, are vastly different. Of course there's more work to be done than the two hours I spend on stage but the lifestyle requirements and level of work saturation per minute between the two jobs require different amounts and types of energy. Not to mention working for yourself and working for a company also vary in stress level/type of energy output. I never did apply but I did wish for something to give.

I could tell that the Chelation had turned a corner when the fatigue began to lift. I wasn't even close to feeling back at 80% but at least I felt 60%+ rather than 40% or so. After 5 Chelations and two tox screens I started to wake up feeling not tired. Not rested, mind you, but not tired. My mood was also lifting. As long as my food was dialed in, i felt more like my usual emotional self.

Depression

I had some serious bouts of depression last year. Usually while in the middle of treatment, or in between when nothing seemed to be budging. It's gotten pretty dark at times. I like to think of myself as a mostly positive person. I like to lead from a place of joy and positivity. I can be a total jerk (see above) just like anyone else. Though, usually if i'm healthy, i skew happy (maybe a bit more nervous than the average person). If i'd never experienced the 80% improvement in my symptoms and mental state prior to this depression, I'd have more seriously considered going back to prescription drugs for relief. However, I know now that I can get there without that kind of therapy. This was a huge revelation for me back in 2014/2015 when I realized that my anxiety and depression tendencies all but disappeared with the right diet and sleep habits. There was also a little bit of regret, a little bit of "if i knew then what i know now" about all the anxiety I'd experienced in the past. Of course, who really knows what factors (puberty, chemical imbalances, stress) were at work during those times? It's possible food wasn't the answer back then, but to know it could have been a helpful tool is hard to think about. I'd let that influence me so much back then. I'd said "no" to so many experiences. None of the diet changes I made back then, were quite enough to feel the relief I've experienced now.

 image from instagram

image from instagram

So, anyway, full disclosure: i was borderline suicidal more than once this year. I say borderline because i was acutely aware that i didn't intend to take action. But, it's incredibly isolating and scary to feel that way, seemingly out of the blue. I knew it was important to talk about these feelings, just in case. I spoke with some close friends and my husband about it. i needed extra support. It's scary to bring up, to be that vulnerable, to feel "weak". I didn't want to scare them! Of course, a part of it is the disappointment in myself that despite my life being a beautiful gift, that I'm so thankful for, I can't live in a state of grace and gratitude. That feels like failure to me. "Oh, woe is me, I have an amazing husband, all my arms and legs, wonderful friends, a job and a roof over my head and i'm tired and can't eat what i want". One more thing to fret about, judging myself for not being grateful and joyful enough. There was a part of last year when even on stage i was having a seriously hard time. I'm familiar with depressions constant undercurrent, but being ready to cry while performing was one of the darkest times of my life. If I couldn't let it all go and be joyful in that environment, where could i?

I tried to sympathize with both parts of myself, just like i would with a dear friend. It's fair to be upset that I might not ever feel as healthy as i'd like. It's fair to have a pity party that I might live at 80% of where I'd like to be. It's OK to stay in and hermit to take care of yourself, if that's what you need. It's also OK to have a drink or eat a thing if that means you won't go completely off the rails mentally and emotionally. The better part of the end of 2015 was like that, bargaining with myself over food, reintroducing alcoholic drinks (at least), sleeping in, not exercising if I was too tired, leaving my day job, not trying to do all the things. I listened to my body and mind and heart and gave myself what I was asking for. I tried my best to just be caring and nurturing. I also don't accept that everything is OK if i'm feeling that despondent. Knowing what i've learned about my physical self over the past couple years, i deduced that it was due to the treatments. Toxicity, bacterial imbalances, diet, lifestyle were most likely at fault and I just needed to stay the course. I'm feeling better now, but I'm keeping a close eye on that to gauge my progress.

 photo cred: @ckelso via instagram

photo cred: @ckelso via instagram

What's Next

I go in on Thursday of this week to take the next tox screen. It's a challenge test (the same one I got in the beginning to determine if I had metal toxicity). When I come back from February tour, I'll go in to talk to the doc about my levels and we'll formulate a "next steps game plan". In the meantime, I've started on high dose or "mega-dosing" probiotics. I've heard that Elixa is a good brand to use when recovering from SIBO. I wanted to wait until I knew my guts were in better repair (or more likely to continue to heal, once mercury was out). I just started taking some dissolvable leaky gut vitamins, beyond my normal routine of bone broth, some of these vitamins and nutrient dense foods like chard and grass fed liver. I'm hoping that after a month or so of AIP, Low FODMAP diet without mercury in my system, will allow my body to recover enough to reintroduce other vegetables. Glory hallelujah.  It's much easier to eat out while eating a Paleo or Primal lifestyle than it is AIP or Low FODMAP (not to mention while doing both.) But we'll see how I'm feeling and adjust as needed.