Vulnerability Hangovers

When I was young, I was naturally enthusiastic, outgoing and a leader. I was so sure of myself, or at least I remember being decidedly so. But the dark side, the place from where this perceived sorrow lies, is this other memory. A close cousin to the sunny, pumpkin hugging, smiling, laughing and playfully yelling heart, is one who was shamed, called "bossy", teased (by both peers and adults) for being who felt natural to me.

Underneath this calling I’ve never been able to ignore or suppress, is also a deep shame and sense of wrongness for being myself. I’ve been digging into the soil of my, what feels like “not enough”-ness, for some time. This morning, I did a sort of mental journal entry, while lying on a hotel couch, to avoid the sunlight creeping through the bedroom curtain. I came to this sense: Who I Am is not bad or wrong, but, my sense memory tells me that is what I’ve learned and reinforced. Not by everyone of course, but by enough (influential-to-me people) that I have intrinsic confusion about who I will always be, and if that’s actually “OK”.

Of course, as a grown ass woman, I believe that being who I am, naturally, and with love, is amazing. But, there is a curly haired, little girl in there that still apologizes for being loud, boisterous, and “too much” and pays for it by taking over the flagellation herself, every time she lets go of control and has a good time.

 

It is likely a reason I was drawn to performing. A place where being “big” (grand gestures, projecting your voice and energy) is part of the job. It’s not only necessary, but revered. A place it was safe to be my whole self, in the shelter of a character, or the story of a song. I’ve mused for a bit on the knowledge that singing and humming switch the body into parasympathetic (rest and digest) mode. It chills you out. It makes me laugh, because I think with performance art, people tend to use language like: “talent”, “meant to be on stage”, “born for this”. Maybe I agree, sort of, with the last one. I identify as always having been anxious, high strung, operated in a fight or flight mode and always singing (dancing, performing). Now, I think it’s just something I was drawn to as a method of self preservation, and doing it out of comfort (and love of it) made me proficient at it. So I guess, in that way, I was kind of born into it, rather than for it.

 

I sometimes wake up sad and second guessing myself when I've have a good time and let go, let loose. I think it’s rooted so far back, in childhood. I'm beginning to understand “Oh... my thing is that I think and feel like everyone is judging me all the time.” It is my default assumption to looks, suggestions, notes, whispers, jokes, and the root of my defensiveness. (It also appears to be a very self-centered assumption, but I assure you it’s a mechanism of self preservation and not narcissism.) SEE! I'M ALREADY ASSUMING YOU'RE JUDGING ME AND THEREFORE EXPLAINING MYSELF.

It’s likely a reason why I try to maintain control of people’s perception of me, by curating. I hear and remember everything, so I can curate. I curate my behavior, language, image, to be “right and good.” (at which point I will be judged, but found right and good, and therefore will have no need to prove that I am.) It is an exhausting charade. 

This self is clearly so strong I cannot suppress it.
I am trying to wade through it, to make sense of it, now with a fully formed (🤞) adult brain, and release the nonsense.

 

 

 

beebe pumpkin hug
becca murray photo

Human Garage, Day 1!

I started my sessions with Human Garage yesterday!
If you missed my introduction on what they're up to, you can read about it here. 
 

The entrance to Human Garage is in the alley off of Washington Blvd in Venice. 

The entrance to Human Garage is in the alley off of Washington Blvd in Venice. 

My goals in working with Human Garage are to get my body in the right position so that it's able to heal itself. Misalignment is causing some mechanical issues with my gut and digestion, not to mention make me prone to injury if I exercise. I hope that through working with Human Garage I'll be able to eat more foods with less discomfort and reduce or eliminate bloating after eating. I hope to be able to lift heavier weights. I'm currently experiencing some weird knee sensations and pressures which feel like bone on bone, due to being misaligned. If Human Garage can get me back in a righted position, I'd be able to lift weights without the fear of harming myself.

At my visit we began the first of 6 sessions designed to un-wind my body: Lower Release. They start from the bottom up (legs first) because that method has proven to be the most effective in releasing tension from our bodies. (We walk from our hips, feet first.) Starting with the legs allows the rest of the body to unwind (release tension from our muscles and fascia) easier.

My practitioner was Jen, they call her "gentle Jen" because she is not. She greeted me with a hug (they're all huggers at Human Garage, I love it) and led me to the massage table. We talked a little bit about how the process would go and why they start with lower release first. She started with my calves and ankles, feeling for knots in my fascia and tension in my muscles. Unsurprisingly to me, my body is tight, likely from years of sports but also emotional stress. I came prepared for pain, ready to breathe through the discomfort and "lean in" to the process. She worked on my calves and at one point reached for a tool they call a "TheraGun" it's a drill-like tool that has a rubber ball at the end. The ball vibrates against your muscle making it easier for the practitioner to release the tension. (Side note: I'm not sure if you're aware of this but we don't actually have "knots" in our muscles. What feels like a knot is actually the brain telling that muscle to fire and hold tension, either to protect a part of the body or from stress or trauma. Fascia can have knots, but even that is a misnomer. The "knot" is really a bundle of fascia stuck together. Each of these points of tension can be released with stretching and massage techniques.) After my calves were sufficiently released, Jen worked on my shins.

Most of the massage/acupressure/tension release is done manually. It feels like a really deep tissue massage. They break up the sessions into 6 and schedule the appointments 2 a week for 3 weeks. This is so you don't go too long between sessions and re-tense any of the areas they're working on. No massages, chiropractic appointments (outside of Human Garage) or working out is allowed during this time. The point of the  protocol is to break down the tension in your body, allow it to right itself (alignment speaking) and then train your brain to keep you in that position, not fall back into old patterns of movement. Exercising, massage or chiropractics could interfere with that process and so HG has learned to tell clients to refrain during the realignment process. Walking and light stretching is encouraged.

TheraGun!

TheraGun!

So far, calves and shins, weren't so tough to sit through. Some of the tense muscle release even made me laugh, the TheraGun was especially tickling. Following the shins, Jen rearranged me to lie on my left side with my right leg at a 90 degree angle (and bent knee) resting on a cushion. This was to make my adductor muscles accessible. I know that these muscles and my hips are pretty tight. I have a hard time sitting cross legged on the ground with my knees not high up in the air. I can't sit in lotus position in yoga without pain because my tight hips put too much pressure on my feet, resting on my calves or thighs. While releasing tension in my adductors I was doing a lot deep breathing. It was painful close to my groin and even more so closer to my knee. I was noticing some sensations during this part of the session. I would tremble and convulse the more I relaxed and let the tension dissipate. (Sometimes, when I give my dog a massage he does this. When I'm rubbing his neck he'll tense up and breathe heavily while his muscles shake out the tension.)

So, she's working on my adductors, I'm shaking and breathing and doing my best to relax or "lean into ;)" the tension as it's releasing. The muscles with a lot of tension sometimes release in layers. So as the first round of tension is letting go and she's getting deeper in there, i start to feel shaking and tension release in other parts of my body. I could feel it in my lower back (perhaps lower back or psoas muscles) and i also felt this burning sensation in the right side of my abdomen. It felt like soft tissue, not muscular. it felt the way scar tissue burns when you massage it to break up. I was reminded of my consultation visit with Garry (owner and founder of Human Garage). He spoke about how my muscles and fascia were pulling my organs out of alignment and that tension was affecting my ileocecal valve and mechanically holding it open. (I know that area is prone to issue from my colonoscopy.) The area that was burning was right where my ileocecal valve is located. Even thought it was uncomfortable, it was encouraging to feel like the tension release in my hip muscles would relieve my gut of that tension. 

From adductors, Jen moved on to lower psoas and quad muscles. Lower psoas wasn't so bad. It's really tight and it was uncomfortable so I just kept focusing on relaxing my body and breathing deeply. Breathing does two things in an instance like this: it will tell your body to relax, that this is a position it's meant to be in and allow the muscle to release and it also chills you out. The instinct is to tighten up, resist and hold your breath to bear down on the pain. But, (and i'm sure this is a metaphor for the mental aspect that Human Garage is also teaching) resisting will only maintain the pain and keep everything all jacked up. So, I'm doing my best and Jen starts on my thigh muscles, my quadriceps. When I first took a yoga class in around 2006, i remember hating it. I was in warrior 3, I think, and I remember my eyes leaking and feeling like I was going to cry because of the emotional surge I felt, connected to my thigh muscles. I was prepared for this at Human Garage. I feel like the last 4 years of my health journey, my relationship with myself, with meditation, with learning to let go (i said learning...), with sitting in the discomfort that life delivers, prepared me to find Human Garage and sit through this... the thigh release. Knowing that I store my feelings in my body (read: everywhere) I was mentally prepared to cry on this table. Jen starts working on my thighs and it's like i have three calf sized "knots" or spots of tension. And they. are. fucking. painful. I'm not shaking at this point, I'm basically lamaze breathing and spontaneously convulsing. I was trying so hard to relax into it but would feel the opposite side of my body tense up. It was hard to tell if I was tensing or if the tension was involuntary connection to other muscles like my lower back/psoas and hips.

Jen had Garry's son Jordan come over who also works at Human Garage doing fascia work, to hold/pull the fascia in my lower leg while she worked on that thigh. My eyes were watering, my lips were quivering and I just sat in it. I was tense, breathing heavy and trying to just feel what was coming up. Jen told me to try and name what I was feeling, that if my brain could identify it, it would actually help the muscle to release. A way of exorcising the emotion out of the muscle. Ironically, I was having a really hard time identifying it. It definitely felt like frustration, maybe some fear and a little sadness. I started thinking about high school and when i first started having panic attacks. It felt like I was scared and alone and no one really knew how to help me. It felt a little bit like the sadness that comes along with and lingers after fear has come and gone. It also felt like the control you seek when you're scared. Like you'll do anything to maintain the power position and relieve the feeling. I have felt this in moments of panic, I have felt this in the aftermath of a break-up, that urge to call the one person you know you can't, the inability to speak when your mind is in panic mode and you're flipping through your brain files, for a way out. It sucked. And that was only the right leg. I did my best the whole appointment, to talk through what I was feeling. Mostly so I could make sure I was articulating it. But also, if i said it out loud, then Jen would sometimes be able to tell me why something was happening or what it was. During this emotional moment she encouraged me to let it out. She tried to get me to name it. I tried to talk through what it kind of  felt like and what i thought it was.

Then we moved on to the left leg. This one was even worse! I tried to take what I had learned from the right leg and really breathe into it. I tried to stretch my left leg longer rather than tensing up my body. I started laughing uncontrollably and saying that it hurt SO MUCH but i couldn't stop laughing. Jen asked if I wanted her to back off, but I said no. It felt like this was my penance. That the pain hurt going in, so it had to hurt going out, and I wanted it out. i want to exorcize the control and the attachment and judgement from my body and I don't think it'll go easily or quietly. Soon, after laughing my head off, I was mouth in a grimace, eyes squinched shut, silently sobbing. I kept thinking about something my therapist said to me back just before I was leaving my day job to do music. It was about me not having to do everything. She said "you think that if you didn't do everything, you'd cease to exist". I have this connection to "actions speak louder than words" so, if I'm not the friend I feel I am inside, and I don't show up for things, or take time for myself, or lead by example, then who am i? How can I exist outside of how i live my life? and Isn't living my life through action?


Remembering that while i'm feeling all this conflict and pain and sadness and frustration i say to myself "you are afraid if you feel this, if you let go of control, the pain and conflict, that you will die, you will break." I'm not exactly sure what it means or how to approach it but it felt true. I do have a terribly hard time letting go of things, emotionally speaking. I will circle around something I've done or said or felt and just hold onto it and revisit it over and over, looking at it from all the angles. It's a bit OCD, which I've written about before. I want to yank that part out of me. I want to live life easy and let things go and not get upset or angry or scared or sad or attach my self worth to the job I do and I'm not sure how to do it. How to release that. I think this is one more step in that direction. Meditation, self reflection and awareness, as debilitating as they can be some times, were also steps.

After Jen worked on my legs, she did my lower psoas and hips and then she put my ankle, knee and hip joints on these blocks to push through them and make sure they were opened up and working properly. Then she had me walk it off. As quickly as the emotions came, they were gone. I felt lighter. I also felt like i had someone else's legs on my body and wasn't sure that I could walk, or that I was re-learning how to walk. My feet felt like they were striking and rolling correctly. We took another photo to track my adjustment process.

I spent the rest of the day with friends and my husband. I felt sad. I felt open, vulnerable and exhausted. I was introspective and tried talking it through. I'm going to spend more time mulling this over. We'll be revisiting my thighs at later release sessions, lucky me, until they're done. So I'm sure there's more to learn from this. 

Because of my tour schedule, I'm cramming all 6 sessions into two weeks. But will be writing and reflecting on them over time. Stay tuned for the next visit which I'll be posting about soon!

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IMG_9792.JPG

From just one visit, you can see my right shoulder is more aligned, my head isn't leaning as far forward and I look high AF.

Mind Over Matter

There is a mental aspect to this whole "self-awareness, healing and health" thing. It's very important to me and I think oftentimes is seen as second fiddle to food. In my experience it's the other half of the solution. I have been trying to work on self love and acceptance for the majority of this journey and probably the majority of my life. It's hard to self examine. I don't like all parts of myself and it's a difficult to accept your whole self while still striving to become the best version of you. I have a complicated relationship with myself. I'm not always kind.

The body and mind are intrinsically connected. Stress, anxiety, negative thought, judgement (of self or others) can wreak havoc on your digestive system. Stress/anxiety especially will put your body in fight or flight which literally SHUTS DOWN your digestion. If digestion is shut down, all that food coming in is just going to go through whole (which incredibly damaging to the guts) or it's going to rot and ferment where it is. There are a host of different ways for this to manifest which i won't list here but you can read about. It's a fascinating thing and motivates me to commit to not doing more harm by ignoring my symptoms (most of the time.) Besides damage your guts, emotions will store in your body if avoided (or eaten, drank, used etc.)  When I started doing yoga, I would cry. I had stored all this energy and emotion in my thighs and when I was breathing and releasing that tension, all of that feeling came flooding back. I'm not making this stuff up, it's called tissue memory! 

I know that for me, anxiety and a western diet really did a number on my guts. I'm trying to be patient and love myself now by carefully choosing what i'm ingesting, or putting on my skin. I also need to remember that if i can't work on healing my heart and mind it'll never stick as my lifestyle. There's a reason why I still want to turn to foods that taste good but do NOT make me feel good, in crisis. I can only work on this if i really stop and listen and show up for myself, just like I would for those I care about. It is not easy to be honest with myself, or to be honest and then not self sabotage in spite of myself. I try to re-commit to being a priority every day. Some days, it's easier than others. Building a community of supportive and like minded friends has been so important for my own commitment. It's easy to be like "let's just order pizza" and commiserate. I used to do that, despite how both of us would feel afterwards. It's been such a blessing to have people come over and be like "let's do X instead and talk about what's really going on." 

I use some of the resources below to help keep me in line and on track with self love, forgiveness and growth. 

Mindfulness Meditation

My (recent) journey began with Mindfulness Meditation. I took a class a couple of years ago with a dear friend of mine and it completely shook my world and turned it upside down. (I actually then took the intro class again, for another 6 weeks.) The benefits of meditation have been scientifically proven. There's no getting around it: meditation helps to reduce stress, improve sleep, lower blood pressure, give space to respond rather than react to a situation, improve focus, increase immunity. Here's a whole list, someone already did this.

For me, it's physically important to keep meditation in my life so that my tendency to stew and fret doesn't hurt my body. It's also nice to feel chill, so an added benefit is general bliss. (Or, what i like to see as "how normal people usually feel".) I like to do it before I go to bed, quieting my mind as i'm going to sleep. If I have time I like to try and do it when I wake up, as well. I've listed some resources below. You can learn to meditate alone or you can try guided meditation if sitting quietly is too intimidating. Personally, I've found it helps me to be a more easy going human. Since my goal is to really learn to let things go, this has been instrumental in helping me do that. It's a practice, to really see the benefits, it's best to make it a habit.

Meditation Resources:

InsightLA -this is where i studied meditation in LA, i love Celeste.

My friend Christina Huntington is also a very gifted meditation teacher.

Oprah and Deepak Chopra - Every year they do a meditation challenge. It lasts 21 days and you get access to free guided meditation. 

YouTube - There are tons of free guided meditations or even music to meditate to, on youtube.

10% Happier - This book by Dan Harris is hilarious and reads like a biography, not a self help book. I found it very helpful in inspiring me to continue meditating when I would get lazy. It also has basic instructions on meditation for beginners. 

Going to Pieces without Falling Apart - Mark Epstein is one of the more "scientific" meditation proponents. He's a psychologist who has written books about the benefits of meditation and how he uses it in his practice. It's a little more digestible if you're not as into the tone of people like Eckhart Tolle or Deepak Chopra. (If you are, I'm sure their books are great too!)

Therapy

I love therapy. I first saw a therapist as a kid, I must have been 8 years old. It was more of me playing in a sand box and someone writing down what it "meant" but I liked talking to her. Having that foundation was really helpful when I started having panic attacks as a teenager. I felt like no one had ever experienced what I was going through. I was just locked in fear, in my own body and no one else got it. Anxiety is pretty common, so the therapist i saw was like, "oh yeah, we know what this is". I felt less alone, at least. I went back to therapy in College when I couldn't figure out why my college relationship was driving me crazy. I would talk about my anxiety, trust issues etc. It didn't save my relationship but it made me feel better to talk to someone outside my friend group, about what I was struggling with. I've been since I moved to LA as well. It's helped me sort out issues in my relationship and also when i was transitioning from my job to my new career.

I can sympathize with people who think therapy is not for them. I'd like to think that with the right person, it could be for everyone. It's a good idea to shop around, do an initial session with someone to see if it's a good fit. You can generally do that for FREE. Also, there are tons of types of therapy based on the very fact that everyone processes differently: talk therapy, somatic experiencing, behavioral therapy to name a few. 

Energy Work

Energy work is a cool new (to me) tool I've started utilizing. There are a bunch of ways to try it. I've only delved into a couple at this point. It's not widely recognized as a traditional therapy in the western world but its gaining traction. Anecdotally I can speak for myself and my group of friends that it helps.

Here's a short list from Yin Yang House.com:

  • Qi Gong:
    Qi Gong is a broad term used to describe any number of forms of energy healing based on the theories behind Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Within these techniques the practitioner uses his/her intent and energy to stimulate acupuncture points, move energy through the meridians of the body and ultimately to heal disease. This form of healing is popular in China and is gaining acceptance and use around the world.
  • Reiki:
    Reiki is one of the more popular and widely-known forms of energy medicine. There has been research conducted on its effectiveness and you will find it in hospitals and offered by practitioners around the world. It is based on the Chinese concept of Qi (energy) but it differs from Qi Gong in that it is not as focused on specific acupuncture points or meridians. Rather, Reiki is a more spiritually focused practice in that it places a trust in the energy and the body to know how to heal.
  • Tong Ren Therapy:
    Tong Ren Therapy is a technique developed by Master Tom Tam, a prominent Boston area acupuncturist and healer. This form of energy healing is similar to Qi Gong with the addition of the use of the collective unconscious, as defined by Dr. Carl Jung, to heal disease. Tong Ren was originally developed to help people with Cancer, however, it has proven to be helpful in a broad range of conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, Parkinson's, Rheumatoid Arthritis and more.
  • Vibrational Medicine:
    Vibrational medicine is another broad category of energy healing. It is based on the idea that energy vibrates at particular speeds or wavelengths and imbalances exist when this energy is not operating at an efficient level. The practitioner may make use of crystals, sounds, colors, magnets or other devices to correct these energetic imbalances and restore health.
  • Prayer:
    Prayer is quite simply the use of Prayer to heal disease. A person may pray for themselves, or have groups or more spiritually developed people pray for them. Recent research has indicated that a group may pray for specific individuals or even groups of people, with or without their knowledge, and influence their health. A good example of a spiritually developed healer who has had remarkable success is Father McDonough, a Boston area Catholic priest who is well known for his tremendous healing abilities.
  • Healing:
    Healing is in many regards a catch all for any practitioner in the energy work field. We mention it here, however, because many people practice healing and advertise themselves specifically as healers. The act of healing may use any technique, from any distance, for any condition and is simply a testimony to the power of energy and the gifts which certain individuals may have developed.

Energy Work Resources:

I use this app called Solfeggio by SonalKiss to do Vibrational Medicine. You listen via earbuds. It's incredibly meditative and calming. There's a frequency that has been reported to heal DNA.  I like to use this app by doing one frequency at a time for about 20 mins a day, three days spent on each frequency (using the Earthly Scale). These frequencies are tuned to each Chakra to help you release any blocked energy in those areas.

I've started working with an Applied Kinesiologist in Los Angeles. That was super cool. She does muscle testing where your body is allowed to answer the questions of what you need and what will help you on your way to healing.

Acupuncture can also be a useful tool for Energy Work. Strategically placed needles can help release blocked energy. I've had a similar reaction to acupuncture, while doing energy work, as I do when i have a muscle release emotion. I just try to stay open and willing to breathe through the release.

Journaling

I have found this blog to be extremely helpful surrounding my health issues. When something is difficult to talk about (this has become a trigger for me) writing is a great way of releasing it from yourself. I've written letters to people I never intended to send, journaled for most of my life and now, started this blog. The Artists Way is a great creative workbook that uses stream of consciousness writing as a form release and stimulation during the 3 month program. You just write, don't take your pen off the page, for 3 minutes each morning. They're called "morning pages". It helps to clear your mind before the day begins.  I know I feel lighter being able to share this information without the possible threat of judgement in return. I can share what I've tried and learned and researched, you can try if you like or leave it if you don't. It's probably very beneficial to my friends as well because they don't have to hear about it unless they ask.

Orthorexia 

This is a topic I wanted to touch on, since I'm talking about the mind and I talk about food all the time. Orthorexia is the condition of being obsessed with eating healthy foods. It is usually coupled with a judgement that some foods are BAD and some foods are GOOD. It's not technically characterized as an eating disorder but is seen as mentally similar to anorexia or bulimia. Generally speaking, the obsession is a projection of underlying mental factors such as: needing to be in control, fear, body image issues etc. There are a lot of resources available for those struggling to figure out the balance of eating healthy and not developing an obsessive relationship around food.

No food is inherently bad or good. Some food is more nutrient dense or bioavailable and therefore may serve the body better. However, focusing on food very intently can become unhealthy without perspective. As I mentioned yesterday, no one diet is going to fit a person for the rest of their life. There's no RIGHT food.

Deal with it

I've found that it's so imperative for me to be open and honest with myself about my emotional state, in order to really feel my best. Food plays a large part in that relationship right now, since eating certain foods can cause sort of "untrue" or "unfounded" emotions in me. I've learned a lot about who i am and what i want in my life by being willing to examine discomfort, sit with it and try to sort out what's really going on. Meditation has been an invaluable tool for that. There's stigma attached to vulnerability and feelings. They're often seen as weakness, and therefore avoided, or "soldiered through". Brené Brown said it best: "To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness... Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path."

I'm still figuring it out as I go. There's a reason why I run with an undercurrent of anxiety. I'm working on examining that and forgiving myself for being who I am as I'm learning to fuel myself in a healthier way. There's no question that being more "self aware" is hard. I beat myself up for beating myself up. I struggle with self forgiveness but preach its importance to my friends. I have a bad day and then harp on myself for not being more patient, or talking too much, or being bossy when i'm actually just trying to be helpful. I lay awake at night and cycle through all the terrible things i've done or decisions i've made and just guilt and shame myself. (Hello! Thank you meditation for helping me go to sleep!) I'm lucky to have built a community of positivity, love, trust and openness in my friends and my husband. It's a journey and the food and health stuff won't ever stick if I don't keep up with the rest. 

metta_poster.jpg

This is my favorite meditation: Loving Kindness or "Metta meditation". Maitri is a Sanskrit word meaning “unconditional friendliness towards self which radiates out to others.” Practicing maitri is an antidote for habitual self-hatred and fear.






Why I'd recommend an Elimination Diet to anyone.

I get a lot of eye rolls when i talk about food. Most of the time because my symptoms could be explained by almost anything. If these were occasional or one off reactions i'd totally get that. I also get that most people probably don't keep stock of how they feel throughout the day (meticulously or at all). Reasons why I'd recommend someone try an elimination diet: headaches, allergies, asthma, undiagnosed or unexplained anything from your Doctor. Acne if you're not 14, acne if you are 14, weight gain, weight loss, fatigue, moodiness, poor memory, if you've never done one before, if you have done one before, insomnia, anxiety, depression, joint pain, gut pain, heartburn, teeth grinding/clenching, gas, bloating, burping, diarrhea, constipation, gallbladder issues. You get the point, if you have an "issue" it's worth examining how your diet may be a contributing factor. There is no gold standard test for food allergies or intolerances. Because our bodies are so unique to us, the most effective course of action currently, is doing an elimination diet. 

Of course I do believe that I'm a product of my own life. My experiences, environments, diet, lifestyle, friends, community, activity level and general life decisions have all shaped who I am. Of course I've been to therapy. Of course I've seen General Practitioners for a bunch of the symptoms I've experienced (as you may have read). The point is, if it's not getting better and you want it to, my FIRST suggestion to you is going to be: try an elimination diet. 

Eliminate food as the possible source of your ailment.

That is my suggestion. It is far too easy to have eaten wheat and dairy and sugar (to name some of the main offenders) and become accustomed to how it feels in your system. You can be symptomatic and not know it or have NO symptoms currently and still have a possible issue. Admittedly, I'm one who had symptoms of intolerances to these foods and never really felt the effects until i went off them and then reintroduced them. These diets are not just for allergies/intolerances. The food you eat influences your micro biome and diversity of that bacteria is instrumental to your health. Eating certain foods can kill off the variety of bacteria in your gut which can lead to health problems as simple as being more susceptible to colds or as complicated as allergic reactions to food. This could be step one of merely living a healthier lifestyle catered to your specific needs.

I was listening to Dr. Ruscio's podcast yesterday. Mickey Trescott (the author of the cook book I have and used before I went low FODMAP) was the guest. She made a great point about AIP (and this applies to elimination diets in general): It's a tool.

"No diet is going to fit one person for the rest of their life".

Maybe what you ate 5 years ago doesn't agree with you now. Your body is constantly in flux. Stress, sleep, illness, all of that can play a part in what you can or can't handle digestively. And, to make it more annoying and confusing (because believe me it is both) you can't even go by what everyone says the symptoms are. You have to figure out how that food makes YOU feel and listen to YOUR body's reaction.

I, for one, do not present "normally" when it comes to a lot of the issues Ive been faced with. Acupuncturists, chiropractic and "regular" (or M.D.) doctors have all had a difficult time diagnosing what's up with me because of this. Knowing what makes you feel your best and if you're not quite there yet, is what I've found to be the key in prioritizing my health. The first step in really knowing what affects you is eliminating possible offenders and then reintroducing them methodically, so you can rule them out as a culprit. Regardless of the outcome, you will gain some control in your own day to day energy, digestion and mood.

I can practically promise you that. 

the good news?

If I can do this, LITERALLY ANYONE CAN.

I am a junk food addict. I love McDonalds, I love Dominos. I've eaten my fair share of each of them and many more foods like them. I think sometimes it just comes to a point where you're either really ready to feel better, or at the time, perhaps it's not worth it to you. I had to wait until I was ready, my will power wasn't enough otherwise. Now if I eat Domino's, I not only get bloated but i have almost immediate neurological effects. Depression, anxiety, physical heart palpitations, insomnia, nightmares, my body is very clear about not wanting this food. However, those reactions weren't clear until i cut out all those ingredients and then reintroduced them. My picture still isn't complete of what's healthful for me and what isn't, but for now I do have a good idea what to stay away from. Once I'm finished with chelation, i'm going back to AIP low FODMAP (strictly) and seeing if I can heal my leaky gut enough to reintroduce more FODMAPs. (I'm so symptomatic in treatment, I eat what I know makes me feel good 80% of the time but I've also allowed myself some leniency. It's a balance.)

There are a bunch of diets one can try. If a certain diet doesn't cure your symptoms, unfortunately that doesn't mean that food is not a factor. It could mean that. However, it could also mean you just hadn't removed that food item or group yet. That was the case for me with Kale and FODMAPS. This may mean trying more than one diet. It may mean committing a little longer than you originally anticipated.

Elimination Diets I can suggest:

SCD - great one to try for suspected leaky gut, and IBDs (Celiac, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn's)

GAPS - developed from the SCD, this diet is tailored towards gut flora health and healing leaky gut. (In my opinion, if you go either of these routes, you may as well look at the lists between the two and decide where you might want to start.

The Paleo Cure - this book by Chris Kresser is extremely informative about how your body absorbs nutrients and is not preachy. This is a good diet for anyone who wants to feel better overall but doesn't necessarily think they have any "issues". It removes the main offenders but isn't too intense in my opinion. You can also check out Robb Wolf's website here.

AIP - if the diets above aren't producing the results you desire. Or if you feel like going balls to the wall and "getting it over with" this diet is the one for you. It removes more food groups comprehensively than the Paleo diet, such as nightshades, seeds, nuts and the spices that fall under those categories.

Low FODMAP - (stands for Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols) a good reference to start if you have IBS, Crohn's or other IBDs. FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates that can ferment if undigested in your gut. The cool yet tricky thing about FODMAPs is that it's not a black and white situation. It is dependent on the amount of the food taht you eat. Perhaps 1c of broccoli is OK for you but any more than that causes a host of symptoms. I tacked this on to AIP because they were clearly an issue for me, I was super uncomfortable and swollen from the vegetables and fruits on this list. I hope once my gut heals I can add them in, I MISS MOST VEGETABLES!

Here are some AIP friendly meals courtesy of Mickey Trescott's Instagram, not too shabby.

Being "Good" (my story part 2)

New to My Story? Read Part 1.

When I started college, I had the not so vague idea that grains didn't serve my body well. I still loved (and ate) pizza but tried not to consume them quite as much. I went off of the depression and anxiety meds I was on from high school. I was still on the pill and my skin was normal (occasional breakouts but mostly under control.)

New Symptoms

Now that my skin seemed to be doing better and I wasn't panicking all the time, i became more aware of my physical symptoms from food.  I had the most FOUL smelling gas. Totally awful, anxiety inducing and difficult to manage.

I also noticed i would get SEVERELY bloated. Within 20 minutes to an hour i could look 3 months pregnant. Of course, bagels and pizza would set it off but sometimes i'd be bloated from other foods too. The nickname we had for it was "buddha belly". I wish I had the opportunity to learn about digestion in school, we barely talked about it in biology.

It in college that i also discovered "alcohol flush reaction". One night we were at my boyfriend's apartment, playing some drinking game. I went to the restroom and noticed my face had totally "rashed out" under the skin, it was all flush on one side of my face and down onto my décolletage. Any previously healed blemish looked bright red (though not raised). I was like WHAT IS HAPPENING?! it looked like an allergic reaction. It faded after about 10-20 minutes. From then on I had my eye out for what would set that off. 

The summer between my Freshman and Sophomore year of college i did my second elimination diet. I was a lot more committed this time around, i lost weight from not eating all the crap and enjoyed not being super bloated most of the time. I had more energy, the circles under my eyes reduced, i was less "Swollen and inflamed" looking. When i got back to school, i tried really hard to stick to it. I was off grains and dairy (except for caesar salad dressing, no one's perfect). I was eating a lot of salads in my dorm and trying to just avoid the pasta bar in the dining hall. 

It didn't last. 

I spent all of college bouncing back and forth between being "good" for a while and i avoid foods that I know (or think) aren't making me feel healthy and being "bad" and eating whatever i want. It's a challenge to eat what's healthy for you when you're not sure what it is (exactly) and when everyone around you eats "normal food"! I was trying to be better about listening to my body and paying attention to symptoms, hoping to figure out a cause. I wasn't consistent enough with my diet (or my paying attention) to make significant progress. 

Freshman Year

Freshman Year

Sopohmore Year

Sopohmore Year

Mental Stuff

I was still having anxiety, I had xanax as needed. I was scared of new situations (still) but pursued them anyway. I knew that anything i was fearful of, I had the most to gain from. My guts were in knots (basically) constantly. If i didn't have anything to worry about, my brain would come up with something. I hadn't made the connection between food and gut and brain at this time and was not helping myself at all by avoiding the offenders i was aware of.

I also was a CRAZY PERSON in my college relationship. Hindsight is 20/20, let me tell you. I would fly off the handle over stuff that was really not a big deal. I would also fly off the handle (but not break it off) over stuff that was important to me. We did not communicate effectively. Looking back, it's clear to see that it wasn't a good place for either of us. I didn't really trust him but I was so set on "making it work" that I stayed way longer that I should have (fear of failure? not wanting to let go of my first "big" relationship? any and all of the above?). (Spoiler Alert: Mood swings were a symptom.)

Put aside how anxious i just was on a base level as a person, when we would argue i would turn into a monster. Just like yelling and crying and shouting and even wanting to break stuff. I can remember what it felt to be like in that situation. It was terrifying, knowing that it was outrageous behavior and not being able to control myself. It felt insane, like a temper tantrum with adult awareness. Have you ever seen a 2 year old just work themselves up over something simple and not be able to chill out? It's like that but also with defensiveness and shame and embarrassment. I think the word rage is appropriate here. Our poor communication aside, I was also having TERRIBLE nightmares. In Hindsight, it's so clear to me my body was like STOP IT, whether that had to do with the food, the relationship, the stress (probably a combination of everything) my system was operating in overload and everything I was doing was exacerbating it. I take full responsibility for my behavior. I just wish I knew then what I know now about how my lifestyle was affecting me physically and mentally.

We broke up after my Jr year. The nightmares stopped (almost immediately) and I spent the final year of college trying (or not trying as the case may be)  to take care of myself. I had big plans, I was moving to LA.

To Be Continued...