Over the holidays I spent 10 days at home with my family in Utah. I was curious to see how well I’d do managing SIBO while I was there, since my parents absolutely adore cereal, ice cream and sandwiches. Plus, it was Christmas, which in my family means lets do a few gifts, make some candied popcorn balls, do a snow dance to please the snow gods and ski as many days as possible (with a mandatory beer in the hot tub afterwards. I mean, duh, right?).
But here’s the thing – I totally crushed it with the holidays.
My mom borrowed a yogurt maker and we made a big batch of 24-hour fermented yogurt. She stocked the fridge with eggs and made more bacon that week then they’d probably had all year. The crisper was full of kale, plus carrots from the garden. For the majority of the holidays, I did well.
Yes, I drank some wine. And had some holiday slush (it’s a tradition – frozen fresh citrus juices and sugar – but mom used honey – with 7-Up poured over top. Mom’s version comes with rum, because it tastes better and makes family functions more manageable). I made an amazing pumpkin custard for my mom’s birthday and enjoyed every bite. But I also ate sandwiches without bread, made my banana/egg pancakes and ate my yogurt. I felt really good physically by the time I came back home to Seattle.
Emotionally, I was a bit drained after ten days at home. I am engaged to be married this year and have been spending a lot of time thinking about commitment and long-term relationships. This will be my second marriage, as some of my more analytical and less-emotionally available family members like to remind me, and so it makes me painfully aware of my shortcomings in the past and extremely observant of the relationships around me. By the time I got back to Seattle, 10 days of processing the relationships and marriages of my family and friends had exhausted me. I was overstimulated and stressed, which is when I wrote this article about productive non-productivity.
Now that I look back on it, I see how that period of emotional stress seemed to be the catalyst for what happened next. It set that back drop for the next week, which was my busiest week of clients thus far in my career. It was very positive, and left me feeling energized, however it also left me with less time to care for myself – namely in cooking and food preparation. I had scheduled exercise and personal time, but hadn’t done enough food planning. My schedule also changed and I was unprepared for its effect on my energy levels – namely, I re-joined my local dojo for an evening class, which was exhilarating and fun but left me tired and unwilling to put large amounts of effort into dinner afterwards.
So I started to slip. Frustrated with my limited food options (eggs and kale gets SO boring after a while) and without the extra time/energy needed for cooking, I made some errors in food choices. Usually with dinners. Breakfasts stayed clean with either bulletproof coffee, yogurt or banana pancakes. Lunches I did okay. But dinners I really struggled. I made popcorn one night. I coupled that with a glass of wine another. I got a steak burrito (no rice or beans, add veggies) for another. Each was a relatively small slip, but they started to add up.
At the same time, I’d run out of my herbs and didn’t have time to drive across town to refill them. I found out I could order them through Amazon Prime (to which I am horribly addicted), and so I did that, but not before I’d gone three or four days without my main anti-bacterial herbs.
Here’s what I noticed – a sore, tender liver and a moderately bloated gut. The good news is that it wasn’t nearly, nearly as bad as it had been in the past. In fact, had I had the hugely bad symptoms I’d had in the beginning, I might think this was just a few days of my hormones being out of whack. Which is probably part of the reason I didn’t clean up sooner. Also, I got more tired and irritable. When my menstrual period started, I felt the hormones in me shift like a heavy blanket being laid over me, making me both depressed and super-duper, lay-on-the-couch-all-day tired.
Being tired made me more tired. Of it all. I got sick of the whole thing. I saw myself “cheating” on the diet, I felt my body feeling upset, and I rebelled against it. There is a part of me that wanted to shout like a 15 year old,
THIS ISN’T FAIR! I DON’T WANT TO DO IT ANYMORE!
When I look back at my health history, including the different dietary lenses I’ve eaten through, I’m struck by the fact that my perspective behind every dietary choice I’ve made is that I believe it is what will make my body healthy. I don’t mean the small stuff mentioned here, the holiday treats or whatever, but rather the big picture of how I have eaten and how I have treated my body — as a vegetarian, a vegan, an intuitive eater, a dosha-specific diet, through my candida protocol. I thought that I had been doing it right, but I was wrong. I really hate how that feels; feeling like you were right and being wrong. It makes me feel cheated. Yoga calls this avidya, which is roughly translated as ignorance or delusion. My teacher explains it as fully believing something to be true that isn’t. It’s one of the major causes of suffering and definitely what I did here.
But then I took avidya one step further and created more suffering for myself – in asmita, which means incorrectly identifying who you are with something that is fleeting and changeable. I call myself a healer, and so there is a part of me that feels like I should always know what I’m doing, that I should always be well or at least always have a good attitude about being ill. I’ve somehow made a healer out to be more than human, more than a title and a changeable part of my human nature. Thus, I caused myself more suffering.
So what did I do about all this suffering I caused myself?
When I recognized what was happening (or rather, chose to acknowledge what I was doing, which was a way to step out of the victim role) I realized two things:
1. I’m human and have some very human emotions about what’s happening in my body. These emotions are there; they are my body’s way of thinking through this mess and they need to be heard.
2. This is a chronic condition that can be healed, but just like it took years to develop, it might take months or years to heal. This is long-term. My spirit is all, “Let’s heal this shit TODAY.” And my body responds with, “Yep, right….just that I’m in the third dimension over here and have to follow a calendar and linear time and all that stuff, so I’m right behind you! Just keep looking back for me!”
So I did what I could for both my body/mind and spirit. I gave myself a time limit to wallow in self-pity. I had a pity party and invited some of my favorite non-SIBO healthy snacks. I gave it a big hurrah. Then I put on my big girl panties, pulled out the calendar and did some serious meal planning to make sure I filled in the cracks that tripped me up. I put more time on the calendar for me, put more boundaries around my time and then looked up some new recipes (I mean, I’m sure there can’t be even more ways to do eggs and kale, but a girl’s gotta try). I even made some new cookies.
I am getting better, and for the most part, I’m staying positive. But I’m not positive all the time. I’m human too, and I must be super healthy because I seem to experience the full range of human emotions, even the not-so-savory ones.
But here’s the bottom line – this protocol is working for me. Once the herbs arrived (in their extreme overpacked Amazon box) and I stopped throwing my temper tantrum, things calmed down, and quickly. And when all has been said and done, I still don’t feel anywhere near as bad as I did when I started. Which tells me that I’m getting better and to be easy on myself. It’s not easy to give up most of the foods you love, remember to take about 60 capsules a day and apply castor oil packs while running a business and trying to, I don’t know, enjoy life. But it can be done, and gracefully or not, at least it makes for a good story.